MINI MONDAY: The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May

“The girl whose gift is chaos. Death is her burden. Wherever she goes, it follows. They say she can either save the world or end it” – Elizabeth May, The Vanishing Throne (p. 278)

The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May is the second book in The Falconer Trilogy (you can find my review for The Falconer here), released on July 21st, 2016. Just like the first, the second book in The Falconer trilogy is packed with surprises, suspense and romance, as the protagonists are forced to make impossible decisions in the battle against evil.

Aileana Kameron, the Falconer, disappeared through the portal that she was trying to close forever. Now she wakes up in the fae world, trapped and tortured by the evil Lonnrach. With the help of an unexpected ally, Aileana re-enters the human world, only to find everything irrevocably changed. Edinburgh has been destroyed, and the few human survivors are living in an uneasy truce with the fae, while both worlds are in danger of disappearing altogether. Aileana holds the key to saving both worlds, but in order to do so she must awaken her latent Falconer powers. And the price of doing that might be her life (Chapters.Indigo.ca).

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A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

“You can kill people, but you cannot kill magic.” – V.E. Schwab, A Gathering of Shadows (p. 197)

A Gathering of Shadows, released on February 23rd, 2016, is the second book in V.E. Schwab’s wildly popular A Darker Shade of Magic series (you can find my review for A Darker Shade of Magic here). Picking up some months after the concluding events of A Darker Shade of MagicV.E. Schwab dives right back into the action, illustrtaing how Lila, Kell and Rhy’s lives have moved forward, and how the ongoing events are shaping their lives.

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London. In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games-an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries-a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port. But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again-and so to keep magic’s balance, another London must fall…

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MINI MONDAY: The Bone Witch (ARC) by Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco is a captivating start to a new, dark fantasy series for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir, set to release on March 7th, 2017. (Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader Copy of The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco from SOURCEBOOKS Fire on Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review). 

Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price. When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead,she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training. In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha – one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles and make a powerful choice (Chapters.Indigo.ca).

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The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson (SERIES REVIEW)

The Remnant Chronicles is a three book series. The first book in the series, The Kiss of Deception, was released on July 8th, 2014, followed by The Heart of Betrayal a year later on July 7th, 2015, and completed on August 2, 2016 with the release of The Beauty of Darkness. The Remnant Chronicles is a Young Adult Fantasy series which centers around the journey of Lia of Morrigan, a young princess who flees her marriage to a foreign prince, launching her own life and multiple kingdoms into chaos.

Please note that the Mini Reviews for later books in the series feature some spoilers for the prior! 

The Kiss of Deception

She flees on her wedding day. She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor’s secret collection. She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father. She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan. The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can’t abide. Like having to marry someone she’s never met to secure a political alliance. Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia escapes to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive-and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets-secrets that may unravel her world-even as she feels herself falling in love.

The Kiss of Deception gets off to a quick start, with Lia and Pauline fleeing Lia’s wedding day to a foreign prince to secure a political alliance. While this quick start is a sure way to engage readers, it also makes Lia slightly less likeable, as she comes across as a bit spoiled and stuck-up, fleeing what I perceived to be a relatively stereotypical wedding arrangement (for her world and her station). Upon settling down, Lia and Pauline quickly encounter two strangers – Rafe and Kaden. Unbeknownst to the girls, one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Despite to peril of her current situation, Lia quickly finds herself increasingly attracted to the strange men – perhaps seeking a romance of her own choice, rather than an arranged marriage. But Lia’s freedom brings many dangers – men hunt her, her parents have disavowed her, and she has no idea who she can trust. As Lia finds herself falling more deeply in love, she must make an impossible choice, before one of the men in her life makes it for her.

The Kiss of Deception is a great adventure, and an even better romance, making even the dreaded love-triangle endearing. Lia, Kaden and Rafe’s plights immediately draw the reader in, as do their morally grey decisions and motivations. The three are easy to relate to, despite the gravity of their situations. In addition, the plot is fast-paced, but easy to follow, hooking and keeping the reader’s attention early on, and hanging onto it with every twist and surprise (5/5).

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The Heart of Betrayal

Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save her life, Lia’s erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar’s interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen. Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There’s Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be barbarians. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country . . . and her own destiny.

Betrayed by Kaden, an assassin sent to kill her, Lia finds herself captured and being transported through rough terrain to the barbarian kingdom of Venda. Lia has always believed the Vendans to be barbarians, but the more she lives among them, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Rafe too has thrown himself into the hands of the Vendans, desperate to save Lia, with whom he has fallen deeply in love. But as he and Lia struggle to be together, and to find a way to escape, Lia finds herself increasingly embroiled in Vendan affairs, and in the Komizar’s plans. Furthermore, Lia struggles with her gift, unsure what she can do, and how it can be used to free herself and help the Vendans she is slowly coming to understand, and maybe even care for. Kaden is desperate to protect Lia from the Komizar’s cruel power, but unwilling to let her go. And Rafe is equally desperate to save Lia, to free them both, and warn their kingdoms of the coming danger – because the Komizar is readying an army, and war is on the horizon.

The Heart of Darkness is a story of individual growth, of love in the face of impossible odds, and off impossible choices, all leading towards a final, heart-shattering conclusion. Lia, Kaden and Rafe are once again easy to relate to, and their struggles are heart-breaking to read. The reader will find themselves drawn in by the sheer humanity infused into this tale, irregardless of the plot. That being said, the story Pearson weaves here is equally masterful, once again keeping a fast-paced plot with plenty of twists, but still finding a way to make sure the reader isn’t left behind (4/5).

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The Beauty of Darkness

Lia has survived Venda—but so has a great evil bent on the destruction of Morrighan. And only Lia can stop it. With war on the horizon, Lia has no choice but to assume her role as First Daughter, as soldier—as leader. While she struggles to reach Morrighan and warn them, she finds herself at cross-purposes with Rafe and suspicious of Kaden, who has hunted her down. In this conclusion to the Remnant Chronicles trilogy, traitors must be rooted out, sacrifices must be made, and impossible odds must be overcome as the future of every kingdom hangs in the balance.

As Lia and Rafe flee Venda with Kaden and a handful of vengeful Vendans on their heels, Lia fears the worst, desperate to return to Venda. But Rafe is terrified of putting Lia in anymore danger, and his love quickly become smothering, pushing the two further apart as they find themselves at a cross-purposes, each with their own country in mind. Finally, Lia is forced to make a heart-wrenching decision, leaving Rafe and her companions behind, striking out for Morrighan with only Kaden at her side. Her mission will involve plenty of danger, espionage and betrayal, as she seeks to root out the traitors in Morrighan’s court and redeem herself, all before the Komizar arrives to destroy everything she loves. Meanwhile, Rafe struggles to find a balance between his duty as King and his love for Lia. Finding himself forced to an impossible decision, Rafe rushes to Morrighan with an army on his heels. Everything comes to a head as Rafe, Kaden and Lia finally stand as a united front in the face of true evil – the Komizar. In battle, each will make impossible decisions, forever changing the course of their lives and the trajectory of their kingdoms.

The Beauty of Darkness is a story of loss, strength and war. No character escapes change as they come face to face with both internal and external horrors, which force them to question their decisions, their loyalties, and their future. Lia, Kaden and Rafe each face impossible decisions, and their choices render them completely bare before the reader, solidifying them as potentially some of the strongest and most human characters I have ever read in the Young Adult Fantasy genre (4/5).

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Overall, The Remnant Chronicles was a strong series, which seamlessly blended romance and adventure. Pearson created a magnificent piece of literature here, which examines human motivation, characters, political drive and individual emotion. Lia, Rafe and Kaden are enthralling, engaging “grey” characters who draw the reader into their plight almost immediately, and keep them reading as they become increasingly invested in their well-being. Lia, in particular, was an exceptionally strong female character, who embodied feminine empowerment as she went about her story, never truly the damsel in distress, but instead a strong warrior who fought for her successes and accepts her failures. The plot was well-written, with just enough complexity to be engaging, but not so complex that the reader became confused. At times, the story did become a bit fast-paced, but Pearson always reeled it back in. One downside of having such a fast-paced plot was that at times, certain details fell to the side – one such aspect was the magic system, which could have greatly benefitted from more development. Despite this, overall, Pearson has crafted a truly engaging and entertaining series, with enthralling characters, a solid plot and just the right amount of fantasy (4/5).

MINI MONDAY: The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault

Set to release on June 13th, 2017, The Leaf Reader is Emily Arsenault’s most recent novel. Like a contemporary take on Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle, Emily Asenault’s Marnie Wells comes face-to-face with the occult, discovering she can tell the future by reading tea leaves (Disclaimer: I received an e-review copy of The Leaf Reader from Soho Teen via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review).

Marnie Wells knows that she creeps people out. It’s not really her fault; her brother is always in trouble, and her grandmother, who’s been their guardian since Mom took off is… eccentric. So no one even bats an eye when Marnie finds an old tea-leaf-reading book and starts telling fortunes. The ceremony and symbols are weirdly soothing, but she knows—and hopes everyone else does too—that none of it’s real. Then basketball star Matt Cotrell asks for a reading. He’s been getting emails from someone claiming to be his best friend, Andrea Quinley, who disappeared and is presumed dead. Rumor has it Matt and Andrea were romantically involved, though they’d always denied it. A faint cloud of suspicion still hangs over Matt. But Marnie sees a kindred spirit: someone who, like her, is damaged by association. Suddenly the readings seem real. And they’re telling Marnie things about Matt that make him seem increasingly dangerous. But she can’t shake her initial attraction to him. In fact, it’s getting stronger. And that could turn out to be deadly.

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Windwitch by Susan Dennard (FULL REVIEW)

Windwitch is the much anticipated second book in Susan Dennard’s Witchlands Series, picking up where Truthwitch left off. As with many readers, I have been eagerly waiting to crack this book open since closing Truthwitch about a year ago. The following review will feature spoilers – for those of you who would like a spoiler-free review, you can find that review here.

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies. After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak-which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed. When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her – yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first? After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge-especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands. (Chapters.Indigo.ca)

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Windwitch by Susan Dennard (SPOILER FREE)

Windwitch is the much anticipated second book in Susan Dennard’s Witchlands Series, picking up where Truthwitch left off. As with many readers, I have been eagerly waiting to crack this book open since closing Truthwitch about a year ago. The following review will be spoiler free – for those of you who would like a full review (including spoilers), you can find that review here (link will be updated when the full review is released on Thursday 01/12).

Sometimes our enemies are also our only allies. After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak-which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed. When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her – yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first? After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge-especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands. (Chapters.Indigo.ca)

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MINI MONDAY: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Of Fire and Stars is Audrey Coulthurst’s debut fantasy, laced with forbidden romance and political intrigue. Coulthurst crafted a solid debut that will meet readers’ expectations, while still leaving them wanting more.

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile kingdoms. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a land where magic is forbidden. Now Denna has to learn the ways of her new kingdom while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine, sister of her betrothed. When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, they discover there is more to one another than they thought—and soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more. But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other (Chapters.Indigo.ca).

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A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

You can find my review for the Companion novel to A Thousand Nights, titled Spindle, here

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston was released in October of 2015, yet only came to my attention recently, after the outstanding success of its companion novel, Spindle, which was released in December of 2016, little over a year later. Where Spindle is a tale of daring and adventure, A Thousand Nights is a tale of loyalty and courage.

“If you listen long enough to the whispers, you will hear the truth. Until then, I will tell you this: the world is made safe by a woman.” – E.K. Johnston (A Thousand Nights, p.325.

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next. And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time.But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong. Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air. Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

NOTE: The main character has no name – Johnston acknowledges that she did this intentionally (in her acknowledgements at the end of the book), so she will be referred to as the Storyteller Queen throughout this review, as she is referred to by this title in Spindle. 

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