Waiting on Wednesday: Blood of the Gods by David Mealing

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature a book that we just can’t wait to get our hands on!


Cover- Blood of the Gods

I wasn’t going to do a Waiting on Wednesday feature this week (I’m still busy wedding planning and such) but then I saw that Orbit released a cover and synopsis for the second book in David Mealing’s Ascension Cycle series! The first book was just released in June, but already I have a sequel to look forward to, and I must say, that synopsis has me quite curious. I’ll admit that while I like the covers (dark landscapes are my thing) they’re not particularly memorable in the fantasy world… but hey, don’t judge a book by its cover right? There doesn’t seem to be a release date for Blood of the Gods yet, but it can’t be too far behind

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An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock – Review

Cover- An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors

Published: August 29, 2017

Publisher: Tor Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Risen Kingdoms #1

Pages: 384 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

A polymath princess and her faithful musketeer must unravel the plot of a thousand-year-old madman in order to save an a foreign kingdom from a disastrous civil war.

Caelum is an uninhabitable gas giant like Jupiter. High above it are the Risen Kingdoms, occupying flying continents called cratons. Remnants of a shattered world, these vast disks of soaring stone may be a thousand miles across. Suspended by magic, they float in the upper layers of Caelum’s clouds.

Born with a deformed hand and utter lack of the family’s blood magic, Isabelle is despised by her cruel father. She is happy to be neglected so she can secretly pursue her illicit passion for math and science. Then, a surprising offer of an arranged royal marriage blows her life wide open and launches her and Jeane-Claude on an adventure that will take them from the Isle des Zephyrs in l’Empire Céleste to the very different Kingdom of Aragoth, where magic deals not with blood, but with mirrors.


GAH! I loved the synopsis for An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, so despite my busy schedule I made time to read this and I’m glad I did because it was literally SO much better than I could have expected or hoped. This book has elements similar to those found in David D. Levine’s Arabella of Mars – I’m quickly coming to find that I have a fondness for steampunk empires similar to those found in Europe in the 1700-1800’s. An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors pulls elements from France and Spain (for once there are no Brits!), both of which have always had this elegant, gilded image in my mind.

Princess Isabelle des Zephyrs is a lacks the magical gifts that mark the nobility and with a malformed hand to boot, she has never had the warmest welcome amongst her family, peers, or even the commoners. Largely left to her own devices, Isabelle pursued her passions of science and mathematics, using the pseudonym Lord Martin DuJournal to publish her groundbreaking works. With no one but her faithful protector Jeane-Claude (a King’s Own Musketeer) and her bloodhollow servant Marie, Isabelle seems to be destined for a lonely life, despite her scholarly pursuits and social status. Until, that is, the Aragothic Empire extends an offer of marriage to one of the principe’s – an unheard of offer, as mixing of the magical lineages of Glasswalker and Sanguinare is practically considered heresy.

What follows this unexpected offer of marriage is several hundred pages of intrigue, assassination attempts, courtly politics, and a level of adventure that I had not at all anticipated. To say I was pleased with the pacing and world building would be an understatement. IT was chock full of history and lore, and the religious aspect was interesting, but I was nevertheless thankful that the author declined to go into a wearying information vomit of how the religious system was structured. I would have liked more discussion of the saints, as they were central to the plot, despite having been dead for, oh, a multitude of centuries or so. There was also a bit of a hurried romantic element near the end that was reasonable enough, but still made me go “hmmm”.

All in all, my few minor quibbles with An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors are far outweighed by my delight at the entire story – from lovable (and detestable) characters, majestic kingdoms, to the very description of the sky continents themselves. This was a really fantastic debut and I’ll be impatiently awaiting news of the sequel as I simply cannot wait to see where things lead to next! I highly recommend this book and think fans of David D. Levine’s Arabella of Mars series or even Jim Butcher’s Cinder Spires series would particularly enjoy this.

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst – Review

Cover- The Queen of Blood

Published: September 20, 2016

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Queens of Renthia #1

Pages: 353 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.


The Queen of Blood is another one of those books that I’ve been meaning to get around to since it was released in September 2016. At last! I decided to pick it up in audio format since there’s basically ZERO chance that I have time to squeeze in reading the actual book right now. It’s got a tremendously appealing cover, plus the synopsis mentions nature spirits as the basis for magic and even culture… sign me up!

The premise of The Queen of Blood is fairly standard when you look at the big picture – a girl from a small town overcomes great hardship to become the chosen one – but when you dig down a bit more it feels much more unique. The people of Aratay both rely on and fear the spirits of nature. Without them, the forest dies, water does not flow, and people will starve and waste away. The Queen is granted power by the spirits because they desire the balance she brings between their creative and destructive tendencies. Girls from across Aratay who display an affinity for the spirits are trained to become heirs, so when the Queen dies, there can be an immediate successor who can take control and prevent the utter decimation of mankind that the spirits could bring. This is where our main character comes in to play…

Daleina is not your average fantasy book character. First and most obvious of all is that her magic skills, which here translates to control over spirits, is minimal. She’s no prodigy, that’s for sure, and is even assisted by her friends on multiple occasions just so she can pass her magical tests. One thing she has in abundance is heart and determination. Despite her magical deficiency she remains determined to become on the Queen’s heirs, who are selected based on their strength and capability in controlling spirits. Daleina was an admirable character and I greatly appreciated the deviation from the standard character tropes. Ven, a disgraced Champion of the Queen, is our other main PoV in The Queen of Blood. I found him to be likable, though frustratingly naïve when it came to Queen Farrah due to his past relationship with her.

The Queen of Blood was an interesting book, but the beginning seemed to drag somewhat. I liked the magic school setting (always a win), but after a while I couldn’t wait for something to actually happen. I suppose that since it covered a large span of years it wasn’t that bad, but the story really picks up SO much in the latter half. I loved the latter half and the ending was especially brutal and fantastic, thus making up for a beginning that lacked real pizazz. I’d definitely recommend this and I thought it was appropriate for a broad age range of readers, from the younger YA to adult fantasy readers.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter by Michael J. Sullivan

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature a book that we just can’t wait to get our hands on!


Cover- The Disappearance of Winters Daughter

It’s no secret by this point that I will read every single book MJS releases, so naturally I’m pretty excited for his latest return to Riyria, The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter. It sounds as if Royce’s return to Colnora may mean a return to his darker persona – the bucketman known as Duster, but really, who can tell from a mere synopsis? Hopefully this will still be released on December 5, 2017 as currently planned! I know I’ll be spending a long, dark winter day in the company of  one of my favorite literary duos ever.

An Echo of Things to Come by James Islington – Review

Cover- An Echo of Things to Come

Published: August 22, 2017

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Licanius Trilogy #2

Pages: 752 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

In the wake of the devastating attack on Ilin Illan, an amnesty has been declared for all Augurs – finally allowing them to emerge from hiding and openly oppose the dark forces massing against Andarra. However as Davian and his new allies hurry north toward the ever-weakening Boundary, fresh horrors along their path suggest that their reprieve may have come far too late.
In the capital, Wirr is forced to contend with assassins and an increasingly hostile Administration as he controversially assumes the mantle of Northwarden, uncovering a mystery that draws into question everything commonly believed about the rebellion his father led twenty years ago. Meanwhile, Asha begins a secret investigation into the disappearance of the Shadows, determined to discover not only where they went but the origin of the Vessels that created them – and, ultimately, a cure.
And with time against him as he races to fulfill the treacherous bargain with the Lyth, Caeden continues to wrestle with the impossibly heavy burdens of his past. Yet as more and more of his memories return, he begins to realise that the motivations of the two sides in this ancient war may not be as clear-cut as they first seemed…


The Shadow of What Was Lost was one of my favorite fantasy books when it was released as an audiobook a few years ago. I recently did a re-read and loved it just as much the second time, despite the fact that I’m infinitely more critical once I’ve already read a book. An Echo of Things to Come was one of my most highly anticipated sequels of the year, but unfortunately it didn’t strike the same resonance with me as the first installment.

While the characters are for the most part, those we know and love from the first installment, the dynamic just didn’t seem to be there this time. I think this stems from the fact that each of them has gone their own way and been given their own PoV chapters. Caeden, Asha, Davian, and Wirr don’t feel as cohesive as they once did and they lack personality in comparison to the previous book. Caeden is portaling to every corner of the continent, uncovering hidden memories, and running into old pals. His portion of the book felt like an info dump, coupled with a wishy-washy dilemma over whether he was on the side of good or evil, with a splash of self-loathing for good measure. I liked him in the first book, but this time around Caeden was irritating. Asha continues to be a favorite of mine, but I found myself enjoying all the characters less than I had anticipated.

Events seem to be more the focus of this book than the characters. There are SO many events happening that I can barely remember all of what I would consider to be major plot points. There’s an assassination attempt, Caeden’s numerous barrages of memory, a rogue auger, and so many secrets that I can’t keep track of them. This book just has a bit too much going on and I feel that the story would have benefited from a somewhat more leisurely pace. This isn’t a small book by any means, clocking in at over 700 pages, but I think it would have been best as either a longer book or two separate books.

Overall, this was still a very good story – I read the last 350-ish pages in one sitting because I was absolutely engrossed. I know my review has focused on the negative aspects, but James Islington has written a really cool story, set in an interesting and storied world. The legends come alive, there’s the struggle between what’s good versus evil, and it’s got a nice save the world quest as the main theme. It’s a very compelling story and I hope the I won’t have to wait too terribly long for the finale!

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor – Review

Cover- Dreams of Gods & Monsters

Published: April 8, 2014

Publisher: Little, Brown & Company

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Pages: 613 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

Synopsis:

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited – not in love, but in a tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

The New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy comes to a stunning conclusion as – from the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond – humans, chimaera, and seraphim strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.


I really struggled to give this last book a rating. I both loved it and felt somewhat betrayed by the ending, which sounds kind of horrible when I write it. It truly wasn’t bad, but there was an additional POV added that ended up getting a little weird and had a significant impact on the outcome.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters occurs immediately following the events of Days of Blood & Starlight. Miraculously, Akiva’s angels have allied with Karou’s chimaera and they go to fight the Dominion. Much to their horror, they find that scarred Jael and the Dominion have already made their debut on Earth to much fanfare. The people of Earth are enthralled, except for Eliza, a graduate student and “prophet” in hiding. She fears the angels and the recurring nightmares equally because for her, the end has basically arrived. On top of all this, the sky in Eretz is becoming discolored and the Stellians are in quite the panic…

Akiva and Karou continue to have much angst between them, but there’s a good resolution. That’s enough said about them. Eliza (our new PoV) was a really likable character and the first 60-70% of her story was awesome. She’s haunted by nightmares where the most horrible beasts pursue her endlessly, she ran away from her family at a young age and changed her name, and she’s about to go study the corpses of chimaera discovered in the Moroccan desert. Exciting stuff… until she discovers she’s really and truly what her crazy cult claimed she was- Elazael reborn. *EYE ROLL* I knew what was coming, but I was just so annoyed that I was right this time. The whole story took this crazy turn that I just didn’t care for. I did like that we were finally introduced to the Stellians, who so brazenly left a fruit basket declining war in the Emperor’s inner sanctum. They were kind and lovely at first glance, but were a little bit scary after flashing teeth that may or may not have actually been filed into points.

Overall, Dreams of Gods & Monsters was a good book, but I felt the ending was really just a beginning for a brand new series. Like everything was just a set up! If Laini Taylor chooses to write a sequel series, I may forgo reading it at all unless trustworthy reviews prove its worth. Despite my criticism, this is still one of the best YA fantasy series I’ve ever read and would definitely recommend it!

Stacking the Shelves: 8/19/17

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!


Received for Review:

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock

A very exciting arrival from Tor. This steampunk fantasy debut with musketeers and looming civil war sounds right up my alley!

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

This is a sequel that I’ve been hoping to get my hands on for a while now. Not only does it have a stunning cover, but the story sounds as if it will be an amazing continuation of Nevernight! My thanks to Thomas Dunne Books for the finished copy.

The Man in the Tree by Sage Walker

This one sounds like a really stellar sci-fi novel (pun intended). A murder mystery combined with space travel to a new world has me really intrigued. Thanks to Tor and NetGalley for the eBook (my physical copy is still in-transit).

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Here’s to hoping that this sequel is just as magically beautiful as the first! Can’t wait to see what sort of trouble Vasya gets herself into this time. Thanks to Del Rey and NetGalley!

My Purchases:

Cover - With Blood Upon the Sand

With Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Yes, I already have the hardcover of this, but due to time constraints I decided to pick up the audio copy. An excellent choice on my part! The narration is quite good and the story is even better.

The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark – Review

Cover- The Court of Broken Knives1

Published: August 15, 2017

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Empires of Dust #1

Pages: 512 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

In this dark and gripping debut fantasy that Miles Cameron called “gritty and glorious!” the exiled son of the king must fight to reclaim his throne no matter the cost.

It is the richest empire the world has ever known, and it is also doomed. Governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The Yellow Empire is on the verge of invasion–and only one man can see it.

Haunted by prophetic dreams, Orhan has hired a company of soldiers to cross the desert to reach the capital city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from the ashes can a new empire be built.

The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Young, ambitious, and impossibly charming, something dark hides in Marith’s past–and in his blood

Dark and brilliant, dive into this new fantasy series for readers looking for epic battle scenes, gritty heroes, and blood-soaked revenge.


Months prior to its release, The Court of Broken Knives was already receiving significant and consistent praise from basically every fantasy reader that had managed to snag an advanced copy. That in itself, regardless of synopsis and fancy cover design, was enough for me to add it to my ever growing list of books to be read. At long last, I received my own copy and the anticipation was over! It was well worth the wait, as this is one of the most striking debuts I’ve read this year.

If you’re looking for an epic fantasy with heroes galore, happiness, and high moral standards this book doesn’t meet those requirements. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read The Court of Broken Knives anyways though – it’s way too awesome to ignore! The book starts out with a company of mercenaries that are willing to knife their own men in the night if they can’t keep up the grueling trek through the desert, so we don’t exactly have any heroes in the mix. It only gets more interesting from here as additional characters are introduced, storylines weave together, and situations get progressively worse. Our main protagonist, Marith, is a particularly interesting piece of work. Entire character studies could be done on him and his host of personal demons. He’s has the appearance of naïve innocence at first, but as the story progresses you realize he’s a bloody monster and he’ll be watching the world burn to ash before it’s all said and done. I loved to hate him and hated to love him and can’t wait to read more in the sequel.

Anna Smith Spark’s writing style is unusual and suited perfectly to her story – I would describe it as elegantly blunt, if such a thing is possible. She details the world, the characters, tidbits of history, and incredible battle scenes with an artist’s touch. I could easily visualize EVERYTHING. Whether that is actually a good thing is still up for debate. This book has all the interesting stuff you could ever want – battles, politics, betrayal, attractive love interests, flawed characters – so if you haven’t already you should really check this book out. Unless you’re only into heroes, then maybe not.

Overall, this is definitely one of the coolest debuts of the year. The continual reinforcement of dual natures/feelings was really interesting and made me think harder about, well, life in general. This was particularly strong for Thalia, as she was both attracted to and abhorrent of Marith, depending on which side of him he was showing. Their relationship was an interesting one and I’m curious to see how it will play out over the course of the next two books. Excitingly enough, we already have a cover, title, and exceprt for the second book, The Tower of Living and Dying, at the end of The Court of Broken Knives.