Thursday, October 15, 2020

Blog Tour and Book Sketch: A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

By: Samantha Cohoe
Published By: Wednesday Books
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Series: None
Pages: 352
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Macmillan

Goodreads Summary: Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

Alchemy is a subject I find fascinating. There are so many things we still do not understand about the world, and sometimes it’s hard not to dream about a touch of magic in everyday life. Who wouldn’t want to have the Philosopher’s Stone? This book explores that exact question.

Thea Hope is an aspiring alchemist living in the shadow of her famous mother, but she dreams of finding her own fame one day. She will uncover the secrets of making the Philosopher’s Stone, reunite with her love Will, and live happily ever after, as the fairy tales say. Only life is not a fairy tale. Her mother is trying to keep the alchemical secrets to herself, and with France on the brink of revolution, Thea will be sent to England for her own safety. Despite staying with a father who never knew she existed, Thea is determined to live out her dreams. However, secrets and betrayals abound, and Thea will have to navigate dangerous waters if she wants to survive, let alone make the stone.

This book drew me in from the very beginning. I loved the premise, and who wouldn’t want to be engrossed in historical France and England? I wanted to learn more about Thea and her mother, and I wanted to see if they would be successful making the stone. I felt Thea’s longing for her one real friend and love, and, of course, the chance of learning alchemical secrets fascinated me. And then all of the action started. The mark of a good book is one that can make you feel strong emotions, and A Golden Fury certainly accomplished this. From wanting to see more of the Comte, to wishing I could reach through the pages and shake a character or two to make them see reason, emotions were definitely high throughout this book.

The magical effects of the stone are felt throughout the book. The further alchemists descend into their work, the less lucid they become. This led to moments of wondering who could be trusted, if the budding romances were motivated by real feelings or by greed (and maybe a touch of Stockholm Syndrome), and it also made me keep turning pages to uncover the truth about all of the characters and see if Thea would prevail despite all the odds. The stakes in this book were certainly high—lose friends, lose sanity, or lose life—and this made for gripping reading.

Unfortunately, for me, the ending of the book did not quite live up to the beginning. There were several fledgling plot lines that never seemed fully realized, and more than once I felt like I was getting whiplash from characters’ behavior. It seemed like the book didn’t quite reach its full potential. I wanted more vivid descriptions, more time to savor building tension, and more of a resolution to the story threads that were started. However, I know other people did not have these issues, so don’t let that stop you from reading this! There were still plenty of enjoyable aspects throughout the book.

Travel through time and enjoy the mystic nature of alchemy. I’ll be interested to see what Samantha Cohoe writes next!

Most Memorable Aspect: The inclusion of research from historical alchemists.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.

Find her online:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Monday, October 12, 2020

Book Sketch: The Sky Weaver by Kristen Ciccarelli

By: Kristen Ciccarelli
Published By: Harper Teen
Release Date: November 12, 2019
Series: Iskari
Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: King's English

Goodreads Summary: Warning--May contain spoilers for The Last Namsara or The Caged Queen.

At the end of one world, there always lies another.

Safire, a soldier, knows her role in this world is to serve the King of Firgaard—helping to maintain the peace in her oft-troubled nation.

Eris, a deadly pirate, has no such conviction. Known as the Death Dancer for her ability to evade even the most determined of pursuers, she possesses a superhuman power to move between worlds.

When one can roam from dimension to dimension, can one ever be home? Can love and loyalty truly exist?

Now Safire and Eris—sworn enemies—find themselves on a common mission: to find Asha, the last Namsara. From the port city of Darmoor to the fabled faraway Star Isles, their search and their stories become woven ever more tightly together as they discover the uncertain fate they’re hurtling towards may just be a shared one. In this world—and the next.

First Thought After Finishing: Kristen Ciccarelli saved the best for last!

This was unquestionably my favorite book of the trilogy. Pirates, deception, enemies-to-lovers, and mythology are all woven together to create a compelling story that kept me turning page after page. This book can be read as a standalone, but it is definitely much richer if you have read the other two books first.

Safire has sworn to protect King Dax with her life. So when a thief infiltrates Firgaard, Safire will stop at nothing to neutralize the threat to the kingdom’s safety. Only Eris is far more that Safire ever bargained for. What starts as a series of lures and traps ends in an intercontinental quest with life and death stakes. Can they find Asha before it’s too late? And if they do, can they save not just the realm, but also their hearts?

Are you looking for a book full of action with dragons and an expertly crafted slow-burn romance? Look no further than this book! After the slow pace and political intrigue of The Caged Queen, The Sky Weaver is exactly what you would want in the final installment of a trilogy. Eris and Safire each have their own missions, but events beyond their control draw them into a tenuous alliance that takes them far away from Firgaard and into the legendary Sky Isles. But working together is nearly impossible, as both are trying to undermine the other. Still, there is an undeniable pull between both characters, a sizzling tension that leaps of the page and is every bit as captivating as the piratical action.

Both the dragons and the mythological storylines are back in full force throughout this book. Dragons are personified with human feelings and emotions, and the development of one dragon in particular was just as touching as anything with the human characters. The snippets of mythology included here also culminate brilliantly into the climax of this story. This book already had a dual POV between Eris and Safire, which I loved, but the way the myths were included made this more like a triple POV, making me appreciate the full scope of the story even more.

This book is wonderfully crafted and will make you feel all of the emotions. More than once I found myself waiting with bated breath to see what would happen, or rereading paragraphs just to savor the moment with the characters, or just wanting to reach through the pages and hug everyone there. The Sky Weaver cemented the fact that I will read any future novels by Kristen Ciccarelli. If you’ve been on the fence about this trilogy, definitely add it to your TBR. The last book alone makes the read worth it, but throughout the trilogy, you can find everything that makes fantasy the best genre to read.

Most Memorable Aspect: A perfectly-written enemies-to-lovers romance and the bond between a girl and her dragon.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Book Sketch: The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli

By: Kristen Ciccarelli
Published By: Harper Teen
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Series: Iskari
Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: King's English

Goodreads Summary: Warning--May contain spoilers for The Last Namsara.

Once there were two sisters born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. Roa and Essie called it the hum. It was a magic they cherished—until the day a terrible accident took Essie’s life and trapped her soul in this world.

Dax—the heir to Firgaard’s throne—was responsible for the accident. Roa swore to hate him forever. But eight years later he returned, begging for her help. He was determined to dethrone his cruel father, under whose oppressive reign Roa’s people had suffered.

Roa made him a deal: she’d give him the army he needed if he made her queen. Only as queen could she save her people from Firgaard’s rule.

Then a chance arises to right every wrong—an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister. During the Relinquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa discovers she can reclaim her sister for good.

All she has to do is kill the king.

First Thought After Finishing: No sophomore slump here!

I really enjoyed The Last Namsara, and I was eager to dive into The Caged Queen. Although this is technically a companion novel and they can be read out of order, I would definitely recommend reading them in publication order. The following review will be spoiler-free for The Caged Queen, but it contains spoilers for The Last Namsara.

Dax and Roa are the new king and queen of Firgaard, but their rule is far from easy. Roa is an outsider, a Scrublander from the House of Sky, desperate to save her people from starvation. Dax is a new ruler, trying to help his childhood friend while doing good for his land as well. But Roa cannot let go of a tragic accident in the past, instead clinging to her sister’s spirit and chasing the hope that she can somehow bring Essie back. Schemes and secrets abound on all sides in Dax and Roa’s unstable kingdom, threatening to tear both the kingdom and the couple apart. With Asha and Torwin gone, Dax is on his own to save what he cares about most. Can he unravel the plots against him before it’s too late?

The Last Namsara was full of action, but this book was much more psychological, which I found fascinating. Roa made no secrets of her emotions toward Dax and his kingdom, and she quickly found herself embroiled in plots to destabilize his rule. Dax, on the other hand, was an enigma through most of the book, keeping me guessing where his loyalties and his heart truly were. Although Dax generally came across as weak in the first book, he really found his own strength in this story. By the end of the book, Dax will become one of your favorite characters.

One of the best parts of the first book was the mythology and lore included, and that was back in this story as well. Short stories from the world were interspersed with the actual storyline. Along with this, there were a fair number of flashbacks to Dax and Roa’s childhood, which really rounded them out as characters. Roa especially needed this, because she was far harder to like. Still, the character growth and development were wonderful throughout the entire book.

Overall, it was enjoyable to read a story that was both a sequel and a companion novel. I appreciate the fact that we got more of the world from different perspectives, and it allowed me to like the world even more. The tension between the characters in an enemies-to-lovers romance, the uncertainty from unreliable narrators, and dangerous stakes made this book a page-turner despite the slow pace. After this, I can’t wait to see what Ciccarelli has in store for the final installment of the trilogy!

Most Memorable Aspect: The short stories within the story, and the royal schemes.

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