After an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister'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.
Windwitch is danger and deception, a search for answers and a determination to survive. Battered, sore, slightly broken, they must continue if they want to save the Witchlands from what's building in the north.
Merik is hiding in Nubrevna, depressed and furious. Focused on revealing the secrets of his sister, Vivia. They must learn what he knows. That she tried to have him killed. That he can save them. Iseult is on the run, on her way to Marstok. For that's where Safi is heading with her empress kidnapper. But the Bloodwitch Aeduan is on her trail, sent there by both his own desire to hunt her down and a sudden bounty on her head. With all the unspoken things between them, can they trust each other enough to make a deal? Or will one betray the other? Safi is stuck near the pirate lands of Saldonica with Vaness, Empress of Marstok. They have no ship, no crew, no supplies, and soon no water. But they are not alone. And a good pirate is always on the lookout for a good bargain.
Some of the plots and plans that drive certain characters were revealed in the first book, and some more were revealed here, but this seemed like more of a journey kind of book. Travelling towards a goal, towards answers, towards the hidden and the buried away. Everyone is searching, for a place or a person or an idea. For the truth. But the truths they find aren't the ones they expected.
There were some things that surprised me, some characters I was surprised to see. Like the ones who are hunting down Safi and Vaness. Like Vivia's new point of view. After only seeing her through Merik's eyes, it was intriguing to see Nubrevna from her point of view. To see her reasons for her actions. The romance aspect of the series takes a big hit to the point where there's only hints of it, and I can see why. I do think some fans will be upset at the lack of clever banter between Safi and Merik. But considering the events of this book, particularly the reveals and the explosions of the ending, I think they'll be desperate to read the next book.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)...more
Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all thaSeventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when her mother is killed for protecting her and rebel frostbloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby's powers are unpredictable, and she's not sure she's willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon. All she wants is revenge, but before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to take part in the king's tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love.
Frostblood is full of danger and magic, set in a land icy and hostile towards a fireblood like Ruby. This is all about her finding her place, finding her power, and learning to use it before time runs out. Before she's hunted down.
Ruby is reckless and spirited, full of fire. All she wants is the chance to live, but when her mother is killed in front of her, all she wants is revenge. But her powers are erratic, wild. She has no control after a childhood of hiding her fire. If she wants to survive, if she wants her revenge, if she wants to help her saviours and new friends, she'll have to find her control. Or else she'll fulfill the dark side of a looming prophecy.
I like the idea of this, of the heroine who is angry and reckless, who's full of frustration and weaknesses. She's never perfect, never hints at it even as she slowly learns some measure of control. And she's rather susceptible to the darkness that lurks as she's pitted against the gladiatorial champions of the ruthless king. As much as I liked Ruby and her battles, this felt so familiar. Like so many other fantasy novels I've read over the past few years. The setting, the heroine's past and her journey, the evil king. I feel like I read this for Ruby herself as opposed to Ruby and the fantasy setting, the plot and the world-building. I am curious as to what will happen next, if Ruby will succumb to the darkness, but I don't know how curious.
(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Hachette Book Group Canada through NetGalley.)...more
Teenage witch Cam isn't crazy about the idea of learning magic. She'd rather be no witch than a bad one. But when a trio of her mother's wicked witchTeenage witch Cam isn't crazy about the idea of learning magic. She'd rather be no witch than a bad one. But when a trio of her mother's wicked witch friends decide to wreak havoc in her high school, Cam has no choice but to try to stop them. Now Cam's learning invisibility spells, dodging exploding cars, and pondering the ethics of love potions. All while trying to keep her grades up and go on a first date with her crush. If the witches don't get him first, that is. Can't a good witch ever catch a break?
Seriously Shifted is clever and magical, an entertaining continuation from the first book but able to stand on its own.
Cam's back, ready to try and be as normal as possible. She still sees herself as suffering but not as much as before. Before Sarmine turned out to be her real mother, before she vaguely accepted her magical leanings. But only when it's ethical, which means no evil things and no killing creatures for ingredients. The thing is Sarmine isn't the only wicked witch out there, especially when some of her old school friends show up looking to cause some mayhem. Now Cam's on the case, trying to figure out who their targets are and saving the day while being a good witch about it.
It was interesting when Cam brought ethics into spellcasting and ingredient-gathering. She's surrounded by wicked witches, scrambling to get all her minion chores done before Sarmine tries to take over the world, and she's sure she can find a plant-based ingredient that works just as well as newt eyes or powdered pixie bone.
I think this is a great read for those looking for a mixture of magical troubles and contemporary teenage problems. Cam has to juggle a lot of things, like working spells and friendships and classmates and a boyfriend. It's a good combination of the fantastical and the realistic. And Cam and Jenah's friendship is still great, still supportive and solid but willing to give when one screws up. Sarmine is still evil, but she's trying to teach Cam about being a witch as best as she can. There are hints of a tenuous truce between the two of them. If you enjoyed the first, then make sure you pick this up.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)...more
Ansa has always been a fighter. As a child, she fought the invaders who murdered her parents and snatched her as a raid prize. She fought for her placAnsa has always been a fighter. As a child, she fought the invaders who murdered her parents and snatched her as a raid prize. She fought for her place next to Thyra, the daughter of the Krigere Chieftain. She fought for her status as a warrior in her tribe: blood and victory are her way of life. But the day the Krigere cross the great lake and threaten the witch queen of the Kupari, everything changes. Cursed by the queen with fire and ice, Ansa is forced to fight against an invisible enemy—the dark magic that has embedded itself deep in her bones. The more she tries to hide it, the more dangerous it becomes. And with the Krigere numbers decimated and the tribe under threat from the traitorous brother of the dead Chieftain, Ansa is torn between her loyalty to the Krigere, her love for Thyra, and her own survival instincts. With her world in chaos and each side wanting to claim her for their own, only one thing is certain: unless Ansa can control the terrible magic inside her, everything she's fought for will be destroyed.
The Cursed Queen is dangerous and deadly, a story coated in blood and betrayal. Ansa knows she is a warrior, knows she would do anything for the tribe. For Thyra. But what if she had magic? What if she was the enemy? What if she had no way of controlling it?
Ansa is rough and ragged, dangerous. Tested as a fighter and a warrior. A raid prize as a young girl, she's had to fight for everything her whole life. She's proven herself to the tribe, the kills are marked on her arm, and she's ready to fight with them against their enemy across the lake. The Kupari. But it's never that simple, and what follows for Ansa is something she struggles to hide. The fire and ice that come from her is unnatural. It's dangerous. She struggles to control it. And when the tribe is in danger, when they travel closer to Thyra's deceitful uncle and his twisted schemes, Ansa finds herself lost. Losing control at every turn.
It's not hard to see where this book takes place alongside The Impostor Queen. When the Valtia sails out towards the Krigere ships, when the coronation goes wrong. While Elli is lost in confusion and panic, when she runs, Ansa is struggling to control what she thinks is a curse laid upon her. It's interesting, seeing this other side of the story, a different part of this world. Different groups and cultures have their own customs, their own grudges and battles. It was also interesting to see the social structure of the Krigare, the couples made up of one fighter and one smith and nurturer. Couples that weren't always made up of one man and one woman. How Ansa and Thyra struggled with their relationship not because they were both women, but because if they became a pair, one would have to stop being a warrior. I thought their relationship was complicated and honest, tugging at them when their instincts pushed them a different way.
As someone who enjoyed the first book, I was intrigued by this. Seeing the other side was welcome. There's always more than one story to be told in a battle, in a war. In an uprising and a rebellion. I do think that the story does drag at times, full of Ansa's worries and anger, full of different layers of plots and plans and spies. Ansa has trust issues, a lot of them. She wants to be needed by Thyra, trusted by her. Loved by her as Ansa loves her. I can see why Thyra does what she does, but there were times when I felt that their arguing and stubbornness slowed down the story. Knowing that there will be a third book, I'm very curious as to where it will go. What will happen to Ansa and Elli. Both have enemies they must face, and I'm thinking they'll have to come together in order to defeat them.
(I received an advance copy of this title from Simon & Schuster Canada.)...more
In twelve-year-old Giacomo's Renaissance-inspired world, art is powerful, dangerous, and outlawed. Every artist possesses a Genius, a birdlike creaturIn twelve-year-old Giacomo's Renaissance-inspired world, art is powerful, dangerous, and outlawed. Every artist possesses a Genius, a birdlike creature that is the living embodiment of an artist's creative spirit. Those caught with one face a punished akin to death, so when Giacomo discovers he has a Genius, he knows he's in serious trouble. Luckily, he finds safety in a secret studio where young artists and their Geniuses train in sacred geometry to channel their creative energies as weapons. But when a murderous artist goes after the three Sacred Tools--objects that would allow him to destroy the world and everyone in his path--Giacomo and his friends must risk their lives to stop him.
Rebel Genius is tense and mysterious, seeping with artistic flair. It's a dangerous race against time to find the Sacred Tools, and Giacomo will have to make some impossible decisions if he wants to keep everyone safe.
Giacomo is a lonely boy, left homeless and without any kind of help or support after the death of his parents. Hiding in the sewers with his sketchbook, he struggles to eke out a living, stealing old bread so he can eat. When his Genius appears, he's worried. He's panicking. Having a Genius means capture, means being found and locked away, as per the laws of the tyrannical ruler Nerezza. But someone else finds him first, a secret group of artists and their Geniuses training to use art and their creative energy as a weapon. This is the start of something, the start of potential hope in Giacomo, and the start of a deadly journey to find things powerful and lost.
The world-building is intriguing. There's a a massive sense that the author drew from Renaissance Europe, especially Italy, when it comes to Giacomo's world and the reverence given to art. Here art is something magical, something vital. Something living. Something that can be harnessed, used for good or evil.
This is a tense adventure. There's a lot for Giacomo to learn, to overcome, to discover both about the world around him and about himself. Secrets abound, danger lurks. Perhaps it's a little dense at times, but there are so many characters, so many things happening that almost everything needs to be described. The illustrations were a great addition to the story. With it being so visual, being about art and shapes, the charcoal-esque drawings come in at perfect times. I would recommend this to readers looking for a new middle grade adventure series.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)...more
Everyone loves the Graces. Fenrin, Thalia, and Summer Grace are captivating, wealthy, and glamorous. They've managed to cast a spell over not just theEveryone loves the Graces. Fenrin, Thalia, and Summer Grace are captivating, wealthy, and glamorous. They've managed to cast a spell over not just their high school but also their entire town—and they're rumored to have powerful connections all over the world. If you're not in love with one of them, you want to be them. Especially River: the loner, new girl at school. She's different from her peers, who both revere and fear the Grace family. She wants to be a Grace more than anything. And what the Graces don't know is that River's presence in town is no accident.
The Graces is a complicated, haunting tale of wanting, mystery, and magic. Of searching for a place to belong and refusing to let go of it.
River, as she now calls herself, sees herself, is searching. She's lonely and lost, looking for friends. Looking for someone to care about her, support her, help her, and she knows the Graces can help her. How fascinating are they, with their auras and their attitudes, with their secrets and their customs. They just have to be witches, right? They just have to understand her, make her feel like she belongs.
I think this book nails a certain aspect some experience while a teen (that can also extend into adulthood), the aspect of being alone, of having no one close to you who you can lean on, and going out and finding that support. River is new to town, new to everything around her. She knows what's in her past, the secrets she keeps locked away deep inside, and when she looks at the Graces she sees people who might understand. People who can help her, who will support her and who she can support in turn. She's looking for a connection, for friendship. For love. And soon she gets what she wanted. But she hasn't taken into account the secrets the Graces are hiding. Or that her own secrets are far more dangerous.
I struggled to get into this. River sounded whiny, sounded childish. Maybe a little stuck-up. Definitely obsessive. Definitely repetitive. As the book went on I was curious as to what was going to happen, what magic there was. If it was real or if River was making it all up in her head. I was certainly surprised as the story progresses, as events unfolded and secrets were revealed, but there were moments when it dragged. It's like a darker version of the movie The Craft, if such a thing is possible, set in a small town somewhere in what I think is Great Britain. Knowing this is book 1 of a duology, I'm intrigued as to what will happen next, but I don't know if I'm desperate to know.
(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Amulet Books through NetGalley.)...more
Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fiSixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule. But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn't enter Elli. It's nowhere to be found. Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.
The Impostor Queen is a tale of magic and fate, of the intended and the unexpected, of will and servitude. A tale of making the choice that will let you hide from war and death versus making the choice that will save a kingdom.
Elli is meek and clueless about the world outside the temple, but she is inquisitive. She wants to know more, more about the magic that will fill her body when she takes over as the Valtia, more about the Kupari out in the city, more about the rumours of conflicts between bandits and miners. More about the possibility of war against the Soturi. But then, when she's found to have not taken in the magic of the former Valtia, she's discarded. Nearly killed. She survives because she doesn't want to die, she's lost and confused but wants to continue living. Of course, she didn't expect that she'd end up in the outlands, to end up in the company of thieves and the banished. She didn't know that she'd discover more truths outside the temple rather than inside. She didn't know she'd have to decide on whether or not to go back.
What first interested me in this wasn't the world-building or the magic, but they did intrigue me as the book went on. As Elli moved from a position of honour and importance to one of fear and possible death, as she was kicked out and left to somehow survive in the outlands as winter starts to creep across the land. The idea that the magic of the Kupari is only fire and ice, only those two elements, was curious. This world has magic, but specific types of magic. That usually isn't the case in terms of fantasy settings with magic, and I found this to be rather unique.
What first interested me in this book was that Elli was described as a bisexual princess, which is true. I was so surprised. Elli has lived a lonely life with only wizened elders and her handmaiden at her side. It was so nice to see this part of Elli, this sexual and romantic attraction to both men and women, described as something real. As something she would've acted on, if their positions had been different. If she'd found the courage to say something before everything changed. That alone made me want to read this because it's something that, unfortunately, appears so rarely in fantasy. I would definitely recommend this to fantasy fans looking for something different. Knowing that the next book is more of a companion novel than a sequel, I'm interested in seeing this world from a different side, interested in seeing how they come together.
(I borrowed an e-book copy of this title from the library.)...more
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell theIn the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they've arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa's working-class neighborhood. In Vassa's neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa's stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg's help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch's curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won't be playing fair.
Vassa in the Night is a dangerous tale of magic, cunning, and impossibility. A tale of curses and luck, of clever dolls and captured watchmen, of a lonely girl looking for the missing piece of herself.
Vassa is complicated. Her world is complicated. She's smart, sarcastic, and alone. Her mother dead, her father gone, her stepmother not in the mood to care much about a daughter not biologically hers, and her stepsisters who sometimes like her but mostly bicker at her. All Vassa has is Erg, the wooden doll given to her by her mother, but Erg can only do so much, like eat food in Vassa's pockets and steal trinkets from her stepsisters when no one is looking. Vassa needs to find her strength, her willingness to fight back. Sometimes she has to do it on her own. Sometimes she has to be strong and face her fears, face the things that make her sad.
I love it when authors combine the real world with magic, when it's sort of commonplace and running alongside cars and subway trains and cell phones. Here, the creepy magic of Babs Yagg and her bizarre stores is mixed into Vassa's Brooklyn neighbourhood. Where the locals know that there's magic afoot and know to steer clear of it. You never know what magic is in your neighbourhood. I'm not that familiar with the tale of Vassilisa the Beautiful, the Russian folktale, but there were elements I recognized. This just made me want to revisit the original.
This is one of those impossible to describe books. It has a number of things: impossible magicks, sarcastic heroines, intriguing side characters, inescapable situations, and a cunning villain. I did enjoy reading this, reading about Vassa and her struggle to survive the nights in BY's, reading about the different characters and creatures that would pop up looking for answers. This is definitely a different kind of fairy tale retelling set in the present day. So if you like real life plus the (supposedly, presumably) impossible, then definitely give this a read.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)...more