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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! 🙂

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5 Thoughts: Ewan Pendle and the Castle of Nightmares (by Shaun Hume)

Good morning (or afternoon, or whenever), my dear Pagelings!

I’ve got a British, Urban Fantasy, academy-ish sort of book to share with you today!

Title: Ewan Pendle and the Castle of Nightmares

Author: Shaun Hume

  • Date read: February 19, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Age: MG-YA
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 339 (Kindle)
  • Series: Ewan Pendle, #2
  • Fave character: Rusty, Enid, Enola, Jack Mangrove, Ewan, etc. I LOVE ‘EM ALL.
  • Source: The author
  • Notes: I was given a free ebook copy of this book from the author (thanks!). I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Blog

Ewan Pendle is back! I enjoyed the first book in this series (Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith) and I’m pleased to say that this sequel is just as enjoyable, and in fact adds new awesomeness. 😀

5 Thoughts on Ewan Pendle and the Castle of Nightmares

I love these characters, getting to read more about their adventures, relationships, and interactions, and also their backstories and mysteries. Some questions are answered, while others are hair-raisingly raised — and there was one reveal in particular at the end that more or less had me jumping up and down going “I KNEW IT! YESSS! :D”

The setting is fun (a hidden academy in modern-day London for people who know about the existence of Creatures and have lessons in things like sword-fighting? And includes an adventure to Scotland? Sign me up!) and I just feel rather at home in this world and at the Firedrake academy and with these characters! (Plus, the fact that the author lives in England, I believe, only makes it that much cooler because I feel like it’s authentic!)

The plot hits a good balance between adventure and some slower times to get to breathe and enjoy the characters and mysteries. It’s exciting and cozy and fantastical and mysterious all at once, and I love that! It’s a bit long (though shorter than the first one), but I felt like it really picked up about a third of the way in! Some errors and typos were minorly distracting, but for the most part I was too busy having a blast to care at all. XD

More awesome things:

  • The new (if brief) addition of a suitably dragon-y dragon — I hope to see more of him in the future! I LOVED how dragon-like he was!
  • Adventure that includes an attack by a flaming skeleton wil-o’-the-wisp in a bog in Scotland at night. Can you say exciting?
  • Dream world intriguingness! O_O
  • Problems like trolls and goblins and the titular Castle of Nightmares — keeps things interesting!
  • Reveals about Ewan and his backstory that have me even MORE curious. :O
  • More of our young hero Ewan, Enid the pirate (she’s AWESOME), my favorite Rusty who is in it a bit more (hurrah!), Matilde and Max of course (need those loyal friends!), tantalizing hints of Brigid and Betony and Jack Mangrove (NEED MORE!), and of course the mysterious Enola Whitewood! I adore this cast. 😀 They’re awesome and my friends. ^_^

Perfect for fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events (but without the gloom) or Harry Potter (but without the magic, exactly), or for anyone who loves a good acadamy adventure, or an urban fantasy set in modern-day London and Scotland! I feel like all teens would enjoy this, and some of us who are a bit older too and just enjoy a good book. Other than some slightly scary parts, it’s suitable for all readers, and is just a blast! ^_^

A Favorite Quote

‘However, for now, your chief task during these dedicated Vanguard sessions will be the taking of notes.’

The enthusiasm in the session suddenly wilted like petunias left in a hot car.

‘Notes? We’re only going to be taking notes?’ moaned Enid, scandalised. Something told Ewan she would have zero qualms about tackling a ferocious Creature with a sword in only her first week as a Grade Two.

‘Oh well there goes my hopes,’ Rusty offered from Ewan’s side, ‘I kind of fancied being thrown headlong into the action, after that rather tame first year.’

‘Tame?’ whispered Rosie Prince, the ends of her short blonde hair fizzing at the mere suggestion, ‘we nearly all got killed by a white wraith!’

‘Ah,’ Rusty replied with blithe nonchalance, ‘there was only one of those. And that wasn’t even during Lyceum hours. It’s like being a detective and going on holiday, init? Someone gets offed in your guesthouse, and everyone else expects you to solve the murder … Then it’s just annoying. The sessions last year were a world class yawn in comparison.’


Review for book one:

What do you think? Sound intriguing? What’s your favorite academy tale or British-set fantasy? Thanks for reading! 🙂

I have feelings (Healer’s Bane by Hope Ann: Review)

Look what came out today! A delightful new novella from Hope Ann. 😀 Read on for my confused feels which I’m throwing together and calling a review. XD

Title: Healer’s Bane

Author: Hope Ann

  • Date read: March 28, 2019
  • Rating: 4 stars?
  • Genre: Gaslamp Fantasy / Novella
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 178 (Kindle)
  • Series: No
  • Fave character: Lael
  • Source: The author
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

5 thoughts on Healer’s Bane

I have MANY FEELINGS about this novella and I don’t know quite what they amount to so . . . I’m just going to throw them at you. XD

1. It was sooo mysterious and spooky, with an intriguing gaslight sort of feel, mixed in with a smidge of dystopian-type feel, with the rebellion and so on. The fantasy bits were woven in well, with the mysterious healing powers and the Poisoner (URGH) and the star-mists and everything. It’s sort of a shadowy, gritty setting but felt EXTREMELY vivid. Everything was quick and punchy and made it work in the small space.

2. We have a small but vivid cast of characters. Kynet, our no-nonsense but compassionate heroine. Her hot-headed brother Nayn, who runs the revolution. Street-orphan Ean with the Scottish accent. And a certain mysterious character who is all spoilers but is AWESOME and my fave! (Definitely my favorite part of the story.) And of course a villain or two. 😉 Villains aside, I loved them all! They definitely sprang to life in the course of this small story. And their snark and banter was fun, naturally.

3. It’s terribly interesting and edge-of-your-seat, and you never really know exactly where it’s going, but it’s fun too. So I really enjoyed it in one sense, while in another sense it was a smidge more dark/creepy than I generally like to read (though I didn’t mind as much as I thought I might?) and then there’s an . . . er . . . awkward fact. I kept being constantly afraid that this or that—no, THAT—character was going to die any second, so I wasn’t exactly SURPRISED buuut there was a death that was Not Okay and I’m sort of upset. BUT ALSO it was almost beautiful/okay—almost—and I’m not sure why I’m not MORE upset and giving out two-stars all over the place? It’s more like I’m mildly sad so maybe it worked well? So I’m essentially rather confused about my reactions because that death and the darker aspects would normally mean I’m a disappointed bean, but I still think it was really fascinating and rather fun most of the time. SO. I think it might be because it’s a novella.

4. ANYWAY, I have all these confused feeliiiings and I don’t know what I think. But yes, it’s a fascinating and exciting and fun and spooky story, and I loved the feel and the atmosphere even if it was creepy sometimes, and I liked the characters even if I’m rather upset about the thing that happened. I am all confusion. XD

5. But if it sounds like an intriguing story to you, and you like a gaslight sort of setting and a rebellion against the corrupt government, fabulous sibling relationships, an adorable orphan boy, a mysterious courtly awesome chap, and healers and poisoners and secrets and plots and aaall the feelz, do give this little novella a try! 😀

Thanks to the author for the Advance Reader Copy! All opinions are my own.

What do you think? Sound intriguing? And what do you do when you read something and can’t disentangle your feelings?? XD

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! 🙂

ECHO NORTH by Joanna Ruth Meyer + Blogiversary!

Happy New Year!

And happy third blogiversary to the Page Dreamer! Thanks for following along on my li’l blog, my dear pagelings!

To celebrate, I’m giving away a paperback ARC of an awesome retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”! (Giveaway closed.)

It’s called Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer, who is a fabulous writer I met through Twitter and our mutual love of Diana Wynne Jones. ❤

Echo North was the last book I read in 2018 and it blew me away and made it onto my list of the best books I read all year! (Which I’ll be sharing soon.) Meanwhile, I’m here to review it today, and to tell you why you simply MUST read this gorgeousness!

Make sure to scroll all the way to the end to enter the giveaway for an ARC paperback copy! (Giveaway closed.)


Title: Echo North

Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer

  • Date read: December 29, 2018
  • Rating: 5 stars! (I’d totally give it 6 if I could…)
  • Genre: Fantasy / Fairytale Retelling / East of the Sun, West of the Moon (with a hint of Beauty and the Beast and Tam Lin)
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 389 (ARC paperback)
  • Series: Standalone
  • Fave character: Hal, of course!
  • Source: Page Street Publishing
  • Notes: Thanks to the publisher for providing a free ARC of this book. A positive review was not required. All opinions are entirely my own.

My favorite books are the ones I find most difficult to review. AAHH. How can I explain my love for this book? IT’S SO, SO GOOD.

Echo North is so beautiful it hurts. I found myself utterly enchanted by this story of the girl Echo and the white wolf and Hal and the Winds, and I’m so sad it’s over because I wanted to just LIVE in it for ages and ages. ❤

Don’t you love those retellings that feel like they’re the REAL story? This one felt that way. A retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, I loved how it seemed like this was the real history behind it. More than seemed, it WAS and—well, you’ll have to read it. 😉 There’s also a hint of Beauty and the Beast, and just a dash of Tam Lin. All the retelling bits were brilliant and I loved them!

This is the story of Echo, our heroine, trapped by her scars, who tells the story in words so heartfelt and gorgeous that I wanted to melt into them. It’s the story of the white wolf in the house under the mountain, of his sorrow and secrets, trapped by a curse. It’s the story of Hal, the . . . I don’t have a word for him, because all of them fall short of his irrepressible personality! The indescribable young man Echo meets, who is trapped in the worlds of the book-mirrors and by a shadow of his own past. They’re my FAVORITE. I love them all. Their stories intertwine flawlessly and paint a stunning picture I happily lost myself in.

I sometimes almost forgot I was reading a retelling, because there was just so much MORE to this book. I think of it in three parts—the part where Echo is at home, the part in the House under the mountain, and the quest. They’re all fantastic (although the beginning part is kind of sad, but I somehow didn’t mind because it’s just what HAPPENED, you know?), but the middle bit is my absolute favorite. 😀

The book-mirrors were one of my favorite things—how cool is the idea of stepping into a mirror which is actually a book, and experiencing that? There were other awesome things about the book-mirrors but I don’t want to spoil them—you must read it for yourself! 🙂 Another thing I loved was the House! It almost has its own personality, and all the different unique rooms, full of fantasy and wonder and peril and bound together like patches on a quilt, were incredible. It was like having separate pockets of Faerie all tied together.

The sheer imagination left me speechless. This is what fantasy was made for. I was spellbound by all the many different imaginative worlds and stories and fantastical elements woven together by this author’s skillful pen. How did she come up with them all? It’s like the full potential of fantasy has been explored in these pages. There are a thousand unique things in this tale, all perilous and beautiful like frozen starlight.

It’s a story full of echoing joy and heart-rending sorrow, of stars and wind and snow, of a magical house and books explored through mirrors, of love and fire and woods and thorns, of music and wonder and mystery and adventure. None of it’s safe, exactly, but it’s all stunning. It was so vivid I absolutely BREATHED this story, both thrilling and quiet, on the edge of my seat but cozy at the same time, and got to know each of these dear characters so well. ❤

Because these CHARACTERS. Hal is the absolute BEST. I have a new favorite character, guys. 😉 He’s so full of LIFE and his dialog and exuberance are just—the best. But I love how there’s something deeper back there, with several layers of mystery. He’s like all my most favorite character types! I love Hal and Echo together—they are my favorite! ❤ The wolf was also awesome and also mysterious. He and Echo have a great dynamic as well! And I love Echo. And the romance was the best.

All the dialog and interactions in this book . . . SO GOOD. And there were side characters I loved as well! Everyone was so alive. Echo’s brother Rodya—there need to be more good brother characters in fiction!—is not in it terribly much but he was fantastic. And I absolutely loved Ivan the storyteller and his wife and just . . . this whole book, guys. I want to hug it forever!

Also, there are PLOT TWISTS. One of them I guessed and was totally hoping would be a thing. Another was hinted at and I vaguely suspected something was up, but oh, the glorious reveal of this mind-blowing twist! :O And some of the side characters had stories that were twisty as well. Did I mention how breathtaking the writing was? I just want to eat it! And I loved the music in the story and its descriptions. 🙂 It was all so masterfully done!

Some books simply enchant you, you know? This one stole a part of my heart and crept in as the last book I read in 2018 but one of my top favorites. I’m going to treasure my memories of reading this late at night near the cold end of the year, when I didn’t mean to read so late but couldn’t stop. ^_^

I could probably talk about this book for ages but I’m going to stop now and simply say: If you love fairytales and the fantastic and characters who will steal your heart, you absolutely must read this gorgeous tale, full of the wild echoes of Faerie, of piercing starlight and wind and ice and fierce love.

Just read it.


Quotes

“What is your name?” I asked.
“I do not have a name.”
“Then what am I to call you?”
“Whatever you like.”

***

“If I’d thought this story wouldn’t have a happy ending, I would have read something else.”
His blue eyes locked on mine, suddenly serious. “Must you always know a story ends happily before you feel equal to beginning it?

***

We dined with the Winds in a hall looking out over the world, and the colors tasted bright and the wine smelt of music.

***

“It’s all very exciting, if rather ridiculous.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “You are rather ridiculous.”
He winked at me again. “Are you ready to run?”
“What?”
That’s when one of the soldiers spotted us, his blade flashing toward our hiding spot.
“Run, Echo!” cried Hal. He grabbed my hand and we dashed into the wood.


About Echo North

She dreamed of the wood, and the wolf who was trapped there.

Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf―the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: if she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books- turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.

Echo North will release January 15, 2019

Add on GoodreadsPreorder on Barnes & Noble • Preorder on Amazon


Visit the author, Joanna Ruth Meyer, online!

WebsiteTwitter: @gamwynInstagram: @gamwyn


GIVEAWAY!

The publisher (Page Street Publishing) was kind enough to send me an extra ARC, which I am giving away here on my blog today!

To enter to win a paperback ARC of Echo North, click on this link to enter via the rafflecopter!

(US entries only. Open from Tuesday, January 1, 2019, through Sunday, January 6, 2019, midnight CST. Winner will be contacted by email and announced on this blog shortly thereafter.)

Giveaway is closed. The winner is Amanda, who has been contacted. Thanks for entering, everyone!


Doesn’t it just sound like THE BEST? *collapses* I loved it so much! (I have quite a book-hangover after this, which is a bad way to start a new year of reading — how will anything be this good again? — but perfect at the same time, and I don’t regret it one little bit. ❤ )

I hope you enjoyed my review, and be sure to enter the giveaway!

Thanks for celebrating my li’l blogoversary with me, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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! 🙂

Five Poisoned Apples: Falling Snow by Skye Hoffert (Review!)

*emerges from my post-NaNo coma to bring you a review for an INCREDIBLE book which YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST READ*

It’s here, guys! Five Poisoned Apples released December 1st, and I’m incredibly excited about it — particularly because of one specific story that I just read and is by my talented friend Skye Hoffert.

Y’ALL. I’M SO EXCITED. I’m excited for her debut novella, Falling Snow, being out now — go Skye!

I’m also excited because this story was genuinely amazing. I expected to enjoy it but I was not prepared AT ALL for how much it blew me away!

I can’t wait to tell you about. 😀

Title: Falling Snow (in Five Poisoned Apples)

Author: Skye Hoffert

  • Date read: November 29, 2018
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Fairytale / Retelling / Novella
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Fave character: Chayse
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: I received a free e-ARC of this anthology from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonSkye Hoffert’s Blog

Gorgeous interior cover artwork by Hannah S. J. Williams which totally captures it!

FALLING SNOW is a truly spectacular read. I’m utterly enchanted!

This review is going to be difficult to write, because how do I recover from something so amazing? MY FEELS. WHAT ARE WORDS. I’M PEN-SLAIN. I don’t know how to express how much I absolutely adored this story and how striking and thrilling it was and how it blew me away. But I’m going to give it a shot.

This tale is both mesmerizing and perilous, as a story about a circus run by fae should be. A deadly dance of deception and illusion and shadows. The first thing that comes to mind about this story is the feel, the atmosphere, the colors of it—the stark whites and blacks and reds and golds. It’s so vivid! There are so many contrasts—the grungy half of the circus performers versus the opulence of the queen’s side of things; the fire versus the cold (my favorite!); the calculated deception of the fae characters versus the pure innocence of Snow herself.

I love how you get this feeling where you hardly know where the magic ends and begins. I loved the fire-manipulating (and the character who does it!) but that’s the most obvious fantastical part—at least at first—and you’re sometimes left wondering about what is mere illusion and what is actual fantasy, which is just how a fae circus should be.

I really appreciated how perilous the fae characters were! Obviously, the evil queen character (this is, after all, a Snow White tale) who runs the circus was chilling and creepy. But the fae characters we like also had their edge of danger, which was fascinating, and I felt was totally true, somehow, to what a fae story should be. It was a natural part of what they’re like, but we, and Snow (the one human character), can see that it’s off a bit. But for the fae characters it’s part of their lives, a ruthless, deadly dance they live in—even if some of them wish for a way out.

The complete originality of a Snow White story set in a circus, and then the brilliant way that it wove in the different Snow White elements in unexpected ways, was so awesome! I can’t talk much about that here because of spoilers, but guys, it was genius. I love it so much. 😀

The writing was also incredible. Aaahh! I kept wanting to quote things and hoping to one day be able to write like that. Every word is sharp and in just the right place to absolutely drag you completely into the story and into the minds and lives of these characters I fell in love with. It immerses the reader completely into this circus world. I’m pretty sure I forgot to breathe for the last half of the story. O_O It’s super intense, and a bit bloody at times, so younger readers might find it a bit dark, but I absolutely loved it and couldn’t stop reading—the story was so thrilling and I had no idea how things were going to turn out!

Speaking of writing, I loved the alternating viewpoints of our main characters, Snow and Chayse, and getting to see everything (including each other) from different perspectives, and all the raw emotion from both, tucked down under the illusions. Which brings me to the last but opposite of least aspect: the characters!

I loved Snow and how precious she was, and how as the only human she was something kind of nice in the middle of the scary deceptions. But she wasn’t helpless either, and her goals and dreams and determination—not to mention her stubbornness and commitment to learning to walk the wire—really had me rooting for her, and sometimes breathless on the edge of my seat.

Chayse was my favorite, and part of that was learning about him throughout the story bit by bit, so I almost don’t want to say much about him! But he’s got a couple of unexpected roles thrown together, which was great, and his interactions with Snow are my favorite. ^_^ His interactions with the queen… O_O I felt really bad for this guy—my poor precious Chayse! He’s super dangerous but he also wants out. I loved him so much. And the fire… Needless to say, Chayse is absolutely awesome. 😀

And I can’t quite finish without mentioning Cynfael. This guy. O_O One of the most truly enigmatic characters I’ve read, ever. I kept changing my mind about his roles in the story, changing my feelings about him, and he kept me guessing. I can usually guess a character’s role but Cynfael defied conventions—the sneaky fae!—and I was genuinely blown away. (This writing, guys!) I’ll let you discover him yourself, because spoilers, but wow. Chayse and Cynfael also had some excellent scenes which I loved.

Oh, and (talking of Chayse and Cynfael) one final thing is the dialog. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. It’s so sharp. These characters are almost constantly exchanging either verbal duels or loads of snark or hidden meanings, and sometimes all three at once. It was absolutely fantastic. 😀

If I keep writing, my review will get as long as this novella, but FALLING SNOW is an absolutely stunning, breath-taking, edge-of-your-seat read. I positively adored it and plan to re-read it sometime!

I have yet to read the other tales in the FIVE POISONED APPLES collection because this one left me with a major book-hangover. I do look forward to trying them out, but even if you only get it for FALLING SNOW, it’s totally worth it.

You need Snow and Chayse and Cynfael and this gorgeous writing and super-aesthetic black-white-red-gold perilous-fae Snow White circus story in your life. YOU JUST DO. ❤

~ ~ ~

Whew. Sound like something you need? Because… GUYS. You do!

Also, do you have any favorite fae stories you can recommend to me??

How about circuses? (Thinking of The Electrical Menagerie, The Greatest Showman, and The Night Circus…)

*pretends I’m totally not eating a (totally-not-poisoned) apple while I write this post*

Talk to me! Thanks for reading! 🙂