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:

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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.

Briar Queen by Katherine Harbour – Review

Cover- Briar Queen

Published: June 2, 2015

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 368 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

 

Synopsis

The dark, moody, and mystical fantasy begun in Thorn Jack, the first novel in the Night and Nothing series, continues in this bewitching follow up–an intriguing blend of Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alice in Wonderland, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream–in which Finn Sullivan discovers that her town, Fair Hollow, borders a dangerous otherworld .

Serafina Sullivan and her father left San Francisco to escape the painful memory of her older sister Lily Rose’s suicide. But soon after she arrived in bohemian Fair Hollow, New York, Finn discovered a terrifying secret connected to Lily Rose. The placid surface of this picture-perfect town concealed an eerie supernatural world–and at its center, the wealthy, beautiful, and terrifying Fata family.

Though the striking and mysterious Jack Fata tried to push Finn away to protect her, their attraction was too powerful to resist. To save him, Finn–a girl named for the angels and a brave Irish prince–banished a cabal of malevolent enemies to shadows, freeing him from their diabolical grip.

Now, the rhythm of life in Fair Hollow is beginning to feel a little closer to ordinary. But Finn knows better than to be lulled by this comfortable sense of normalcy. It’s just the calm before the storm. For soon, a chance encounter outside the magical Brambleberry Books will lead her down a rabbit hole, into a fairy world of secrets and legacies . . . straight towards the shocking truth about her sister’s death.

Lush and gorgeously written, featuring star-crossed lovers and the collision of the magical and the mundane, Briar Queen will appeal to the fans of Cassandra Clare’s bestselling Mortal Instruments series and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely.


Briar Queen is a book that is exactly as dark and beautiful as you may guess just by glancing at the cover. Of course, I didn’t buy this because of the cover, but rather because I know how lovely Harbour’s first book, Thorn Jack was and I needed to continue on with the series.

The host of characters grows large as the book progresses and there are so many new faces around. Each is so lovingly described that it makes me ache to be able to transcribe what I envision in my mind onto paper. Alas, I’ll probably have to ask my brother to attempt one of these drawings for me. Just to show you what I mean when I speak of these elegant descriptions here is the description of Amaranthus Mockingbird. “A gossamer cloak billowed like an enormous butterfly around her lily-white gown. Hair the color of moonlight on pewter cascaded to her hips. She was crowned with a wreath of blackthorn and old roses, her lovely face marred by black spirals inked beneath pale eyes lined with red cochineal.” This was one of my favorites and each Fata is gothickly beautiful despite the danger they possess.

The story is nearly as beautiful as the haunting beings dwelling within the Ghostlands and quite good. There is a trend in these books of trying to kill the most powerful of the Fata and Seth Lot, madadh aillaid is the next target, a creature even more powerful than that snake Reiko. The story takes Jack, Finn and company into the Ghostlands, an otherworldly place inhabited by Fata of all shapes, sizes, and predilections. Events twist and turn and I was never quite sure what would happen next because through every doorway and train station there was a new danger and literally anything could happen. The ending, I thought, was almost expected because there seems to be a maximum level of happiness one can achieve in these books, but I’d say it’s setting up for the third book quite nicely. I’ve always been fond of the Wild Hunt after all.

 I enjoyed reading this book so much- it’s kind of like eating an ice cream sundae with all the toppings after a long day in the sun and heat. Katherine Harbour is an extremely talented writer and she weaves words so artistically. For those of you waiting on the third installment, never fear for Nettle King was released April 19! I’m now on a hunt to find stories featuring these dark fae creatures – I can’t ever get enough of these type stories!

Upcoming Releases: April 2016

Cover- In the Labyrinth of Drakes

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

Published: April 5, 2016

Publisher: Tor Books

Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads: Here

 

 

Cover- The Glittering Court

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

Published: April 5, 2016

Publisher: Razorbill

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Goodreads: Here

 

 

Cover- Fall of Light

Fall of Light by Steven Erikson

Published: April 19, 2016

Publisher: Tor Books

Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads: Here

 

 

Cover- Nettle King

Nettle King by Katherine Harbour

Published: April 19, 2016

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads: Here

 

Cover- The Raven King

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Published: April 26, 2016

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Goodreads: Here

 

 

Cover- Water's Wrath

Water’s Wrath by Elise Kova

Published: April 26, 2016

Publisher: Silver Wing Press

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Goodreads: Here

 

 

Cover- Sharp Ends

Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie

Published: April 26, 2016

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Goodreads: Here