The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso – Review

Cover- The Obsidian Tower

Published: June 2, 2020

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Rooks and Ruin #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 528 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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


The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers.

Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall her: Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle.

Ryx flees, seeking a solution to her deadly magic. She falls in with a group of unlikely magical experts investigating the disturbance in Vaskandar—and Ryx realizes that her family is in danger and her domain is at stake. She and her new colleagues must return to the family stronghold to take control of the artifact that everyone wants to claim—before it destroys the world.

Having absolutely loved Melissa Caruso’s first series, it only made sense for me to be equally excited for news of a brand new series set in the same world. This is set a number of years after the events of the first series and many of the characters are new, but there are a few familiar names that pop up. Things have changed a great deal since Amalia Cornaro’s push for mage rights in the first series and readers do get to see this, though the series is set in Vaskandar and the main character is the granddaughter of the Lady of the Owls.

Ryx is mage marked and should really be at the pinnacle of Vaskandran society, but her magic is deadly to any who may come in contact with her. She serves her grandmother, the Lady of the Owls, but has no one she can really call friend except for one of the castle gargoyles. Part of her job is to ensure that no one enters the obsidian tower that lies at the heart of Gloamingard. Its purpose is unknown, only that it must not be opened by anyone under any circumstance. Of course, there wouldn’t be a story if some foolish and ambitious mage-marked didn’t force their way into it, unleashing unknown trouble. This foolish person was the beloved of the neighboring witch lord, and when she was killed he demanded vengeance for her death. Ryx is sent to find a group of magical experts that have a deployment nearby the castle in hopes that they can help with whatever may have been unleashed when the seals were breached.

Ryx was quite a likable character and it was easy to sympathize with her desire to just be normal. She wants to be useful, but she also wants friends and human contact without the fear of harming those she cares for. The Rookery (the magical experts) were a delightful bunch that found Ryx to be fascinating rather than terrifying and I quickly fell in love with the whole group of them. The less savory characters were just as delightful, but in an evil sort of way. The Shrike Lord, whose beloved entered the tower, was rather awful. Perhaps not quite as reprehensible as Lord Ruven from the first series, but manipulative and abusive for sure. His brother, while not necessarily entirely a good guy was quite a spicy addition to the book as well. 

Overall, this was a great intro to a new series in a much beloved setting. Looking back, I ended up rating the Tethered Mage 4 stars as well, so I’m hoping that the next book will really solidify my love for this new series in much the same way! The characters are compelling, the stakes are high, and boy oh boy, do I love those morally grey Vaskandran guys.

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey – Review

Cover- The Book of Koli

Published: April 14, 2020

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Rampart Trilogy #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Pages: 416 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

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


Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable world. A world where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don’t get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will.

Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don’t venture beyond the walls.

What he doesn’t know is – what happens when you aren’t given a choice?

The first in a gripping new trilogy, The Book of Koli charts the journey of one unforgettable young boy struggling to find his place in a chilling post-apocalyptic world. Perfect for readers of Station Eleven and Annihilation.

M.R. Carey has really impressed me with both The Girl with All the Gifts and Someone Like Me, so when I saw this new trilogy I obviously picked it up. The premise was fascinating – a post-apocalyptic world where the plant life is deadly? Sign me up, boys! 

The book is told by the titular character, Koli, who has lived his entire life in the village of Mythen Rood. His mother runs the lumber mill, which is a tough, dangerous job in a world where the trees can kill you. The book follows Koli for several years as he grows up and it quickly becomes apparent that life in the village isn’t quite as fair as it’s portrayed. The Ramparts, who run the village are sort of revered and are the only ones who can use old technology that defends the village and contains vital knowledge. It’s said that anyone can become a Rampart if the old technology awakes for them at a coming of age test, but (SPOILER) it’s actually a lie. I’ve said enough and going into this with no further knowledge will definitely be more exciting!

On to the characters (or mostly character)! Koli is fairly likable, though his grammar isn’t the best, which makes the book a little difficult to read at first. It took me probably 20-30 pages to get used to the vernacular and not have to re-read sentences. It does contribute to the immersion to a certain degree. The entire book is from Koli’s perspective and because of this I definitely had my fair share of secondhand embarrassment and cringe from this. He’s just so dumb sometimes. And then he kept make awful decisions and I could hardly bear to read on because I just knew it was going to be terrible. UGHHH. 

After the initial adjustment period, I ended up loving this book though I had to take periodic breaks when Koli’s bad decisions just became too much for me. Things really escalate in the latter half/third of the book and the ending made me all the more excited for the next installment. The worldbuilding wasn’t extensive in this installment, though I predict that will change as the series continues. The next book will be out in September 2020, so it’s not too long of a wait!

Stacking the Shelves: 4/11/20

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:


Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler
I was DELIGHTED when this arrived on my doorstep! Orbit knows my mind and I get some very exciting ARCs from time to time. It’s got revenge and magic and siblings trying to reunite!

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey
This is an exciting start to a new post-apocalyptic series by M.R. Carey. A review of this will be posted soon, so keep an eye out!

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
I got a partial eARC of this from Tor right after featuring it as a Waiting on Wednesday book! I’m excited to get a little taste of this before its September release. Also, first contact with aliens is always exciting and I just love the cover.

Driftwood by Marie Brennan
“A strange place of slow apocalypses”. I was sold after reading the synopsis and it’s surprisingly short, so it will be a pleasant diversion! Thanks to Tachyon Publications for the eARC.

The Vanished Queen by Lisbeth Campbell
Another lovely cover, this time with two people taking on a despotic king who probably killed the queen. Thanks to Saga Press for the eARC.

The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson
A science experiment gone wrong infects a community with an uncontrollable urge to do violence. This certainly sounds like an edge-of-your-seat thriller! Thanks to Saga Press for the eARC!

The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty
OH MY GOSH!!! The end of the trilogy is nigh! I’ve really been loving this series (obviously) am a little enthusiastic about finishing this up and seeing what happens. Many thanks to HarperVoyager for the eARC.

My Purchases:


I haven’t been purchasing many physical books and have mostly just been getting them in OwlCrate boxes. The Kingdom of Back is from my March OwlCrate and is quite a lovely edition. I did end up purchasing Thunderhead and The Toll by Neal Stephenson after being TOTALLY blow away by Scythe. However…. Thunderhead did not arrive, though my tracking said it was delivered. Guess a phone call to customer service is in order.

Last but not least, I have a couple audiobook purchases. I picked up Dragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix.

The Shadow Saint by Gareth Hanrahan – Review

Cover- The Shadow Saint

Published: January 9, 2020

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Black Iron Legacy #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 567 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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


Thieves, dangerous magic, and a weapon built with the power to destroy a god clash in this second novel of Gareth Hanrahan’s acclaimed epic fantasy series, The Black Iron Legacy.

Enter a city of spires and shadows . . .

The Gutter Miracle changed the landscape of Guerdon forever. Six months after it was conjured into being, the labyrinthine New City has become a haven for criminals and refugees.

Rumors have spread of a devastating new weapon buried beneath the streets – a weapon with the power to destroy a god. As Guerdon strives to remain neutral, two of the most powerful factions in the godswar send agents into the city to find it.

As tensions escalate and armies gather at the borders, how long will Guerdon be able to keep its enemies at bay?

The Shadow Saint continues the gripping tale of dark gods and dangerous magic that began with Hanrahan’s acclaimed debut The Gutter Prayer.

I actually liked the cast of characters in The Shadow Saint much more than those in The Gutter Prayer. Yes, many of them are the same, but some have less page-time and others are in new roles or have developed to a point where I now like them much more. And the new characters… maaaaan, they’re great! I really liked the first book – totally freaky stuff, with all the ghouls and worm-people – but this really stole the show in my opinion. 

I think one of the most common things I (and other readers) said about the first book is that they wanted to see more of the Godswar. It sounded totally metal. Seriously, these people become unwilling saints and the gods manifest themselves on the battlefield and just MOW over people or turn them into monstrosities that are only partially human. Well, readers will get a dose of that in The Shadow Saint and it amakes the events in Guerdon more impactful to the world at large. What’s actually happening in Guerdon is more political than in the previous book, which was mostly wild magic and madness down in the less savory areas of the city. This time around the story leans more toward spycraft and dirty politicking, and it seems that poor Eladora Duttin is still at the center of it.

Eladora is Carillon Thay’s cousin and was closely mixed up in the crazy events of the first book. I mean, she nearly got sacrificed by her undead grandfather in lieu of Carillon. Fortunately she’s much more in her element this time as a close political consultant of Industrial Liberal leader Kelkin. Cari is still hanging around the city and has unique ties to the New City that popped up when the Black Iron God thing went wild. Perhaps the two most interesting perspectives were those of the Ishmere spy with his many names and his charge Emlin and the Haithi noble Terevant Erevesic who are from opposing factions from outside Guerdon. 

The new thing now is the so-called god bomb, which totally destroyed a deity that had manifested on the battlefield. Now both sides are desperate to get their hands on one because it’s a game changer in a war that has turned into an endless bloody exchange. This is really why these opposing factions are skulking around Guerdon – it would entirely change the war if they could be destroyed permanently. Terevant is sort of the lame second son of the Erevesic house and he’s sent to Guerdon to assist his brother at the Haithi embassy. Here he’s assigned to investigate a murder of a Haithi man that shouldn’t have resulted in his permanent death. You see… the Haithi don’t usually die. They die, but their soul remains attached to their bones and they serve out their days as skeletal soldiers, guards, etc. It’s way cool – totally love it! The Spy is charged with gathering information and protecting Emlin, who is chosen of Fate Spider. He can hear whispers and see threads of possibility, making him a perfect spy for Ishmeres so that they may try to get their hands on a god bomb. 

I really had a great time reading this and now I’m like twice as excited about this series as I was before. It’s intense and unique. The sense of danger is quite real and things E S C A L A T E. I need more!

The Burning White by Brent Weeks – Review

Cover- The Burning White

Published: October 22, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Lightbringer #5

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 992 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0


The nail-biting conclusion to the Lightbringer series!

Stripped of both magical and political power, the people he once ruled told he’s dead, and now imprisoned in his own magical dungeon, former Emperor Gavin Guile has no prospect of escape. But the world faces a calamity greater than the Seven Satrapies has ever seen… and only he can save it.

As the armies of the White King defeat the Chromeria and old gods are born anew, the fate of worlds will come down to one question: Who is the Lightbringer?

I don’t even know where to begin with this review and as such, it might be shorter than I would normally give a 5 star read. It was just SO much to take in and so many plot threads wound up perfectly. If you didn’t already know, The Burning White is the last book in the Lightbringer series and has been much anticipated by basically the entire fantasy community. This was a brilliant series and I’m so pleased with the outcome and the quality of this book.

The characters remain some of my favorite in fantasy. Kip Guile went from being a fat, scared little boy to a formidable and cunning warrior, not to mention the fact that he might be the Lightrbringer of prophecy. Gavin has surely had some of the most drastic ups and downs in this series and I loved his character growth. His POV was really brilliant and quite touching this time around and it was interesting to see him face down his past and even Orholom himself. The MAIN characters might have been the Guile men, but the ladies in this series really held their own. Tia, Karris, and Tysis were all powerful, intelligent women who were just as unstoppable as their male counterparts and while they were supportive, they didn’t take a back seat.

At this point, if you’ve read the series you know how amazing all five books are. This was an awesome finale with lots of action, peril, and the inevitable heartbreak. The ending was excellent and it had multiple epilogues that were ENTIRELY NECESSARY. I really don’t want to discuss plot at all – I won’t risk spoiling anything!

Overall, The Burning White was exactly what I hoped for. If you’re on the fence about starting the series for any reason, allow me to give you a list of why you should check it out:


*This list is not complete, merely a reasonable selection of reasons you should check out the Lightbringer series. Also, the covers are way cool.

Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan – Review

Cover- Blood of Empire

Published: December 2, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Gods of Blood & Powder #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 592 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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


As the final battle approaches a sellsword, a spy, and a general must find unlikely and dangerous allies in order to turn the tides of war in this epic fantasy tale of magic and gunpowder by acclaimed author Brian McClellan.

The Dynize have unlocked the Landfall Godstone, and Michel Bravis is tasked with returning to Greenfire Depths to do whatever he can to prevent them from using its power; from sewing dissension among the enemy ranks to rallying the Palo population.

Ben Styke’s invasion of Dynize is curtailed when a storm scatters his fleet. Coming ashore with just twenty lancers, he is forced to rely on brains rather than brawn – gaining new allies in a strange land on the cusp of its own internal violence.

Bereft of her sorcery and physically and emotionally broken, Lady Vlora Flint now marches on Landfall at the head of an Adran army seeking vengeance against those who have conspired against her. While allied politicians seek to undo her from within, she faces insurmountable odds and Dynize’s greatest general.

Blood of Empire is by far one of my most anticipated books of 2019 and it 100% lived up to my expectations. There’s nothing better than the conclusion of a series being both satisfying and awesome, particularly one that’s had such extensive world building. The Powder Mage Trilogy was stellar, so upon the announcement of a second trilogy following many of our favorite characters decades later, I was happier than a kid in a candy shop. To have the Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy turn out just as powerfully as the Powder Mage books pleases me immensely as a reader! 

Wrath of Empire left some characters about to enter rather precarious situations and Blood of Empire saw them leaping headfirst into them. Ben Styke, Ka-Poel, and the Mad Lancers were speedily headed for Dynize in an attempt to secure the third godstone. Imagine their surprise when they arrive and find that it’s been found and is in quite a populous area. Madness ensues. Vlora is powder-blind and Olem-less and she’s near to the point of breaking as a result of the two. This made for some rather harrowing chapters, as she lacks the enhancements that made her nigh invincible on the field of battle and she must rely on others to take the big risks. Michel Bravis, former Blackhat and still a spy, was surprisingly one of my favorite characters in the series. His character growth (and change) was impressive and well, he’s a pretty tough dude and is ALWAYS in over his head.

This was a dramatic conclusion with plenty of action, treachery, and epic moments where I couldn’t help but cheer for the characters. I loved that we got to see inside Dynize culture and it really helped flesh out the story even more. We got bits of that in the second book where Michel became part of a household, but the characters being in Dynize was another level. I loved those chapters – so much dirty politicking!! I have one quibble with the whole book and it’s that the ending felt rather hurried, though on the other hand, it was nice to just one shot the bad guy without dragging the whole thing out. I had to go back and re-read that particular section just to make sure I hadn’t misread something. Nonetheless, it was satisfying and the number of epilogue chapters was fantastic – it answered things, though left room for you to imagine how lives might play out in this new world.

My overall opinion of this series is beyond positive and I can’t recommend it enough. This world Brian McClellan has so lovingly constructed for his readers ranks as one of my all-time favorites in terms of creativity, culture, and character. It’s quite something and has made me seek out other “flintlock fantasies” to fill the void in between reading his books. 

Waiting on Wednesday: The Ranger of Marzanna 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!

Cover- The Ranger of Marzanna

This COVER! The Ranger of Marzanna has a cover that embodies all the things that ten-year-old me loved and that current me still loves. I am such a sucker for the flowing fantasy steed that will surely carry its rider through danger. I’ve not read Jon Skovron’s books before (lack of time) but I will certainly be making time for this lovely, chunky book. Goodreads shows that it will have over 500 pages and I’m for ice trekking ranger chicks, over-powered magic users, and more RUSSIAN INSPIRED FANTASY! The Ranger of Marzanna will be released in April 2020.

The Throne of the Five Winds by S.C. Emmett – Review

Cover- The Throne of the Five Winds

Published: October 15, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Hostage of Empire #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 704 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

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


Two queens, two concubines, six princes. Innumerable hidden agendas. Yala, lady-in-waiting to the princess of a vanquished kingdom, must navigate their captors’ treacherous imperial court.

The Emperor’s palace — full of ambitious royals, sly gossip, and unforeseen perils — is perhaps the most dangerous place in Zhaon. A hostage for her conquered people’s good behavior, the lady Komor Yala has only her wits and her hidden maiden’s blade to protect herself — and her childhood friend Princess Mahara, sacrificed in marriage to the enemy to secure a tenuous peace.

But the Emperor is aging, and the Khir princess and her lady-in-waiting soon find themselves pawns in the six princes’ deadly schemes for the throne — and a single spark could ignite fresh rebellion in Khir.

And then, the Emperor falls ill, and a far bloodier game begins…

The Throne of the Five Winds is the first installment of the Hostage of Empire series, an intricate and ruthless East Asia-inspired epic fantasy trilogy perfect for fans of George R. R. Martin, Ken Liu, Kate Elliott, and K. Arsenault Rivera.

Could this book have been any better? Probably not! The Throne of the Five Winds truly just struck all the right chords for me and ended up being this lovely, enticing, and somewhat saddening beginning to what I think will be a tremendous fantasy series. This book could fittingly have been titled “A Game of Thrones” as well – almost the entire book focuses on the political machinations of the six princes, two queens, two concubines, and countless others that surround the throne of Zhaon. It was far more fascinating than I would have initially anticipated – I expected dense and possibly a dragging pace but that wasn’t the case.

Lady Komor Yala (called Yala, as her family name is listed first) was chosen to accompany her childhood friend, Princess Mahara, to Zhaon when she was to be married to the eldest prince to secure peace. Yala is intelligent and deadly, having been raised in the traditional Khir fashion whereas Mahara was raised to be a silent figurehead meant to bear children. I loved both Yala and Mahara for their bravery, friendship, and Yala’s dedication to her role as protector and lady. The other women of power in the palace (aside from the second concubine) were dreadful – scheming, cruel things out for their own gain. The princes and princesses were a mixed bag, with some being wonderful and others just as conniving as their mothers and twice as cruel. It was unavoidable that some of the princes found Yala appealing, as she was alluring if not traditionally beautiful, and that was honestly one of my favorite parts of the story. 

Ah yes, the story – it’s one of politics on a grand scale. With the Khir beaten and peace secured, the Zhaon have returned focus to their inner political battles though it may not be as peaceful as they thought. Mahara’s illegitimate brother has become heir and he doesn’t hold the same views on peace that perhaps his father does and he begins his own scheming. The Zhaon prince are either warriors or snakes (and sometimes both) and are trying to outmaneuver one another and it only escalates when it becomes apparent the Emperor is dying. The throne will soon be vacant and one of them will have the opportunity to fill it. There are numerous assassination attempts on multiple characters and there’s enough violence to sate the bloodthirsty reader. No full scale battles perhaps, but the action is certainly there. Though I love a good battle, the truly fascinating parts featured Yala and Mahara (good, since they’re the main characters). Yala is the quiet strength behind her princess and fills so many roles – secret guardian, spy, the fall guy (or girl in this case), companion, and so much more. She’s demure and intelligent and it’s made even better because she could also knife you with her hidden blade faster than you could imagine. 

I can’t fit all my feels for this book into words. It was just SO, SO GOOD and I was taken by surprise at how much I loved it! It saddens me that I have to wait for the next book which will hopefully be released in 2020 because this book ended on such a sad note with so many loose strings. I’m unsure where this will go next and what Yala’s next moves will be and I just want to know if she will be a magnificent and avenging angel. GEEZ.

Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw – Review

Cover- Grave Importance

Published: September 24, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: Dr. Greta Helsing #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 448 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

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


A charmingly witty fantasy adventure in the world of Strange Practice, starring Dr. Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, who must solve a dangerous medical mystery at a secret French spa for mummies.

Oasis Natrun: a private, exclusive, highly secret luxury health spa for mummies, high in the hills above Marseille, equipped with the very latest in therapeutic innovations both magical and medical. To Dr. Greta Helsing, London’s de facto mummy specialist, it sounds like paradise. But when Greta is invited to spend four months there as the interim clinical director, it isn’t long before she finds herself faced with a medical mystery that will take all her diagnostic skill to solve.

A peculiar complaint is spreading among her mummy patients, one she’s never seen before. With help from her friends and colleagues — including Dr. Faust (yes, that Dr. Faust), remedial psychopomps, a sleepy scribe-god, witches, demons, a British Museum curator, and the inimitable vampyre Sir Francis Varney — Greta must put a stop to this mysterious illness before anybody else crumbles to irreparable dust…

I just CANNOT get enough of Dr. Greta Helsing and the adventures she gets sucked into! First of all, I really loved the first two books, Strange Practice and Dreadful Company so I completely expected to love this as well – which I did! It has much the same formula as the others – Greta is abroad, this time temporarily overseeing a mummy medical spa in southern France, when unusual things begin to happen. Her mummy patients are afflicted by sudden blackouts (terribly for mummies – very fragile, you see) and someone is trying to tear a hole in the fabric of reality. No biggie, right?

Obviously I’ve gushed about the characters before, so we’ll go straight to the heart of things – I LOVE these characters. They’re brave, caring, and have their own bizarre senses of humor. They’re the biggest part of why these books have resonated with me so strongly and I’m already plotting to see if a re-read could be in order sometime next year because it’s just such a comfort read. 

The plot in Grave Importance has escalated somewhat since the previous, as happens in many book series. Things start out on a relatively small scale and next thing you know you’re patching holes in reality so the world doesn’t go stark raving mad. All the separate issues in the first two books have impacted the ultimate culmination of events here. Little tears in reality add up in the long run and this is just the final straw. Things escalate, the big guns are called in, and it looks real, real bad for the last 50 pages or so. It was intense, exciting, and morbidly entertaining read. A solid 4.5 stars if you ask me. Not a 5 because it didn’t end in impassioned wailing or shouting and my heart didn’t grow three sizes that day à la Grinch (which would actually be a medical issue).

Should you read this series? Short answer – YES! Longer answer – yes, especially if you’re into weird, dry humor and I think fans of Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook will think it rocks. The whole series was well written and fantastically entertaining while still retaining a solid plot and it had characters you could genuinely care for!! Vivian Shaw is going to be one of those authors whose new books I’ll automatically buy for sure.