#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.

#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: Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles @Janella_Angeles

Blog Tour Banner_Use before 8.25

I love coming across new fantasy, especially fantasy that is so luscious and so different from everything else hitting the shelves that you can’t help but get wrapped up in the story in the most delectable way. Where Dreams Descend is that book. It’s sumptuous, rich, and exquisitely magical.

The perfect blend between enchantment, imagination, and thrilling mystery, this stunning debut will keep you tearing through the pages from first to last.


Where Dreams Descend_CoverTitle: Where Dreams Descend

Author: Janella Angeles

Series: A Kingdom of Cards

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication Date: August 25, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy, Fantasy

Themes: Friendship, Romance, Mystery, Magic


Synopsis

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Purchase Link:https://read.macmillan.com/lp/where-dreams-descend/


Review

What do you get when you throw together a talented orphan with a mysterious past, a master magician who tells more fictions than truths, a renowned performer who walked away from the stage, and a competition that could change it all? What you get is a darkly beautiful and terrifically theatrical adventure that will keep you wondering why you bought that reading chair because you’re only using about four inches of the seat.

This book is magic.

No, seriously. This book is absolute magic.

I was spell bound from the opening scenes and enraptured through to the very last page. Packed full with larger-than-life characters and set in an imaginative world of magic and mysteries I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Beyond the lyrical prose and evocative descriptions that had me dreaming in Bob Mackie meets Cirque du Soleil, I was completely mesmerized by the world that Angeles created. There’s structure, there’s nuance, and there’s a sense of collective memory that unifies the disparate POVs into a cohesive and enchanting read. To top it all off, the magic system presented is not only deliciously original – but the use of it comes at a heavy price. The ways in which this plays out are complex and varied, and the ambiguity surrounding as to what’s the price of power as opposed to a bigger trick at play will have you guessing right up to the cliff-hanger of an ending.

I adored the cunning and caustic Kallia, and simply can’t wait to see more come book number two. She’s witty, she’s sharp, and she’s not afraid to chase what she wants no matter the cost or the societal norms standing in her way. If you’re looking for a damsel in distress this is not your book. However, if your looking for determined female protagonist who is a balanced blend between drive and femininity, as well as power and vulnerability, then this might just be the one for you.

Unabashedly powerful and unflinchingly feminist this was the fantasy read I needed to cap off the summer. It’s fun, it’s dark, and it’s crafted so infuriatingly well that it gives almost nothing way.

If you’re in the mood for haunting beauty, marvellous magicians, and a distinct theatricality that will take your breath away, then I can’t recommend Where Dreams Descends highly enough. It’s spectacular!


About the Author

Mei Lin Barral Photography_Janella AngelesJANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age—which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.

Social Media:

Twitter: @Janella_Angeles

Instagram: @Janella_Angeles


Many thanks to Meghan Harrington at St. Martin’s Press & Wednesday Books for inviting me to participate in this tour and for proving a copy of Where Dreams Descend in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

#Blogtour #Review: The Lost City by Amanda Hocking @Amanda_Hocking @StMartinsPress

The Lost City Blog Tour banner--FB

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for The Lost City by Amanda Hocking. The first book in the final arc of the world of Trylle, The Lost City will transport you to a world filled with magic, adventure, and characters that you can’t help but love. If you’re a fan of fantasy threaded through with touches of the familiar, a solid quest for self discovery, and oodles of mystery in your YA fantasy reads then look no further – and don’t worry if you haven’t a thing from the series as it stands, this baby is a friendly entry point into the world of Trylle new readers and a ‘welcome home’ for those who simply can’t get enough.


The Lost City - Cover ArtTitle: The Lost City

Author: Amanda Hocking

Series: The Omte Origins

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy, Fantasy

Themes: 


Synopsis

Amanda Hocking, the New York Times bestselling author of The Kanin Chronicles, returns to the magical world of the Trylle Trilogy with The Lost City, the first novel in The Omte Origins—and the final story arc in her beloved series.

The storm and the orphan

Twenty years ago, a woman sought safety from the spinning ice and darkness that descended upon a small village. She was given shelter for the night by the local innkeepers but in the morning, she disappeared—leaving behind an infant. Now nineteen, Ulla Tulin is ready to find who abandoned her as a baby or why.

The institution and the quest

Ulla knows the answers to her identity and heritage may be found at the Mimirin where scholars dedicate themselves to chronicling troll history. Granted an internship translating old documents, Ulla starts researching her own family lineage with help from her handsome and charming colleague Pan Soriano.

The runaway and the mystery

But then Ulla meets Eliana, a young girl who no memory of who she is but who possesses otherworldly abilities. When Eliana is pursued and captured by bounty hunters, Ulla and Pan find themselves wrapped up in a dangerous game where folklore and myth become very real and very deadly—but one that could lead Ulla to the answers she’s been looking for.

Purchase Links:


Review

As someone who’s never before read anything written by Amanda Hocking (I’m sorry, it’s shameful, I know!) I was more than a little nervous to dive into this series at the final arc. But, I have to say, I was more than presently surprised as how new-reader friendly The Lost City was. There is a nice balance between world building, history, action, and character development and there is no expectation that the reader is already familiar with the world of trolls. The tribal divisions, social issues, magic system, and ultimate goal of our protagonist are all clearly laid out in the first few chapters of the book and gradually built upon as the story unfolds. The romance is light, representation diverse, and even the side characters are so well developed that they fight for the spotlight on the page.

I genuinely adored Ulla as the protagonist – with her mysterious past, slight hoarding  tendencies, and a physicality that veers from the norm I found myself quickly drawn to her character. I appreciated her personal growth and transformation, particularly her sense of confidence and determination as her quest to find answers becomes increasingly more difficult. Her story really drives home the importance of family, especially found family, and the ambiguous fluidity that exists between fact, fiction, and fairytale.

In almost any book I expect to find a character or two that exist only to advance the plot, but I was blown away by how valuable each and every character was. No matter if their part is big or small, every little detail is interconnected with the bigger picture and no piece of action or dialogue is ever gratuitous. The result is that I found myself asking constant questions, checking back on details, and becoming increasingly invested in the sub-plots. This baby kept me up past my bed time more often than I care to admit – and I regret nothing! The only thing I was left wanting was a little more backstory on Pan. But with more books to come I have no doubt that we’ll soon come across his time to shine.

Finally, I am in LOVE with the world of Trylle! In a market inundated with faeries (and I love me some fairies) it was refreshing to read a world dominated by Trolls as I have never seen them before. I loved the variety and diversity within the trollian peoples, especially that they weren’t monoliths wth regards to physical expression, and that their world is secretly embedded within our own. It was part magic realism, part urban fantasy, and entirely delightful. The settings are described so intricately and in a way that evokes all of the senses that it’s easy to let your imagination take over and get lost in the fantasy.

Overall this was an absolutely fantastic read! The Lost City is fast paced, beautifully written, and provides a solid foundation for what is sure to be an amazing series. Whether you’re new to series or coming back to a fictional home, this is one of those books that sparks the imagination and turns it loose to run wild.


About the Author

Amanda Hocking NEW--credit Mariah Paaverud with Chimera PhotographyAMANDA HOCKING is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Social Media

Many thanks to John Karle at St. Martin’s Publishing Group for inviting me to participate in this tour and for proving a copy of The Lost City in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

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

Have you ever gone back to read over old reviews and came across one that makes you stop in your tracks, and not in a good way? Well, recently I circled back to my review for The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea and was absolutely mortified with what I’d put down on the page. It was just… mean, and rude, and completely unacceptable on so many levels.

Let me be clear. I ADORED this book.

So for anyone who read my original review – I am so sorry. And to Maggie Tokuda-Hall and the team that made this amazing book a reality – I simply can’t apologize enough. I was a dick. And it’s time to set things right.

A revised (read completely rewritten) review is now posted below.


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.


My Review

When it comes to YA fantasy I love a western-inspired courtly drama featuring a not-so-helpless heroine as much as the next girl, but the minute you mention pirates you can forget the courts and castles gimme some ships, a set of morally grey characters, and a little adventure and everything else takes a back seat. And let me tell you, this baby did not disappoint – it has it all!

  • pirates – check
  • badass characters – check
  • sapphic romance – check
  • a gender fluid MC – hella check!
  • diversity in character representation – yup, yup, yup!
  • noticeable non-western influences & perspective – I see you
  • the sea as a nascent being – um, yes please, more of this
  • timid characters that turn out to be secretly shabby – check
  • unconventional mermaids – check
  • oodles of betrayal and plot twists – don’t get too comfy my friends
  • complicated family dynamics for some added drama – I mean, I know characters are supposed to have emotional wounds to make them grounded and all that, but why’d you gotta go and hurt me so good?
  • and, say it with me, WITCHES!

Yes, this baby has pirates and witches all bundled up into one delightfully action packed adventure. It is… *chef’s kiss*. An as complicated as everything gets towards the climax, it all just makes sense. There is never an easy out to a difficult situation, societal roles and expectations are nearly inescapable, magic doesn’t just miraculous happen – it’s difficult to learn and comes at an extraordinarily high price, and you can’t just run away and become a pirate for funsies – there are serious consequences. The consistency in adherence to this internal logic makes this book both emotionally fraught and easy to get attached to. You know what’s going to, or could, happen and you still end up with all the feels when the event takes place. Again with the hurts so good!

There’s a beautiful balance between world building, character development, action, and romance that will pull you through some of the most creative settings I’ve seen in a good long while. But it’s not all fluff and fancy. This book dives deep into some tough topics like imperialism, misogyny, slavery, and cultural genocide. And all without every coming across as trying to ‘teach’ the reader anything. The critiques are there to spark though and likely make more than a few readers uncomfortable in the best possible way (hello introspection, my old friend). But, the option is always there to engage in this discourse as deeply as the reader desires. Just reading for the high seas, high stakes action? Suspend your disbelief and carry on. Want to unpack some serious societal critiques? Get your tissues and punching bags ready.

The only place where I stumbled a little was the writing style for a few of the characters. On the whole, the writing is lyrical, imaginative, and highly evocative. But there were a few perspectives where I found the shift in style to be somewhat jarring. However, my discomfort lasted only a short while and I soon acclimatized to all the different voices, and was gobbling up every word regardless of which POV it came from.

Altogether this is a phenomenal read that doesn’t get near enough of the hype that it genuinely deserves. Bring on book two, baby, I am here for it.


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