The Vanished Queen by Lisbeth Campbell – Review

Published: August 18, 2020

Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 496 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

When a country is held in thrall to a vicious, despotic king, it’s up to one woman to take him down.

Long ago, Queen Mirantha vanished. King Karolje claimed it was an assassination by a neighboring king, but everyone knew it was a lie. He had Disappeared her himself.

But after finding the missing queen’s diary, Anza—impassioned by her father’s unjust execution and inspired by Mirantha’s words—joins the resistance group to overthrow the king. When an encounter with Prince Esvar thrusts her into a dangerous game of court politics, one misstep could lead to a fate worse than death.

Esvar is the second son to an evil king. Trapped under his thumb and desperate for a way out, a chance meeting with Anza gives him the opportunity to join the resistance. Together, they might have the leverage to move against the king—but if they fail, their deaths could mean a total loss of freedom for generations to follow.


My interest was piqued when I read the synopsis for The Vanished Queen, but I was genuinely surprised when I enjoyed it as much as I did. The book was such that it could have either become a total bore or quite the adventure and fortunately it landed on the adventurous path. Now admittedly, there’s quite a lot of politicking and talking so if that’s not your cup of tea then you may not enjoy this as much.

The two main (current) POVs in this book are Anza and Prince Esvar. Anza is a talented archer and collegium graduate who has gotten involved with the rebellion against the cruel King Karolje. Her father was highly ranked in the King’s guard but was executed just prior to the events of the book, spurring Anza’s choice to join the rebels. Prince Esvar is not fond of his father either, after his mother Queen Mirantha was Disappeared so many years before. He supports his elder brother Tevin and they hope to make a play for the throne soon, but they lack support from the lords. Esvar is much less remarkable than Anza, who is by far the more interesting POV. The prince is somewhat frustrating because he bends so easily to his father who is ailing. He could simply stick a sword in him on a few occasions and he just… doesn’t. It’s quite frustrating, really. The reader also gets bits of Queen Mirantha’s POV, but hers is obviously leading up when she is supposedly killed by Karolje. I like that we get her story as well – it makes her disappearance much more impactful and gives the reader more sympathy towards her children Esvar and Tevin.

As I mentioned, there’s a great deal of politicking and dialogue in this book, but there are some intense little bits of action here and there. Typically, I prefer books that lean a little more towards action-packed, but The Vanished Queen worked out surprisingly well for me. The subterfuge, tension, and all that other good stuff makes up for it! Overall, this was a surprisingly engaging read though I can certainly see that it won’t appeal to every fantasy reader.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Queen of Izmoroz by Jon Skovron

“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!

This COVER!!! This series has the most beautiful covers I have ever seen!!! The Queen of Izmoroz is the second book in The Goddess War series and continues the tale of siblings on opposite sides of a war. Sonya is allied with the Uaine, enemies of the empire and her brother Sebastian is a powerful mage on the side of the empire. Tensions are high and Galina, Sebastian’s wife, will most likely add another layer of complications to the story. I can’t wait to see what happens! This will be released April 2021.

Currently Reading: 9/14/20

The Seventh Perfection by Daniel Polansky
I don’t have big reading plans for the week since I’m trying to finish up a couple other books I started awhile back. This is just a wee little novella, so shouldn’t be too taxing! I anticipate this will be a great way to dip my proverbial toe into the waters of Polansky books. His Low Town series has been on my radar for awhile now – maybe I’ll check it out next!

Waiting on Wednesday: Bone Crier’s Dawn by Kathryn Purdie

“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!

I actually enjoyed the first installment in this series quite a bit more than expected. As such, I’m also pretty excited to get my hands on a copy of the sequel, Bone Crier’s Dawn. It’s just angst and drama with a cool magic system and I dig it. I’m also really loving the cover – Charlie Bowater is immensely talented! This will be out in March 2021.

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart – Review

Published: September 8, 2020

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Drowning Empire #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 448 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. The Bone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.


This was exactly as amazing as I hoped it would be!! The Bone Shard Daughter has been one of my most anticipated debuts of the year and I’m so excited! I’ve come across too many books that have been hyped up (or that I’ve been hyped for) that have been tremendous let downs. This however…has such awesome characters, the world is awesome, the magic is awesome, and may I just say I love animal companions?

The synopsis introduces us to Lin, daughter of the Emperor, who is secretly learning her father’s bone shard magic. She competes with Bayan (a boy her father has fostered) to earn his favor, but it seems that Bayan is winning for he is being instructed in the bone shard magic while she is endlessly quizzed about her memory. Lin begins to sneak about and steal keys to enter forbidden areas of the palace while trying to avoid the spy constructs her father has created.

Another main POV is Jovis, a smuggler, who is just trying to outrun this world’s equivalent of the mafia and find his wife who went missing seven years ago. He’s chasing down a little boat with blue sails that was seen sailing away after she went missing. During his journeys he begins helping children escape the ceremony where shards of their skulls are taken for the emperor’s collection and he becomes a bit of a hero to the people. He also picks up Mephi, a weird little creature that reminded me of a magical mink or otter when described. Mephi quickly became one of my favorite parts of this book. I just LOVE animal companions! 

There’s also Phalue, who is the daughter to the governor of one of the islands. Phalue’s lover Ranami is mixed up with the resistance soon Phalue is too. Well, not that soon because it takes quite a bit of convincing and effort for Phalue to come around to the idea. Phalue took awhile to grow on me as she isn’t as immediately likable as Jovis and Lin but I ended up liking her fairly well. 

Lastly, there’s Sand, who is a bit of a mystery. She’s on an island with a group of others who cannot remember ever living anywhere else. They have certain tasks they complete and sort of mindlessly go about their lives… until Sand falls out of a tree and begins to question everything.

The characters are the biggest part of what makes The Bone Shard Daughter a delight to read, but the world building is pretty fantastic as well. The magic is way cool and well thought out, the islands seem to move about the sea and the weather changes between dry and wet years. One of the islands also sinks into the sea pretty early on, which is kind of terrifying and makes you wonder what could be in store for later books. There’s also some mysterious beings that the Emperor is supposedly protecting his people from by using his life draining bone magic.On top of all this, the rebels are trying to find ways to destabilize the island governors and the emperor.

If all of this somehow doesn’t totally sell this book to you, I guess nothing will. It’s absolutely fantastic and I was honestly a little skeptical prior to starting it. I thought it would be like so many other things I’ve read this year (and in previous years) but it has memorable content and characters. This really, truly deserves the sense of hype and anticipation it’s gotten leading up to it’s release this week! I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next book in the series because, WOW THAT ENDING!!!!

The Last Uncharted Sky by Curtis Craddock – Review

Published: August 11, 2020

Publisher: Tor Books

Series: The Risen Kingdoms #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 448 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

The Three Musketeers meets Jules Verne in Curtis Craddock’s concluding novel in the critically-acclaimed high fantasy Risen Kingdoms series, an engrossing tale of courtly intrigue and breathtaking magic.

Isabelle and Jean-Claude undertake an airship expedition to recover a fabled treasure and claim a hitherto undiscovered craton for l’Empire Celeste. But Isabelle, as a result from a previous attack that tried to subsume her body and soul, suffers from increasingly disturbing and disruptive hallucinations. Disasters are compounded when the ship is sabotaged by an enemy agent, and Jean-Claude is separated from the expedition.

In a race against time, Isabelle must figure out how to ward off her ailment before it destroys her and reunite with Jean-Claude to seek the fabled treasure as ancient secrets and a royal conspiracy threaten to undo the entire realm.


This has been a tremendously fun and underrated series. If you want interesting magic, exploration, politics, and a hefty dose of Three Musketeers vibes you should check this out. It has all this in spades and a dozen other things you didn’t know you wanted in a book until you read it.

Isabelle, Marie, Jean-Claude, and the delightful Major Bitterlich are setting off to discover a new craton (floating continent) for la reine. Of course nothing is ever easy and they’re set upon by pirates, Jean-Claude is captured, and Isabelle is dealing with too much mental strain. After the events of the previous book she’s left frayed and it’s beginning to show and affect her judgement. Bitterlich is struggling with some decisions of his own and the tension between he and Isabelle runs quite high at times. Throw in a feisty new cabin girl (Rebecca) and Isabelle’s ship is basically constrained chaos.

The characters are an utter delight – the main characters are each quite unique and I love their stories. The villains are nefarious, but this is an overall positive book, so they don’t drag it into too dark of territory. I love the sense of discovery, the new locals, cultures, just everything! This was a great conclusion to a trilogy that surprised me in it’s execution. It was leagues better than books/series that have gotten 10x more hype and marketing.

If you haven’t decided whether or not to read this by now, let me encourage you once more! It has strong, intelligent female characters, found families, and epic adventures galore. Also, the covers are so lovely for all three that I don’t know how anyone has not picked them up on that alone.

The Damned by Renee Ahdieh – Review

Published: July 7, 2020

Publisher: G.P Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Series: The Beautiful #2

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Pages: 456 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 1.5/5.0

Synopsis:
Following the events of The Beautiful, Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The treaty between the Fallen and the Brotherhood has been broken, and war between the immortals seems imminent. The price of loving Celine was costly. But Celine has also paid a high price for loving Bastien.

Still recovering from injuries sustained during a night she can’t quite remember, her dreams are troubled. And she doesn’t know she has inadvertently set into motion a chain of events that could lead to her demise and unveil a truth about herself she’s not quite ready to learn.

Forces hiding in the shadows have been patiently waiting for this moment for centuries. And just as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.


Can I just unread this book? Because it was awful. It genuinely changed in tone so much from the first book that it’s like it wasn’t the same series anymore!

Starting off, I was hopeful. Bastien was turned into a vampire and is not coping well with his transition. Celine isn’t coping quite well either, since she gave up her memories of Bastien in order to save him. It seemed like it would be a great throwback to angsty teen romance.

And then it changed so much and it was out of nowhere and frankly, the quality instantly declined. I speculate that this is largely due to this going from an intended duology to a four book series. It needed more filler to extend the series. It turned into the cheesiest of stories – Celine becomes special due to her parentage and not just because she’s mentally tough, and then we take a trip into fairyland. Fairyland was mentioned in the first book, but honestly I could have done without exploring it in this instance. 

This was a book I probably should have DNF’d, but I continued to hope that it would end okay. I can say for certainty that this is a series I won’t be continuing. 

Subscription Box Review: OwlCrate – August 2020

Basic Box Info

This box only has two options – Owlcrate, which caters to fans of Young Adult books and Owlcrate Jr, which caters to Middle Grade readers.

  • Owlcrate (29.99 + Shipping)
  • Owlcrate Jr. (27.99 + Shipping)

Boxes are shipped between the 15th and 20th of each month. Shipping is available worldwide, with the exceptions of Mexico and Peru. The FAQ said that delivery was proving to be unreliable in these countries, though if a more reliable shipping service is available service may resume in the future.


August 2020: Written in the Stars

All the glorious goodies

This month’s featured book is Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar. The OwlCrate editions is stunning, with purple sprayed edges and a gorgeous purple cover.

The featured pin this month is one of my favorites yet! I love the lotus design and it has glitter in the enamel that makes it extra sparkly. The glass star bottle is also super cute and I just realized while working on this post that the baubles inside are actual push pins and not just weird filler!

Next up is this really awesome satin scarf headband/ponytail tie. It’s super cute, though I don’t think it will stay on my head!! Alternatively, you could unfold it and use it as a bandanna scarf.

 

Another book sleeve! I really don’t know what to do with all these things… The design is lovely and inspired by The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.

I seriously love all the nerdy office accessories that get put in these boxes! It’s perfect whether you’re working from home or in the office, though honestly this clipboard is too small to be useful to me in a work capacity. The pen is super awesome though and will make it’s way to one desk or another.

Waiting on Wednesday: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

“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!


Let me just add to the already tremendous hype by sharing the cover for Rhythm of War! The fourth installment in the Stormlight Archive series has been highly anticipated by the majority of the fantasy community and it’s almost here!! I’m crazy excited about and will most likely be buying both the print and audio formats so I can switch back and forth as necessary. This will be released November 17, 2020 and now is the perfect time to catch up on the series or even start a re-read.