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Dark is the Night by Mirriam Neal: Tour/Review!

(image credit: Morgan Farris)

GUYS. A NEW MIRRIAM NEAL NOVEL IS RELEASING THIS WEEK AND I. CAN’T. STOP. SCREAMING! 😀 I’m super excited to be sharing my review for it as part of the blog tour! (Also, is it not GORGEOUS?)


Title: Dark is the Night

Author: Mirriam Neal

  • Date read: October 12, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy / Southern Gothic / Christian Fiction
  • Age: Adult
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Series: Salvation, #1
  • Fave character: Skata and Angel!
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I received a free e-ARC of this book from the author as part of the blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. (No vampires, werewolves, hunters, or shifters threatened me into saying nice things about them. XD) All opinions are my own.

Attention, world! Author Mirriam Neal has a new book out and it. is. spectacular. (Of COURSE.) I love this author’s writing so much (Paper Crowns being one of my top-ten favorite books ever), so I was ecstatic when I heard she had a new book releasing! *muffled screaming*

I don’t exactly read vampire books so imagine my surprise when I read this one and genuinely enjoyed it. I actually beta-read an earlier version of it several years ago, so I’m DOUBLY excited about this book being released to the world, because now I get to shriek about some of my favorite characters and y’all get to read about them—finally! 😀

So, this one is what you might call a Christian vampire-novel.

(I just reeeally wanted to use this gif. XD)

That may seem odd, but this author did a stellar job weaving themes and deep discussions through a paranormal adventure/mystery set against the Southern Gothic setting of modern-day South Carolina. And it’s delightful Urban Fantasy (small town . . . rural fantasy?), too. It features the small town called Salvation, inhabited by vampires, werewolves, shifters, and other people/creatures, fantastical or otherwise.

This is a story about PEOPLE. The multi-faceted characters totally make this book. I LOVE THEM SO. It features a fairly large cast, and every one of them has their own story, some merely hinted at but all totally real. Trying to wrestle out everyone’s motives and secrets and relationships was the best.

For the main characters, we have Skata (vampire-hunter), Angel (vampire house-mate; ooh, awkward), Colton (epic-est preacher of all time), and Easton (who I can’t really describe but she’s the best, okay). They are MY FAVORITE, especially all their interactions/relationships/banter/pasts.

Okay, but ANGEL AND SKATA, THOUGH. Skata is a tough, no-nonsense vampire-hunter on the path of revenge, who ends up stuck in this little dead-end town. Enter Angel, who is the sassiest, snarkiest vampire ever, and happens to have a huge mansion that Skata ends up staying at.

THEY ARE HILARIOUS TOGETHER. I love buddy stories so much, and this is like the ULTIMATE one. (No, I will not stop screaming in caps about them. You can’t make me.) Their snark-offs are my absolute favorite. Angel is so full of himself and his favorite thing is baiting Skata or simply Not Caring. It’s so hilarious.

Meanwhile, Skata is Totally Done with Angel and it’s a miracle neither of them kills each other the minute they meet, let along through the plot. XD I JUST LOVE THEM, OKAY. They are the best thing in this book. 😀

(Skata being Totally Done with Angel 110% of the time)

I love how Easton is sometimes confused about stuff, sometimes tolerates their shenanigans, and at other times is Total No-Nonsense. Simultaneously sweet and also watch-out. Everyone needs an Easton. And a Colton! He’s the most fascinating preacher character ever and I love how he has words of wisdom one moment and a shotgun or a stake to help out with, the next, and he’s not afraid to tell it like it is. He’s unassuming and helpful, but can snark alongside Skata with the best of them, and may have a bit of an anger problem occasionally, but he’s the solid one in the middle of the uncertainty, and let’s just say the bad guys better watch out for this man of God.

There are also FASCINATING side characters, who you spend some of the book not knowing whose side they’re on or if they even have a side, which makes it terribly interesting. But they’re all such vivid characters! A certain… erm… well, Skinner, who’s spoilery but OH BOY; Gideon and Jackson (hothead), vampire brothers (Gideon being the Most Refined But Can Totally Snap Your Neck If He Feels Like It gentleman-vampire of all time); Rukiel, who is mysterious; Cassis, gentle part-vampire who is Too Precious For This Earth; Shannon, the sheriff’s shotgun-wielding daughter; Spencer, techno-genius kid and energy-drink-aholic (energolic)… The list goes on. Seriously though, I love these characters so much! I mean, even the scary ones are fascinating. They are SO ALIVE. (Even the dead ones. *cough*)

Angel and Skata and their banter are my number one favorite thing about this book. (Shhh, I know that’s three things.)

There is so much snark and banter in this thing (I’m pretty sure I highlighted half of the book in my Kindle app because it is SO QUOTABLE) and if there’s one thing I love, it’s hilarious books. XD The snark and sarcasm in this book is A+ and MAKES MY DAY. Everyone just has the best lines and it’s great. 😀

The plot itself is full of twists and mysteries (including murder-mysteries) and totally keeps you on your toes. The shadowy, mysterious “feel” of the book, just a bit gothic and spooky, but not too over-the-top, is pretty cool. Also, the different classifications/levels of vampire was really interesting. Things get kind of gruesome occasionally and there’s a very real, gritty feel, but it never gets to be too much, because of the humor balancing it out, and all intertwined with themes of faith or redemption that fit together perfectly.

I never would have thought that a book could be so dark but funny but inspiring all at once, with a good dose of feels thrown in on top. Even if I wasn’t sure about a thing or two, and want to know what happens with some loose threads, I still absolutely loved it! It left me with a feeling of “I just read a really good book” and that’s all I can ask of any story—aside from laugh-aloud humor, and characters I just want to HUG. Which this book definitely delivered!

Content warning: lots of blood/violence, a smattering of recent-Marvel-movie-level language, and general scariness.

Conclusion: This is a dark book (I mean, it has it in the title. ;)) but there’s humor and redemption and other good stuff to set that off. Nothing felt there “just” to be creepy—it all fit well into the plot and the feel and the impact. And, I mean, SKATA AND ANGEL. I had a total blast reading this and couldn’t put it down. Even if you’re not into vampire stories, this is a genuinely good, if gritty, book, which is tons of fun. Now WHERE is the next one? I have some suspiciously loose strings that need to be explored and I NEED more with these characters! *grabby hands*


About Dark is the Night

Skata only has one goal in life—to seek out the vampire who turned his wife and kill it. When he finally tracks the vampire to the small nowhere town of Salvation, South Carolina, he realizes he has stepped foot into something bigger than himself.

He’s going to need help—and that help may come in many forms. Between the vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, and an unusual preacher, Skata may be in over his head.


Book Links

Don’t forget to head on by Mirriam’s blog for all the tour stops!


About the Author

MIRRIAM NEAL is an author frequently masquerading as an artist. When she’s not scrubbing paint off her hands, she’s thinking about writing (actually, if she’s being honest, she’s always thinking about writing). A discovery writer, she tends to start novels and figure them out as she goes along and likes to work on several books at the same time—while drinking black coffee. She’s a sucker for monsters, unlikely friendships, redemption arcs, and underdog protagonists. When not painting fantasy art or writing genre-bending novels, she likes to argue the existence of Bigfoot, rave about Guillermo del Toro, and write passionate defenses of misunderstood characters.

To learn more about her fiction and art, visit her website: https://mirriamneal.com/, where you can find a full list of all her social medias, or join the Citadel Fiction newsletter: https://www.subscribepage.com/b1h5v9


Well, what do you think? Let me know in a comment below! Thanks for reading! 🙂

Strayborn by E. E. Rawls: Review/Giveaway/Tour!

I’m so excited to be on the blog tour for this gorgeous fantasy debut from E. E. Rawls today!

Read on for my review of this delightful book, and make sure to scroll to the end of the post for more info about the book and a giveaway!


(Isn’t it GORGEOUS?? *dies*)

Title: Strayborn

Author: E. E. Rawls

  • Date read: October 17, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Christian Fantasy
  • Age: Middle Grade and up
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 349 (Kindle)
  • Series: Draev Guardians, #1
  • Fave character: Nephryte
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I received a complimentary e-ARC of this book from the author for the blog tour and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

That was delightful! A unique and thrilling MG adventure, which I enjoyed very much despite being older than the target audience. I think readers of all ages will find this Christian Fantasy story a delight, especially if you like academy stories! (Think Harry Potter, Knightly Academy, Ewan Pendle, etc.) It’s exciting and not without its bouts of tragedy, but it’s also full of heart and fun and it makes me happy. I keep smiling just thinking about it! 🙂

I loved getting to know Cyrus (our quiet heroine who has hidden strength) and the other misfit students at the Draev academy, a school for those with Ability. Their different Abilities/powers were so intriguing, though I don’t want to give anything away about them. 😉 The characters also struggle with very real issues, like Cyrus’s weak wrists, the prejudice against the people who are different, or the issues between the different races—humans, vempars, faeryns, etc. And there is a Christian element at the center, providing a moral compass and direction for the characters.

Speaking of characters . . . Master Nephryte is THE COOLEST. I love the young magical mentor type character. He gives me slight Chrestomanci vibes and I love how he puts up with his students despite their shenanigans and is such a wise, sturdy character, but still with a sense of fun. Plus, I mean, wind powers. He’s so epic and just the absolute best!

The characters were all so real and such a delightful misfit bunch. Cyrus, of course, and Aken, the other main character—who sometimes could be annoying but other times I loved. But he’s a troublemaker, so. 😉 I especially loved Mamoru who is so fascinating and mysterious. And others who would take too long to list here. I love all the character-growth going on! Character arcs are my favorite. Even some of the side characters I didn’t think I liked ended up becoming very intriguing. I can’t wait to read more in the series and find out more about all the characters and their secrets and backstories! Aaahh! I’m sooo curious. 😀

This world is Eartha, a sort of alternate fantasy world that’s somewhat like Earth but different. The blend of modern times and old-fashioned feel, with fantasy and a dash of almost-steampunk-but-not-quite, was so unique, as were the twists on things such as the “vempars” who are like vampires but . . . not. The worldbuilding was a delight and I was utterly drawn in and fascinated to spend time in this world. I can’t wait to come back to it someday!

The plot kept me on my toes and even while mixing familiar elements—like a magical-ish academy, a contest to determine who would enter the Duel, and a heroine pretending to be a boy—I never suspected what was going to happen next and it was all delightfully fresh and so much fun. It stole my heart. An excellent beginning to a new series, and a splendid debut novel!

If you’re on the lookout for a unique Christian Fantasy tale, perfect for middle-graders or any lovers of fantasy, full of twists and mysteries and a cast of characters who quickly grow on you, STRAYBORN is your book. 🙂 I enjoyed it so much and I need more!


About Strayborn

Elemental Manipulation is a tricky business. Only those with the power can train to become a Draev Guardian.

Cyrus Sole hates life. She’s only half-human, with weak wrists, and not a day goes by when someone doesn’t say something mean about it—especially her step-mom. But when the forbidden power to manipulate metal awakens inside her, she finds herself on the run as the Argos Corps is sent to kill her…

Aken is a Scourgeblood, the last in a line of monsters. But all he really wants is to gain wings and be free. Until a new power suddenly awakens, changing the course of his life…

The Draev Guardian Academy is their only sanctuary. But training to become a Draev won’t be easy. Cyrus has to hide her human side, as she gets placed in Floor Harlow with the outcast students, and nightmares of her deceased mother keep returning.

With creepy Corpsed on the prowl, and whispers of Cyrus possibly being a reborn Hero, both she and Aken find themselves caught up in a web of secrets, racial tension, and an old legend with enemies that could spell their untimely demise…

—This book is a good fit for those who’ve enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy world-building, and the fun of J.K. Rowling.


Book Links

AMAZON | KINDLE | BARNES & NOBLE | GOODREADS

FREE prequel story


Author Bio

E.E. Rawls is the product of a traveling family, who even lived in Italy for 6 years. She loves exploring the unknown, whether it be in a forest, inside a forgotten castle, or within the pages of a book.

She runs on coffee, cuddly cats and the beauty of nature to keep the story wheels of her mind running, as she writes tales that will both entertain and inspire others, giving them worlds they can explore and become lost within.

WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM


Giveaway!

Prizes are:

First place: One hardback copy of Strayborn, and one Percy Jackson soy/vegan homemade candle by A Court Of Candles.

Second and Third place: One ebook copy of Strayborn.

Ends on Monday, October 21.

ENTER HERE!


Free Prequel Ebook!

Also, be sure to check out STORM & CHOICE, a free prequel short story before Strayborn, which gives a quick taste of this world and these characters!

Cyrus Sole, a girl who can manipulate metal, and Aken-Shou the last Scourgeblood, must learn to survive in a world that is determined to either destroy them, or use them…

This ebook is available FREE at Rawls’s newsletter: eerawls.com


What do you think? Make sure you check out the rest of the tour! Thanks for reading! 🙂

5 Thoughts on Battle for the Throne by E. J. Willis

Title: Battle for the Throne

Author: E. J. Willis

  • Date read: May 23, 2019
  • Rating: 3.5 stars, rounding up to 4 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
  • Age: Young Adult
  • Year pub: 2015
  • Pages: 248 (Kindle)
  • Series: Tales from Falyncia, #1 (followed by Into the Wildlands)
  • Fave character: Hugo
  • Source: The author
  • Notes: I received a free ebook copy of this book from the author. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

5 Thoughts on Battle for the Throne

  1. I’m always up for a Christian Fantasy novel! This one didn’t quite hit all the marks for me, personally, but I still enjoyed it for the most part. 🙂 It was fast-paced and exciting—sometimes almost too fast-paced, but made for a fairly quick and mostly enjoyable read! There was a lot of action, which was well-written and kept me absorbed. I definitely didn’t want to put the book down! And the romance was really sweet and I loved it. 🙂
  2. I was quickly drawn into the fantasy setting, with castles and forests and mountains and kingdoms. The “feel” of it was one that I thought was really neat. I especially loved the winged wolf spirit guardians! Sort of like guardian angels, though it’s mainly the heroine who can see them. There’s a bit of a spiritual battle going on between the wolf guardians and the demons. Malachi, the main wolf, was awesome. 😀 I also thought it was cool that there are giants in the book! Somehow giants don’t seem to be in fantasy as much anymore and I loved seeing them in this, particularly their enigmatic role in which sides they’re on (if anyone’s). And there are mentions of others like dwarves and goblins, and a griffin appeared right at the very end (yesss!), so I’m curious to continue reading this series and see more of this world!
  3. And then there are the characters. I liked our heroine Alaina and her spirit of determination, and wanted her to succeed, though I’m not as much of a warrior-princess-trope fan as some—but anyone who is will love this! I also loved our energetic prince Thaddeus! He was a great character, and I loved his relationship with Alaina. 😀 Other side characters were interesting (particularly Malachi, as I mentioned), and there was an awesome gladiator character who was my favorite! (Yes, Hugo, you’re awesome.) Also, a couple of the side-villain characters had really interesting arcs, so that was well-done.
  4. The book at times felt like younger-YA in a sense (particularly since it started with a ten-year-old and then skipped to when she was seventeen), but in another sense it . . . wasn’t. It was kind of dark and gruesome, a bit more on the gritty side than I personally enjoy, which seemed slightly at odds with the rest of the fantasy-adventure type feel of the book, but that could just be me. Just be aware the heroine goes through a lot and there’s torture and fantasy-demons and some disturbing scenes. But otherwise it’s great fun.
  5. Overall, for some reason it wasn’t one of my top favorites, but it definitely kept my interest and I loved the world and characters, and I’m definitely curious to read more in this world!

I received a free ebook copy of this book from the author (thank you!). All opinions are my own.

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Mardan’s Mark Fantasy Series! (by Kathrese McKee)

Today I’ve got some small reviews of two books and two novellas in an exciting fantasy series I’ve been enjoying lately!

Mini Reviews:

The Mardan’s Mark series by Kathrese McKee

(Find Kathrese McKee online: WebsiteAmazonGoodreadsFacebookTwitterInstagram)

Mardan’s Mark (#1)

  • Date read: May 29, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2014
  • Pages: 384 (paperback)
  • Source: Won in a giveaway
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazon

An exciting tale of pirates and princesses, friendship and siblings and romance, survival and adventure! I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading this book. 🙂

I feel like there’s a lack of sibling stories out there, and it was neat that our heroine, Princess Srilani, ends up on this adventure with two sisters and a brother. I also particularly loved the friendships—really good, believable ones which start out rocky sometimes. There are so many relationships in this, which I loved seeing develop over the course of the story of these young people on a journey of survival together, from a pirate ship through the wilderness. Just—FRIENDSHIPS.

Aldan is my favorite character—he’s the absolute best—and I loved him and his “brothers,” Sam and Linus. I also really liked how Srilani and Aldan both take charge in their ways and are such strong main characters, but also have to learn to work together and lean on each other’s strengths. And the tension between Srilani and Sam was so well done, too! I just love aaaall the relationships in this—siblings, friendships, buddy-stories, and of course an adorable romance in there somewhere. My favorite thing is definitely the characters and dynamics—and how there’s a bit of humor slipped in there sometimes!

I also loved the journey and survival and just what a solidly good adventure it was. There’s always some bit of tension or excitement or danger, drawing the reader breathlessly along through the story. Whether it’s pirates or the villainous “temple guardians” in pursuit, or simply the question of what the characters will eat next, it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.

A Christian Fantasy story, the world feels nearly like Kingdom Adventure, without any usual fantasy elements (though there is miraculous healing, a vision of an angel-type being, and a couple things like that). So if non-magical fantasy or adventure stories with a dash of Christian allegory are your thing, you need to check this one out. The world had such a unique feel to it, too; a little more tropical than usual fantasy stories, with pirate ships and rivers, swamps and alligators, prairies and forests and dusty towns and castles! With just a dash of politics and an almost-18th century feel, at least to me. It was neat and felt fresh.

It’s a bit long, which is the main reason I put off starting it for longer than I’d care to admit, but I was totally pulled in once I did start. The continued over-stressing of being “proper” for a princess, not being allowed to be around guys (but I mean, it’s a survival story, so hello?), and all of that, got a little tiresome, just because it was such a big deal in the story. And I had one or two other quibbles (like a bit of grittiness and my problem with healer-stories and being squeamish. XD), but these were very minor.

On the whole, I had a blast reading this! I finished it in just a few days and as soon as I read the end, I started book 2! I’m definitely hooked on this series!


Mardan’s Heir (#2)

Date read: May 29, 2019
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
Age: YA
Year pub: 2018
Pages: 207 (ebook)
Source: I received a free advance reader copy from the author; all opinions are my own.
Links: GoodreadsAmazon

As soon as I finished book 1 (Mardan’s Mark), I immediately started reading this book, and read the whole thing in one sitting because I couldn’t stop. I finished it the same day as the first, and ended up staying up until midnight to do so, and I have zero regrets! (Okay. I have one. Which is that I don’t have the next book yet and I got smacked with a delicious cliffhanger! Aahh!)

This one is much shorter than the first one, but so, SO good! No spoilers, buuut I love missing-heir type stories and fantasy-type political maneuvering around palaces and all the sort of delightful stuff. 😀 I loved the first book, featuring surviving in the wild and a journey as the characters got to know each other. But I really love the setting of this second book, being back at the palace and all of the intricate plots going on there. It was fascinating!

Aldan is still my FAVORITE, and I adore all the other characters too—Srilani and her sisters and Prince Jamson (he had such a vivid role in this), and Aldan’s brothers Linus and especially Sam. There’s also a lot about characters introduced in the companion novella, Healer’s Curse, which made me super happy! I loved seeing Lady Elilan and Captain Raymon, as well as Judge Elison and Queen Yolani, etc. (I recommend reading Mardan’s Mark and Healer’s Curse before this one, but of course it still works well if you haven’t read Healer’s Curse.)

Srilani seemed a lot different than in the first book, and while I don’t think I minded, exactly, it was different to have her more of a usual princess than her tougher self. It was unique to address the question of how life would be different after the adventurous danger of the first one once the heroine is home again! Like. Whoa.

I have mixed feelings about a few of the happenings like all the complicated mess of the king and queen etc., so I haven’t totally decided how I feel about those, and it ends on a cliffhanger, but those are my only complaints, and both might be fixed with a third book—who knows! 😉 Speaking of which, the plot is gearing up for exciting things! :O And adorbz romance things and continued friendships and just ALL THE YES. I loved getting to continue following these characters I’ve come to like so much, in this new setting.

So, did I mention there’s a cliffhanger? BECAUSE OH BOY. I need the next book yesterday! *grabby hands* I can’t WAIT for the next book (Mardan’s Anointed, I believe) to release so I can devour it!

If you like non-magical Christian Fantasy, or Kingdom Adventure (which this almost feels like), I totally recommend these! I love this series and I need to find out what happens with Aldan and co.—I love them all so much and they feel like my friends! *hugs them all*


Healer’s Curse (novella)

  • Date read: May 8, 2019
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Novella
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2015
  • Pages: 118 (paperback)
  • Source: Won in a giveaway
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazon

I loved this novella! It’s a sort of classic story of a healer and an enemy captain, but it had its own twists. It features first-person narration by Lady Elilan, a widowed 18-year-old healer with a sometimes-miraculous healing gift from El. Having lost her husband to a plague, she has turned away from her gift, other than normal healing, and she is somewhat apart and alone since many people shun her and think she’s cursed. But I love her quiet strength in the face of all this, and her heart to help others—and her sassy side. XD I loved her story!

Captain Raymon is an interesting character, who at first seems to be simply a soldier who risked his life to save the queens of two kingdoms and comes under Elilan’s care. But aside from his loyalty, he has unexpected depths—including a secret in his past and a new path for his future. And of course I loved a certain blossoming romance. 😉 It was sweet and lovely! Raymon is the best. 😀

Several other characters who feature in the other Mardan’s Mark books featured in this, which I loved, and the secrets and political things going on were so interesting. It completely pulled me in, and I loved the exciting ending and satisfying conclusion!

I’m slightly squeamish about healer-related books in general (personally), just because, I mean, I don’t want to know the details. But otherwise it’s a delight!

I think this one might work best if read between Mardan’s Mark and Mardan’s Heir (book 1 and 2), but I read it before either and that worked fine too. Lady Elilan and Captain Raymon, as well as Elilan’s grandfather, Judge Elison, feature strongly in Mardan’s Heir (which made me so happy!), so it might be most fun to read this one before book 2, at least.

All in all, this was a delightful novella which I enjoyed immensely! The perfect way to pass a couple of hours one evening, and a delightful more-or-less-introduction to the Mardan’s Mark series!


Pirate’s Wager (novella)

  • Date read: February 19, 2018/May 30, 2019
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Novella
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 107 (ebook)
  • Source: I read a free advance copy of this story through the author’s newsletter. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazon

This was my first introduction to the Mardan’s Mark series, and I ended up reading it again after I read the first two books and the other companion novella, because now that I’d met the characters elsewhere, I wanted to re-experience this as their backstory.

It was a fascinating introduction to some of the main characters of Mardan’s Mark, in this case Sam, Aldan, and Linus, as well as the pirates of the ship “Cathartid.”

A very quick read, Pirate’s Wager is a novella that introduced me to the world of Marst and Norland and definitely left me intrigued to read more. It follows young Samazor (“Sam”), as he ends up a slave on a pirate ship and forms a friendship with fellow slave lads Aldan and Linus. I loved getting to meet them (my first read) and get to remember where they started out (my second read)!

The good writing drew me in, and the detail totally immersed me in the story. I loved the characters and almost-Caribbean-esque fantasy port/ship setting, though it was a little gritty and stressful at times, because nautical story with pirates enslaving our hero. (There actually were no fantasy elements in this particular one, so it felt more like Kingdom Adventure!)

If you want a small taste of this world, it’s a good place to start, and if you’re already a Mardan’s Mark fan, it’s delightful to have the backstory on how these unlikely friends become a band of brothers! (I lurve them. Especially Aldan. That is all. ❤ )


So there you are! I need the third book NOW! *flails around* Do they sound intriguing to you? Let me know in a comment below!

The Fatal Tree by Stephen R. Lawhead (Bright Empires Series)

I’ve got a long-overdue review to share with you, and a giveaway!

Title: The Fatal Tree (Bright Empires, #5)

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

  • Date read: May 18, 2017
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy / Sci-Fi / Time / Christian / Contemporary
  • Age: YA and up
  • Year pub: 2014
  • Pages: 340 (hardcover)
  • Series: The Bright Empires, #5 (final one!)
  • Fave character: All of them. ❤
  • Source: Amazon
  • Notes: Definitely be sure to start with book 1, The Skin Map.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleAuthor’s Website

Review of The Fatal Tree

review

5starrating

In the immortal words of Bilbo Baggins (at least in a certain film), “I’ve put this off for far too long.”

I was waiting for the right words, but I’ve realized that there’s simply no way to do justice to this book in a review, and so instead of waiting for a time that will never come, I’m simply going to say something about it, even if it’s not enough.

You see, the Bright Empire series (of which The Fatal Tree is the fifth and final book) meant so much to me that I can’t quite put it into words.

I enjoyed it, loved it, and it had a profound influence and effect on me. The series worked its way into a deep part of me that makes it hard to get at to explain. I’m not sure if you’ve had this experience, but sometimes you read something that becomes a part of you. It changes you. And so you can’t really talk about it—not really, not in a way that could explain to anyone why it happened to reach you at that soul level, because if it didn’t do the same for them, then they just won’t understand. And that’s all right, because every book affects people differently, if at all. It just makes it difficult to explain.

So it’s seems silly to attempt it, and I won’t try, but I will say that this series is a part of me, like several other book milestones along the way through my younger life—I won’t go through those here. It’s enough a part of me that I don’t really think about it, but it is and it’s there.

So here are a few things about the series that made it something special, at least for this literary traveler.

For one thing, there’s Mina. She was the first female role-model I’d met in a book since I was very young. I want to be her. (More on that in My Tower of Fantasy.) Heroines never interest me in fiction much; I don’t know why, but I’m usually more drawn to the heroes. So Mina was something new and different. She showed me it was possible to do oh-so-many things. She’s the bravest character I’ve ever read about, but she started as a stressed, tired young woman from our modern days. Literally plucked out of her life and thrust into another one, she refuses to give in and transforms her situation into something incredible. She is clever and heroic and rather more brave than I think I’d ever be, but she is so incredibly loving and steady too, and she shines. She makes a way in the world, and is loyal to her friends, and capable, and an entrepreneur, ready to try new things whether in a bakery or fearlessly treading the roads between worlds, but she’s still human and shows that it’s okay to wish you could be home taking a hot shower to avoid the world at times. And, I mean, who wouldn’t want to go visit her and Etzel’s joint Kaffeehaus in 1600s Prague? It’s the most amazing place! I think what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t really have role-models in fiction, and that we need those. I’ve had plenty of fictional heroes, and I needed those too, and I had Eilonwy and Princess Irene and Eowyn and others, but I hadn’t met a modern heroine I could look up to, and I think in a rush to write “realistic” characters (read: dull and flawed, or fake and artificially “strong”), people just don’t write truly heroic characters anymore. Not the ones who can actually be looked up to, and show a blueprint of what might be, and meet me where I am and inspire me and show me that I can be something more and do things. I won’t ramble on about her more than that, but Mina is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

The series also firmly embedded into my mind that whole “there are no coincidences” thing, which as much as I always knew in theory I didn’t really believe if you know what I mean, until reading this fascinating series. If there’s one thing I took away from these books, it was that, and I adore it.

O’er earth we see Thee, and Thy footsteps trace / Through the Bright Empires of unbounded Space

Then there’s how I’ll run across things in life, or in other literature, or in a song, or history, and I’ll see it echoing back to this series—whether it’s a name, or a place, or something else—and I’ll go “Aha! It’s like Bright Empires!” and I’ll do a little dance of intrigued joy. (For example, I stumbled across a translation of a Welsh song called Adra (Home) by Gwyneth Glyn and it so strongly fit this series I thought “What a coincidence! Oh, that can’t be right . . .” ;)) Aside from simply being great fun to find things in life that remind me of a beloved series, it opened up a whole new world to me—and how could it not, with such a broad canvas of times, places, people, and thoughts painted together with such intricacy and skill?

And also with beloved characters and humor and enjoyment, because that’s the important bit that makes the rest stick in your mind. Because there’s the thing: you can have the most interesting or enlightening book in the world, but if it’s not fun, it’s not going to stick with you—or with me, at any rate. And you can have an enjoyable story, but how much more enjoyable is it if, amidst the fun, it stretches your mind far afield and shows you a whole new world and makes you think? I love how this series did all of those things for me, and all in a mind-bending, genre-defying, completely new sort of way.

But aren’t you going to talk about this book, not just the series, then? you ask.

Oh, very well.

I see the series as a whole and so I don’t have terribly much to say specifically about the final book, other than as the end of a saga. (Especially not without massive spoilers, which nobody wants because you must discover them on your own when you read the books; and you ARE GOING TO, right? *stern but loving look*) But there are a few things, so I’ll mention them.

I don’t know how I feel about a few things that happened, and at least at one point I wished that some of the characters could have come in at the end with the others and they didn’t—but then I realized that they were perfect where they are. Several pairs of people are THE MOST ADORABLE THING. (I’m sorry, I’m a romantic. XD)

Familiar places (like Black Mixen Tump) swirl back into the story, and continue to be fascinating. Desert sand in Egypt to frozen ice and the Stone Age, with Prague and Constantinople and all the rest in between. I love the richness of all the different countries and times we get to visit in this series, and how vivid they are (even if some can get downright frightening!), and especially the good hearts of many of the people we meet. Everything’s so genuine, laced with a thread of nobleness and light.

I still adore all of the characters, fiercely. Mina, Kit, Etzel, Cass, Giles, Tony, Haven, Gianni, the members of the Zetetic Society, and all the rest. They’re my friends now. ^_^ I was so delighted to get to finally complete their story in this book, and I absolutely love how all of their tales intertwine and fit into the book so neatly but with threads trailing afterward to the future. And I love all of their interactions SO MUCH. They make the book. 😀

Even the villains are interesting, and far from straightforward. Burleigh’s plotline is one of the two most skillful ones of its kind I’ve read in my life.

And, of course, there’s a time-related thing or two that finally happen in this book, which I’ve been waiting for since the first one. One in particular made me SO HAPPY. (Looking at you, chapter 11.) Speaking of timey-wimey things, that sort of thing always makes my head spin (in a good way) and I think I filled a couple of pieces of paper with diagrams of different people’s timelines and where and when they crossed and it was still dreadfully confusing and I love it so much. XD Someday I’m going to carve out the time to read the whole series again, and I’m looking forward to that with relish. (And maybe then I’ll finally fully understand the ending, which tied my mind in knots. :D)

Then there’s that whole having-to-save-the-world thing, what with the whole universe about to end and everything, which is as serious as it sounds and just as exciting—and there may or may not be some death in there, and I’m not saying I totally understood how everything turned out (I like a good goes-slightly-over-my-head-and-requires-a-rereading ending—just look at Diana Wynne Jones), especially with science-y things going over my head, but everything came together from the previous books and on the whole I was terribly pleased with how The Fatal Tree wrapped up the series. (I’m also so glad we got a what-happens-next bit at the end too! *collapses*)

It was an experience, and one it’s taken me nearly two years to get around to finally externalizing and typing up in the form of a “review” (or shall we call it an essay?), but I can safely say that the Bright Empires is one of the most delightful series I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Even if only as an enjoyable adventure, I recommend them highly to anyone who cares to try their luck. Or, since there is no such thing as coincidence, let’s say that luck is the wrong word and leave it at that. 😉

I’m deeply indebted to Mr. Lawhead for penning such a—well, brilliant is the only word for it, in so many ways—series, and I look forward to delving into more of his books very soon.

(Also . . . THE SPOON. :O WHAT. DOES. IT. MEAN. I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS.)

Read my reviews for the previous books in the series:

10SkinMap 2bonehouse 3spiritwell

GIVEAWAY!

I happen to have a spare paperback copy of the first book in the series, The Skin Map, and I want to share the love!

Visit the Rafflecopter HERE for a chance to win it!

(USA addresses only. Runs 4/11/19 through 4/17/19. Winner will be contacted by email and announced here shortly after.)

[Edit: Giveaway is closed! The winner is Grace T! Thanks for entering, everyone! :)]

Have you read any of these? And do you have a favorite Lawhead book? Thanks for reading! 🙂

Valentine Giveaway! Common by Laurie Lucking

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m celebrating by offering a giveaway for a copy of COMMON by Laurie Lucking!

I ended up with an extra copy signed by the author, and I want to share the love! I read it as the Fellowship of Fantasy book of the month for May last year. It was a runner-up for my favorite reads of 2018, and it just makes me happy. ^_^ Plus it has an adorbz romance, so it seemed like just the right book to give away today. ❤

Scroll to the end for the giveaway, and for a Jane-Austen-inspired sale and an Amazon gift-card giveaway the Vintage Jane Austen authors and some others are offering!

First, here are five thoughts on Common and why should read it!


5 Thoughts on Common

1. The world/setting: You feel like you’re home. At first I thought it might be a Kingdom Adventure book until fantasy elements showed up later in the story. But I just loved the cozy fantasy kingdom setting and it felt so — I don’t know! I felt so at home and I just want to hug this book. ❤ (It made me think a little of books by Gail Carson Levine.)

2. Leah — She tells the story, which is a fact I keep forgetting (I don’t always love first-person, but the ones I most enjoy are the ones where I’m so sucked in that I forget!), and I just loved this red-haired servant girl. She has this sort of . . . I don’t know . . . quiet strength. She’s lovely.

3. Rafe — You have to love the prince character! Rafe is so absolutely sweet and I love him. He also feels sort of stuck in all these political schemes, and wishes he could just stay in the closet he and Leah meet in and just read with her forever. Rafe is just SO PRECIOUS. And kind of epic too.

4. The nuns — They’re quite unexpected but such neat characters! I loved how distinct they all were, each with their own personalities and temperaments, and they were unexpectedly lovable side characters. You’ll have to read it to see how they join in on the plot, but it’s really cool. 😉

5. The plot: a mix of secrets and court intrigue and politics and plots, mixed with quiet character moments and journeys, with a smidge of magic and the barest hint of an almost-Cinderella tale, and all wrapped up in an absolutely precious romance thread. Leah and Rafe are just SO ADORABLE, okay? I adore them. But I also loved reading about Leah’s adventures. 😀 This book stands alone, but I’m still so looking forward to the sequel!


Add to Goodreads • Find on Amazon • Visit the Author


GIVEAWAY

To win this gorgeous paperback copy of Common, signed by the author, enter via the Rafflecopter form HERE! (Open to US residents only, due to shipping costs. Begins Feb. 14, 2019, and ends Feb. 20, 2019, at midnight Central Time.)

EDIT: The giveaway is now CLOSED. The winner has been contacted. Thanks for entering, everyone!


A Sale + Another Giveaway

P.S. Check out this Jane-Austen-Inspired Valentine  ebook sale and $45 Amazon gift-card giveaway! Check out the details HERE or click the image below!


If you want to read my reviews of some of the Vintage Jane Austen books, you can see those here:

 

If you like Common, you may also enjoy:

 Beggar Magic  


Now let me know in the comments: Do you have a favorite fictional couple?

Thanks for reading! 🙂

King’s War by Jill Williamson (Review)

Time for a long-overdue review of King’s War — and be sure to check out an awesome Blood of Kings paperback sale going on through December 15th! (Details at the end of the post.)

Title: King’s War (Kinsman Chronicles, #3)

Author: Jill Williamson

  • Date read: June 21, 2018
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Epic Fantasy
  • Age: Adult
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 659 (paperback) (Yes, it’s nearly a doorstop. XD)
  • Series: The Kinsman Chronicles, #3
  • Fave character: Kalenek, Trevn, Oli, and Grayson and Hinck
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: Thanks to the author and Bethany House Publishers for the free copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive review, and these opinions are entirely my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

KING’S WAR by Jill Williamson is the conclusion to the Kinsman Chronicles—which is a prequel series to one of my favorite fantasy series! This sweeping epic fantasy novel takes place in the land of Er’Rets (which made me super happy, because I love the Blood of Kings Trilogy. ;)).

The first book in the Kinsman Chronicles, KING’S FOLLY, was good—if rather dark for my taste; but I adored some of the characters and it was exciting.

The second book, KING’S BLOOD (man, I should have known from that title…), got way too dark for me and left me utterly devastated over a character death I still haven’t recovered from over a year later. *cough* I was kiiinda disappointed—and therefore worried about the next one.

However, I’m thrilled to say that KING’S WAR, book 3, was the best of the trilogy, and I really enjoyed it!

I particularly loved how it took place in the same land as the Achan books (as I call them), and how it started linking up to so many things that I knew from that world! Names, places, history, cultures, magic, etc. And the “feel” was much more like the epic fantasy that I enjoy, and less of the darkness and grittiness of the first two books. (There’s still grittiness in this one, but it’s just much more enjoyable otherwise, somehow. XD)

There were several months between my reading the second book and this one, so it did take me a little while to pick up all the threads and characters—I’m pretty sure there are still a few things that I never quite remembered. XD But once I got back into it, I was sucked completely into this fantasy world and its wonders and politics and characters’ adventures.

I loved the writing. Some of it was funny. The characters were enjoyable (other than the ones we properly loathe. :P). I was surprised by new and different things, and felt at home with familiar ones. It was huge, but pretty worth it in the end. ^_^

Particularly those characters I mentioned. 😉 A certain happening from book two is still very much Not Okay. But I was able to get over it and enjoy the story all the same. 😛

I still love Kalenek, and Trevn—usually. XD Oli as well, and his character arc, which was fantastic. I started liking Grayson more—he really does a lot in this one. And Hinck—who I never really cared as much about as I might have for some reason—I finally decided was pretty cool! One of my absolute favorite scenes featured him and Princess Saria (also a cool character) in a library and just YES. I loved it! 😀

I also loved all the veil stuff and the bloodvoicing and doing all the excitement around the castle. ^_^ So exciting! I remember being a little unsure about some of the conclusions, and it still is a little more gritty/adult at times, but not as much as the previous two books. On the whole, it was a great book, and they fight giants and against evil, and there’s epic battles and basically it’s a thrilling adventure. 😀

Overall, it’s rather long, and you have to get through a lot of long, dark pages to get to it, what with the two previous books (though they had their good moments too!). But if you do, it’s well worth reading this one—especially if you’re a fan of Blood of Kings. Another excellent read from Jill Williamson!

Now excuse me while I go put BY DARKNESS HID and its two sequels on my TBR for a long-overdue re-read…

(Also, THAT COVER. ❤ )

[A note on the “books” in the Kinsman Chronicles. The paperbacks are three books: King’s Folly, King’s Blood, and King’s War. The ebooks are nine ebooks, and three of each of those are collected in each of the paperback volumes. I know, it’s kinda confusing. XD If you’re curious about the series, you can pick up the first of those nine ebooks (Darkness Reigns, the first third of King’s Folly) for free on Kindle to try it out.]


SALE!

I’m pretty excited about this one because I love these books so much!

The Blood of Kings trilogy by Jill Williamson currently has a special sale going on Amazon, but only until the 15th, so check it out if you haven’t! 🙂

(If it says temporarily out of stock, that seems to just be because it’s not printed through Amazon, so go ahead and order anyway. ;))

Here’s what Jill said about it:

It’s a book sale! My publisher has put the Blood of Kings paperback books on a special sale. On Amazon only, By Darkness Hid, To Darkness Fled, and From Darkness Won are each only $9.99 for a limited time. That’s a little over 40% off the cover price!

There is a bit of a trick to this. Right now, a third party seller has the “buy” box on Amazon, so I’ve made special links so that you can find the seller with the $9.99 new price (who is oddly Amazon itself).

This sale runs through Saturday, December 15.

Here are the links:

By Darkness Hid: https://amzn.to/2QDceRt

To Darkness Fled: https://amzn.to/2QlOWjV

From Darkness Won: https://amzn.to/2L4LJzd


Check out my reviews of the first two books in this series:

kingswarriorcover

Have you read any of Jill’s books yet? Do you have a favorite? Thanks for reading! 🙂