Activation Degradation by Marina Lostetter – Review

Published: September 28, 2021

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Series: Standalone

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 480 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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

Synopsis:

The Murderbot Diaries makes first contact in this new, futuristic, standalone novel exploring sentience and artificial intelligence through the lenses of conflicted robot hero Unit Four, from Marina Lostetter, critically acclaimed author of Noumenon, Noumenon Infinity, and Noumenon Ultra.

When Unit Four—a biological soft robot built and stored high above the Jovian atmosphere—is activated for the first time, it’s in crisis mode. Aliens are attacking the Helium-3 mine it was created to oversee, and now its sole purpose is to defend Earth’s largest energy resource from the invaders in ship-to-ship combat.

But something’s wrong. Unit Four doesn’t feel quite right.

There are files in its databanks it can’t account for, unusual chemical combinations roaring through its pipes, and the primers it possesses on the aliens are suspiciously sparse. The robot is under orders to seek and destroy. That’s all it knows.

According to its handler, that’s all it needs to know.

Determined to fulfill its directives, Unit Four launches its ship and goes on the attack, but it has no idea it’s about to get caught in a downward spiral of misinformation, reprograming, and interstellar conflict.

Most robots are simple tools. Unit Four is well on its way to becoming something more..


I can certainly see why this would be compared to Murderbot in so many blurbs! It’s an excellent becoming human type story, but it’s unique and in no way derivative of the Murderbot  series that has taken readers by storm. There are a few little twists and turns that totally blew me away!

The story starts off in possibly the most stressful situation possible. Unit Four, our protagonist, has just been yanked from a solution vat and is being rushed about to help save a mining station that has come under attack. Four’s handler insists that the attackers are extremely dangerous and so in a last ditch effort Four takes out a ship to fend off the invaders. It (as Four wants to be referred to as) is captured by humanoid creatures, and though it manages to injure a few, ends up strapped to a chair.  Turns out the humanoids are humans (a shock!) which also begs the question of who/what is Four’s handler if Earth isn’t inhabited by humans any longer. There a several of these topsy-turvy moments that really make one question what’s happening! Keeps you on your toes for sure!

The humans don’t trust Unit Four (who has been given the name Aimsley) but they do need it’s help. Their ship was damaged in the short battle that commenced at the beginning of the story and they now must work with Aimsley to repair their ship. 

This is ultimately a story of self-discovery and though it doesn’t give you the warm fuzzy that Becky Chambers stories have, it does have a similar feeling. It’s a crew up against stacked odds, they’re a weird and wonderful found family and now Aimsley might just get to be a part of that. Life can be longer than 90 days of eating recycled protein and getting blasted by radiation. Should a sequel be in the works, I would most definitely check it out!

Stacking the Shelves: 5/8/21

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


Received for Review:

Orbit Books very kindly sent me finished copies of The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne and The Broken God by Gareth Hanrahan. You can check out my review of The Shadow of the Gods HERE.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
This is a teensy little novella that I mostly picked up because of that gorgeous cover and my confidence that Alix Harrow tells a good story. Oh yeah, Sleeping Beauty was always one of my favorite Disney movies, so I’m curious to see what I think of a retelling (though Maleficent turning into a glorious dragon was truly my favorite part). Thanks to Tordotcom for the eARC.

The Seventh Queen by Greta Kelly
Hands down one of my most anticipated sequels of the year after I was left in awe of the cliffhanger ending in The Frozen Crown. Totally blew me away! Many thanks to HarperVoyager for the eARC.

The Coward by Stephen Aryan
I couldn’t possibly resist a book where the lauded hero wasn’t really all that heroic, so I’m dying to see what sort of antics occur when the MC tries to get out of saving the world again. Plus, something about that cover makes me want to put it on my shelf – I hope the gold parts are all gorgeous and shiny because I might buy the paperback! Thanks to Angry Robot for the eARC.

A Desert Torn Asunder by Bradley P. Beaulieu
Well, my self control got the best of me because I wasn’t going to pick this up until I finally read the previous book in the series. But here we are. Thanks to DAW for the eARC and making succumb to temptation!

My Purchases:

I’ve had a month full of good audiobooks! I picked up Swordheart by T. Kingfisher after reading the Bibliosanctum review, which was a great choice since I loved it and am now officially a T. Kingfisher fan. I also picked up Six Wakes and The Hunting Party which are two vastly different murder mysteries. And lastly one of my most anticipated YA releases of the year, Blade of Secrets

I finally received my stunning Subterranean Press edition of Dark Age by Pierce Brown. It has several awesome interior illustrations and is such a quality (and hefty) book! The wait for book to finally arrive is usually a long one, but it was longer than usual (thanks COVID) so it’s been just over a year wait to finally receive it. 

The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst – Review

Published: March 9, 2021

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 496 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

From award-winning author Sarah Beth Durst, a standalone epic fantasy set in a brand-new world of towering mountains and sparkling cities, in which a band of aging warriors have a second chance to defeat dark magic and avenge a haunting loss.

Twenty-five years ago, five heroes risked their lives to defeat the bone maker Eklor—a corrupt magician who created an inhuman army using animal bones. But victory came at a tragic price. Only four of the heroes survived. 

Since then, Kreya, the group’s leader, has exiled herself to a remote tower and devoted herself to one purpose: resurrecting her dead husband. But such a task requires both a cache of human bones and a sacrifice—for each day he lives, she will live one less.

She’d rather live one year with her husband than a hundred without him, but using human bones for magic is illegal in Vos. The dead are burned—as are any bone workers who violate the law. Yet Kreya knows where she can find the bones she needs: the battlefield where her husband and countless others lost their lives.

But defying the laws of the land exposes a terrible possibility. Maybe the dead don’t rest in peace after all.  

Five warriors—one broken, one gone soft, one pursuing a simple life, one stuck in the past, and one who should be dead. Their story should have been finished. But evil doesn’t stop just because someone once said, “the end.”


Five heroes went to kill the corrupt bone maker Eklor, and when he was defeated only four returned. Jentt, the quick and nimble thief, died to save another. His wife Kreya, the leader of their heroic party, has hidden herself away in a remote tower for decades following his death where she has been learning how to resurrect him. The only hitch in her plan is finding the human bones required to bring Jentt back to life and to do that she must cross the wall, to the field of the last battle. Of course, all of this is illegal and if Kreya were caught she would be summarily burned, just as the dead traditionally are treated… good thing she’s resourceful and has old friends that can be called upon! 

Fair warning, the paragraph above is only the smallest fraction of The Bone Maker’s plot which I thought was pretty damn delightful. This book absolutely did not go in the direction I expected it to which kept me turning pages late into the night. How could I put it down when the evil guy might not actually be dead!? And then, the characters were absolutely fascinating. The whole gang reunited once again, proving how massively surviving such a harrowing ordeal can screw up a person’s psyche. I got unexpected Kings of the Wyld vibes from this book but with less humor. The whole “reuniting the gang of retired heroes to fight the big evil” schtick is absolutely one of my favorite things in fantasy.

Let’s talk a bit about the characters now. Kreya, of course, has been an unkempt hermit for at least a decade and she has her husband’s corpse in a spare bedroom at the start of the book. She’s also got creepy constructs doing tasks about her dilapidated wizard tower. Very mad scientist/magician vibe. Jentt has been a corpse on and off for a while now, but once he’s revived he’s definitely the more stable of the two. Zera, Kreya’s best friend, has become an obscenely wealthy bone maker, creating talismans that grant abilities like speed, flight, stealth and so forth. She’s excellent, and doesn’t hold back on how she feels about Kreya abandoning her after the battle ended. Marso was the bone reader of the group and he’s practically raving mad when they find him naked in a fountain. He was seeing things he thought for sure couldn’t be true. Stran, the muscle of the group, has turned into a doting father and loving husband who assists his terrifying competent wife Amurra in running their farm. I love the variety we get with the characters and their chemistry when they reunite is amazing. 

This was a brilliant book and Sarah Beth Durst is cementing her place as one of my favorite fantasy authors. She writes epic standalones that leave you completely satisfied at the end. I’m considering returning to the Queens of Renthia series to complete it, despite my lackluster feelings about the first book in that series because everything else I’ve read is SO GOOD. As I mentioned previously, I think this book would be perfect for fans of Kings of the Wyld or anyone searching for a fantasy focusing on the aftermath of victory. I can’t recommend this enough!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

“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!

Oh my gosh!! This book has just the best synopsis EVER. Basically, five warriors defeated a corrupt magician but in the process one of them was killed. This warrior’s wife, who was also the leader of their group, has spent years trying to find a way to raise him from the dead. The catch here is that bone magic is illegal. The Bone Maker sounds like an absolute fabulous read and I can’t wait to get my hands on it in March 2021!

The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty – Review

Cover- The Empire of GoldPublished: June 30, 2020

Publisher: HarperVoyager

Series: The Daevabad Trilogy #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 766 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

“No series since George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire has quite captured both palace intrigue and the way that tribal infighting and war hurt the vulnerable the most.” —Paste Magazine

The final chapter in the bestselling, critically acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy, in which a con-woman and an idealistic djinn prince join forces to save a magical kingdom from a devastating civil war.

Daevabad has fallen.

After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.

But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.

Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.

As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt.


At last! The conclusion! I’ve been greatly looking forward to Empire of Gold since the previous book ended on such a wild cliff hanger. I mean, really – Daevabad’s fate was looking pretty bad, Nahri and Ali had just jumped into the cursed lake, and there were a few other important characters whose fates were questionable. Finally, my fears were laid to rest (or horribly, awfully confirmed).

The longer I sit here and think about what to write about this, the less I feel like I need to go into great detail because I’ve mentioned so many of the same things I want to say about this in my reviews for the first two books. Obviously I love the characters. It’s been wonderful to follow the growth and detailing of each character. Not all the growth, or perhaps I should say change, was for the better. Dara spiraled out of control and went from a character you sort of loved to one I pitied. His is nothing but a tale of tragedy. 

One of my favorite parts about this book was that we get to see even more of the broader Daeva world. Like Ali’s banishment in the previous book, certain events take us to new lands, where we meet new characters and have the most divine scenery described. For all you folks that think pretty scenery is just alright, there’s plenty of action too! This book is all about defeating Manizheh and retaking Daevabad from her clutches and obviously that’s going to take some force. Plenty of battle scenes for all you action-hungry readers!

Overall, this was a fantastic ending to a trilogy that quickly became a favorite from the first few pages. I do think there was a lot of dithering around in this installment and the pace definitely slowed down in some parts. I found myself wishing they would just hurry up and get to Daevabad and start swinging some swords or magic or something, but I liked how things played out and realize that sometimes I’m just impatient. Slow can be good. It can mean time to digest events and well, enjoy some of the new scenery. 

Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst – Review

Cover- Race the Sands

Published: April 21, 2020

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 544 (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 standalone fantasy, a pair of strong and determined women risk their lives battling injustice, corruption, and deadly enemies in their quest to become monster racing champions.

Life, death, and rebirth—in Becar, everyone knows that who you are in this life will determine what you are in your next life. The augurs can read your fate in your aura: hawk, heron, tortoise, jackal, human. Armed with that knowledge, you can change your destiny with the choices you make, both in this life and your next. But for the darkest individuals, there is no redemption: you come back as a kehok, a monster, and you will always be a kehok for the rest of time.

Unless you can win the Races.

As a professional trainer, Tamra was an elite kehok rider. Then a tragic accident on the track shattered her confidence, damaged her career, and left her nearly broke. Now Tamra needs the prize money to prevent the local temple from taking her daughter away from her, and that means she must once again find a winning kehok . . . and a rider willing to trust her.

Raia is desperate to get away from her domineering family and cruel fiancé. As a kehok rider, she could earn enough to buy her freedom. But she can’t become good enough to compete without a first-rate trainer.

Impressed by the inexperienced young woman’s determination, Tamra hires Raia and pairs her with a strange new kehok with the potential to win—if he can be tamed.

But in this sport, if you forget you’re riding on the back of a monster, you die. Tamra and Raia will work harder than they ever thought possible to win the deadly Becaran Races—and in the process, discover what makes this particular kehok so special.


I unexpectedly LOVED this book! I picked it up one Sunday morning just to pass the time and ended up finishing it that afternoon. I basically didn’t move for six hours because I desperately needed to know how it would end. 

Race the Sands is one of the rare standalone fantasy books in a sea of series. Sometimes it’s wonderful to know you’re about to read an entire story contained in a single book and you won’t have to wait for a sequel or end with a nasty cliff hanger. It’s set in the desert empire of Becar, where you’re reincarnated when you die and how you live your life determines your next form. The worst of the worst come back as kehoks, which are brute monsters, often chimera-like in nature. Some of them are captured and trained as mounts for the famed and deadly Becaran Races. The rider of the kehok will win fame and fortune and the winning kehok will win an amulet that will make them human in their next life. 

Tamra was a former champion kehok rider, but after an injury she can no longer ride and must instead train those who wish to ride. Or rather, she coddles the children of wealthy families so that they might gain some status. They’re certainly not cut out to ride the kehoks because they don’t have the will or mental fortitude. Tamra is given one last chance by her employer and she purchases a kehok whose form is that of a black scaled lion. Raia sees Tamra in the market and begs to be taken on as a trainee, so that she may ride and win her way free of her manipulative parents. So begins a desperate journey to train Raia and the kehok so that they might win the Becaran Races. There’s more to all of these characters than first meets the eye.

This was an absolutely wild ride, no pun intended and I loved every single page of it! I love when a story takes you by surprise and sweeps you off your feet – it’s not a feeling I have often, where I hate to put down a book for even a minute. The main characters were all fascinating, but the side characters were just as engaging. Tamara’s daughter was a delight, the augurs varied from honorable to awful, and the prince was a rather diverting POV as well. I really can’t think of a bad thing to say about this book, even after some time has passed and my enthusiasm has returned to a reasonable level. In short, you should definitely check this out!

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty – Review

Cover- The Kingdom of Copper

Published: January 22, 2019

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Series: The Daevabad Trilogy #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 640 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe..

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.


So, I’m lame and never reviewed The City of Brass despite LOVING it – it was definitely a 5 star read for me. Long story short, I loved the setting, the characters, and all the interesting relationships which is why I was super excited to get a lovely box of book mail containing Kingdom of Copper!

The story picks up a few years after the events of the first book and it was interesting to see how life had changed. Nahri married Muntadhir as she had bargained and has settled into her role as Nahid. Alizayd was exiled, almost killed, and now resides with one of the desert tribes where he brings much needed water. Dara, well of course he just couldn’t stay dead could he? Nah, he’s helping train some rebels and does the bidding of someone thought many years dead. The book was so full of plotting and drama that it was impossible for a dull moment to exist.

I love the rich setting of Daevabad, the thousand subplots and hidden agendas, and I love the characters most of all. If that isn’t enough for you, there’s some exciting action-y bits scattered in as well! Every time some new morsel of information or reveal was thrown my way, the reading intensified. I actually stayed up late (like really late) reading this one and not for one second regretted the lost sleep. Now I don’t think this one was quite as captivating as The City of Brass, but I put that down to my fondness for first books and the shiny, magical newness that a new series has.

My final say on this is read it and if you haven’t gotten around to it, read the first one. I thought the first book worked particularly well in audio and had the benefit of pronouncing everyone’s names, tribes, and places correctly which was awesome. I read this in print format which was great as well, though I think it would have been even cooler in audio.

Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon – Review

Cover- Blood of the Four

Published: March 6, 2018

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Pages: 480 (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 acclaimed authors of The Map of Moments and The Secret Journeys of Jack London join creative forces once more in this epic, standalone novel—an exciting dark fantasy of gods and mortals, fools and heroes, saviors and destroyers with a brilliant beam of hope at its core–that should more than appeal to readers of N.K. Jemisin and Brandon Sanderson.

In the great kingdom of Quandis, everyone is a slave. Some are slaves to the gods. Most are slaves to everyone else.

Blessed by the gods with lives of comfort and splendor, the royal elite routinely perform their duties, yet some chafe at their role. A young woman of stunning ambition, Princess Phela refuses to allow a few obstacles—including her mother the queen and her brother, the heir apparent—stand in the way of claiming ultimate power and glory for herself.

Far below the royals are the Bajuman. Poor and oppressed, members of this wretched caste have but two paths out of servitude: the priesthood . . . or death.

Because magic has been kept at bay in Quandis, royals and Bajuman have lived together in an uneasy peace for centuries. But Princess Phela’s desire for power will disrupt the realm’s order, setting into motion a series of events that will end with her becoming a goddess in her own right . . . or ultimately destroying Quandis and all its inhabitants.


Blood of the Four was one of those random, unsolicited books that just show up in my mailbox from time to time and I was admittedly unsure of its quality. I hadn’t read either of the co-authors and the synopsis sounded good, but not particularly unique among the fantasy genre. I decided to go ahead and read it anyway and it was seriously one of the best books I’ve read! It just really struck a chord with me and I devoured it, reading during every spare moment of time.

One thing I would like to point out about Blood of the Four is that the synopsis barely scratched the surface of what would occur in this book. Holy crap-noodles guys, so much happened and suddenly I was hating characters and loving others and wondering more about the history of Quandis and and and !!!!! I would have to say that this book from basic fantasy character origin story to full blown city destroying magical doom in about 100 pages. Okay, slight exaggeration, it took most of the book to do that but every single page was great. And it was a standalone, so it’s done and I don’t have to be sucked in to a subpar sequel that lost the magic the first book had! THIS IS A WIN-WIN SITUATION. I would kind of love a prequel though, telling of the Pent Angel and how it became heresy to believe in anything but the four.

The characters were really great too and managed to have way more depth than some characters in multi-book series that have serious popularity. Princess Phela was an initial favorite because she was sneaky and ambitious, but it quickly became apparent that her ambition was malignant. Blane was actually somewhat similar to Phela, but more of her flip-side. He was ambitious, but in the long run not as twisted as her. Both had good intentions but ultimately Phela went too far, too quickly and ended up in the same shape as her mother. Admiral Daria Hallarte was pretty awesome – another who rose above her initial station in life and by keeping her secrets close, earned the respect of her fellow naval officers and sailors. Demos Kallistrate ended up not being a noble turd muffin as I had expected – YAY! Due to a tragic affair, Demos’ father was executed as a traitor, and he and his family were enslaved. This was particularly hard to deal with as he was the heir to the Baron Kallistrate and his fellow slaves were instructed to be especially cruel to him. The story arc of each character was deep considering all their development happened in a single book – take note authors, and image what you can do with 3 or 4 or even 5 books!

I’ve gotta say, this book blew my expectations away, making me extra glad I actually read it! I would wholeheartedly recommend this, especially since it’s not like a 10 book commitment – it’s a standalone after all! 5/5 would book-push this book. 5/5 would read again. Also, I can’t seamlessly integrate this  but the magic in this book was that solidly awesome elemental stuff, but maaaaaaan does it tear up the user who doesn’t respect it. Oozy black ichor from the orifices, premature aging, intense pain, etc. Brutal stuff, folks.

Stacking the Shelves: 12/16/17

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:

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I was surprised to receive a finished copy of The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer in the mail recently thanks to Tor. This is the third book in her acclaimed Terra Ignota series. I won’t get to this for awhile since I’m behind on the series.

I also received an ARC of Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon from Harper Voyager – thanks guys! This is my first ARC from them and the synopsis sounds really cool. This will be published in early March, so I hope to have it read by then.

Lastly and perhaps most excitingly, I finally got my copy of Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft from Orbit! This book made a great impression amongst the SPFBO participants and was picked up by Orbit – big congrats to Bancroft on that. I’ve seen nothing but good reviews and can’t wait to check it out!

Books Purchased:

LRM_EXPORT_20171215_213645

In addition to the audiobook I picked up the hardcover of Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. This book is too gorgeous not to own in hardcover, featuring beautifully illustrated endpapers, interior art, and a nice glyph impression on the cover.

While I was browsing Amazon, I decided to go ahead and get An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson too! I’ve heard so many good things about this and I LOVE anything Fey. Plus, it’s one of the prettiest books I own.

At long last I’ve received my signed copy of The Death of Dulgath by Michael J. Sullivan! This is actually part of a reward from the MJS graphic novel I backed on Kickstarted maaaany months ago. I’ve already listened to the audiobook, so this is just going to look pretty on my shelf until I have the chance to do  a re-read.

Both of these were Audible purchases – it’s one of the only ways I manage to check out older books! Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky was a truly fantastic military fantasy and I’ll have a review up soon! A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness was somewhat less endearing, but not every book you pick up can be a winner. I’ll have a review up of this soon-ish also.

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.