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Sword of Soter by Ralene Burke (Review)

Back again with a review for a Christian fantasy adventure! I’ve been meaning to read this one for ages, so hurray for finally doing so!

Title: Sword of Soter

Author: Ralene Burke

  • Date read: October 26, 2020
  • Rating: 3.5, rounding up to 4
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 295 (paperback)
  • Series: Sacred Armor Trilogy, #2 (Book 1 is Armor of Aletheia — read my review)
  • Fave character: Tristan
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I received an e-ARC of this book for an honest review, and later won a paperback copy. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

(3.5 stars, rounding up to 4)

I’ve been so curious to continue this series since reading Armor of Aletheia and I’m excited that I finally read this one. Following the continuing adventures of queen/prophetess Karina, former bounty hunter Tristan, and their companions, was another wild ride!

Tristan is my favorite—I wish he’d been in it more!—and I loved seeing more of Rashka, who is a super cool elf Guardian; she definitely has some tricks up her sleeves. 😉 We also meet new characters who keep the reader guessing. And if you want to read about a chilling villainess, this is the right book, ack! Plus, I mean, we’ve got scary wolf-like lupens, a griffin (!), and a fun talking horse, a.k.a. Dom (everyone needs a horse like Dom).

I’m afraid I . . . disliked pretty much the entire subplot involving Sam, particularly how it ended up; it just kind of stressed me out, personally. *cough* Maybe that’s just me. But the rest of the book was very interesting and an enjoyable read!

The classic fantasy quest feel, but with new things too, was neat. I loved the castles and caves and tests and escapes. (Mazes, though!) So much adventure! The world was so vivid, and the twists kept me on my toes so I was never quite sure what was going to happen next.

Since it had been quite awhile since I’d read the first book, I didn’t remember as many details about that as I should have . . . So I suspect I may have liked this one more if my memory was better or if I’d reread book one first. And like I said, I wasn’t a fan of the Sam subplot. But for the most part I enjoyed it. 🙂

I’m so excited to read the next book, especially with that unexpected ending twist that’s leaving me very curious about how things will be affected . . . Meep! I can’t wait to find out what’s in store for Karina and Tristan and friends!


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Thanks for reading! 🙂

Five Thoughts on Mardan’s Anointed by Kathrese McKee (Review)

Hey, my fellow pagelings! At long last I return to this little blog to attempt to catch up on some reviews I’m wayyy behind on—so let’s dive right in with a review of a fantasy novel I really enjoyed!

Title: Mardan’s Anointed (Mardan’s Mark, #3)

Author: Kathrese McKee

  • Date read: September 25, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Fantasy / Kingdom Adventure
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 287 (paperback)
  • Series: Mardan’s Mark, #3 (Read my reviews of the other books in the series here.)
  • Fave character: Aldan
  • Source: the author
  • Notes: I received a free e-ARC of this book as part of the street team, and later won a paperback copy. I was under no obligation to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

 Five thoughts on Mardan’s Anointed

1. Another fabulous book in the Mardan’s Mark series! Book one (Mardan’s Mark) was an adventure quest/survival story, while book two (Mardan’s Heir) was much more of a political-intrigue-around-the-palace sort of story. Mardan’s Anointed (book three) skillfully blends the feel of both books, picking up directly where Mardan’s Heir left off and following the separate paths of Princess Srilani and Aldan. Although I missed having them together, I so enjoyed reading their alternating chapters as they both face challenges in who they’re meant to be, and I loved-loved-loved how it ended up for both of them! (The parallels near the end particularly were stunning.)

2. I’m going to try to talk about this without sharing spoilers if you haven’t read the first two. XD Aldan’s quest in the southern kingdom was epic, and there were some unexpected happenings that left me on the edge of my seat! Exciting quests (for thrones and other things), castle infiltrating, woodland ambushes . . . So much awesomeness going down in this book! Aldan is growing SO much in trying to be worthy, and he’s already awesome, so. 😀 (Also, I remember loving his speech on the beach.) Also, all his loyal guys just make my heart happy.

3. Princess Srilani is stuck kind of trying to temporarily run the northern kingdom and being met with all kinds of opposition, but I love that she keeps going despite all that. I enjoyed reading about her (figurative) journey as she navigates politics etc. And where her story goes at the end! Wow, wow! So cool, though I’m looking forward to where it goes after her, too. (Trying to talk about this without spoilers is so hard. XD) Also, I loved how there were some parallels to certain biblical stories, and that whole mountain bit at the end! Yessss. So very cool!

4. I also liked the other side characters and how their stories are developing—like Prince Jamson coming so far, Princess Maelan getting to do stuff, Aldan’s brothers being epic as per usual, etc. I also have Feelings about Judge Elison. And I kinda feel bad for Greyson so I want more of him in the next book, haha! Plus, Raymon is super awesome, and I love him and Lady Elilan together! And I’m totally still shipping Srilani and Aldan and need book four because of it. XD

5. Like I said, there were some fabulous unexpected twists that are leaving me grinning, and I can’t wait for the fourth (and I believe final) book! (Fortunately, this one didn’t cliffhanger like book two did. Still with things awaiting in the fourth book, though! Eep!) It also reminded me a little of Jill Williamson’s excellent Blood of Kings Trilogy . . . So if you enjoy those or are a fan of Christian Fantasy, you’ll enjoy these! (Essentially Kingdom Adventure since there isn’t really anything magical or fantastical aside from one or two miraculous things?) Overall, I had a marvelous time reading this and just felt happy to be back in this world in the Marst kingdoms with Aldan and Srilani and everyone! So enjoyable!


Read my reviews for the other books in the series so far . . .

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Does this series sound intriguing? And let me know what you’re reading lately in a comment. Thanks for reading! 🙂

The Story Hunter by Lindsay A. Franklin (Book Review)

(Whoops, had a glitch there when I tried to post this at first. Hopefully this works better!)

Hey! I have a review to share today! (I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to post, due to not having internet at home right now, but I’m excited to be able to get a post up for this series finale which I just finished last night!)

Title: The Story Hunter

Author: Lindsay A. Franklin

  • Date read: June 4, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age: older YA
  • Year pub: 2020
  • Pages: 368
  • Series: The Weaver Trilogy, #3 (Book 1: The Story Peddler — my review. Book 2: The Story Raider — my review.)
  • Fave character: Kharn
  • Source: Amazon
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s Website

What a majestic conclusion to this fantasy trilogy! I’m not sure quite what I expected, but I quite enjoyed THE STORY HUNTER, for the most part!

It was somehow cozy and familiar to be back in this world for the finale of this series, even with my near-panicked uncertainty of AAHH WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN? (You know, like coming into watching Endgame for the first time. XD) I was so curious to find out what was going to happen to these characters — after waiting all this time for the last book to release — and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would!

Which . . . sounds wrong, when I put it that way. But I was bracing myself for a lot more darkness and sadness, on par with the second book, and was pleasantly surprised with how things wrapped up. Don’t get me wrong — this book is definitely somewhat dark and grim, in some ways more than book two (although book two had all the middle-book-darkness-without-any-victory-to-offset-it feel which is, I suppose, why I enjoyed this one more). The stakes also ramped up a bit for the finale, and there were one or two darker parts that weren’t my favorite. But there was also much hope and light sprinkled in, a lot of triumph and unexpected twists, and even a proper eucatastrophe moment, to use Tolkien’s word. So I guess I would say it balanced itself out.

There’s heartache and loss but also love and light, and it wrapped up everything in a mostly-satisfying way and made me pretty happy. ^_^ It did give me all the feels (laughing at banter, shedding a tear or two but in a good way at the beautiful legacies left behind) but it didn’t tear my heart out like I was afraid it would, and overall, by the end, it left me . . . uplifted. Which is something that’s good to feel at the end of a series. 🙂

I quite enjoy the unique world and it just felt cozy to be back in it, like I said. It’s colorful and unique, even shrouded in the darkness that’s fallen across it as of book two. All the caverns and strands were particularly cool! And I loved following the large cast of characters — all well juggled, although I wanted more of Kharn but I suppose under the circumstances that wouldn’t have worked out so well. XD

I’m not mentioning everyone by name because I don’t want to give anything away (awk, trying to write book three reviews without spoilers is hard!) but I will say I was glad to see how several of the characters’ arcs ended, and some of them make me smile. I also loved the beautiful tribute near the end to those lost along their journey, which made those sad parts a little more worth it, somehow.

There were one or two things and/or character actions that seemed to come totally out of the blue and left me kind of bewildered and going “wait, what?”, but I rolled with it and things turned out better than I expected in some cases, so I’m cool with it, mostly. XD (And to be fair, it could just be the fact that I read the previous book a year ago, and the first book two years ago, and I may have just missed certain connections or not remembered seeing things before — like Celyn, who I’m not complaining about AT ALL but had no memory of meeting before.) And, again, a couple of the darker parts I wasn’t fond of, but there you are.

Still, on the whole, I absolutely LOVED how it drew so many elements from the previous two books and wove them together, all the strands weaving into a beautiful, if sometimes scary, tapestry. Everything connected for the finale, in a swirling crescendo of color and characters — I absolutely loved how everything came together for the end! It made me so happy. The adventure definitely kept me on the edge of my seat, worried for everyone at every step, not able to put the book down and reading until midnight to finish.

Overall, I’m so glad I finally got to read the end of this saga, and while there were a few stumbles along the way (and I don’t really recommend the second and third books to younger or sensitive readers), it’s still been quite a journey — an often-fun one, with laughter and tears and a reminder of the good and the light in the world, even amidst the darkness.

Because the light wins and “winter will not last forever.” A magnificent, fitting end to the Weaver Trilogy. ^_^


More reviews!

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Have you read any in this series? Thanks for reading! 🙂

Stephen R. Lawhead: In the Region of the Summer Stars (Review)

I have a new favorite book and today I get to shriek about it to you guys to tide me over until I get my hands on the next book in the series! *grins*

Title: In the Region of the Summer Stars

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

  • Series: Eirlandia, #1
  • Date read: February 29, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars! (Summer ones. ;))
  • Genre: Celtic Fantasy
  • Age: Adult
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 333 (hardcover)
  • Fave character: Conor
  • Source: Library
  • Links: GoodreadsBarnes & NobleAmazonAuthor’s Website
  • Quotes: “I sing because I have no more tears,” the bard replied.

Another deftly woven tale by master storyteller Stephen R. Lawhead, this book is sure to enchant fans new and old alike. It certainly delighted me! It felt like coming home. A new favorite! There are usually a handful of books each year that I want to award six out of five stars, and this is one of them.

Lawhead’s Bright Empires books are some of my favorites ever, so I was extremely excited to finally dive into Eirlandia. And book one has so lived up to my hopes! I love it so much and I can’t wait to read the second one soon to prep for the final book in the trilogy, releasing this summer. (Aaahh!)

I loved disappearing between the pages in this utterly absorbing tale, full of adventure and rich detail and characters who spring to life in this green land of wonders and warriors and words. I lived and breathed it, completely captivated. I love Celtic things, and this is a splendid Celtic Fantasy. I need more books like this!

A few things I loved:

THE SETTING + FEEL

From the first page I just felt so at home reading In the Region of the Summer Stars. The feel of this book touched my Irish soul and makes me think back on memories of the tales of old Ireland that I grew up listening to and reading about. Stepping through the page into Eirlandia made me so happy to just be there.

Welcome to a skillfully woven tale of warriors and druids and faery. Travel the rolling hills and secret forests and cliffs by the sea. Join these various clans and feel the strong themes of brothers-in-arms, honor, loyalty, and fierce bravery, but with dashes of good-natured humor. I didn’t know quite what I expected, but it was everything I wanted. ^_^

The way the characters talk is also great—I love how it has an Irish lilt to it just with the way they say things. It makes me happy. (And their lighthearted Irish sense of humor which is the best.) I also loved the familiar words and names, the rich history and lore they’re drawn from, and even the sounds of them. Brehons, Tuatha de Danann, Lughnasadh, Tylwyth Teg, Tir nan Og. Oenach, Aoife, Eamon, Brigantes. Harps and pipes and bodhran drums, checked cloaks and spears and brooches and torcs. Just all of it. ^_^ The sound and feel of it makes me happy like nothing else does aside from J. R. R. Tolkien’s world of The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings. (And yes, I do have an idea of how to pronounce most of those, I promise. XD)

THE PLAYERS

Then there’s Conor. Conor mac Ardan has this marvelous way of being clever and stubborn and loyal and thick-headed and chaotically reckless all in turn. He’s my favorite! I loved following him through the book on his journey. The way he comes up with the most outlandish plans that are sheer crazy and yet somehow he charges in and pulls them off—mostly. It’s the best! And yet he’s super smart, too, sometimes, and a really skilled warrior (honestly, though. So. Epic.), and you won’t meet a more loyal or honorable friend, either. Occasionally Madoc or Donal and Fergal have to smack some sense into him, but that just makes him all the more human. 😉 Conor is the best, okay! My new favorite hero.

I love the other inhabitants of this tale as well! Conor’s brothers-in-arms Donal and Fergal are fabulous. I love their camaraderie with Conor and each other, and their loyalty and joking around! It’s like the best kind of brother/buddy tale and I love it. Madoc is a marvelous mentor-type character—I loved him and his dryness and wisdom, and how he makes Conor work at figuring things out instead of just telling him things. 😛 Rhiannon is fascinating but I won’t spoil info about her. And so many other people. They’re all so real and I just loved reading about them! Oh, and the bits between some of the chapters, from the points of view of other characters than Conor, were fabulous and enlightening. So neat.

I loved seeing some good and wise druids (yesss) and bards, and the faery were magnificent. I was quite pleased with how they were written and hope to see more of them! They felt just right. Another thing I appreciated was the horses and how central they were to the story, and how the warriors cared for them. They were like characters themselves instead of just transportation that gets forgotten about like in some fantasy books. XD The attention to details like that was delightful.

THE STORY + ENDING

While it’s not non-stop action (though there is a bunch of that!), the story definitely kept me absorbed and on the edge of my seat the entire time, full of devious plots and intrigue and mysteries, which were fascinating to follow along as Conor and company attempted to untangle the threads to see the pattern lurking behind all the guile. Threats and invaders, cunning kings and betrayal, secrets and hidden schemes . . . it was all there!

(Just a heads-up that there were one or two scenes that were a tad dark or gruesome etc., so a brief caution to younger readers or those who prefer to avoid it. Other than a couple of parts, though, I wouldn’t have minded reading it in my teen years in the not-so-distant-past.)

There were some marvelous twists at the end that had me going WHAAAAT! :O That ending, though! It was sooo good. So many things going down. O_O I stayed up late and finished around midnight and WOW. It ended on a wee bit of a cliffhanger, so it did. 😉 I need to get my hands on a copy of In the Land of the Everliving as soon as I can, or sooner!

CONCLUSION

Ancient Ireland + warrior brothers-in-arms + mystery/adventure + faery + druids + delightful characters + masterful writing = what’s not to love? IT’S JUST SO GOOD. I love it so much!

In the Region of the Summer Stars was magnificent and blew me away. I’m thrilled to have stepped into Eirlandia in this tale, and I can’t wait to go back. ❤


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Any Lawhead fans out there? Have you read this one? What do you think? Thanks for reading! 🙂

Cry of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse (Review)

I’m thrilled to be sharing about my latest favorite read — and the book that was my most-anticipated read of the year! IT’S SO GOOD! Read on for my thoughts! 🙂

Title: Cry of the Raven

Author: Morgan L. Busse

  • Date read: February 4, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars (All of the stars!)
  • Genre: Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / Christian Fantasy
  • Year pub: 2020
  • Pages: 380
  • Series: The Ravenwood Saga, #3
  • Fave character: Damien! And all the others!
  • Source: Thanks to Bethany House Publishers and the author for the influencer copy.
  • Notes: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a review. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s WebsitePublisherBarnes & Noble

Aaaahh! This book was so amazing! A new favorite, and an epic, suspenseful conclusion to the Ravenwood Saga! I loved it so, so much! I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free. 😉

I’ve loved each book in this trilogy, and each one has gotten even better than the last—difficult to imagine, since they’ve all been top favorites. CRY OF THE RAVEN was my most-anticipated read of the year, and wraps up the series, and totally delivers! IT. WAS. INCREDIBLE.

New twists and secrets come to light and there’s SO MUCH EPICNESS and it’s all on such a grand scale. I was blown away. The inspiring journey of these beloved characters, in this amazing world, with so many things that I love and have been excited to see since I first started the series, has just been so thrilling to experience! It makes me so happy! I’m sitting here grinning, trying to come up with words to do justice to this delightful book.

I just had to dress up as Lady Selene Ravenwood again! ^_^

I absolutely love the characters, and how real their stories are, with their struggles, relationships, and growth. It’s been amazing following Selene through these books and seeing where she is now (I love her character so much, and even cosplayed as her at a writers conference last year!). Damien is my favorite, and he has quite a story in this one too! He is just the best. I love them together as well and seeing how their relationship plays out! All the love for these two! Reading their adventures and seeing the end has been so rewarding and I will love them forever. ^_^

So many of the side characters are favorites of mine too—and everyone is so real that they practically step off the page! I especially liked to see more of Caiaphas, Lord Leo and his brother, Lady Bryren and Reidin (who are EPIC!), and other characters like Taegis, Karl, and wise Renlar, who is new but awesome. Meeting new characters and delving deeper into ones we had met previously and seeing how they change was one of my favorite things!

I also love the worldbuilding! Aaahh! Definitely one of my favorite fantasy worlds. The powers/gifts, and all the different cultures and places we get to visit. I was so excited to get to see more of this world! *beaming* I stepped right through the page into this fascinating place—so happy to return one last time, and sad when it was over. I’m going to miss these books! *hugs them forever* But it was such an epic and satisfying conclusion that it’s also hard to be anything other than elated. 😀

I love the writing, too—how it’s not sparse by any means, but at the same time there’s nothing “extra” and it shows just exactly the right things, everything important that we need to know, drawing you right into the action and emotion. It felt so clean, well-written, and masterfully crafted together, with inspiring words in there as well. The spiritual journeys, redemption, and healing, and parts about the Light, were very well done.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to fangirl about more of my absolute favorite things, besides the characters and world, because there is SO much to love about this book. Apologies for any incoherency, but aaaahhhh! CRY OF THE RAVEN had so many amazing things that I adored!

  • Firstly, seeing more of the wyverns! (Yesss! I was totally hoping for that!)
  • I also absolutely loved how the dreamwalking was an even bigger part of this one and how it fit into the plot! (No spoilers, but aaahh!)
  • In the previous books, we’ve seen Selene’s dreamwalking gift and Damien’s water-manipulation gift, but only briefly touched on the other gifts in this world, so I was SO EXCITED to finally learn more about and get to see some of other Great Houses’ gifts in action a bit! (*muffled shrieking*)
  • ALSO! A couple of things about the ending were my absolute favorite! No spoilers, but you’ll know when you read the end. 😉 (The scene with the flower!! My heart! Aaahh! I don’t even know why I loved it so much but I ADORED THAT PART and it makes me smile and tear up. ^_^)

MARK OF THE RAVEN and FLIGHT OF THE RAVEN have been building up to this one and it’s everything I ever wanted! Nearly everything that I hoped to see was brought to light, and so many things that were good surprises, too! It was the perfect ending to this trilogy which I absolutely adore. I whole-heartedly recommend this series! If you are a fantasy fan, you need it in your life!


Read my reviews of the first two books:


Aaahh! It was just so good. Have you read this series yet? Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading! 🙂

Hollow by Kyle Robert Shultz!

There’s a new Afterverse book (novella) out today, guys! *cue muffled screaming*

Hollow by Kyle Robert Shultz

(Crockett & Crane, #2.5)

Sleepy Hollow meets Wonderland with dashes of time travel!

Featuring Ichabod Crane (ancestor of Todd Crane) and intriguing cameos from various Crockett & Crane and Beaumont & Beasley characters (aaaahh!).

HOLLOW is a novella about half the length of a usual Afterverse novel. It’s set after Horseman and Deadwood (so it’s Crockett & Crane 2.5), but also technically set a hundred years before, in the 1790s (and also in the future . . . and various other times . . . because TIME TRAVEL), and it has extremely important ties to the Beaumont and Beasley books!

It’s SUPER EXCITING and epic and edge-of-your-seat, and a bit more somber than the other Afterverse tales, so hold on to your feels and brace yourselves. 😉 (SO. MANY. FEELS.) But there are still a few funny parts (if fewer than in previous installments), and it’s all TOTALLY worth it because it connects some things and just — AAHH! *muffled screaming* IT’S. SO. EPIC.

There are mind-blowing reveals and further hints, and it deals with important questions touched on at the end of DEADWOOD and in other Afterverse books. You’re not going to want to miss this one! (Especially if you just finished reading DEADWOOD and need to know Things in answer to that explosive final line!)

But I don’t want to give anything away, because spoilers, sweetie. So I’m going to stop talking. Just go read it! 😀

(Disclaimer: I copyedited this book, but the above review is unbiased and written merely as an avid fan of the Afterverse. I was in no way required to write a review, and these are my FEELS-INDUCED but honest opinions. XD)


About Hollow

It’s time for answers.

Ichabod Crane made a sacrifice to save the future.

Now the future has come to Sleepy Hollow, and it threatens to take even more from him.

Ichabod must embark on a dangerous journey to save his family and his legacy…

…but he’s not prepared for the nightmares that await him.

The Queen of Hearts reigns supreme. The Horseman rides again.

And in the shadows, the Hollow Ones are waiting.

Only Ichabod can stop the gathering darkness…

…but sometimes, darkness wins.

A Crockett and Crane novella, set between Book 2: Deadwood, and Book 3: Westenra. The series begins with Book 1: Horseman, available in Kindle Unlimited and on Audible. This story also ties into the Beaumont and Beasley series by Kyle Robert Shultz.

Available on Amazon in ebook (paperback coming soon!)

Also, here on Goodreads.


You can also read Kyle’s latest post, about Hollow and its release, an exciting Phoenix Fiction Black Friday sale (which features many of the Afterverse books, and which I’ll be sharing about in more depth later), and some updates about book covers and other things!

But aaahh! GUYS! THIS BOOK. It has so much going on, despite being a novella, and just. *muffled screaming* I need you guys to read it so I have people to talk to about iiiit! XD

Thanks for reading and I hope you all (er, Americans anyway?) have a good Thanksgiving! 🙂