#Review: Girl With Three Eyes by Priya Ardis #Fantasy #YAFantasy

Today I am thrilled to be sharing a long overdue review for the amazing fantasy series starter Girl With Three Eyes by Priya Ardis. This fun YA romp had just about everything I could ask for when your looking for a literary pick-me-up: a strong protagonist with some serious emotional wounds, a sweet n’ awkward love interest, a house-based school system, high stakes intrigue, deep friendships, a thrilling new school sport that’s a delightful cross between between boardercross and jousting, and more than few characters that you’ll love to hate.

All together… Chef’s kiss.


threeTitle: Girl with Three Eyes

Author: Priya Ardis

Publisher: Vulcan Ink

Publication Date: August 31, 2020

Genre: YA Fiction, YA Fantasy, Fantasy

Themes: Found Family, Espionage, Betrayal, Friendship, School Sports, Teen Romance

Features: N/A


Synopsis

She would hate her third eye less if it actually gave her special powers.

Sixteen-year-old Kira puts on a show about having empathic abilities, but she miraculously wakes a highborn boy from a coma after a near-fatal accident on mountainous slopes. When his father threatens to expose her “magic” to the queen, she attends the kingdom’s most elite academy as a bodyguard.

Soon, she’s immersed in a strange new life—one of being a simple student trying out for the school’s skyboarding team. Her fake life becomes the life she’s always wanted, but Kira cannot escape who she truly is. Nothing in the court of the Raj is as it seems…

Will she risk her freedom to unmask a killer before the crown falls?

Girl with Three Eyes is a young adult fantasy series. If you like strong female protagonists, futuristic fairy tales, and epic tournaments, you’ll love this blend of Hindu lore and political intrigue in Priya Ardis’s academy fairy tale.

Purchase Links:

USA: https://amzn.to/3jagFhB

UK: https://amzn.to/3cBEQDt

Canada: https://amzn.to/3i1Fv20


My Review

It’s pretty clear that Kira Shine is the chosen one from the opening pages – we know that she’s low-born, a talented athlete, in possession of magical abilities, and that she has to hide her physical differences from others in order to avoid censure. Then along comes an event that changes everything and BAM! It’s suddenly her job to Do The Thing™ and Save The People™ and this book if off the the races.

I fell in love with Kira’s voice in the first few pages as it is both young and believable. Her sayings and internalization are sheltered and more than a little naive – especially when it comes to romance – and this lead to a lot of laughs in those relatable ‘I’ve been there’ moments. She’s awkward, inexperienced in forming friendships and romantic relationships, but still wants to be part of that world. In short, Kira embodies your average young lady trying to fit into a new setting and navigating some darned confusing emotions for the very first time.

However, Kira’s inexperience in social settings is balanced out by a cast of characters who were raised in the high-class, high-stakes setting of the court and the Raj Royal School. You have Sarita, the loveable general’s daughters; Trace, the caustic but potentially loveable rich boy; and Ajay, the gorgeous love interest who just so happens to be a prince. They’re all bound together through their involvement with the school’s skyboarding team, and ultimately Kira’s investigation into a string of assassination attempts. Together they make a balanced and dynamic group of teens, and I can’t wait to see how they change and develop as the series progresses.

But, if the characters doesn’t draw you in, Ardis’s writing is sure to do the trick. Her style light, imaginative and incredibly fast paced. The world building is both unique and gradual, painting the picture of a fragile empire laced through futuristic technology and myth-like magic. There are unique geographical regions, a defined class society, and the seeds of social revolution shaking the foundations of life as the characters know it. And then there’s the matter of the investigative arc, with high stakes and dire consequences, carefully threaded throughout Kira’s personal journey. There’s an abundance of subtle clues and details that will allow for invested or seasoned readers to predict the ending, but no so many as to give all the twists away. I genuinely can’t wait for the next book to be released!

Finally, there’s a lot of YA Fantasy out there that should really be classed as NA or adult – and believe me, I devour it with my whole heart – but Girl With Three Eyes is well and truly a YA book and this fills my heart with joy. The characters in it are in the 13-16 range and the embody the maelstrom of contradictions that come with that age. They are awkward and emotional, keep secrets and make impulsive decisions, and regularly blow inconsequential events out of proportion. But then on the next page they make intelligent and rational decisions, experience deep emotions and empathy, and navigate some very adult problems with an enviable and single-minded focus. In short, they are teenagers. And I’ll be damned because they actually act like it.

The result is that this book is an inviting bridge between the world of MG and YA fantasy. It’s chalk full of the tropes that are beloved in the genre – it has a chosen one, an orphan falling in love with a prince, a house based school, complex and magical sports, an outsider protagonist with an impossible task, dramatically dysfunctional families, and more. Some might say that these tropes are over-used, but honestly, we keep reading them for a reason! They’re relatable, there’s an infinite number of ways in which an author can make them new and fresh (hence my love of this book!), and the fact that most readers enjoy a touch of the familiar when they delve into new and magical worlds. Having these tropes presented in a setting that is free from the adult responsibilities found in the later age ranges for YA helps to build knowledge without being overwhelming, and it’s exactly the kind of book I would recommend for Junior High and High School Libraries.


Many thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review, and my deepest apologies for not reviewing the ARC prior to publication. 2020 has been a bitch.

#BlogTour #Review: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart @Tr4cyF3nt0n @OrbitBooks @AndreaGStewart

There are few things in this world that I enjoy more than a hot cup of tea and good book, one of them is a book so good that I completely forget about the tea…

Reader, let me present to you one of those books: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, killer of the cuppa, and one heck of a captivating read. If you like imaginative epic fantasy, multiple POVs with distinct perspectives and voices, and highly structured magic systems then this might just be the book for you.


Title: Bone Shard Daughter

Series: The Drowning Empire

Author:  Andrea Stewart

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: September 8, 2020

Genre: Fantasy, Adult Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Features: N/A


Synopsis

In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. The Bone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.


My Review

This story is told through three different POVs, with each character occupying a different space in a highly stratified society – Lin is the Emperor’s daughter, and while she struggles against her father’s control and the secrets that he keeps she still occupies a position of immense privilege and must eventually come to terms with the inevitable consequences of her actions; Phalue is a governor’s daughter born to a comfortable life, but through her relationship to commoner and rebel she is able to reflect on the systems on oppression from which she has benefited and wield her privilege in a way that betters the lives of others; and finally, Jovis is smuggler who has always been having just enough so long as he had his love at his side, but when she goes missing his life falls into the hands of racketeering gang until a cataclysmic convergence of fate, chance, and a magical animal familiar set on him the path to becoming a people’s hero.

The three narratives, while balanced, aren’t presented in any systematic pattern or order and this fluidity of narrative allows for a natural ebb and flow to each character’s individual arc without ever easing up on the overall pacing of the book. For example, significant portions of Phalue’s character development take place while Jovis is away from the action at sea,  or how Lin’s quest to uncover her memories and her father’s secrets are interspersed throughout the silences of Phalue and Ranami’s lover’s quarrels. The stories run parallel to one another for much of the book as the foundations for the series are set, but once they start to intertwine the already impeccable storytelling steps up to a whole new level. The final battles are entirely engaging, bringing neat resolutions to many of arcs that drove the plot for this instalment, each character is treated to cliff-hangers and realizations that will keep readers anxiously awaiting more.

The world building is both comprehensive and unique, with a fully flushed out political structure operating on fumes and a tenuous balance between magical constructs and fallible humans. This is further complicated by a system of corrupt officials grown entitled and lazy as a result of their greed, and the beginnings of a civil uprising slowly burning it’s way from one island to the next. Layered atop the highly relatable political instability is an ancient history that is equal parts mythology and living magic, and I have no doubts that the seeds planted in this first instalment will continue to grown and amaze as the trilogy progresses.

The same level of detail and intricacy invested into building the Empire is also extended to the bone shard magic system. The methods in which different animal parts can be combined to create creatures to serve a specific purpose are endless, as are the commands that can be etched on the bone shards that power them. The language of the commands is complicated and difficult to learn, reminiscent of block-based coding or MySQL implemented in such a way as to control the actions of intelligent beings. This mixture of magic programming and self determination presents significant barriers for Lin to overcome as conflicting commands can lead to disastrous results, but when done right will provide her with the tools with which to control the Empire.

The immense power behind construct creation is balanced out by the fact the constructs are powered by threads of actual human life, and will eventually lead to the death of those whose shards are in use. This provides ample opportunity for the subtle critique of imperialism, capitalism, abuse of power, and class stratified societies. But it never feels like a lesson, rather these issues are presented from the views of of our three main characters who all occupy different places in society, and the reader is left to draw their own conclusions.

If you’re looking for Asian inspired fantasy that is neither derivative nor damagingly stereotypical, then I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It presents a tactful and deliberate blend of the tropes and features that readers have come to crave in fantasy and presents them in new and exciting ways with originality as the main course and not as a side. It features a full cast of unique and diverse characters, a fully developed on-page f/f romance complete with genuine conflict and growth, and the subtle undertones of scathing societal critique leveraged at our contemporary world.

This title is listed as Epic Fantasy, but I’d happily leave it at Epic. Period.


About The Author

Andrea Stewart is the Chinese American daughter of immigrants, and was raised in a number of places across the United States. When her (admittedly ambitious) dreams of becoming a dragon slayer didn’t pan out, she instead turned to writing books. She now lives in sunny California.


Purchase Links:

USA:  https://amzn.to/33HWrFq 

UK:  https://amzn.to/3hZaVGo

Canada: https://amzn.to/2FHIQq1


Many thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for inviting me to join this tour and providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

#Review: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner #YASciFi #ScienceFiction #SeriesReview

Summer + COVID Lockdown = Jessica reading whatever the heck she wants!

I made the choice early on in the pandemic that I was going to dramatically slash my blog tour commitments and use my reading to feed happiness when the world descended into the symbolic dumpster fire that is 2020. So fair warning friends, the vast majority of the reviews that I post in the coming weeks are going to be YA, mostly fantasy, and probably part of a series that I started ages ago and just recently got around to finishing (because my heart needed to know the ending).

First up, This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – the second book in the epic Starbound series.


shatteredTitle: This Shattered World

Series Title: Starbound

Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Publication Date: December 23, 2014

Genre: YA Fiction, YA Fantasy, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Themes: Romance, Rebellion, Cost of war, Fight the state

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

The second installment in the epic Starbound trilogy introduces a new pair of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a bloody war.

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

Purchase Links:

Canada: https://amzn.to/3l8j8dY 

UK: https://amzn.to/34v5b3R

U.S.A.: https://amzn.to/2EqtuVQ

As an Amazon Associate I may earn from qualifying purchases.


My Review

If you had told me that I would end up falling in love with a YA SciFi series heavy on the fuck-the-corporation sentiment (which I’m almost always there for) and heavier yet on the romance I would have laughed and said yeah right. But guess what? I’m kind of obsessed.

I checked out These Broken Stars a while back because it was available for immediate listening through my library’s Libby platform and because I had loved Kaufman’s collaboration on The Illuminae Files. I knew going into this series that there was going to be more focus on the romance than I typically enjoy, but I was looking for light and fun while still being cerebral, and I most definitely found it.

I adored the flipped gender roles with our heroine being the snarky and mysteriously resilient soldier, and the reluctant hero being an idealistic soft-boy pacifist (though why this has to be read as flipped gender roles is an entirely different discussion). They both exhibit and command different modes of loyalty and pathways to honour, and when combined together highlight the reality of disparate narratives on major issues.

At the start of the book they both start off firmly entrenched in their ideals but quickly fall into the grey space that comes with having their beliefs rocked to the core. This ambiguity provides the foundations for some serious character development and when combined with the generous exploration of their emotional wounds creates characters that are both easy to fall in love with and even easier to root for.

To top it all off, the enemies to lovers trope is used exceptionally well. While there is certainly a touch of instant attraction, this attraction remains an appreciation of physicality until the characters are given the grounds and opportunity to develop a legitimate romantic attraction. The romance is both sweet and complicated, but the challenges presented ultimately bring them together in realistic ways.

Normally a trilogy suffers from second book syndrome where the first book is amazing and does a fabulous job of setting the stage, book two carries things along and builds a lot of tension without a whole lot of action, and then book three is the big finale with all the fireworks. I am pleased to say that second book syndrome is not at all present here! In choosing to have each book focus on a different romantic arc with only cameos from the other instalments, This Shattered World is a self-contained bundle of excitement that doesn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘slow’.

The world building in this book is second to none. It’s got an extensive backstory layering historical precedent with political depth, and an evocative setting reminiscent of a cross between Higgin’s Moon from Firefly and Star War’s Dagobah. In stepping away from the empty world discovered by Lilac and Tarver and onto societally fraught Avon, we get to explore the whispers and the corporation that’s abused them from an entirely different angle. Readers are presented with corruption, class suppression, and bigotry at every turn and must work to unpack the messages buried beneath the action and romance.

Though this book was published nearly six years ago, I have no doubt that today’s teen readers would have no problem drawing parallels to the corporate and political corruption running rampant in the world today. It might be Sci-Fi, but all the best fiction has foundation in reality.  

#Blogtour #Review: Hunter’s Secret by Val Penny @rararesources @valeriepenny

Hunters Secret Full Tour Banner

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Val Penny’s fifth instalment in the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries – Hunter’s Secret. The perfect blend between cutting social social commentary and the best of police procedurals, this face-paced standalone will have you tearing through the pages and gripping the edge of your seat in the best possible way. If you’re a fan of crime fiction then I highly recommend!


Hunters Secret CoverTitle: Hunter’s Secret

Series Title: The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries

Author: Val Penny

Publication Date: August 8, 2020

Publisher: Crooked Cat / Darkstroke

Genre: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Murder Mystery

Themes: Murder, Hate Crimes, Diversity


Synopsis

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. DCs Tim Myerscough and Bear Zewedu found a corpse, but when Hunter arrives it has disappeared, and all is not as it seems.

Hunter recalls the disappearance of a dead body thirty years earlier. The Major Incident Team is called in but sees no connection – it is too long ago. Hunter is determined to investigate the past and the present with the benefit of modern DNA testing.

Tim has other problems in his life. His father, Sir Peter Myerscough, is released from jail. He, too, remembers the earlier murder. There is no love lost between Hunter and Sir Peter. Will Hunter accept help from his nemesis to catch a killer?
Hunter’s own secret is exciting and crucial to his future. Will it change his life? And can he keep Edinburgh safe?

Purchase Linkhttp://mybook.to/hunterssecret


Review

This was my first introduction to Val Penny, and readers, I think I’m in love.

Not only did I get to spend two fabulous evenings lost in a thrilling new mystery with a quirky investigative team, but was also treated to a long overdue visit with my beloved Edinburgh by way of memory and imagination. I got to revisit some of my favourite pubs (Deacon’s House & Fiddler’s Arms), drift back to the Christmas Market, and then fall asleep reliving my walk back from the NLS to my little flat in Merchiston above the Gregg’s by way of the pubic triangle (if you know, you know). The only thing missing from my jaunt down memory lane were some sandwiches from Oink.

But enough about me, we’re here to talk about a book, and a darned good one at that!

Though Hunter’s Secret is the fifth in a series, it’s written as a standalone that can be enjoyed by series veterans and newbies alike. I was immediately drawn in by the diverse and dynamic team, and really appreciated that there was a tactful mix of less obvious on-page representation alongside some much more in-depth conversations. Honestly, it was refreshing to read a gripping, twisty crime thriller that didn’t revolve around a homogenous, white, cis, male base – the result is that it actually felt like the team was more representative of the world we live in than most crime fiction I’ve been reading of late. And the best part about it all? When confronted with those annoyingly bigoted types there is never any doubt as to who’s the douche.

I really enjoyed the multitude of ways in which this book came together. From the balance between Hunter’s past and present, to the blend of perspectives, and especially the careful dispensation of personal details throughout the text the flow felt absolutely effortless. And to top it all off, the dialogue is spot on. Not only does it feel natural and engaging, the way in which Penny renders dialect really helped for me to hear each character’s voice. Even with such a big team to wrap my brain around their distinctness on the page really made it easy to keep them apart.

Finally, I should probably mention something about the cases this book revolves around! No one expects to come across a body out of the blue, and no one expects them disappear just as quick, but sometimes lightening strikes twice. You have two cases, thirty years apart, with some tenuous connections. But as the cases progress it becomes clear that not only are the team looking for a potential serial killer, but that the killings are most definitely hate crimes. The targeting of specific minorities within the LGBTQ community may be triggering for some, but I do think this book offers a valuable look at the ways in which both the police and society at large fail those they don’t care to understand.

Overall this was an absolutely smashing read. I was engaged from the first page to the last, and have no doubt that I will soon be coming back form more. Packed full with characters that are both easy to love, and easier to hate, I’d be surprised if you didn’t find yourself screaming at the pages in the same way that I did. Emotionally gripping and action packed Hunter’s Secret is book that I would happily recommend!


Giveaway

Giveaway to Win a .mobi of Hunter’s Secret by Val Penny (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

—> ENTER HERE<—hunter's secret


About the Author

Hunters Val Penny 2Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.

Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force and Hunter’s Blood form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The fifth novel in the series, Hunter’s Secret, is published by darkstroke. Her first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published is available now.

Social Media Links – 

Twitter @valeriepenny

https://www.facebook.com/valerie.penny.739

https://www.facebook.com/Authorvalpenny/

Website https://www.authorvalpenny.com                    


Hunters Secret

Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour.

 

 

 

#Review: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall #YA #Fantasy #LGBTQ+

Um, so I have come to the conclusion that I am occasionally the worst book blogger ever. Seriously. I missed two important deadlines that I set to review this book by – the first it’s publication back in May, and then the whole month of June for Pride.

I am so sorry, because this book is definitely worth it!


mermaidTitle: The Mermaid The Witch and The Sea

Author: Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: May 5, 2020

Genre: YA Fiction, YA Fantasy, Fantasy

Themes: Colonialism, Imperialism, Pirates, Romance, Arranged Marriages, Family

Features: LGBTQ+ rep, diverse characters


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

A desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial daughter find a connection on the high seas in a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic.

Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian.

Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself.

Purchase Links

USA: https://amzn.to/2Di30oF

UK: https://amzn.to/2CgA0NO 

Canada: https://amzn.to/38BOfsq

As an Amazon Affiliate I earn form qualifying purchases.


My Review

I feel like this is one of those books that people will either love, or hate, and there will be very few in between. Stylistically the writing stands apart from the bulk of YA I’ve read of late, and I can definitely understand where some might not connect with the dialogue and/ or the darker undertones. But personally I really enjoyed it!

I was all in when the story began to tackle big issues like colonialism, imperialism, class-stratified society, and misogyny. It has beautifully diverse representation with a gender-fluid Black protagonist as well as a Japanese-coded female protagonist embarking on their own journeys to fight the patriarchy and finding romance along the way.

Both Flora/ Florian and Evelyn are morally grey, and their backstories really force the reader to decide if they’re willing to offer cognitive redemption and allow themselves to become emotionally invested in their arcs. One is a pirate slaver struggling to stay alive and the other is from the ruling elite who has a history of using people and throwing them away. While their pasts certainly don’t make them ‘good’, it just means that they’re both doing what they have to in order to survive their unique sets of circumstances. Both have difficult families and challenging pasts that clearly shape their decision making – regardless of whether or not we agree with it or consider an issue to be resolved.

The story is rounded out with a multitude of villains – the Nameless Captain, Evelyn’s betrothed, and the Empire itself  as well as unique supporting characters – Rake, Zenobia, and the Sea. I enjoyed the chapters presented from their POVs, especially Rake’s and the Sea’s and would have loved to have had even more of them throughout the first two acts.

The only thing that really caused me to raise a brow was the active participation of traditionally marginalized peoples in the slave trade. I will be blunt in stating that I am not the right person to comment on if this was done well or not, and that in no way was slavery every treated as being good or even marginally acceptable. I’m simply stating that this element is present in the book and that some may find it uncomfortable to read.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. Sure there were a few things that could have used polish but the character definition and development, unique setting, and well defined acts make it all worth while. Tokuda-Hall does a fantastic job in her debut novel and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.


Many thanks to NetGalley for proving a copy in exchange for an honest review.