Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

“Wicked meets “The Little Mermaid” in the captivating origin story of the sea’s most iconic villainess, perfect for fans of Heartless and Dorothy Must Die.”

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning was released in North America on July 31, 2018, and promised to be a twisted fairy tale with a spin on “The Little Mermaid” that would be filled to the brim with plenty of plot twists and heart-in-throat action.

Everyone knows what happens in the end. A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss. But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends. One feared, one royal, and one already dead. Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch. A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after. But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Released in North America on March 6, 2018, To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo is an action-packed debut that will leave readers reeling – and in search of more swash-buckling pirates and deadly sirens to read about!

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever. The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

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MINI MONDAY: The Bird and the Blade (ARC) by Megan Bannen

The Bird and the Blade is a lush, powerful story of life and death, battles and riddles, lies and secrets from debut author Megan Bannen. Set to release in North America on June 5, 2018, The Bird and the Blade is sure to stun fans of the YA Fantasy genre, and those who enjoy a well told, creative retelling.

Disclaimer: I received an Advance Reader’s Copy of The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for an honest review. 

As a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom … until she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father as they flee from their enemies across the vast Mongol Empire. On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into a hopeless love. Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die. Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of … even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.

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The Hazel Wood (ARC) by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood is Melissa Albert’s debut novel, set to release in North America on January 30, 2018. It promises to be a mesmerizing and unique modern fairy tale that weaves together our own world with one far more fantastical, and far more sinister (Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader Copy of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review).

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away-by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.” Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began-and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao is an East Asian fantasy re-imagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress – and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny. I received my copy of the book in the October FairyLoot, which featured all things “Villainous” – otherwise, I really don’t think I would have picked this one up for myself. I haven’t been a huge fan of fairy tale retellings of late, and this seemed like another YA Fantasy Retelling ripe for disappointment.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high? Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

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MINI MONDAY: Rise of Fire by Sophie Jordan

New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan’s romantic fantasy series that began with Reign of Shadows continues in this lack-luster, rushed sequel, Rise of Fire, released in North America on February 7th, 2017. You can find my review for the first book in this series, Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan, here.

Luna and Fowler have escaped the kingdom of Relhok, but they haven’t escaped the darkness. When a battle against the dark dwellers mortally injures Fowler, Luna is faced with a choice: put their fate in the hands of mysterious strangers or risk losing Fowler forever. Desperate to keep the one bright part of her life alive, Luna accepts the help of soldiers from a nearby kingdom. Lagonia’s castle offers reprieve from the dangerous outside world—until the King discovers both Fowler and Luna’s true ties to Relhok and their influence over the throne. Now pawns in each kingdom’s political game, Luna and Fowler are more determined than ever to escape and build the life they’ve been dreaming of. But their own pasts have a tight hold on their hearts and their destinies. Luna must embrace the darkness and fire within her before she loses not only Fowler but the power she was destined to inherit.

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Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

“Without risk, life is far too predictable” – Renee Ahdieh, Flame in the Mist, p.137.

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Throne of Glass. Released on May 16, 2017 in Canada, Flame in the Mist promised to be one of the best Young Adult Fantasy releases on the season – and Ahdieh certainly didn’t disappoint!

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace. Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and track down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

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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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Spindle (Kingdom of Sleep) by E.K. Johnston

Disclaimer: I did not realize until I was well into Spindle (Kingdom of Sleep) by E.K. Johnston that A Thousand Nights (also by E.K. Johnston) was a companion novel which takes place prior to this one. That being said, I do not think that having not read A Thousand Nights detracted from how much I enjoyed SpindleSpindle is perhaps the most enjoyable retelling I have read from the genre in a long time.

The world is made safe by a woman…but it is a very big world. It has been generations since the Storyteller Queen drove the demon out of her husband and saved her country from fire and blood. Her family has prospered beyond the borders of their village, and two new kingdoms have sprouted on either side of the mountains where the demons are kept prisoner by bright iron, and by the creatures the Storyteller Queen made to keep them contained. But the prison is crumbling. Through years of careful manipulation, a demon has regained her power. She has made one kingdom strong and brought the other to its knees, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When a princess is born, the demon is ready with the final blow: a curse that will cost the princess her very soul, or force her to destroy her own people to save her life. The threads of magic are tightly spun, binding princess and exiled spinners into a desperate plot to break the curse before the demon can become a queen of men. But the web of power is dangerously tangled–and they may not see the true pattern until it is unspooled. (Chapters.Indigo.ca)

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