In June, Laurie Forest’s next book in The Black Witch Chronicles, The Shadow Wand, will be released. I look forward to its release and, in the meantime, decided to re-read the stories. Looking through my local library’s audiobook section, I noticed that the novels were available in mp3 format. I decided to give the performances a listen.
Listening to The Black Witch in audio format has increased the level of my appreciation for these novels. The book is expertly read and allows me to enjoy the story while working on creative projects, or while I am out walking.
I have listened to the first novel in the series as well as the two prequel novellas. The performances of all of these were excellent and I could not stop listening – the stories are just as good when reading them!
Now I am waiting for the next audiobook in the series – my hold will take a few months to get to me. The wait is tempting me to join Audible!
When I saw that Elana K. Arnold had brought out another book titled Red Hood, I purchased a copy without even looking at the blurb. I had enjoyed her previous novel and looked forward to reading this one.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Retellings
Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good. But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her. A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions. About the blood in Bisou’s past and on her hands as she stumbles home. About broken boys and vicious wolves. About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.
Red Hood is a fantasy retelling of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. The novel was the second I had read by this author and I loved it! So much so that I completed it in one sitting.
The entire story is told in the second person – as if someone is recounting the story to the main character. It is an unusual technique but one that works for the story – it is almost as if we are seeing the events through the eyes of another person (as we would if we were watching a film).
The references in the novel are symbolic: the Wolf is the symbol men who prey on women and abuse them; the Hunter is the symbol of the women who stand up for and protect these women. It is interesting to note that, unlike in the original story, the Hunter is a woman and not a man whose role it is to save the woman.
The thread running throughout the story is that women are the ones who can save women – women are the ones who have the interests of other women at heart. The story also shows that women can band together to support one another and fight against the abuse of their kind.
I loved this book for its symbolism as well as for its reflection of women’s empowerment. Red Hood is the second Young Adult novel I have read by Elana K. Arnold – and it won’t be my last.
My final read during February was All The King’s Traitors by Keylin Rivers. The novel is a fantasy story written by an indie author who contacted me to read and review her novel. I did so with no reservation as I do like to support independent authors.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Dystopian
Over a thousand years have passed since the first Godstones ripped through the skies and mangled the earth. With their fall came centuries of chaos and destruction, but also immense power.
Power that separates humans from Gods.
Now, in the Kingdom of Azanthea, two adoptive brothers flee from unjust conscription.
A fugitive struggles to truly be free.
A double-crossing warrior must choose where his allegiances lie: with his wife or with his daughter.
A traitorous heir to the Kingdom’s throne roams the lands in search of an army to call his own.
A prodigy in the House of Historian competes in a grueling trial to prove her loyalty.
And one God-King rules over them all.
I enjoyed reading this novel from the fist chapter as I got to know the world and the characters that inhabit it. I did wish for a map insert when I began reading but was soon able to familiarise myself with the world described without it. The story does have a dystopian feel to it as characters often refer to the life humans previously lived.
Rivers creates vivid images with her use of words which enabled me to imagine the world in which her characters live. As with all fantasy series, there are a number of characters to learn about. At no time, though, was I confused and instead grew curious as to how they would all connect. The author’s pacing is perfect as she slowly shows the connections throughout the novel. The connections make sense and left me wondering how they would all pan out.
The novel ends on a cliffhanger – and has left me wanting more! The story slowly builds towards it and leaves the reader with so many questions. These questions are generated naturally and are in no way forced.
Will I continue reading the series? Yes, I definitely will. Not only because the story has left me with unanswered questions, but also because the story is well written. I look forward to the publication of the second book in the series and to my continued enjoyed of the Highwings series. This novel is perfect for fans of Fantasy fiction and for those who enjoy reading series. In addition, you would be supporting an independent author.
I was browsing the discounted stacks at my local bookstore when I came upon Unblemished by Sara Ella. I read the blurb with interest when I saw that it was a fantasy fiction read. The story piqued my interest so I decided to take it home with me.
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?
Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.
But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.
Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.
Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?
I enjoyed Ella’s story in another Reflection of our world – especially her description of the environment (for which some original vocabulary is used). Her description of what she calls a “trome” reminds me a little of a book by Enid Blyton that I reread many times as a young child – The Folk of the Faraway Tree. As expected, the connection resonated with me and I wished to read even more of them.
The romance in the story is set within the format of a love triangle. Eliyana has come to love Joshua and, in the beginning of the story, I was hoping that the two of them would get together. However once Ky comes into the story, I realise that another type of person may be better for her. He seems to bring out the inner strength in her. Does she come to that realisation herself? You would have to read the story to find out! 😀
Unblemished is a romance story; but it is also an adventure story. Eliyana is forced to move out of her comfort zone and, once she does, she learns more about her past as well as about herself. Throughout the novel, our heroine slowly finds an inner confidence that she never thought she possessed. With her confidence, she becomes braver and more willing to stand up for what she believes is right. The gradual unfurling of her confidence is perfectly paced.
The pace of the story kept me interested throughout – though it was not so intense that I was too eager to turn the pages. Unblemished is a fantasy read that incorporates romance and adventure as well as the magical qualities of this genre. I enjoyed this novel and have ordered the rest of the series to read.
When I first heard of Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin at a Frenzy Presents event, I knew that I would have to read it. A group of bookstagrammers planned on reading it during November so I thought it would be a good opportunity to read the novel with others who enjoy Young Adult Fantasy fiction.
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.
Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.
The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.
And love makes fools of us all.
I absolutely loved this novel! From the beginning, I could see the subtle undertones of Mahurin’s critique on marriage as well as the Church’s historical view of women. I always enjoy a story that is more than just a story and I enjoy novels that encourage my mind to think of my own experiences as well as what I have read in other books. This novel resonates with the patriarchal view of women – a view which the women (portrayed as witches) fight against. It subtly critiques the expected role of women in a marriage. And it encourages the reader to think of the Church’s role in the subjugation of women in a relationship.
Not only did I enjoy the critique on marriage and the Church, I also enjoyed the characters in the story. I love the sassy Lou who ran away from home and who has survived on the streets. And I just can’t help but enjoy Reid’s character – a man who has been brought up within the strict confines of Church doctrines. His world is turned upside down with the advent of Lou becoming a part of his life. The slow-burn romance between the two is fun to read – and caused a smile or two during my enjoyment of the novel. I also enjoyed reading the antics of Coco (Lou’s friend) and of Ansel, a chasseur-in-training who unexpectedly shows compassion for Lou.
Shelby Mahurin’s novel has all that I love in the Fantasy genre: magic, complicated relationships, a subtle critique of social issues, and interesting characters. Serpent and Dove was a perfect read for me and I cannot wait to read the sequel.
I have read Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin as part of a book discussion on Instagram.
Serpent and Dove is a Fantasy novel that pits the Church against witches. I enjoyed the themes that run through the novel and there were so many passages that I ticketed as I was reading. I have chosen to share with you an extract from a conversation between Lou and Ansel (a witch and a witchhunter-to-be) when discussing changing Reid’s opinion on witches:
“There are some things that can’t be changed with words. Some things have to be seen. Some things have to be felt.” (p 252, 2019, Harper Teen)
This quote is definitely one of my favourite from the novel. It resonates with me as I have often seen that people’s prejudices do not change unless it impacts their own life.
On Friday last week when I arrived home, I was so excited to see that I had received an ARC of Adam Silvera’s upcoming Fantasy release Infinity One from the team at Harper Collins Canada. Fantasy fiction is my favourite genre and when I heard about this series, I knew that I wanted to read it. On Friday, I admired the cover and loved the lines of the Phoenix. The ARC looks beautiful and I expect the cover of the finished hardcover will look absolutely stunning.
I have started reading the novel – I set aside my October TBR piled with no compunction. I am loving it so far! The story explores sibling relationships, being comfortable in your own skin no matter what your sexual orientation, and (I suspect) finding your inner strength. I look forward to seeing what the magical battle in New York will bring.
Have you ever wondered about the difference between an ARC and the final published copy? One of the differences may be the cover.
I received an ARC of Crier’s War by Nina Varela at the last Frenzy Presents event that I attended. I loved the start to this series so much that I knew I would want to continue reading it. When I picked up a copy of the book this weekend, I fell in love with its beautiful cover.
The ARC shows the sketched outline of the proposed cover but does not do true justice to its final lines and the embossing on the book’s dust jacket.
Have you noticed any other differences between ARCs and final published copies?
At the Frenzy Presents event at the end of August, I was lucky enough to receive one of the books that interested me: A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth. This is her second novel and I wanted to compare the second novel with her debut.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest nights to keep her warm.
Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.
When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.
Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house—before her house destroys everything she’s ever known.
As I began reading A Treason of Thorns, I was pulled right into the story. I loved the magical thread running through the story; and the fact that a house was imbued with a magic of its own. So much happens in a house and so many secrets occur within it walls. I love that this fact is transformed into magic in this story. While reading it, I could imagine the large houses in England of centuries past and the power that they used to have within society.
I felt a connection with the characters in Weymouth’s second novel much more than I did with the characters of her first. The reason could be that I enjoyed the inner strength of Violet – as well as the fact that she is loyal both to her House, Burleigh, and to her childhood friend, Wyn. In the novel, Violet has a series of choices to make and it is not always obvious what it is that she will choose. In order to make her choice, she comes to a few realisations about herself and what is important to her. I am tempted to say that Weymouth’s character development of her heroine is far stronger in A Treason of Thorns than it was in her first novel.
I enjoyed the magical quality of this novel and it is a perfect story for fans of fantasy fiction. The fantasy, however, is not too far removed from human history: readers can make a connection to the not too distant past (or even the present) when thinking of the influences of the Great Houses in society. It is a story that reminds us of the magic of the Great Houses in England. I enjoyed Weymouth’s storytelling and I look forward to reading her next offering.
At the Frenzy Presents event at the end of August, I was lucky enough to receive one of the books that interested me: Crier’s War by Nina Varela.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBT
After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.
Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.
Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.
Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.
Goodreads describes Crier’s War by Nina Varela as a Fantasy novel. While reading it, however, it had more of a science-fiction feel to me as it describes a world that is overtaken by human-made creations. The novel describes a possibility in a far distant era on Earth, and not on a mythical land.
The story describes a contrast between the Human and the Automae: two creatures that are at odds with one another and who both want their freedom – the Humans from enslavement of the creatures they created; and the Automae from their dependence on the humans. The politics of the Automae reflects the ideology followed by many humans in today’s world; a worldview that centres on keeping one’s culture and race separate from others.
Crier’s War is not just a story set in a possible future. It is a story that deals with separatism, as well as with being different. It is a story that reflects a realisation – and then acknowledgement – of difference within one’s self. It is a story that hints at the possibility of living in harmony (a possibility that I guess will be explored more in the second novel of the series). And it is a story that explores humanity and what it is to be human.
The two main characters in the story – Ayla and Crier – experience a growth throughout the novel. I enjoyed seeing their own self-realisation unfold as I turned the pages. The more I read about them, the more I grew to understand them and to like them as characters. It is a beautiful thing to see a young person come into their own and Varela describes their unfurling subtly and gently.
I enjoyed the world created by Varela as well as the characters that people her world. The novel ended on a cliffhanger and at that perfect moment. Now I need to wait for the release of the next in the series – and I am hoping that it is not a long wait. I need to know what happens next!
If you enjoy fantasy and science fiction stories, you will enjoy this one. In addition, it is a queer story with beautiful character development of young people. This is a series that I have every intention of completing.