ARCs · Book Reviews

Daughter of Lies and Ruin by Jo Spurrier Review

If they didn’t want to get turned into beasts and used to fuel a ritual, they shouldn’t have attacked a witch. That’s all there is to it.

There’s something strange brewing in this tinder-dry forest – a girl with a sword and a secret, a troupe of vicious bandits vanished without a trace, beasts that don’t belong and a witch with a macabre plan.

Elodie hasn’t been learning witchcraft for long, but she knows enough to be worried, and the fact that her mentor Aleida wants to pack up and leave in short order isn’t helping to settle her nerves.

Elodie just hopes to get everyone out of this mess unharmed, but it’s looking more unlikely with every passing hour. And when the strange witch’s ire falls on her, Aleida’s wrath sparks a fire that threatens to scorch the earth itself

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* I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review! *

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, A Curse of Ash and Embers and was excited to be back in the world of the Blackbone Witches. I absolutely love our two main characters, Aleida and Elodie, and how magic works in this universe. In this book, Elodie is continuing her training as a witch when they’re attacked by bandits on the road, setting in motion a series of troubling and exciting events. Although I didn’t like the plot of this one as much as the first, it was still fun and full of action. It sort of felt like a transition book, setting up a bigger story arc for later in the series. I liked the new characters that were introduced, especially getting to see another type of witch. The ending was very cinematic and exhilarating, and while it wrapped up nicely, the story still has room to build and expand. I would definitely read on in this series and am looking forward to the next book!

ARCs · Book Reviews

Strange Gods by Alison Kimble Review

Spooky arrives at a wilderness boot camp for troubled teens with two suitcases and an ultimatum: either she keeps her head down over the summer or she won’t be allowed home at the end of it. All she wants to do is survive the pyros, bullies, and power-tripping counselors, get through senior year, and start her life somewhere new. She’ll do just about anything to protect that future.

But when an encounter with another camper goes awry and ends with Spooky hiding in the woods, something else finds her. Something ancient and powerful has sent out feelers, hoping to catch a human alone. For its purposes, one human is as good as any other. Even a delinquent teen will do.

If Spooky wants to survive to see any kind of future, she will have to figure out how to gain leverage over a god. And as if the one wasn’t bad enough, a pantheon of dark entities are lining up between her and the life she’s always wanted…

For fantasy fans, comes one girl’s journey through dark worlds of magic, gods, and monsters.

* I received this book from the author in return for an honest review! Thanks to Alison Kimble for the opportunity! *

Strange Gods is a quirky and weird YA fantasy/Sci-Fi novel about a “delinquent” teen named Spooky on a quest to save Earth from destruction at the hands of, you guessed it, strange Gods. And strange they are. Alison Kimble’s writing style was easy to read with its youthful voice and had some truly clever moments, but overall I found this book to be kind of boring. It follows a traditional fantasy quest format, with new obstacles added throughout, but the action seemed to get a little convoluted in the strangeness of the characters and the world. The ideas here have the potential to be incredibly interesting and different, but they sometimes got lost on the surface level and there was a lightness to the storytelling that felt mismatched to the oftentimes gruesome and bizarre events and descriptions. As a whole, while there were some great elements in this novel, it never gripped me enough to get seriously invested in the characters or the story.

ARCs · Book Reviews

ARC Review: Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.

As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.

Release: July 27th, 2021

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review!*

You guys. I am so surprised by how much I loved this book. It was definitely out of my comfort zone with the ultra-spooky vibe, but I dug it, even if I was afraid to read it before bed. I was obsessed with the setting- the old-fashioned, conservative, Children of the Corn-esque isolated community created the perfect atmosphere for this story and it really drew me in. Ellerie was a terrific narrator and I loved seeing this world through her eyes and how deeply she cared for her family and how she dealt with the chaos. The romance was a welcome relief from the horrors happening in the town, and Whitaker was an interesting and mysterious love interest. This book was a simmering, sinister ride, and I was honestly pleasantly shocked by the grit and darkness- especially towards the end. Some of the secrets were predictable, but the story definitely took a turn that I was not expecting. That ending stays with me, and I’m still not quite sure how I feel about its ambiguity, but I also kind of love that. I’m not usually one for scary stories, but I’ll gladly let this one haunt me.

ARCs · Book Reviews

The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin Review

For centuries, witches have maintained the climate, their power from the sun peaking in the season of their birth. But now their control is faltering as the atmosphere becomes more erratic. All hope lies with Clara, an Everwitch whose rare magic is tied to every season.

In Autumn, Clara wants nothing to do with her power. It’s wild and volatile, and the price of her magic―losing the ones she loves―is too high, despite the need to control the increasingly dangerous weather.

In Winter, the world is on the precipice of disaster. Fires burn, storms rage, and Clara accepts that she’s the only one who can make a difference.

In Spring, she falls for Sang, the witch training her. As her magic grows, so do her feelings, until she’s terrified Sang will be the next one she loses.

In Summer, Clara must choose between her power and her happiness, her duty and the people she loves… before she loses Sang, her magic, and thrusts the world into chaos.

Practical Magic meets Twister in this debut contemporary fantasy standalone about heartbreaking power, the terror of our collapsing atmosphere, and the ways we unknowingly change our fate.

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review!*

Elemental magic has always fascinated me and in The Nature of Witches, it was given a unique twist, making it an enjoyable read. The story centers around the idea of self-love and acceptance, and the prose was beautifully written and had some extremely poignant moments. That being said, it did get a little slow in parts.

In this book, different types of magic are associated with each of the four seasons, and a witch’s power is tied to the season they were born in. The witches’ purpose is to maintain the Earth’s atmosphere, but with the lack of care to the planet, it is in trouble. I absolutely loved this concept. It is so creative and was justified beautifully in the world-building.

The protagonist, Clara, has the mysterious tie to all four seasons and unlike the other witches whose powers weaken during their off-season, Clara’s magic never loses strength. However; what Clara does lack, is the control of her own power, which attacks anyone she has ever loved. Clara was an easy character to empathize with, and the juxtaposition of being the most powerful witch who is terrified of her own abilities made for an interesting arc. 

From the start to finish we get to feel a lot of Clara’s emotional turmoil, but there were times when it seemed to get a bit repetitive, ultimately falling flat. I think there was room for more action to continue the momentum of the story and Clara’s journey.

In the end, I enjoyed how the author wrapped things up, however it felt surface level due to the lack of detail and clarity. The ending left me puzzled, questioning how or why it worked out the way it did, considering what had already been established earlier in the book. 

Overall, I think The Nature of Witches was a creative and lovely story, and I look forward to seeing what else the author writes.

ARCs · Book Reviews

ARC Review: Spells Trouble by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

Hunter and Mercy Goode are twin witches, direct descendants of the founder of their town of Goodeville. As their ancestors have done before them, it is now time for the twins to learn what it means to be Gatekeepers–the protectors of the Gates to different underworlds, ancient portals between their world and realms where mythology rules and nightmares come to life.

When their mother becomes the first victim in a string of murders, the devastated sisters vow to avenge her death. But it will take more than magic to rein in the ancient mythological monsters who’ve infected their peaceful town.

Now Hunter and Mercy must come together and accept their destiny or risk being separated for good.

Release Date: May 25th, 2021

* I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review! Thanks to Wednesday Books for the opportunity! *

Spells Trouble was a solid witchy novel. I absolutely loved the way magic worked in this book, and as someone who has done a good amount of homework looking into witchcraft and its history, this book seemed very realistic and well researched in its magical theory. The concept of the five gates to different underworlds was a really cool idea, and the history behind them helped highlight the gravity of the plot. It was a fast-paced and quick read, but I wish it would have gone a little deeper in detail to give it some “wow” moments. The characters and their relationships were nuanced and interesting, especially the twins, Hunter and Mercy, and their sister dynamic was layered well and fluctuated a lot as the story progressed. I also appreciated their supportive friendships with Jax and Emily, and Mercy’s conflicting, and somewhat drama-filled, relationship with her boyfriend, Kirk. The ending climax, along with the cliffhanger epilogue, was exciting and set up the next book very nicely. Overall, this book was an enjoyable read, and while it lacked a wow factor for me, I would like to continue on in the series and see what else is in store.

ARCs · Book Reviews

ARC Review: These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy

Three Dark Crowns meets Wicked Saints in this queer #ownvoices retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale, by debut author Alexandra Overy.

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.

Release Date: April 20th, 2021

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review! Thanks to Inkyard Press for the opportunity*

I was excited about this book. The cover is gorgeous, the concept is really cool, and I had been seeing some good reviews for it. Unfortunately, it fell flat for me. The twin main characters, Izaveta and Asya, were separated in childhood to train for their destined roles as the Queen and the Firebird. The story begins when they each have to step into their roles suddenly and earlier than expected. The twins had contrasting personalities which made for an interesting dichotomy in the storytelling and their character development, but I had trouble connecting with them. The story centers around the complicated relationship between the sisters, and other than being told that they used to be inseparable, I didn’t feel their bond. All of the relationships lacked chemistry and depth that would have made me really care about them. The Russian-inspired world seemed cool, especially the system of magic and balance, but I felt like we only scratched the surface with all the aspects in the world-building, and having a deeper understanding would have enriched the story a lot. Because of these things, even though I thought the plot was interesting, I wasn’t as invested in it as I wanted to be. It felt a little dry in parts and there were moments when it felt like I was just reading the same thing again with no forward movement. The ending, plot-wise, was stellar and I did not see the twists coming, but since I wasn’t entirely invested in the relationships, it didn’t pack as much of a punch as it should have. It leaves on a cliffhanger and sets us up nicely for the second part of the duology, but I don’t know if I will go on to read the next book. I can definitely see people enjoying this book, but it just wasn’t enough for me.

ARCs · Book Reviews

The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme ARC Review

For a hundred years, the once-prosperous kingdom of Perin Faye has suffered under the rule of the greedy and power-hungry Thungrave kings. Maralyth Graylaern, a vintner’s daughter, has no idea her hidden magical power is proof of a secret bloodline and claim to the throne. Alac Thungrave, the king’s second son, has always been uncomfortable with his position as the spare heir—and the dark, stolen magic that comes with ruling.

When Maralyth becomes embroiled in a plot to murder the royal family and seize the throne, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues in an adventure of dark magic, court intrigue, and forbidden love.

Released: March, 2nd 2021

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review! Thanks to Tor Teen for the opportunity!*

It has been a while since I’ve read a fantasy standalone and The Stolen Kingdom was a super fun, quick, and thoroughly enjoyable read. At just under 350 pages, this book was fast-paced and engaging with lovely characters and world-building. I loved the vibe of this story- it felt like traditional fantasy with a nice new twist. The world’s magic, given to the Dalowyn family by the Gods centuries ago, was stolen by the Thungrave’s who then took over the kingdom and have ruled ever since, as the magic turned dark and the country failed around them. This story is told from two perspectives. First, by Maralyth, a vintner’s daughter, who has a secret, and illegal, magical ability, and by the “spare” Thungrave prince, Alac, who wants nothing to do with his family’s dark magic or politics. The double perspective worked remarkably well in conveying the plot and building tension. The characters were likable and the relationship between Mara and Alac developed nicely. This was definitely not insta-lovey, which I appreciated, but at the same time, I would have liked to have experienced a deeper attraction and connection between them. While this book had a solid plot, characters, and world-building, because it was a fairly short book with a big story, I felt myself wanting more. It could be because I am used to fantasy series where there is more time to delve in, but everything in this book worked so well and was so intriguing that I kept wishing there was time for more detail and room to deeply explore the character’s journeys and relationships. That being said, this was a wonderful standalone that had all of the elements it needed to create an awesome and entertaining story.

ARCs · Book Reviews

A Curse of Ash and Embers by Jo Spurrier Review

A dead witch. A bitter curse. A battle of magic.

Some people knit socks by the fire at night. Gyssha Blackbone made monsters.

But the old witch is dead now, and somehow it’s Elodie’s job to clean up the mess.

When she was hired at Black Oak Cottage, Elodie had no idea she’d find herself working for a witch; and her acid-tongued new mistress, Aleida, was not expecting a housemaid to turn up on her doorstep.

Gyssha’s final curse left Aleida practically dead on her feet, and now, with huge monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie’s help, whether she likes it or not.

And no matter what the old witch throws at her, to Elodie it’s still better than going back home.

*I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review!*

A Curse of Ash and Embers was an absorbing YA fantasy novel and I fell in love with the world of the Blackbone witches. The story was beautifully told through the eyes of Elodie, who is hired as a servant at Black Oak Cottage, under her mysterious mistress, Aleida. Elodie was an easy character to connect to. She had a quiet strength and a loyal and empathetic heart. Her journey throughout the novel was great, and I can’t wait to see how she grows in the next book. Aleida Blackbone was a fierce witch and I loved her. She has a cold demeanor, but you can see underneath that she has warmth and a huge sense of compassion inside her. She struggles a lot with her past actions and I thought that the layers of her character were fantastic. I loved the progression of her relationship with Elodie and the strength they drew from each other. The world-building was really cool and I only wish we could have gotten more into how their magic works (which I’m thinking we might get in the next book..). There were a few twists that I saw coming, and a few that I didn’t, which was fun and exciting. I really enjoyed this quick, witchy read, and I will definitely be continuing on in the series.

Book Reviews

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik Review

Lesson One of the Scholomance: Learning has never been this deadly.

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets.

There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere.

El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.

This book was so different than what I expected. So much so, that it took me a little while to embrace the story and fully get into it, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Scholomance, the magic school in this world, is a very dangerous place, full of monsters and cutthroat students. It is such a unique universe with an absolutely fascinating system of magic. I loved the idea of Scholomance, but there was a point where I was annoyed that it was SO dangerous, as I thought it took away from any type of plot development. The more I got into the story though, and figured out how everything worked, that feeling went away. Our narrator, El, is a snarky, glass-half empty, loner who is full of devastating power, not that anybody else is aware of it. The more we got to know El, the more I fell in love with her. She was full of contradictions, and despite her dark magic affinity and people repellent energy, she had a huge and good heart. You could really see how her life experience made her the way she was, and it was heartbreakingly sweet watching her grapple with her identity according to society vs. her true self. Orion Lake, the school’s hero and golden boy, was such an endearing character, and his relationship with El was incredibly charming. There was an innocence to their relationship that was beautiful when juxtaposed against the dark, tough, and gritty world they’re living in. While there is a lot of action in this story with all of the monsters, it really is very character focused and even the smaller supporting characters were vivid and complex. The climactic finale was spectacular and the cliffhanger at the end was just cruel. So after an unsure start, this book really grabbed a hold of me and the more I sit with my feelings about it, the more I am eagerly awaiting book two.

Book Reviews

Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove #2) by Shelby Mahurin Review

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

I was pretty excited to finally read the sequel to Serpent & Dove, and I might have liked this one even better than the first. The chemistry between Reid and Lou that I loved from book one was still burning strong and hot, and we got to see them work through their personal traumas and miscommunications to create an even deeper level of connection. The supporting characters were used in a very purposeful manner and were all multifaceted, complicated characters which added such depth to their relationships- Ansel and CoCo were my favorite. This world and system of magic is so well crafted and cool. Seeing into the Dames Rouges camp and learning more about them was really interesting and I hope we’ll get to explore that even more in the next book. The plot had a lot of fast paced action and took many turns, covering a large variety of different, exciting events, while the ending left me gutted and shocked. When I realized that there was going to be another book though, I was super happy and cannot wait to see where this story will take us.