The Hidden Queen (Book 1) by Janelle Garrett

Summary

Secrets and betrayal. Fear and courage. Can one woman keep her nation from destruction?

Gwyneth Blacksman was content to live comfortably on her farm, but a long-held secret changed her life forever. Thrust into a role she didn’t want or ask for, Gwen must face the facts. Will she step up and be who her people need her to be? Or will she wilt under the pressure of politics, schemes, and a looming war? The Emperor of Devin offers her a way to avoid the bloodshed that is sure to come, but his offer is disingenuous at best, a lie at worst.

With her countrymen’s lives on the line, Gwen must make a hard choice. Give into the Emperor’s demand, or stand against him and take Rodasia into a war they can’t win? As the problems keep mounting, she turns to the only two people who have stayed by her side through it all. Charles, the conflicted soldier who stirs up all sorts of feelings she would rather ignore, and Jakob, the excommunicated priest who challenges her assumptions about God.

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Characters

Gwen is the main character of this story. She is somewhat awkward, but good natured. Shy, but determined. There are two ‘servants’ the serve her, Lacy (more of a lady’s maid) and Esther. Both have their own stories, good and bad, that come out throughout the book. I’d hope to see more of them in future books. Then there is Charles, Thomas (the Speaker), and Nathaniel that all crop up as ‘love interests’ for a variety of reasons. This is the novels’ strength—its characters. The variety and diverse group of characters has the ability to capture the reader’s heart. I invested in them rather quickly and was impressed by the authors ability to create such variety.

Plot

This was introduced to me as a sweet romance but I wouldn’t categorize it as such. The romance is very secondary to the fantasy plot. Especially considering there is a lot of court politics that drive this story forward, although this has a bit of a ‘origin story’ feel to it. That being said there is a slow burning romance that is sweet. It takes a while to get there (more than half the book) but you’re probably invested by then! I don’t want to ruin any of the plot lines but there are aspects of it that seemed farfetched. For example, I just couldn’t believe that a queen would send her ONLY heir across country with only ONE guard. It felt like a plot device, not something real people would decide, which took away from the authentic feel of the book.

Overall

The writing was engaging the interesting once the story gets flowing. It is a little slow at the start but the back and forth between Gwen’s ‘present’ and the diary entries she is making about her past make it an enjoyable page turner. The setting was complete and you got a feel for the world around Gwen. Fair warning there was really modern dialogue that was jarring at times—especially considering the implication of time—although that may be due to YA nature of the novel. I would have preferred it less often considering it is listed as historical fantasy.

There was also a noticeable religious theme—so be warned if this isn’t your thing. Much of the progression was predictable, but that isn’t abnormal for young adult books. That being said the characters were the best aspect of the novel by far! Overall, I did enjoy it and would be interested in reading future books to see where these characters go.

Rating

3.5 (rounded down)

Not a romance, but great characters that you can’t help but like!

Where did I get it?

Author provided a copy to me in exchange for an honest review. This review is voluntary.

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Justice: A Steward Saga Short Story Collection by Janelle Garrett

Summary

When Captain Trinn and her crew of slavers encounter an unusual mist on the surface of the Passage Sea, Trinn begins to have strange experiences. The lines between reality and nightmare blur, leaving Trinn at the mercy of a dark power.

And there are more mysteries in the mist. For it calls forth something darker, something bigger, something capable of destroying everything Trinn has worked so hard to build. And when everything is stripped away, what will be left? Dive into a series of short stories full of magic, betrayal, monsters, and myths. Contains Part 1 – The Misty Sea, Part 2 – The Palisade Kingdom, Part 3 – The Nomad, Part 4 -The Dreadwood, and Part 5 – The New Name.

From the author of the Rift in the Deep and Rise of the Warlock King comes a Steward Saga epic fantasy tale that will leave you breathless.

It is the story of Justice.

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Overall

Trinn is a stubborn (almost to epic proportions), powerful woman on the hunt for vengeance.  It would have been nice to have more information on the two power sources (the Deep and the Rift). They were never really explained but it didn’t detract from the story too much. The world building was interesting and the plot fast paced. Many of the themes and lessons felt true—such as grief and the old adage about revenge. There were a few far fetched moments, but they just added to the flavor of the novel. 

Yep. Its a novel. This is marked as a short story collection but it is not a collection of short stories. Short stories are normally not so linked or telling a greater story that started with the first through the last. In the end I’ll say this was a book/novel. The ‘parts’ did have an episodic feel to it but mostly picked up where the last one left off, in chronological order. The writing was enjoyable and easy to follow.

Rating

4 stars

Not a collection of short stories but still an enjoyable fantasy story.

Raavana’s Daughter by Nadishka Aloysius

Summary

Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama has been abducted by the Demon King Raavana. Hanuman, the Ape hero, is tasked with building a bridge to facilitate the invasion of Lanka. The expedition is however brought to a halt by the workings of the Mer-People who inhabit the Indian Ocean. Will Hanuman be able to overcome their enchantments and complete his task? Who is the mysterious Mer-Queen? What part has she to play in this epic war? Is all fair in love and war?

Taking inspiration from the Ramakien the Thai version of the Hindu tale this story will take you into the heart of the epic conflict.

Discover the characters of the Ramayana retold as never before.

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Overall

This follows the story of Hanuman, an Apeman, who is a general of Lord Rama’s army. He has some interesting visions and adventures trying to get across the water to the land in order to defeat the Demon King Raavana. With fantastical scenes and vivid imagery, this story will sweep you up in its tale. From Gods to Mermaids, follow Hanuman on what I hope is the first installment of a serious of Asian Mythology stories. It can be predictable but that doesn’t detract from the overall story. The dialogue can be stilted in places but overall the writing is enjoyable. If only the ending wouldn’t have been so abrupt! It just means there better be more in the future!

Rating

4 Stars

A fantastical tale that feels like a fairy-tale that draws you in to the point that the abrupt ending is disappointing!

This is a voluntary review.

Far-Knowing (Book 1) by Melinda Brasher

Summary

After the Chaos Mage traps their mentor within a deadly spell, two apprentice mages set off to find and defeat this menace to the kingdom. But how can these inexperienced young women possibly track down and battle the sort of man who destroys villages with summoned wind or fire just for fun? They’ve learned no aggressive magic and never tested themselves against a real enemy.

Kallinesha, still an apprentice after seven years, struggles against her lack of raw magical power, compensating instead with discipline and study. Daughter of the High Commander, driven relentlessly by the duty in her blood, she knows they can defeat the Chaos Mage and safeguard the kingdom.

Ista, a commoner and daughter of a city baker, harbors no such delusions. But after only three years of study, her power burns much brighter than Kallinesha’s. The task before them terrifies her, but she loves her mentor too much to let her waste away under the Chaos Mage’s spell. Not if there’s the slimmest chance of saving her.

The two have never been able to get along while studying magic. Will they be able to work together now when so much is at stake?

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Characters

There are two primary character for most of the novel—Kallinesha (or Kalli) and Ista—with Ryveld joining later as a third point of view. The rest are supporting characters, my favorite of which is Taylendar (or Tay). For the first half of the novel it is Kalli and Ista…bickering. Right when it really starts to get annoying, Tay comes into the mix, followed closely by Ryveld. I would say that was a turning point in the novel once there was someone else in the dynamic besides Kalli and Ista.

Plot

The Chaos Mage has been wreaking havoc all across their land; killing and destroying. When Kalli and Ista’s mistress performs a far-knowing and gets a glimpse of the Chaos Mage, they are sent to stop him at all cost. Inexperienced but not powerless, the girls set out to rid their land of this powerful evil. This is where the book lost me. Why send such terribly unprepared girls? They aren’t the best or the most powerful. It didn’t make sense. Right up until they started to question why they were sent and perspectives change. I don’t want to get into specifics but the book picks up about halfway through and there are a few twists.

Overall

There is an entire big world built by the author. One of the major aspects is the magic, but it gets back to basics. Such as spells needing ingredients and time to be cast. Also there are hints of romance later in the story but it became very prominent at the end. As a part of the stories aftermath. For young adult readers, but many adults will likely enjoy too.

This novel had a slow start. I very much expected from the premise and what I was reading for it to be ‘just another fantasy novel’ but it wasn’t long until that slow start turned into a non-stop, read in one sitting kind of book. This author also relies on subtleties, so it may be missed by many readers, but it was all there for those who are paying attention. In the end it is worth reading the first half of the book so you can thoroughly enjoy the second half!

Rating

4  stars

A rough start to an interesting fantasy novel that will teach you a lesson on perspectives and taking people at their word. A start to a sword and sorcery series for young adults. I’m looking forward to book 2!

Where did I get a copy?

The author provided me one. This is a voluntary review.

No Songs are Sung (A Mercenary of Palladia #1) by Justin Bohardt

Summary

What Profit is There in Saving the World?

A professional hired soldier who bears the scars and cynicism of his trade, Geraghty Milliner has love for few things in the world: a bottle to numb the pain, a lady to make him feel alive, and the gold that can buy both.

After his most recent business venture lands him in prison, Geragthy sees potential profit in helping a lord’s wayward mistress named Chiara escape from her cell. Once sprung from jail by his partner-in-crime Vrodath, they escort Chiara to the sprawling city of Aethene to collect a reward large enough to keep them in riches for a lifetime.

However, when beasts from a forgotten realm, demonic creations of overthrown gods, are sent pouring forth from a tear in the fabric of reality, the length of a lifetime threatens to grow perilously short, and Geraghty plans to do the only sensible thing available: get the hell out of there. Not immune to making some gold even amidst an apocalypse, he agrees to escort Chiara, her noble lover, and Princess Emilia, seventh in line to the throne of Palladia and a powerful wielder of magic, out of the city even as they are hounded by every beast freed from perdition.

What Geraghty does not know is that an ancient enemy of the free peoples of Geoserra, one thought defeated millennia ago, has reawakened, and it is Princess Emilia alone who can assure its destruction. Geraghty will need to make the choice between saving himself and saving the world, and the right choice seems obvious. What profit is there in saving the world?

Amazon

Characters

Geraghty is nothing if not consistent. He has a noble…kinda noble…somewhat noble streak. He is in a word—bad*ss. A mercenary who loves money, loose but fiery women, and strong alcohol. He is a mans…man? Lots of races in the book—most of which reminded me more of animals. With supporting characters like Vrodoath his equally interesting partner and Chiara a kept woman that is more then meets the eye. Rounding out the secondary support is Emilia, a very strong princess and mage. A great cast of characters—it is one of the biggest strengths of the book. The biggest issues I have, besides the ‘strong’ women being objectified, is the constant head hopping. There is no rhyme or reason, it just jumps around from person to person, even in the middle of chapters, which causes a lot of confusion at time. Thankfully most of the book follows Geraghty, but when it does switch points of view, it is often jarring and confusing, so be warned.

Plot

The world is ending. A big baddie thought long dead has returned. A hero…mercenary…on a quest to stop it. Nothing new about this kind of story, but the author weaves together an interesting tale that causes the characters to sling shot around. The real piece that sets it apart is Geraghty. Mini missions and mischief abound. This has an excellent, vivid kingdom based world with a medieval/feudal feel to it. Downside, you have to survive the first few chapters of info dumping, while the author buries you under an avalanche of information. Yes, it gets better but it continues. Also yes, it is worth getting through to enjoy the rest of the story. There were a lot of interesting themes throughout as well that feed into a bigger plot.

Overall

Lots of action—almost non-stop—this book is gritty. There is also some humor, most of which hit its mark. It doesn’t play safe so don’t get too attached to any characters…you’ll never know which one will just up and die unexpectedly. Halfway through was a real turning point for me in the novel because after then it started to flow and I got into a groove. The second half of the book was much more of a page turner, so trust me the rocky start is worth sticking around for.

I don’t want to give anything away but the reason this book went from a 3 star review to a 4 star review was purely because of the ending. Instead of everything just wrapping up, Geraghty had to deal with the fallout. Emotional, physical, of what he’d survived. It brought another dimension to the book and character, which sealed by desire to pick up book two and see where Geraghty’s next adventure took him.

Rating

4 stars

A cast of interesting characters, in a rich fantasy world, with almost non-stop action and an ending that left me wanting to read the next book. It is a mans-man book for sure, so keep that in mind. If you like DnD or fantasy video games, this will be worth a try.

Where did I get a copy?

I was gifted a copy. This is a voluntary review.

A Monk’s Tail by Kyle Spencer

Summary

For Bow, a gun-toting, hard-drinking, foul-mouthed firefox monk, life as a monster-hunter is pretty straightforward. Until, that is, he runs afoul of a power-hungry warlord and gets himself imprisoned. There he helps a young maus named Susi escape, but in doing so unleashed nightmarish forces hellbent on capturing his new ward. Now, with the help of a giant bear alchemist and a violent nun, Bow must stay one step ahead of his perusers and certain death. But Susi is harboring a dark secret, one that could spell doom for them all.

Amazon Link

Characters

Quirky—that is the word that comes to mind when I think of the characters in this book.  At its lead is Bow, a charming dumba**. He is a jerk but in a mostly adorable way…mostly. Susi the second front runner and a sweetie with a secret. After Susi and Bow become fast friends there are a few others that show up. My favorite of the bunch is Talia—she is also a firefox like Bow and a good balance for him. It has a similar feel of Guardians of the Galaxy but in the fantasy genre. My biggest complaint is there are multiple points of view…all in first person. *groan*

Plot

The plot has a tendency to run all over the place. Where the main group is mostly being chased but also hunting monsters. It zigzags like a Dungeon and Dragon (D&D) campaign. Not necessarily a bad thing but it does cause lulls in a few areas that thankfully don’t detract from the story. That being said there are lots of impressive action scenes. Ones that make the pages and minutes melt away. There are a few past flash backs that didn’t really feel necessary and detracted from the story. That being said the ending is shocking and unexpected and yet realistic. People don’t always make the best choices and sometimes they make really terrible ones.

Overall

There is this kiddish charm with adult themes. Sometimes it is difficult to match the flippant attitude/feel of the book with the violence. I laughed out loud more than once. It had very vivid characters and scenes. The book is littered with fandom references. It make the world seem a little all over the place but had solid enjoyable characters to make up for it.

The author is clearly a D&D lover. It is apparent from the start. Furthermore, there is D&D overload when one of the characters plays D&D. Like D&D inception. I half expect the ending to be a critical fail on a roll because of how unexpected it was but that just added to the feel of the story. An absolute bonus! I have a feeling Bow’s adventures are far from over.

Rating

3.5 Stars (rounded up)

It was entertaining. If you love D&D and would like an amusing fantasy adventure—pick this up!

Where did I get it?

Author provided a copy. This is a voluntary review.

Land of Peace (Book 2) by Cyana Scriptora

Summary

Prince Audax Leonis has been struggling to make sense of the last few days.
One moment his sweet Anna was dying in his arms and the next he was being consumed by a giant vortex.
He woke up in a strange world, a world of noise and chaos.
The goddess had saved Anna.
But she had also made a grave mistake.
What had Iustitia been thinking?
“They will think that I have abandoned them. They will call me a coward.”
Sleep is impossible. The guilt and fear sickens his stomach.
He hears them in his dreams. The people that have died, and those that will, those that are alive and suffering at the hands of that monster and his despicable men.
“Send me back! Please, I have to return!”
He cries in the middle of the night, but there is only silence.
There are no answers, never answers. Just more questions.
Tomorrow he will walk to her room and see her.
Perhaps, tomorrow will be the day.
But until then, he is trapped. Trapped in time.

Characters

Anna and Audax return. I wish there was more growth in both characters but they grow closer together in this book. Developing their relationship and realizing their mistakes which was rewarding to read. Liz and Alex are also back. Liz irritates me to no end, she is kinda of an idiot. Alex was much more charming and I honestly can’t see what he sees in Liz. I did like many of the new character arcs—especially Venia’s although I fear hers is going to end in tragedy. The author did a good job keeping all of the

Plot

This second book is more of a YA romance with all of the ‘romance’ stories rather than a YA fantasy. I am not often a fan of time travel but so far this author is playing it safe and kept it believable. That meddling with the past affect the future…or even the events of the past. Love that aspect of it. What was really fun was Audax experiencing the ‘magic’ of technology of the modern age. I was laughing out loud at a few parts. There were a few scenes and pieces that felt way too convenient: like Liz just paying Audax’s bills at the hospital and Avam just knowing how Errata felt about Videns.

Overall

Something I realized with this second book was the gods are from Greek mythology. Which was such a disappointment because that meant all of the world building is borrowed. Even the fairy lore thrown in. Like last time the story and writing progressed enjoyably. Actually I felt like this book served more to introduce new story lines with new romances, rather than progress the plot. There were aspects I really enjoyed and others that felt unnecessary. Overall still an enjoyable read with lots of interesting characters.

Rating

3.5 stars (rounded up)

More of a YA romance than a YA fantasy, this was the second installment that is more in the future than the past of this story. Lots of new characters to fall in love with!

Where did I get a copy?

From the author for an honest review. This is a voluntary review.