The Black Hawks by David Wragg – Review

Cover- The Black Hawks

Published: October 3, 2019

Publisher: HarperVoyager

Series: Articles of Faith #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 421 (Paperback)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Dark, thrilling, and hilarious, The Black Hawks is an epic adventure perfect for fans of Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch.

Life as a knight is not what Vedren Chel imagined. Bound by oath to a dead-end job in the service of a lazy step-uncle, Chel no longer dreams of glory – he dreams of going home.

When invaders throw the kingdom into turmoil, Chel finds opportunity in the chaos: if he escorts a stranded prince to safety, Chel will be released from his oath.

All he has to do is drag the brat from one side of the country to the other, through war and wilderness, chased all the way by ruthless assassins.

With killers on your trail, you need killers watching your back. You need the Black Hawk Company – mercenaries, fighters without equal, a squabbling, scrapping pack of rogues.

Prepare to join the Black Hawks.


I picked up the audiobook for this last month and was pretty excited to check it out. Synopsis? Good. Cover? Pretty Cool. Reviews? Not Bad. But guess who just didn’t love it… yep, me. I was incredibly disappointed because it says right in the synopsis “perfect for fans of Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch” and that’s MEEEEE. I don’t really see the Scott Lynch comparison working, but it has the same bleakness as Abercrombie but I failed to love the characters as much.

I’m actually struggling to remember all the plot details and what exactly I thought of the book. It just didn’t stand out from the crowd of fantasy books. Perhaps this would have worked better for me in print because the narration made it feel monochromatic. No life to the story telling.

Vedren Chel (our MC) was a decent sort. He was quite dedicated to protecting the fairly useless prince he attached himself to despite the fact that this only put him in further danger. The Black Hawk mercenary group was sort of generically tough, with scary sounding names like Spider and Lemon. People were trying to kill them and they found themselves running from death at every turn. 

I was almost bored to death about 25% in, but I had a lot of cooking to do and needed something to listen to whilst I chopped, sauteed, and cleaned up. I trudged through the boring bits and lo, it started to liven up in the latter half. I started to care about what was going on (not that I can remember much now though). I will admit to loving Lemon from the start because of her angry Scots-ish ranting and swearing. It was hilarious and brightened up my attitude towards the whole book.

Long story short, it was good enough for me to finish out the book but probably not good enough for me to continue the series. Unless of course someone starts handing out rave reviews. I might even pick up the series in print at some point because I think the narration lent to my lack of enthusiasm.

Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen – Review

Cover- Dangerous Alliance

Published: December 3, 2019

Publisher: HarperTeen

Series: Standalone

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Pages: 448 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

Synopsis:

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Jane Austen in this witty, winking historical romance with a dash of mystery!

Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: an older sister happily wed, the future of her family estate secure, and ample opportunity to while her time away in the fields around her home.

But now Vicky must marry—or find herself and her family destitute. Armed only with the wisdom she has gained from her beloved novels by Jane Austen, she enters society’s treacherous season.

Sadly, Miss Austen has little to say about Vicky’s exact circumstances: whether the roguish Mr. Carmichael is indeed a scoundrel, if her former best friend, Tom Sherborne, is out for her dowry or for her heart, or even how to fend off the attentions of the foppish Mr. Silby, he of the unfortunate fashion sensibility.

Most unfortunately of all, Vicky’s books are silent on the topic of the mysterious accidents cropping up around her…ones that could prevent her from surviving until her wedding day.


DUMB VICTORIAN GIRLS. GUHHHHHH. 

I could almost leave the review at that, but you should really understand how dumb, but also the redeeming aspects.

Victoria Aston is perfectly content with her life and the biggest thing she has to worry about is that her dearest (and handsome) childhood friend has returned from the continent. They had a falling out before he left and she harbors hope that she might glimpse him riding on his estate. All is well, until Vicky’s eldest sister flees her abusive husband and Vicky must marry or the estate could fall into his grasping, horrible hands. 

Lady Aston enters society, parading about with eligible bachelors until, one by one, they fall away leaving only the dashing Mr. Carmichael or her childhood friend Tom Sherborne. It’s clear from the beginning that she’s going to end up with Tom and Carmichael is just a cad and a half getting in the way. Carmichael is wealthy and her father likes him, but it’s clear from the moment he appears that he’s a HUGE TURD. I mean, you could practically smell the BS wafting from his platitudes and flattery. Sherborne is a genuinely good guy, who in stereotypical guy fashion just can’t explain himself flat out. His family has financial issues caused by his now deceased abusive father. 

The plot is… limited. Vicky is courting and going on walks with handsome gents and almost getting kidnapped or murdered. Yeah, remember her sister’s scumbag husband? He’s out to get Vicky and the rest of her family too because he MUST get his wife-beating mitts on the Aston estate in villainous fashion. It’s mostly swooning and pining after Tom with a touch of danger interspersed.

I was really looking forward to reading this but ultimately it fell flat for me. It wasn’t awful, but it was thoroughly in the mediocre, junk food read category. It did satisfy my craving for something thoroughly Austentacious and I think I’m good for awhile now.

Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner – Review

Cover- Unnatural Magic

Published: November 5, 2019

Publisher: Ace Books

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 400 (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 “brilliant and terrifically fun”* debut novel brings an enchanting new voice to fantasy.

Onna can write the parameters of a spell faster than any of the young men in her village school. But despite her incredible abilities, she’s denied a place at the nation’s premier arcane academy. Undaunted, she sails to the bustling city-state of Hexos, hoping to find a place at a university where they don’t think there’s anything untoward about providing a woman with a magical education. But as soon as Onna arrives, she’s drawn into the mysterious murder of four trolls.

Tsira is a troll who never quite fit into her clan, despite being the leader’s daughter. She decides to strike out on her own and look for work in a human city, but on her way she stumbles upon the body of a half-dead human soldier in the snow. As she slowly nurses him back to health, an unlikely bond forms between them, one that is tested when an unknown mage makes an attempt on Tsira’s life. Soon, unbeknownst to each other, Onna and Tsira both begin devoting their considerable talents to finding out who is targeting trolls, before their homeland is torn apart…


Unnatural Magic was an unusual book that caught my eye with that lovely cover and the promise of a mystery. Honestly, I just can’t help myself with a little fantasy whodunnit – I ALWAYS request them. The mystery part of this was pretty good and the characters were certainly not your run-of-the-mill fantasy gals.

Onna Gebowa is a brilliant girl in what is still largely a male dominated area of study. In order to pursue her dreams of attending university and practicing magic, she sails off to Hexos. In short order she gets involved in the investigation of troll murders that have been happening around the city. Tsira is a troll who’s nearly been murdered several times and is determined to find out who is behind the crimes as well, as they’ve hit a little closer to home than is comfortable. Definite understatement there. Tsira is also quite a tough one, but her softer side shows through as she cares for Jeckran after she discovers him dying in the snow. 

Both character POVs were equally interesting, though Tsira’s may edge out for the win. She and Jeckran got into much more interesting situations that Onna. I mean, Tsira was literally fighting six human men at a time for some cash and Jeckran just runs around shooting people (not literally). Absolutely fascinating! Theirs was the more action-packed while Onna’s POV dealt more with people and the society of Hexos. The world building is not particularly in depth, but it feels as if the whole world could be expanded so easily focusing on different characters in different cities. It feels lived in. 

Overall, this was an unusual book that I don’t think will jive with everyone. It was interesting and has remarkably capable female characters that didn’t feel like a parody of Strong Female Character. I liked it. I liked the magic, the world, the weirdness of the troll societies, the hints at secret troll magic. I didn’t love it, but I was left thinking about it for days after finishing it. I wouldn’t hesitate to read another book from C.M. Waggoner and would love to see this world expanded upon!

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep – Review

Cover- Kill the Queen

Published: October 2, 2018

Publisher: HarperVoyager

Series: Crown of Shards #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 443 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.


I’ve had this book on my radar for awhile now and finally picked up the audiobook, which by the way, is great. From the start I knew this was going to be interesting – I liked the voice of the main character and the food descriptions were so inspiring that I decided to make one of the recipes (post soon to follow)!

Everleigh is an orphan from the Winter branch of the royal family and has been living in the palace since her parents were killed fifteen years ago. She’s been spurned by the eldest princess and mostly stays in the kitchens or with the royal jeweler where she’s learning the trade. She also has very little magic, which isn’t a mark in her favor – an enhanced sense of smell doesn’t sound that useful upon first consideration. It really is though.  She can smell emotions and detect poison which is handy when Princess Vasilia decides to murder the entire royal family using poison. Everleigh escapes and joins up with a gladiator troupe while keeping her identity secret. She learns to fight and plans to use her hard won skills to kill Vasilia and take revenge for herself and the rest of those murdered at her hand.

I thought the plot was pretty cool and definitely enjoyed the characters. There’s a touch of blooming romance with the handsome Lucas Sullivan, mage enforcer of the troupe. He’s tall dark and handsome as one might expect. The other members of the troupe are interesting (and important to the plot) in their own right – Serilda is the leader and former Queensguard as is Cho who can morph into a red dragon. Paloma can morph into a fearsome ogre and ends up being quite likable after a rocky start. 

All in all, this was a pleasing, entertaining read. I’ve already picked up the sequel so when the third book is released I’ll be caught up! Some of the dialogue was a bit silly and Everleigh spent a lot of time pointing out that she’s the new Evie and doesn’t take crap (or wisdom) from anyone. I could mostly ignore this because the story was such a page turner.

Master of Sorrows by Justin Call – Review

Cover- Master of Sorrows

Published: February 25, 2020

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Series: The Silent Gods #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 577 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

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

Synopsis: (Blackstone Publishing)

The Academy of Chaenbalu has stood against magic for centuries.

Hidden from the world, acting from the shadows, it trains its students to detect and retrieve magic artifacts, which it jealously guards from the misuse of others. Because magic is dangerous: something that heals can also harm, and a power that aids one person may destroy another.

Of the academy’s many students, only the most skilled can become Avatars–warrior thieves, capable of infiltrating the most heavily guarded vaults–and only the most determined can be trusted to resist the lure of magic.

More than anything, Annev de Breth wants to become one of them.


I’ve been wanting to get my hands on this book since like, February 2019 because what could be cooler than a book where a boy could either destroy the world or be a hero? The synopsis (from Gollancz) is absolutely enough to make any fantasy nerd want to check this out, but it ended up not being as much of a hit as I hoped. In fact, the synopsis above is much more in line with how exciting this book is.

Annev de Breth is in training to become an Avatar of Judgement, so that he may go out in the world and acquire magical artifacts and secret them away. The village of Chaenbalu is hidden in a forest, protected by a glamour so that no outsiders may find it and all of the boys and girls in training at the academy were stolen away as babes. Except Annev, who was born in the village but was missing a hand and was to be killed along with his parents. He was saved by Sodar, who pulled some trickery and passed him off as an extra babe stolen from the city and gave him a magical prosthetic that functions as a real limb. If anyone were to find out, he would be killed and proclaimed an agent of the dark god Keos. 

Much of the book centers around Annev trying to pass this test or otherwise be relegated to simple servitude and lose his chance to marry Myjun, a lovely girl training to be a witwoman (the female counterpart to Avatars). He deals with bullying, friends who weigh him down, and secrets kept by Sodar. I found most of the book to be pretty slow-paced and kind of uninteresting. I just didn’t really connect with Annev and despite the fact that I LOVE school settings this just didn’t click with me. Things started to pick up towards the second half of the book, but by then I wasn’t really invested in the story or characters. Whether or not I read future installments will depend entirely on reviews or my inability to show restraint and not request it. 

This was not a terrible read, but my expectations were high and my lackluster feelings towards the first half of the book stood out even more because of it. The second half had much more action, some cool magic, and finally some BLOODY ANSWERS. Considering the fact that Annev might destroy the world he sure was average most of the time. I desperately wanted him to manifest some dark magic, but he was thoroughly unremarkable until the last little bit. WHYYYYY.

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson – Review

Cover- Starsight

Published: November 26, 2019

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Series: Skyward #2

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Pages: 461 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Synopsis:

All her life, Spensa’s dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she’s a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing. The rumors of his cowardice are true—he deserted his flight during battle against the Krell. Worse, though, he turned against his team and attacked them.

Spensa is sure that there’s more to the story. And she’s sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars—and it was terrifying. Everything Spensa has been taught about her world is a lie.

But Spensa also discovered a few other things about herself—and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.


New Brandon Sanderson is always a joy to crack open. After a slightly ehhh start I ended up loving Skyward and Starsight continues doing everything exactly right. A few plot twists, expanded world building, and awesome characters makes this a perfect read. The best part is, even though this is young adult, Sanderson always makes it enjoyable for any age group.

This book very quickly turned my expectations upside down. It starts off with the anticipated escalation with the Krell forces and Spensa’s growing concern that the eyes are more dangerous than she thought but then a ship crash lands on Detritus. Inside the ship is an alien girl headed towards Starsight, the Krell space station where she will join their military. This is the perfect opportunity for the humans to infiltrate and hopefully learn the secret for the Krell hyperdrives so that they may escape their prison planet. Only problem is, Spensa is really not the best candidate for spycraft and M-bot has capabilities none of the other ships possess, including being able to put a hologram over Spensa so that she looks like the alien girl. Spensa goes and she surprisingly doesn’t get caught right away and joins their pilot program. She meets alien peoples from all over the galaxy and learns some valuable lessons. And also that the Delvers (the eyes) are quite dangerous and it is feared that they will enter this world again and destroy planets.

The plot was great and I’ve only given you the most basic of spoiler free details so you can enjoy the adventure for yourself. Spensa has great character growth and her beliefs about the world are shaken – these people are just like her, they’re not monsters but only doing what they think is best to protect themselves from the “human scourge”. It’s much less clear who the bad guys actually are and ultimately, it comes down to politics and the lust for power. There’s plenty of action and page-gripping scenes where you’re just UNCERTAIN and CONCERNED! It’s just great. 10/10, much plot.

Overall, I think this was actually better than Skyward, mostly because I struggled with Spensa’s brash ridiculousness for so many pages in the first book. This book begins with her in her more settled, self-assured state and she’s much more likable than she was in the first little bit of Skyward. I continue to love Doomslug and I’m SO EXCITED THAT I HAVE A DOOMSLUG BOOKMARK. M-Bot is pretty cool too and he retains his robotic snark. I would highly recommend checking out the audiobook, as the narration is spot-on and does the book credit – it’s even better than in print. Sadly, I don’t think the third of the four planned books is due out until 2021 based on the State of the Sanderson newsletter sent out at the end of the year.

The Rise of Magicks by Nora Roberts – Review

Cover- The Rise of Magicks

Published: November 26, 2019

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Series: Chronicles of the One #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 464 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Synopsis:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Year One and Of Blood and Bone concludes her stunning trilogy that the New York Times Book Review praised as “A match for end-of-the-world classics like Stephen King’s The Stand.”

After the sickness known as the Doom destroyed civilization, magick has become commonplace, and Fallon Swift has spent her young years learning its ways. Fallon cannot live in peace until she frees those who have been preyed upon by the government or the fanatical Purity Warriors, endlessly hunted or locked up in laboratories, brutalized for years on end. She is determined to save even those who have been complicit with this evil out of fear or weakness—if, indeed, they can be saved.

Strengthened by the bond she shares with her fellow warrior, Duncan, Fallon has already succeeded in rescuing countless shifters and elves and ordinary humans. Now she must help them heal—and rediscover the light and faith within themselves. For although from the time of her birth, she has been The One, she is still only one. And as she faces down an old nemesis, sets her sights on the enemy’s stronghold, and pursues her destiny—to finally restore the mystical shield that once protected them all—she will need an army behind her…


I never ever thought I would say I read and loved a Nora Roberts books, much less an entire trilogy. I had always associated her with romance novels that featured glistening pectorals front and center(maybe incorrectly), but after I saw reviews of Year One from other bloggers (particularly Drew’s review) I picked it up. It was great and I impatiently waited for the next two books and now here we are. The series is over and it was SO GOOD – I’m still in a bit of a state, really. 

The Rise of Magicks was the conclusion we’ve all been waiting for and it lived up to my every expectation. It was brilliantly action-packed, emotionally charged, and I was so full of anticipation and sometimes dread the entire time! I was unsure if Nora Roberts was akin to GRRM and liked to kill off main characters or if she would be kind to characters and readers and leave all the main folks alive and happy. It was really up in the air until all the baddies were dead. 

Fallon Swift, the One, has been training and preparing those who follow her to take down the Dark once and for all. This means taking on strongholds in D.C. and New York and confronting those who have taken power there. This also means her loved ones must go into danger and, like I mentioned, I wasn’t sure if everyone would live through the book. It was harrowing at times and I might have instigated some TMJ symptoms from grinding my teeth (kidding, the book didn’t do that). Tonia remains steadfastly at her side, while Duncan is off gathering support in the west and dealing with his feelings for Fallon. Ah, young love, am I right? Eventually events come together and Fallon and Duncan are reunited and finally, FINALLY decide they’re together and defying fate out of spite is a bit pointless since they really do love each other. 

Again, I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this entire series and I’m wondering what other good stuff I’ve missed out on after being judge-y. The Rise of Magicks was a solid conclusion and it had plenty of epilogue to satisfy my “what about after” curiosity. There were some really cheesy parts that I think the audiobook amplified, for instance, all the rhyming visions and some of the incantations were just silly. I did however, enjoy the narration by Julia Whelan.

Bright Steel by Miles Cameron – Review

Cover- Bright Steel

Published: December 10, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Masters & Mages #3

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 mage-in-training is unwittingly pulled into a violent political upheaval, in the third book of this epic fantasy trilogy by Miles Cameron, author of the Traitor Son Cycle.

Aranthur and his friends have come together across different continents and realms with one purpose: to strike back against the forces that have torn a hole in the heavens and threaten to rip the world apart.

Ultimate victory will require enemies to trust one another, old foes to fight together, spies to reveal the truth, and steadfast allies to betray long-corrupt rules. But will Aranthur, a twenty-year-old student, really be able to bring them all together? And what will they do when their plans inevitably fall to pieces?


Miles Cameron’s new trilogy has been thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end, featuring magic, fate, and a feeling I have previously only gotten after reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s books. It was like… wistfulness. 

Bright Steel was a terrific conclusion and it was a magnificent coming of age story. Aranthur has gone from a hopeful student to a soldier to one of the most influential people in the kingdom and a powerful mage to boot. UGH IT WAS GREAT. And the best part is, he wasn’t some perfect Mary-Sue type character the whole time. He messed up, he asked for help, and he nearly got himself killed countless times but darn if he doesn’t have a lucky streak! Those surrounding him were strongly written secondary characters. I couldn’t help but to love Dahlia, Drako, Aranthur’s demon-wife, and so many other of the supporting characters to bits. They were fascinating. Most were honorably, and this whole series speaks much of friendship, teamwork, and doing what is right, but without beating you over the head with it like so many books tend to do. 

The finale was really quite something, though things came together just a bit too quickly and conveniently for something that was a world threatening crisis. I mean, not everything has to be dragged out for hundreds of pages, but it really did wrap up neatly with a bow on top considering THERE WAS A RENT IN THE FABRIC OF THE UNIVERSE AND MAGIC WAS POURING THROUGH. All that aside, it was a very satisfying conclusion and I would 10/10 read this entire series again if I didn’t have a pile of other books calling to me. 

This is definitely a series worth reading and it’s somewhat more accessible than the Traitor Son Cycle which is beastly long and each book takes me forever to get through. It has everything – intense battles, romance, dastardly plots to take over the kingdom, epic world building, diverse peoples, a dragon, powerful female characters…. I mean, if you’re looking for it, this book’s probably got it. Just go ahead and binge read all three books. It’ll be a fine way to start 2020.

The Wolf’s Call by Anthony Ryan – Review

Cover- The Wolf's Call

Published: July 23, 2019

Publisher: Ace Books

Series: Raven’s Blade #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 432 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Anthony Ryan’s debut novel Blood Song–the first book of the Raven’s Shadow series–took the fantasy world by storm. Now, he returns to the world of this acclaimed series with The Wolf’s Call, which begins a thrilling new story of razor-sharp action and epic adventure.

Peace never lasts.

Vaelin Al Sorna is a living legend, his name known across the Realm. It was his leadership that overthrew empires, his blade that won hard-fought battles – and his sacrifice that defeated an evil more terrifying than anything the world had ever seen. He won titles aplenty, only to cast aside his earned glory for a quiet life in the Realm’s northern reaches.

Yet whispers have come from across the sea – rumours of an army called the Steel Horde, led by a man who believes himself a god. Vaelin has no wish to fight another war, but when he learns that Sherin, the woman he lost long ago, has fallen into the Horde’s grasp, he resolves to confront this powerful new threat.

To this end, Vaelin travels to the realms of the Merchant Kings, a land ruled by honor and intrigue. There, as the drums of war thunder across kingdoms riven by conflict, Vaelin learns a terrible truth: that there are some battles that even he may not be strong enough to win.


A RETURN TO THE GREATNESS OF BLOOD SONG!!!

This is the Anthony Ryan books I’ve been waiting for since I read that absolutely fantastic book years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I did like Tower Lord and Queen of Fire, but not nearly so much as Blood Song. The Wolf’s Call gives readers a great story with only two POVs – Vaelin al Sorna and Luralyn, seer and sister to the man who leads the Steel Horde.

Luralyn is the sister of the man who will lead the Steel Horde across the seas and she also happens to be a seer. She quickly comes to see that her brother is no longer who he once was and is a danger to the world. Vaelin al Sorna is still Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches and he’s still his good ol’ self. After a man possessed by the Dark assassinates envoys from the Merchant Kings, he decides to take a small trusted group across the sea to check things out, but mostly to see if his long lost beloved Sharon is safe. Spoiler – she was, but she wasn’t happy to see him and still holds a bit of a grudge after fifteen years.

Vaelin weirdly reminds me of Jon Snow if he decided to stay with the Night’s Watch and was both a just man and brooded elegantly. Don’t judge – I just can’t explain it and it totally works.

This was a pretty awesome, action packed story that sets up high stakes for future installments. It introduces an exciting new continent that readers have heard about in the previous trilogy, though if I remember correctly it was pretty brief. You may recall a particular stone carver who also had the blood song – he was from these lands and obviously, he went back to them with Sharon in tow. 

This has all the checks – proper villains, interesting culture and lore, magic, romantic tension, journeys on horseback across endless miles, battles. You know, all the good stuff! The things we fantasy readers absolutely LONG for in a good fantasy book. All facetiousness aside, it was a great read though I sometimes forget how Steven Brand narrates literally every character with the same voice. It takes a few chapters to get used to and then it’s hardly noticeable. I’d highly recommend you check this out if you enjoyed Blood Song, because this is very much a return to that style and quality.

Novice Dragoneer by E.E. Knight – Review

Cover- Novice Dragoneer

Published: November 5, 2019

Publisher: Ace Books

Series: Dragoneer Academy #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 512 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

In the first book in an exciting and charming new coming-of-age fantasy series from the author of the Age of Fire series, an impoverished girl enters into a military order of dragonriders, but her path won’t be as easy or as straightforward as she expected.

Fourteen-year-old Ileth grew up in an orphanage, and thanks to her stutter was never thought to be destined for much beyond kitchen work and cleaning. But she’s dreamed of serving with the dragons ever since a childhood meeting with a glittering silver dragon and its female dragoneer. For years she waits, and as soon as she is old enough to join, Ileth runs away to become a novice dragoneer at the ancient human-dragon fortress of the Serpentine.

While most of her fellow apprentices are from rich and influential families, Ileth must fight for her place in the world, even if it includes a duel with her boss at the fish-gutting table. She’s then sent off to the dragon-dancers after a foolish kiss with a famously named boy and given charge of a sickly old dragon with a mysterious past. But she finds those trials were nothing when she has to take the place of a dead dragoneer and care for his imprisoned dragon in enemy lands. . . .


I am so pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book! Though I hadn’t heard much about it, what little I had heard was mostly positive and from other trusty bloggers. Novice Dragoneer was a lovely coming of age story with that so well loved trope of a special school. Rather than it being a school for magic, this is instead a school for dragon riders! I’m honestly not sure which one I like better – I feel like the school for dragon riders is less over-done that a magic school.

Our main character, Ileth, is an orphan girl who dreams of escaping her dour past and into the skies as a dragoneer. At the tender young age of fourteen she leaves the only home she’s known to get into the academy where she’ll be worked like a dog and then, if she’s lucky, she may be chosen by a dragon. It’s not easy – if it was we wouldn’t even have a story – and Ileth suffers hardships and finds favor in turn. She becomes a dragon dancer and though they aren’t typically selected as dragoneers, they spend more time with the dragons than almost any other in the academy. It turns out she loves it and is quite competent, plus it leads her to care for and get to know one of the oldest dragons, who has confined himself to a cavern.

The plot was gripping and the locations featured were well described, particularly the academy area which was both fascinating and full of history. 

One portion of the story did drag out longer than I really wanted it to and I’ll describe it, though be warned this will entail SPOILERS!

Ileth and a young wingmate of a famed dragoneer are selected to be hostages of the country they are at war with in exchange for one of the most talented riders. This situation could last indefinitely and they’re in charge of the well-being of one of the surliest dragons we meet in the books. He’s quite the grump! While this part does play an important role in the plot, it began to feel tedious after awhile, though fortunately some action finally happened! 

I found Novice Dragoneer to be a delightful read, though not one who’s strength lies in uniqueness. Much of the plot will remind you of one dragon-centric book or another, though it didn’t hinder my enjoyment whatsoever. In fact, it was a good, cozy read because it was somewhat familiar territory. If you like the Temeraire books or any book featuring a school setting, I’d recommend checking this out for sure!