Saturday, January 23, 2021

Blog Tour and Book Sketch: Cast in Firelight by Dana Swift

By: Dana Swift
Published By: Delacorte Press
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Series: Wickery #1
Pages: 448
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Buy the Book: Macmillan

Goodreads Summary: Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people.

Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who's mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child.

Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery's most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet.

Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross...and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead.

Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery's fate is in the hands of rivals..? Fiancées..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it's complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.

The first book in an epic, heart-pounding fantasy duology about two royal heirs betrothed to be married, but whose loyalties are torn, and a ruthless enemy who threatens their world, perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal, and Renée Ahdieh.

First Thought After Finishing: Excuse me while I scream and wait very impatiently for the next installment!

I cannot resist a fantasy novel boasting a unique magic system and an arranged marriage, so I knew that Cast in Firelight had to be on my TBR. This was my second book of 2021, and my first fantasy book after a major fantasy hangover, and yet I was quickly drawn into the story and enjoyed the adventure.

Adraa has always known her future—train in magic, marry Jatin, and unite the lands of Belwar and Naupure. Only Adraa is not looking forward to her future. She and Jatin are rivals, not lovers, and she dreads her royal ceremony test where she must prove her skill with magic in front of her kingdom. Adraa wants to be the best maharani she can for Belwar, but no country is perfect, and she soon discovers that criminal activity is rampant. When her path crosses Jatin’s, with both under assumed identities, she finds an unlikely ally and partner. But the truth will always come out, and Adraa must decide which she wants to save—her country or her heart.

If you love strong, princess-saves-herself type heroines, then you will want Cast in Firelight to be on your TBR. Adraa is fierce, independent, and passionate, though not without her insecurities. Although she does not necessarily want to accept her arranged marriage, she uses her frustration and dislike of Jatin to push herself to be a better witch. I would have liked to see more of their rivalry instead or (or in addition to) the budding romance under the false identities, if only because there was a hint of sizzle in their dislike.

The world and its magic system was highly inventive, with nine gods and goddesses each represented by a different color. Witches and wizards had a forte in one of the nine colors, supposedly as a blessing from that god, so any spoken spells showed the color of their forte. The world itself drew from Indian influences, which the author explained was done for her children, and it added another depth to the fantasy setting. I hope we are able to learn more about the gods and their interactions in the world in the sequel.

Intrigue and suspense are definitely woven throughout the plot, which kept me turning pages so that I could learn who was truly trustworthy. Although readers can guess at some of the story aspects, there are a few surprises along the way. However, there were a few scenes that surprised me in a different way—these seemed to come out of nowhere and not quite fit the arc of the story. I found myself rereading a few pages to see if I had missed a lead-in, but to no avail. Even though I was momentarily pulled out of the flow of the story, once those scenes had passed, it was easy to be swept up in the world again.

Overall, Cast in Firelight is a strong debut, and if you like secret identities in a fantasy world, you should definitely add this to your TBR! The ending definitely left me wanting the sequel, so I will be looking forward to its release next year!

Most Memorable Aspect: The color-coded magic system based on the nine gods and goddesses.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Dana Swift started making up fantasy worlds when she was eleven years old and hasn’t stopped since. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned degrees in English and Advertising. While in college, Dana competed as a saber fencer and learned a thing or two about fighting, parrying and how it feels to fall in love with your sparring partner. She currently lives with said husband in Miami, Florida.

Find her online:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads



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Thursday, January 7, 2021

Book Sketch: The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly

By: Greta Kelly
Published By: Harper Voyager
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Series: The Frozen Crown #1
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: AAdult
Source: Netgalley
Buy the Book: King's English

Goodreads Summary: A princess with a powerful and dangerous secret must find a way to save her country from ruthless invaders in this exciting debut fantasy, the first novel in a thrilling duology packed with heroism, treachery, magic, and war.

Askia became heir to the Frozen Crown of Seravesh because of her devotion to her people. But her realm is facing a threat she cannot defeat by sheer will alone. The mad emperor of the Roven Empire has unleashed a horde of invading soldiers to enslave her lands. For months, her warriors have waged a valiant, stealth battle, yet they cannot stop the enemy’s advancement. Running out of time, she sets sail for sun-drenched Vishir, the neighboring land to the south, to seek help from its ruler, Emperor Armaan.

A young woman raised in army camps, Askia is ill-equipped to navigate Vishir’s labyrinthine political games. Her every move sinks her deeper into court intrigues which bewilder and repel her, leaving her vulnerable not only to enemies gathering at Vishir's gates, but to those behind the palace walls.

And in this glittering court, where secrets are worth more than gold, Askia fears that one false step will expose her true nature. For Askia is a witch gifted with magical abilities—knowledge that could destroy not only her life but her people. As her adversaries draw closer, Askia is forced to make an impossible choice—and no matter what she decides, it may not be enough to prevent Seravesh’s fall.

First Thought After Finishing: I need the sequel immediately!

Any novel billed with both magic and treachery is one that makes it onto my TBR list immediately. I was very excited to get a copy of The Frozen Crown on Netgalley, and the intriguing synopsis of this book did not disappoint! From the magic system to the political intrigue, this book kept me turning page after page to see what would happen next.

Askia is the rightful heir to the Frozen Crown of Seravesh, but political maneuvering of her cousin has kept her from her throne. Instead, her country is embroiled in a war with the Roven Empire. Orphaned and desperate to win back her country, Askia has traveled among war camps, fought with her army, but now must journey to a foreign court to gain allies to defeat Roven. However, once in Vishir, Askia discovers that the real battle is just beginning. Forced to navigate secrets, political alliances, and budding romances, Askia must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice for her country—or for herself.

In many ways, this book combined the best of YA and adult fantasy genres. The book was faced-paced with just enough world-building to appreciate the political dynamics. The magic system and guilds were very intriguing, especially Askia’s brand of witchery. There were definitely many powers and forces at play in the book, and it kept the storyline quite interesting trying to figure out how they would all interact together.

Askia is a strong female, forged through a difficult past, bound by loyalty to fight for her country. She wants to remain independent, to win her allies through her own merits and through the importance of her cause rather than playing romantic games. This is not to say that there are no attractions in this novel, or no good males, but it is not the overall focus. Instead, Askia spends most of her time training to be a better warrior, a better witch, and better able to navigate court politics. I enjoyed watching her come into her own, confront her past, and find a strength she didn’t know she had to make the difficult decisions.

I do wish that there had been a bit more world-building, especially at the beginning—the initial pages were a bit confusing, but the action quickly made up for that confusion. I would also have liked to see more time given to the relationship between Askia and some of the other characters. There is so much more I could say about this book, but it would be a shame to spoil anything. Many of the characters are more than they seem, and the truth only begins to come out the more that you read. I will be interested to see how the world expands in the next book, how the hints of romance play out, and how the characters will rise to new and unexpected challenges.

Most Memorable Aspect: Askia’s brand of witchery and her strength.

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