#Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner #YAFantasy #SciFi #Dystopian

So, this whole lockdown thing has got me going a little squirrelly lately, and as a result I’ve been craving a little escapism by way of some delicious YA fantasy. Enter These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. Jam packed with a surprisingly capable heiress, a dashing war hero, some serious corporate shenanigans, an intergalactic disaster, and a crash landing on an abandoned planet and you have the recipe for a dang good time. Reader, let me tell you, it was just what I needed.


13138635Title: These Broken Stars

Series Title: Starbound

Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Publication Date: December 10, 2013

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Romance

Themes: Survival, Romance, Family, Corporatism, Colonial Enterprises

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.


My Review

Okay, let me start off by saying that this wasn’t the deepest book that I have ever read, with more of a focus on romance and character development than the action and critical analysis of social issues that I’ve come to expect since reading The Illuminae Files. But, these are very different books with, I imagine, very different audiences. That’s not to say that there isn’t any social analysis, just that it’s secondary to some of the other elements.

I actually really enjoyed the discussion surrounding class-stratified society and corporate greed, and felt that it did a really good job of establishing the tensions between Lilac and Tarver. It served as an excellent vehicle through which to create complicated and compelling characters that both embodied and defied their stereotypes, as well as adding excitement and interest to the storyline. The poor soldier boy and the little rich girl is not a new story, but it’s one that never seems to get old regardless of genre.

Despite some initial misgivings, I ended up warming to Lilac’s character – especially her internal conflict. She is a girl who wants desperately to be free of her father and the expectations of her set by society, yet she also expects to be taken care of and catered to by everyone se encounters. But what I loved more than anything, was how this pampered princess had acquired some menial skills so far beyond the repertoire of the average society girl. Sure, Lilac can navigate a ship in stiletto heels and emotionally destroy any possible suitor with a few well formed words, but she can also wire just about anything with more skill than a maintenance crew. If this book suggests to anyone that you can be a girly-girl AND rock some serious practical skills, I’m all for it because these concepts aren’t mutually exclusive. Sure, there were a few times I wanted to shout ‘girl, NO!’ at Lilac for being spoiled and ridiculous (seriously, who tries to cross a mountain range in the aforementioned stilettos?), but her grit and determination eventually won me over.

The Major, on the other hand, took absolutely no warming up to. I was on his side from those first few pages where he was uncomfortable at yet another first-class party. He hates the pretension and posing for pictures, hated feeling like a thing to be put on show like a novelty – I knew then that Tarver would be the character to carry me through the book. I adored his tough-love approach to coaxing Lilac through her first experience in the wild, how the Major treated her like a green soldier rather than a corporate princess, and especially how he planed from Lilac’s needs but still had the compassion to wait for her to voice those needs before preferring any help. Oh, and did I mention that Tarver’s a poet? Soft boy, strong boy – consider me sold!

Both of the characters have beautifully complicated pasts and emotional wounds that make them extremely compelling. Both of their emotional emotional and physical journeys are well placed and carefully crafted. They’re just two kids ripped from their journey through space, who crash landed on an abandoned planet inhabited by spectres, trying to get back to any form of civilization. What could wrong? I enjoyed following along as they grew both more vulnerable and more capable as the days passed by. Their challenges are not small, and each victory is hard wan. What starts out as a superficial YA space-romance draws you in and tricks you into getting lost in a carefully wrought world that promises so much more to come.

Would I recommend this book? Yup! It was an absolute joy to read and I can’t wait to dive into This Shattered World the next time these COVID restrictions start to get me down.

#Review: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal #Fantasy #YAFantasy

Today I am thrilled to be sharing my review for We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal, and oh my goodness is it ever amazing! Every sentence from the first to the last will draw you into a richly constructed world filled with magic, mystery, and magnificently complex characters.


WHTF_JKT_2p.inddTitle: We Hunt the Flame

Series Title: Sands of Arawiya

Author: Hafsah Faizal

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Genre: YA Fiction, YA Fantasy, Fantasy

Themes: Magic, Survival, Friendship, Romance.

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.


My Review

This book came into my life at just the right time, I was going through some shiz-nazz and needed something that I open up and get completely lost in on a plane ride. Needless to say I started on chapter one and that airplane fell away. Perfection.

I really enjoyed that We Hunt the Flame brought a world that did so much more than rearrange the furniture in Tolkien’s attic. I loved the concept of the Arz and the dark magic that lurks within, especially how it can either devour people or turn them mad. I really liked to, the idea of an island turned magical prison. My only complaint is that I wanted more! The descriptive writing reeled me in hook line and sinker, and I could have let myself get lost in it all day. There were a few things that could have used a little more attention, especially on Sharr because this crazy dark island has so much potential to break away from the conventions of genre. But, this is just the first book in a very promising series, and with that ending (!) I know there is so much more to come!

When it comes to the story, sure, there a few things that we’ve seen before. Like the enemies to lovers with a slow burn romance and bad-ass woman who carries her people in secret. But I don’t hate these tropes, not one bit, in fact I often find myself craving them. Sometimes, when you’re building up to something big and new you have to start with something comfortable and familiar before going in for the kill. And please take note of my use of comfortable in describing the character dynamic – it’s the kind of story that you can slip into like your favourite pyjama pants knowing that it’s going to be good. I am here for this romance, here for the quest, and loving every drop of drama and magic that Hafsah Faizal has injected into this world. 

Now, onto the peeps that make this story as fabulous as the world building. Zafira, Nasir, and Altair. Zafira and Nasir are cut from the same cloth – two people that were forced into lives they didn’t way at a young age, and more than a little salty about it. Zafira is the  one person who can hunt the Arz and feed her struggling village, while Nasir must act as an assassin at the whim of his tyrant father. I definitely felt a lot more for the dynamic between Nasir and the King, because it was so dark and twisty that I simply couldn’t look away. And then there’s Altair. Daaaaaamn. Seriously! Because everyone else is heavy and introspective, his levity was a breath of fresh air. I adore him, and his love of coffee. Come here funny boi, you can join my zumra.

Between the beautiful writing, the world of Arawiya, and the tumultuous dynamic of the gang on their quest to restore magic in the world, I genuinely enjoyed getting lost in this book. I can’t wait to see where book two goes, especially since there were so many juicy tidbits alluding to future drama dropped along the way.

If you want a fun adventure with a little steam and set in a wonderfully original world, then give We Hunt the Flame a try!


I purchased this book as a result of blogger recommendations, all opinions are my own.

#ARC #Review: Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen #Fantasy #YAFantasy @torteen

What do you do in a pandemic? Read!

What do you do when it’s been strongly suggested that you self-isolate for 8 weeks because you fall into a high-risk category? Read fantasy!

And so, today it is my absolute joy to be presenting a ARC review for Danielle L. Jensen’s second instalment in the Dark Shores series, Dark Skies. If you crave imagination, beautifully wrought characters, and meticulously crafted systems of magic then you should seriously consider pre-ordering this baby – it’s May 5 publication day can’t come fast enough!


dark skiesTitle: Dark Skies

Series Title: Dark Shores

Author: Danielle L. Jensen

Publisher: Tor Teen

Publication Date: May 5, 2020

Genre: YA Fiction, YA Fantasy, Fantasy

Themes: Magic, Romance, Tyranny, Rebellion, Survival

Features: N/A


My Rating: 5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST
Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.

A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE
Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.

A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE
With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world.


My Review

Sometimes a series suffers from the second book slump – they have this great opening, and a fantastic conclusion, but that book in the middle is just a bridge to get you from A to B. Friends, Dark Skies is NOT that book. If anything, it’s even better than Dark Shores and I freaking loved that book!

When the book was first announced I was saddened to hear that Dark Skies would be an alternate beginning that stepped away from Teriana and Marcus and instead followed Lydia and Killian. I’m not going to lie, I wanted more of my old friends and a bit of steamy escapist romance to add some levity to these trying times, but between a few chapters of overlap in the beginning and some serious character building and backstory through the eyes of those that know Teriana, those feelings of separation anxiety didn’t last long. In fact, the stories of these four characters were so expertly intermeshed that it felt as though they were written simultaneously – there were no gaps or continuity errors, and each character provided a different facet to another’s character development. The result was a beautiful juxtaposition between personal introspection and public perception that really drew me in.

And while I wasn’t exactly Lydia’s biggest fan in Dark Shores, she turned out to be exactly the heroine that I needed to read. Nerdy, introverted, and physically weak she was a surprisingly atypical female lead. She’s terrible with a sword, her magic makes her weak to the point where she needs almost constant protection when she’s using it, and she lacks even the basic street smarts needed to care of herself on a good day (let alone one a bad one when she’s thrust into a world she doesn’t know) and yet she somehow manages to get by on sheer nerve and book smarts alone. Yet, her naivety and determination brought a good deal of humour to a dark and rather hopeless situation, and now I can’t wait to see where she’ll go in book three.

Killian is another fabulous character, made only the better because of his flaws. He walks a precarious line between what is expected of him and what he is compelled by his mark to do, what the world believes a Marked soldier is and the reality of the experience, and those he is sworn to and those that he loves. He is pulled in so many directions at any given time that it’s almost impossible not to let your own heartstrings get tangled in his mess. He is resourceful, determined, and loyal to fault – I have no doubt that when he finally comes face to face with Marcus there will be some serious friction between these two bull-headed battle prodigies.

I could talk about the slow burn romance that leaves you dangling off a cliff (noooo, I’m not salty about that, AT ALL), or a high court that has misdirection and manipulation down to a tee, but instead I’m going to focus on the magic and world building. Because, seriously, OMG! Jensen has taken on the behemoth task of creating not just one or two kingdoms with variant beliefs, but an entire world where the disparate parts are so unique that they’re almost unrecognizable from one another. And the level of originality is practically next level. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fairy/ elf/ fae/ witch/ mage story as much as the next fantasy fan girl but I adored being able to get lost in this story without any preconceived notions about the people or how the magic should work.

With Dark Skies and Dark Shores serving as companion novels, where either can be read as the first book in the series, I highly suggest you dive into this world with reckless abandon. Let yourself get swept up in the dangerous games of politics and romance, soak up the subtle critiques on critiques on colonialism and patriarchy, and ride along with your favourite new characters as they rebel against everything that was ever expected from them.

Read it book lovers, you won’t regret a single sentence.


I requested and received a review copy of this title through #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

 

#Blogtour #Review: Empire’s Exile by Marian L. Thorpe @rararesources @marianlthorpe

Empires Exile Full Tour Banner

Today I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog for Marian L. Thorpe’s Empire’s Exile, the fabulous conclusion to her Empire’s Legacy trilogy. And while I’m normally excited to part in blog tours, with COVID19 taking up almost all of my brain space, stepping into Thorpe’s meticulously wrought world was like taking a vacation without any of the risks. So, naturally, I need to shout my book-love. This fun, thought provoking read will transport you across worlds and leave you hanging until the very last words. Get ready to dive back into it with Lena and Cillian, there’s adventure, loss, hope, and consequences around every corner… a few favourite characters from books past to boot!

Oh, and did I mention that there’s a giveaway? An INTERNATIONAL giveaway? Check out the rules and enter below.


Empires_Exile_Cover_for_KindleTitle: Empire’s Exile

Author: Marian L. Thorpe

Publisher: Arboretum Press

Publication Date: July 23, 2018

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Themes: Adventure, War, Relationships, Strategy, Consequences, PTSD


Synopsis

“We cannot shape the circumstances to fit our lives, only our lives to fit the circumstances. What defines us, as men and women, is how we respond to those circumstances.”

Exiled from the Empire as a traitor, Casyn’s words echo in Lena’s mind. Determined to find Casil, the legendary city of beauty and learning, she travels into long-unknown lands. Her experiences in the first winter leave her scarred and afraid, but resolving to heal, and supported by an unexpected love, she continues her search. A chance meeting with envoys from the Empire and Linrathe, desperately seeking help from Casil, forces her to a difficult decision. Struggling to keep faith with her choices, facing the almost-certain destruction of her land and her people, Lena’s journey takes her to a deeper understanding of loyalty, sacrifice, and the dimensions of love.

Purchase Link

https://storyoriginapp.com/universalbooklinks/297388e0-98fd-11e9-a934-9374bd30e504


Review

This is an absolutely wonderful ending to an exciting trilogy. It takes all of the disparate threads from the lands Lena has explored, and weaves them all together into a beautifully wrapped up conclusion. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all resolution, not by a long shot! That all happens gradually and along the way. Instead we get to see Lena and Cillian making their way across the mountains in search of a lost land and finding so much more.

I loved Lena, probably because I relate to her needs for learning, movement, adventure, and open spaces so much. It doesn’t hurt that she’s painfully loyal to those that she befriends along the way, and that she’s painful optimistic in the way that she thinks of others. She’s a sweet, naive girl who’s been thrown into a war, cast out in exile, and forced to grow up hard and fast. But best of all she makes mistakes, suffers from the consequences of her past and present choices, and still finds a way to keep moving forward.

Pair her up against Cillian, a surly and rather taciturn fellow, who is known for retreating into his thoughts and detests deep connections and human touch and you have an interesting duo making a life together in exile. But they are the perfect balance for one another as they force each to communicate more effectively and consider other perspectives. They are both overly sensitive, but while Lena lives in her emotions, Cillian internalizes and analyzes absolutely everything. This is a great skill indeed when you’re planning war tactics, but can leave one blinded to feelings that others are incapable of expressing, which needless to say creates an ample amount of drama and humour in a story that could quickly get heavy.

What I love about Thorpe’s writing is that she doesn’t shy away from the realties of war. No one is safe from and ambush or magically survives attacks where they’re hopelessly outnumbered. People die, Lena and Cillian both take lives, and Lena must cope with the emotional of both her actions and the losses she suffers along the way. And let’s not forget the collateral damage that often comes with war – challenged allegiances and children of rape – both are tackled head on and with tact but there’s not beating around the bush to be found, and for that I am entirely grateful.

If you like your fantasy more on the realistic side, I would recommend this series in a heartbeat. While it may not have dragons and fae lurking around every corner, it has plenty of wonder and more action than you can shake a stick at. Get ready to travel into the unknown, rediscover ancient peoples once thought long extinguished, and for one final battle that holds the future of the Empire and Linrathe in the balance.

Read it friends, there is no better way to spend your quarantine or self isolation.

If this feels like the one for you, then consider the complete trilogy – Empire’s Legacy.

Empires Legacy ebook


Giveaway

Giveaway to Win a Paperback copy of Empire’s Legacy, the complete trilogy (Open Internationally)

*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 –> http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494357/? 


About the Author

Empires Hostage Author

Not content with two careers as a research scientist and an educator, Marian L Thorpe decided to go back to what she’d always wanted to do and be a writer. Author of the alternative world medieval trilogy Empire’s Legacy, Marian also has published short stories and poetry. Her life-long interest in Roman and post-Roman European history informs her novels, while her avocations of landscape archaeology and birding provide background to her settings.

Social Media Links –

https://twitter.com/marianlthorpe

https://www.facebook.com/marianlthorpe/

https://marianlthorpe.com/


Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in this tour, and for proving a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Empires Exile

 

 

 

#Review: Mageborn by Jessica Thorne #Fantasy #YAFantasy @bookouture @JessThorneBooks

Today I get to scream my joy for a new fantasy series that I am absolutely in love with – Mageborn by Jessica Thorne. Naturally, I have broken my rule of not reading new-to-me fantasy series until they are fully written, and I have to say, I have mixed feelings. I am currently all gooey and squee because I really enjoyed reading this book, but at the same time I am fuming mad because I will now have to wait until Nightborn is released. Thankfully book two is slotted for release in May 2020 so the wait won’t be too long.

Just for the record though, I am not a patient person when it comes to books!


magebornTitle: Mageborn

Series Title: The Hollow King

Author: Jessica Thorne

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication Date: February 18, 2020

Genre: YA Fiction, YA Fantasy, Fantasy

Themes: Magic, Romance, Tyranny, Rebellion

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

A dark and addictive fantasy read for fans of Graceling and Sarah J. Maas. The life of an orphan soldier becomes entwined with that of the mysterious heir to the throne, whose very presence draws out the secret magic living inside her: a magic that breaks every law she is duty-bound to uphold…

The room is small and dark. Row upon row of jars line the shelves, each one sealed with blood-red wax. The seal’s mark is a twisted circle of briar with gleaming, gold-tipped thorns. And in each jar a flicker of forbidden magic dances… beautiful, but deadly.

Sold to the Crown in the aftermath of the Last Great War, Grace Marchant has never known her parents. Now, she trains as an elite soldier tracking down mageborn – those born with an ancient and long-outlawed magic – and destroying them if they don’t surrender their power to the Crown.

The mageborn who submit are collared, then handed over to the King’s cousin and heir: the elusive Bastien Larelwynn, Lord of Thorns, locked away in his shadowy workshop deep inside the castle. What becomes of them is hard to say – the Lord of Thorns keeps his secrets close.

Grace has always fought the voice inside her that questions whether the law is truly just – but when her closest friend is next on Bastien’s list, Grace’s loyalties are tested to the limit. Confronting Bastien – searching his strangely compelling obsidian-black eyes for answers – Grace is shocked to feel herself begin to change, to show the first signs of the wild magic she so fears.

Only the Lord of Thorns has the power to save her and the rest of the mageborn – if he doesn’t destroy them all first…


My Review

Things I love in a fantasy novel:

  • A strong female protagonist (this is my personal preference, no point in trying to deny it)
  • Unique and varied systems of magic
  • BIG reveals
  • A character or two with a delectably mysterious past
  • Epic fight scenes
  • Complex and unexpected villains
  • Diversity in ethnic and romantic representation
  • A central issue that turns out to be merely symptomatic of something so, so much bigger.

So basically, Mageborn has it all! Hence my aforementioned rage at having to wait for Nightborn’s publication. I need it, and I need it now.

Are there bits of this book that were familiar? Sure. But they are also the things that I love and crave. Were these familiar elements carbon copies from other books? Hell no! Thorne has injected so much creativity and imagination that nothing gets close to predictable or boring. It’s fun, energetic, and there are twists around every corner – especially when you think you know where things are going!

I really enjoyed the dynamic between Grace and Bastien. Grace is a little firecracker (pun intended) with more spunk than anyone knows what to do with. Her caustic exterior hides a gooey centre and the love that she has for her team is so compelling. You know within the first few pages that this is a girl who would die for the ones that she loves, and that this is a quality that might cause some serious complications in the future. Bastien on the other hand knows that he will be alone in the world once his cousin passes, and his lack of support network positions him as a direct contrast to our heroine. Throw in a touch of amnesia, more power than any one human should be able to handle, and a kingdom that hates you for your title and you have a mighty nice recipe for some serious character development. And you know there have to be some sparks when opposites attract, let’s just hope these sparks don’t burn the kingdom down!

And can I just say that I’m in love with the magic system in Mageborn? I appreciate the variety in the types of magic, that mageborn children can be born to magicless parents and vice versa, that the mageborn need to be grounded in order to keep them from going hollow, and especially how magic can be stolen from from one person and channeled to another. But above all, I really appreciated how that while the magic is something that’s incredibly powerful and awe inspiring, that it’s also fragile and fleeting and needs to be protected from those who would abuse it.

I can’t wait to dive back into Rathlynn and ride alongside Grace as she rediscovers her powers as a flint, Bastien as he negotiates life after getting his memories back, and Danny and Ellyn as they make their way through a rapidly changing world. Friendships will be tested, characters are guaranteed to grow and and change, and we know that drama waits around every corner. Will tough choices have to be made? Yup. Does betrayal in some form or another seem inevitable? Yup! Will the budding romances get messy and complicated? Yuuuuup!

Not only was this a smashing read by itself, but it’s one of the most complete and intriguing set-ups for future action I’ve read in this past year. If you’re on the hunt for a fabulous fantasy read, consider Mageborn, you won’t regret it!


I requested a review copy of this title through #NetGalley, all opinions are my own.