Review: This Eternity of Masks and Shadows by Karsten Knight

This Eternity of Masks and Shadows is a wild ride of espionage, intrigue, reincarnated gods, and a seedy supernatural underworld.  Even after reading the synopsis of this book, I still didn’t know what I was getting into when I picked up an ARC.  It’s such an intricate and layered narrative that I really did enjoy from the first page.  Non-stop action from the outset, dynamic relationships, and interesting character arcs are the strengths of this book.

Cairn Delacroix is a normal teenager on the verge of adulthood, but there’s one thing:  Her mother is the incarnation of an Inuit goddess, and all of those myths about gods you’ve heard?  They’re real and they walk the earth like the rest of us.  When Cairn’s mother unexpectedly dies, Carin must pick up the pieces and set out on an adventure to understand who her mother truly was. 

The premise feels very reminiscent of American Gods, but it’s different.  Yes the gods live on earth with mortals, but their interactions are different and this book isn’t about a grand battle between old gods and new gods.  It’s part murder-mystery, part spy-noir novel, but also part detective serial that just doesn’t want to stop. 

One of my favorite lines:

“One horrible deed doesn’t make a person evil. When it’s time to be judged at the end of our lives, it’s the sum of our actions that ultimately defines us.” 

Knight, Karsten. This Eternity of Masks and Shadows. 2020.

The character are well developed, though I did want to explore the relationship with Cairn’s father more.  He seemed to be the odd character out that didn’t get as much interaction, though this is a small thing.  Cairn is an interesting character, struggling with the death of her mother and the seeming loss of her father to alcoholism.  Not only is Cairn trying to understand her mother, she is also seeking clarity for her path forward.  Detective Nook was fantastic, but who doesn’t love a polar bear god turned detective? 

I learned about many gods I’d never heard of, like Tane the Maori spirit of the forest, Sedna the Inuit goddess of the sea, and so many more!  This book has really inspired me to learn about more world belief systems.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to most YA fantasy readers.  I know it’s in the YA category, but the content is really edging into adult and I feel like there should have been a trigger/content warning at the beginning.  But, it’s a detective/spy/mystery novel set in an urban fantasy, what can you do?

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a galley copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication date is June 2nd! Grab your copy today and follow the author on social media for more great book news!

PURCHASE LINKS
AUTHOR SOCIAL LINKS

Review: The Chalice and the Crown by Kassandra Flamouri

The Chalice and The Crown is the debut YA fantasy from Kassandra Flamouri.  This title is dazzling and oh so interesting! 

This novel meld magic, madness, beauty, and visceral imagery into a cohesive narrative that is mind-bogglingly fantastic and dark!  Immediately, I felt the influence of Black Swan, a ballerina falling into madness, but I absolutely felt for Sasha.  Very quickly, the reader is introduced to the notion that Sasha’s mother had been dealing with a mental illness prior to her death.  The descriptions of Sasha’s struggles felt so very real, I almost felt like I was with her in the dream sequence vignettes. 

I felt the vignettes were a smart choice to provide some worldbuilding without it being blatantly obvious.  I was transported to this dream world that didn’t make much sense until part 2, but it was described so well!  The character development was high level, we don’t really know what many of the characters look like, but that isn’t as important in this book.  I could relate to Sasha, Emily, James, and the other characters without knowing exactly what they looked like.  It was much more important to me to understand their emotional development rather than their physical descriptions. 

The chapter titles were amazing!  Ballet terms mixed with musical cues that evoke the feeling of the chapter, such a great idea!  I also really enjoyed the bits of Russian and Russian culture sprinkled throughout the narrative.  I can tell the author has worked hard to provide accurate language and translations.

The romantic element was subtle, rather than overt.  It seems like the best choice for this dark, YA fantasy.  An overly prevalent and romance-y love plot line wouldn’t fit the mood or theme here.  One other thing I really appreciated is the content warning at the beginning of the novel and the goodreads listing:

“CONTENT WARNING:

Although full of magic and love and beautiful things, this work also contains depictions of violence, assault, slavery, family and animal death, and references to sexual and physical abuse. The first half in particular is quite dark.”

This is very respectful for readers and I am so happy this is included!

Final thoughts:  This is a fantastic debut novel and something you should pick up this summer!  I’ll be getting a copy for my bookshelf!

The Chalice and the Crown is available June 5th!  Pre-order using the links below and follow the author on social media for new book updates!

I received an advance copy of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review!

AUTHOR SOCIAL LINKS

Review: Spindle & Dagger by J. Anderson Coats

Wales in the twelfth century was a dangerous place for a woman, especially a woman with a secret.​

This is the story of Elen, a girl I slaughtered whose family at the hands of one Owain ap Cadwgan and his band of warriors.  Elen intends to survive.  She finds herself assaulted, but in a position to use her power to spin a lie and convince Owain that he has been blessed and cannot die while under her protection.  Clothed, fed, and living a lie, Elen finds herself well cared for, until Owain kidnaps the wife and children of a Norman warlord.  Elen’s lies seem to be on the brink of spinning out of control as war rages with the Normans. 

This is a meticulously researched and written novel that evokes the brutality of the world in the twelfth century.  Interesting action scenes pared with beautiful prose make this an enjoyable read for anyone who loves history and appreciates the gritty-ness of the time period.  Coats describes in brutal detail the challenges, battles, and sexual assaults that likely took place at the time.  This is not a book that is a watered-down accounting of Norman warlords in the twelfth century, this is the all-out, all-encompassing, and incredibly brutal novel that is, most likely, very close to the reality. 

The book has solid character development through the second half of the book, though I do agree with other reviewers that the overall pacing in the first half of the book is slow.  I do think that the writing makes up for this slow exposition through the exploration of the relationship between Elen and Nest, the kidnapped wife of Gerald of Windsor. 

Though this is a young adult novel, I would caution anyone under the age of 16 to read it due to its graphic violence.  It wouldn’t be a good historical fiction novel without violence, but this can get extreme at times.  My only other criticism is that the passage of time seems to be choppy and the scene structure can get in the way of the narrative, but this is a small complaint.

I really enjoyed this book and I would encourage historical fiction lovers to pick up a copy!  The book releases March 10th, 2020!  I originally requested this book because it has a beautiful cover and an intriguing premise!  

Thank you to Candlewick Press and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book, it was a privilege to read it and I thoroughly enjoyed it!  This is a freely given review.

Later this week I will be posting my review of not only The Breaking by K. S. Marsden, but a review of the two previous books in her The Northern Witch series!  You don’t want to miss this!

PURCHASE LINKS
AUTHOR SOCIAL LINKS

Review: Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

Cerys is the daughter of the royal gardener of the Kingdom of Aloriya, a land that has seen peace for 300 years.  Bordered by a forbidden, cursed forest, Aloriya’s residents are rocked by the death of their king and are preparing to crown a new monarch.  Cerys’ best friend is the soon to be queen, Anwen, but she also has a secret.  Cerys can make flowers grow from a drop of her blood, what a useful power for a gardener’s daughter!  All goes well until the kingdom is attacked and the world seems to crumble around Cerys.

This is the sixth novel from Ashley Poston and I was absolutely enchanted by her writing style!  The narrative carries the reader through several different fairy tale tropes without it being incredibly obvious.  Poston is a master of show don’t tell and I did not see the ending until it happened.

Pacing is fantastic, I couldn’t put this book down!  I read it in two sittings because I couldn’t get enough of the world building.  Cursed kingdoms, fantastic monsters, unrealized love, and beautiful imagery all come together to make a wonderful new YA title! 

Cerys’ character development is honestly wonderful.  I could relate to her, I could see her struggles, and I could feel her anguish about the hard decisions she makes.  Her companion, a wily fox, is such a fun character in the story.  Fox is dynamic and interesting without being boring, as most animal-y companions can become.  The relationships between the characters are described early on so the reader absolutely understands the sacrifice and danger of the ultimate situation. 

Ashley Poston’s previous titles have sequels and I am hopeful this world and story will continue!  Also, read to the end, even after the THE END, it’s very important!

Thank you to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for a galley copy of this title in exchange for an honest review!

You can find Among the Beasts & Briars on goodreads and visit Ashley Poston’s Website!

Among the Beasts & Briars is out on October 20, 2020!  Pre-order from you favorite retailer today!

PURCHASE LINKS
AUTHOR SOCIAL LINKS

Review: The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower is the first book in a new series by Melissa Caruso.  Set in the same world as her previous trilogy, Sword and Fire, this book is centered in a small kingdom to the north of where the main action took place in the previous books.  New characters, new magic, and lots of courtly conspiracy!  Ryx is our main character, the self-described black sheep of a royal-magical family.  In the opening chapters, Ryx explains (in beautifully written detail, rather than boring exposition) that her magic works in reverse, instead of creating things or manipulating things, she kills everything she touches.   

The author really builds great tension through a complex narrative with lots of political intrigue!  As other reviews have said, the plot isn’t new, it’s a book about a girl with a power that is different from her family, she gets pushed away by said family, discovers a group of people who understand her, and she tries to save the day.  That’s common, but don’t we read books because we like elements of that plot?  Because we love magic, politics, made up kingdoms and worlds, and reading intently as the heroine discovers that her power isn’t bad, just different  and different is okay. 

I really enjoyed this book and would absolutely recommend it to a YA reader of any age.  Fans of Leigh Bardugo, Victoria Schwab, Cassandra Clare, and Sarah J. Maas would love this book! I already have the Sword and Fire trilogy on my TBR list for when I finally get out from under this pile of ARCs!

I received a galley copy of this book from NetGalley and Orbit in exchange for an honest review.

You can find The Obsidian Tower on goodreads and on Melissa Caruso’s website.  This book releases June 4th (someone’s birthday!) and be sure to pick up a copy from your favorite retailer!

PURCHASE LINKS
AUTHOR SOCIAL LINKS

Review: Palace of Silver by Hannah West

This series is very interesting because it combines so many different elements of storytelling.  The first book, A Kingdom of Ash and Briars, takes place well over 100 years before the setting of the sequels.  It seems a bit like this was meant to be a standalone that was picked up for a series, which isn’t a bad thing, only an interesting thing.  After reading the first book in the series, I really did enjoy it!   Great storytelling and world building, from what I can tell other reviews said that it was an underrated release in 2016, which was very promising. 

Book 2, Realm of Ruins, focuses on a direct descendant of the heroine of the first book and blends together fairy tale elements and other interesting storytelling devices.  I also really liked this book, though the time jump was disconcerting at the beginning.  I quickly came to terms with the time shift and happily finished Realm of Ruins

Palace of Silver is a continuation of the story from Realm of Ruins and is a captivating read!  I absolutely love the magic system, the elicromancers are a cross between the classic high fantasy elves and wizards both guardians and magic users with a noble charge to protect the people of the world, yet immortal and having to come to terms with long life.  The world building through the first two books holds up, though the original characters are absent.  The political system, magic system, currency, and overall order of things remain steady through this book. 

I really enjoyed the relationships between the characters, the main queens and the other queens.  A world with four queens?  You can never have too many queens!  I love the elements of high fantasy, of fairy tale folklore, and of your favorite fairy tale tropes!  This book has elements of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and other classic western tales that you likely know and love.

This is a great book and series for YA fans of magic and fantasy!  I would recommend to anyone looking for a fresh magical series to get them through this period of social distancing and beyond!  This is a book I would absolutely buy for my shelves (already bought the first two books, so I’ll have to have this one to complete the set!)

This book can be found on goodreads and on Hannah West’s website!  Out on April 28th, be sure to pick up this book from your favorite retailer!

I received a galley copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

PURCHASE LINKS
AUTHOR SOCIAL LINKS

Review: Curse of Blood and Shadow by J. M. Kearl

This is the first book in J. M. Kearl’s second series, Allied Kingdoms Academy.  Though the title denotes that this book would follow the traditional academy trope in YA books, but it is really a fantastic blend of Harry Potter, Throne of Glass, and a hint of teenage angst that manifests in the best way.  For fans of Middle Grade fiction, this also reminds me of the Magisterium series from Cassandra Clare and Holly Black. 

I absolutely enjoy the premise of this book – Vesteal is a princess with two fun friends and a dark secret.  Her parents, the King and Queen, send her to a brand new academy comprised of students from the three kingdoms.  What adventures await? What trouble could there be?  As the description says, this work has talking cats, star crossed lovers, royalty, teenagers trained to fight, and action packed into every chapter!
The author melds interesting characters with subtle wordplay to create beautifully developed world building and fun action sequences.  I loved Atticus and his cat network, he provided some fun sass to break the tension in some scenes.  I feel like the action and story really picked up pace about 1/3 of the way through the book. 

This book was a great read for me!  If you enjoy Holly Black, Lauren Kate, or Sarah J. Maas, you will LOVE this book!  I would definitely recommend this novel for anyone who loves magic, YA, and a great romance!

I found this to be a refreshing new release in YA fiction.  I can’t wait to see where the series takes these characters!  Curse of Blood and Shadow is out on April 7th!  Check out J. M. Kearl’s other works on Amazon!

J.M. Kearl is on goodreads and her website is https://jmkearl.com/.

I received an ARC from the author for an honest review of this novel.

PURCHASE LINKS
AUTHOR SOCIAL LINKS

Review: The Northern Witch Series by K. S. Marsden

K. S. Marsden is an accomplished writer with three series under her belt.  The Northern Witch series is Marsden’s new YA series featuring Mark, an openly gay witch in training, who is navigating high school, boys, relationships, and his apprenticeship as a new witch.  His Nana is an integral part of the series, delivering sassy lines and adding so much to the experience for the reader.

The first book in the series, Winter Trials, is a great introduction to the world and it’s main cast of characters.  We have Mark, one of two openly gay students at his high school.  His Nanna, a witch and his mentor.  An insanely hot new student at the school, along with several other people that interact with Mark.  Winter Trials is a short read, but a great introductory work for this series.  This is definitely a coming of age story about a boy in high school who happens to have magical powers.

Book 2 in the series is Awaken, which picks up where the first book left off with Mark still coming to understand his powers and what he is truly capable of.  Again, this is a relatively short read, but a riveting story about love, loss, high school, and magic. 

The Breaking is the third book in her The Northern Witch series, which follows Adam, a witch in training, as he learns the craft and navigates being a teenager.  The world in which The Breaking takes place has an interesting blend of technology and magic, both work together.  This is in contrast with many novels dealing with magic and technology where magic makes technology nonfunctional.  This world is very much like our own with social media and cell phones.  This book features intrigue, demons, deception, drama, love lost, love found, and, of course, teenage angst.

This series is perfect for fans of Jordan Hawk, Blair Babylon, and Nicole R. Taylor.  I would absolutely recommend this book series for fans of LGBT/YA high school dramas and magical adventures! 

All three books are available at most online retailers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and SmashWords.  Check out K. S. Marsden’s website as well:  K. S. Marsden

Thank you to the author for sending me a copy of all three books in exchange for an honest review!  Happy reading!

PURCHASE LINKS
AUTHOR SOCIAL LINKS

Review: Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Set in Edwardian London, Chain of Gold, follows a cast of characters from all the Shadowhunter families you already know:  Lightwood, Herondale, Fairchild, Blackthorn, Carstairs, etc.  And a few you haven’t heard about yet:  Bridgestock, Townsend, Wentworth, etc.  As with all of Cassandra Clare’s novels, this is a wonderful romp through London with plenty of danger, intrigue, romance, twisting plot points, and more! 

Really, I only had a minor criticism of the book, characters get confusing at the beginning, but it eventually clears up.  It’s a little weird that all the character traits, blue eyes/black hair/gold eyes/red hair, are all mixed up from the original Shadowhunter Series.  I understand needing to describe people, but suddenly a Lightwood doesn’t look like a Lightwood because in the years between Chain of Gold and the Mortal Instruments series many people have married each other and it’s just a bit odd.  Also, everyone is someone’s cousin.  I may have waited too long from reading the last Clockwork book, but I’m not sure.  This is honestly a minor criticism.  Around the first 1/4 of the book, I didn’t care about who had which last name because the characters really grew into their own!

I’m really loving the use of characters who identify as LGBTQ, and the depth of these characters is honestly amazing!  You love to see it!  Since this book came out, I’ve seen some comments that Clare used too many characters that identified as lesbian, bi, or gay for the time period.  I really don’t think that criticism should be applied here, Cassandra Clare recently tweeted in response to comments about this issue saying that LGBTQ people existed in the time period, just because you haven’t heard about them does not mean they did not exist.  I absolutely understand where she is coming from and I have to agree.  Persons who identified as a sexual orientation that does not conform to the society in which they live have been a part of humanity since the dawn of time. This isn’t a new thing.  The only thing new about it is that we, as humans, are much more aware and conscious of the free expression of love. 

I appreciate the use of flashbacks to tell backstory; it helps with the continuity and ultimately enhances the narrative.  My favorite character is probably Matthew, he reminds me a lot of Jace from The Mortal Instruments series.  He’s broody, sometimes distant, headstrong, and seems a bit careless.  Definitely a guy I’d like to meet in Edwardian London!

Overall, this book is another exciting adventure by Cassandra Clare and I would encourage you to pick it up ASAP!  If you have not read the Mortal Instruments Series or the Infernal Devices series, you can still read this book. You may miss a few of the jokes that reference earlier books, but it stands well on its own as a new series set in the Shadowhunter Universe!  

PURCHASE LINKS