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Devices of War #1

Fall of Sky City

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In a world governed by the opposing forces of the mystical House of Tarot and the tribal Great Families, Synn is caught in the crossfire. He witnesses the slaughter of innocent people, and the devastating murder of his father. This act awakens his Mark of power, a Mark greater than any the world has seen in a very long time.

Queen Nix thought she won a great prize when she destroyed Synn’s father, the leader of the strongest Great Families. She had no idea she’d be doubly blessed by capturing his son. However, before Synn can become her treasured weapon, before she can use him to bring the rest of the world to its knees, she must break him and bind his soul to hers.

She does her job with brutal brilliance. Synn’s mind is broken and his soul is seared to hers in an unbreakable bond.
That doesn’t stop him from wanting to be free. She may have broken his mind and claimed his soul, but he will find a way to destroy her.

Experience a world of ships that sail the clouds and cites buried beneath the ocean, and survive the fiery battle brought forth by those who control the forces of nature!

381 pages, Paperback

First published April 5, 2012

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About the author

S.M. Blooding

45 books583 followers
Frankie Blooding lives in beautiful Montana with her darling husband, Captain Alaska, and their demon cat, Tesla.

She’s dated vampires, werewolves, sorcerers, weapons smugglers and US Government assassins. Yes. She has stories.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 62 reviews
Profile Image for S.M. Blooding.
Author 45 books583 followers
May 22, 2013
I love all the books I write, but this one was just fantastically fun because, BOY, did I let my inner geek OUT! LOL!

The world building on this book was fun and amazing. I really hope that what I see is translated onto the page so YOU can see what I do. I really enjoy these characters. They're so courageous and adventurous!

Since this is a self-review *snorting eye roll* I won't wax poetic about it. I enjoyed writing it. A LOT! I hope you enjoy reading it. *grin*
Profile Image for Michelle's Paranormal Vault of Books.
500 reviews142 followers
November 21, 2012

I will be honest and say, this book was not for me. But in saying that, it was very well written. SM Blooding did a fantastic job with the world building. I just was never able to adjust to it. It was a bit confusing to me, and it’s all me, not the author. I am one of those type of people who just can’t get into a book if it’s not about something I have interest in, or if it just does not grab me right away. I should have researched the book more before agreeing to do this review; I guess the blurb just did not tell enough to get a grasp on what it’s about.

Also what is new for me, is the main character, and who the story is told by, is a male, I am not used to that.
Synn El’Asim, our hero lives in a world that is in a revolution... There is an organization called the Hand. The Hand, steals children who have been “Marked” with talents or powers. The families of these children are destroyed, and any useful inventions they may have are also taken. The whole villages are destroyed as well in most cases. One girl said her parents were buried alive to die a slow suffering death. After the Hand steals these children, they are then transported to Sky City, a massive floating mechanical city based in the sky and is always in motion. These kids then are raised and trained together to use their unique abilities so they can benefit the Hand. The remaining free families try to strengthen their own alliances to avoid the hand.

There are 4 queens in Sky City, as the rulers, each is corresponding to a house of the tarot deck. Wands, coins, cups and swords, and a certain element/power. Queen Nix, Ruler of the House of Wands, strongest of all the queens and marked with the magic of fire, has made our hero, Synn her pet project. 17 Year old Synn feels helpless at times, as he has watched his father and best friends family die at Nix’s hands, and wasn’t able to help. Synn’s mark has not developed but in spite of that, Nix has taken extreme interest in the boy, and is determined to break him to her will, and make him into her Knight.

I had difficulty with the abuse, to break his will, of details of months of torture, manipulation, and molestation in the effort to break him. He refuses to give into Nix’s will. He gets to the verge of death when a certain deal is made. I won’t say what, will try to not spoil anything. But this is an idea of what the book is about, and the intense detailed violence.

I was glad when he is able to meet up with others that have survived the Hands cruelty, and they are able to form a small team intent on overthrowing Nix, and taking down the Hand.

I will warn you now, this book is NOT in the same ballpark as Harry Potter, Narnia, or even Percy Jackson. It has very real torture, and the torture is way too sexual. Not for the young and faint of heart for sure. In short, this book is about a boy becoming very brave and a leader in spite of the torture he faces and has to endure. You are warned. But it did remind me of The Last Airbender, NOT in the torture, but in the separate Cities and families, Sky City, Water, Land, etc. And the control of the elements way, and some the way the worlds are. That’s about all on the similarities.

Here is a little taste of this book, give you an idea.

"You could use the vines," Keeley said hesitantly, "to create movement of air and manipulate it to create a bubble that would at the very least contain it."
"Yes," Yotaka said lightly. "Very good. Let's try it."
That was all the warning Keeley had before the fireball was launched at her.
Joshua leapt between it and his sister, his vines fluttering, creating a whirlwind of an effect. The fireball hovered in place but did not go out.
Yotaka's eagle eyes narrowed. "This was not for you to perform, Joshua Bohrain, but your sister."
"She doesn't use her Mark," Joshua ground out. "Would you call back your flame, sir?"
He turned and paced away. "It is nice that you are willing to protect your sister, but she must learn to defend herself or she becomes a liability to your group."
"She's no liability," Joshua said between clenched teeth. "She's the ruddy brains."
"Without the ability to act?"
Haji stepped in. "Who are you to tell us who has what rights? Can you not tell that she is terrified?"
"Of what?" Yotaka demanded, turning on us. "Of the fire? Of her shadow? Of her Mark?" He raised a hand and a lash of flame erupted from it.
I raised my hand, my own lightning fire lashing out, whipping Yotaka's flame from its course, my shirt bursting into flame.
Keeley didn't move, her green eyes wide.
I found the violence and darkness of this book a bit disturbing, but again, it’s me that doesn’t like books that get too dark and violent. There is no romance in this book, so if you’re looking for that, this isn’t for you, if you have to have it. There is hints of it, but none, maybe in the next books there will be.

But overall, the author did a great job bringing this fantasy world to life. She had a lot of promise to bring some great stories to us.

I give it 4 ½ stars (though I can’t always select that, but that’s what my true rating is.)

I received a copy of this book for the book tour with Bewitching Book Tours, for my honest review.

Profile Image for Margo Ander.
Author 3 books3 followers
July 5, 2013
Steampunk. Fantasy. Sci-Fi. Adventure—yes, S.M. Blooding melded all four genres into a unique world where they all manage to coexist and provide the environment for this enjoyable new series. It was a fast read with plenty of action and interesting characters.

The pervading conflict revolves around the issue of freedom and government—especially, who sets the rules and how are they enforced. In the past, priests had the upper hand until they became so corrupted the Hands of Tarot rose up to oppose them, bringing them down and establishing the Hands as the neutral arbiters of justice. Only over the years, they have also become corrupted, and the Hands have decided that only by bringing all the independent Families into their version of civilization—centered on a secret city in the sky—will justice be achieved.

Sky City is dominated by Queen Nix of the Wands, who had been rejected by her Family and adopted by the Wands. Her idea of justice is taking revenge by destroying not just her former Family, but also all the other independent Families. The only people she deems fit to live are children too young to have come into their own mystical powers (if they have any). Those children are adopted into one of the Hands of Tarot: Wands, Swords, Coins, or Cups, depending on how their mystical powers manifest.

When Synn’s Air Family—the Families’ spheres of influence and their complimentary Powers are derived from Earth, Air, Fire, or Water—dares defy Queen Nix, he falls into her hands. Synn is seventeen, long overdue to manifest his Family’s Mark of Power, if he’s going to have one, and too old to be adopted by the Hands of Tarot. Both are reason enough for him to die as an example to others who think they can resist the power of the Hands. But instead of dying, his Mark manifests, spectacularly saving his life, and he is claimed by Queen Nix for her Wands.

Queen Nix is clearly a conflicted antagonist—she claims she only wants to be loved, and she’s determined to prove that she can make anyone, even the unwilling Synn, love her. But her approach to winning him over is with a “carrot-and-stick,” alternating torture with manipulating his teen hormones and being solicitous of his needs—give her what she wants, Synn’s total devotion, and she’ll give him what he wants—knowledge of the Hands’ technology. But he wants it not to satisfy his curiosity, as he pretends, but to take it with him when he finds a way to escape.

Escape isn’t straightforward—the Hands have superior technology and airborne military forces surrounding Sky City—and Queen Nix has a few tricks of her own that fuel her confidence that Synn will never truly escape from her. He uses that confidence to take advantage of an opportunity to not just escape, but take other captives with him, along with a ship-full of “liberated” technology created by those captives. With those weapons and other technological advances, Synn is sure he can turn the tide of the undeclared war against the Families.

But Queen Nix is equally sure that he cannot escape her—and despite all Synn’s efforts to prove otherwise, she may be right. At the end, I was left wondering, who is going to out-smart whom?
Profile Image for Phaedra Seabolt.
Author 1 book276 followers
April 28, 2013
I haven't read too many steam punk stories, but the description of this one really sparked my interest. I was not disappointed either. This is an amazing book! I don't know if it qualifies as YA, but a mature young teenager (perhaps 12 years old) could read this. I think that it would help foster a bigger imagination if they did. My only complaint is that there's going to be a second book that I now have to wait for.

The story is about Synn El'Asim. He has been groomed his entire like to become captain of an airship. He lives with his father on the ship he will someday rule, but his siblings live with their mother on a lethara city. This is because he is a product of two of the Great Families. His father is the ruler of the El'Asim and his mother is the ruler of the Ino. I would say it's easiest to understand if you think of them as tribes. They made created an alliance that resulted in their having kids. Synn's mother kept the ones that she thought would bear the mark of the Ino tribe. His father has Synn and one sister that were thought to have the mark of the El'Asim. Think of marks as hidden magic within their bodies that show up as something similar to a tattoo when they are ready for their powers. Some kids develop marks early in life and others, like Synn, develop very late. When they have their mark, they are able to control some element. Synn's father controlled lightning, while his mother controlled fire. Synn was the last child to develop his mark which you get to read all about. You will see how he has to learn to use it and live with it because his mark is one of the most powerful anyone has seen. They know this simply by how much of his body it covers which is nearly his entire body.

The entire story has elements that I can describe to you, but that really won't make sense out of context. The plot though is that Synn is captured by the ruling class and turned into Queen Nix's plaything. There are four queens, based on the tarot deck. Nix is determined to break his spirit so that he can be completely under her control. She intends to turn him into a weapon to control the world. Synn has other things in mind. You will be shocked what he has to go through to attempt to gain his freedom. You will question whether he will ever be truly free. Will Synn ever be able to be interested in women after the things he has gone through? Will Queen Nix destroy all the Great Families in order to keep her toy? Some questions will not be answered in this book, but you might have a general idea of where they are heading once you finish it. Again, this is an AMAZING story.
Profile Image for Jennifer Defoy.
282 reviews27 followers
May 22, 2013
I have never read steampunk before, I’d heard of the genre I’d just never picked it up. So I wasn’t sure what kind of a story it was going to be, but the synopsis sounded good. I am so glad that I decided to try this one. The story was very entertaining. It was exciting, scary, suspenseful, emotional, and adventurous. Within the first 3 chapters I experienced all those emotions – along with awe at the world that was created by this story. I still can’t say that I’m a 100% sure what steampunk is but I will be looking for more in the genre. If the rest of the genre is even half as entertaining as this story was I think I might have found a new favorite genre.

Synn is a wonderful character. He goes through quite a few realizations and transformations through out the story. Fighting with him to make it home, learn what his abilities are, and how he uses them was enough of a story in itself. But there was so much more to this one than just Synn. Queen Nix was a crazy scary character. She is willing to do just about anything to make people break to her will. I would not want to meet her in a dark alley – in an open sky boat in mid air she’s scary enough, no more needs to be added to scare the crap out of me. Some of the things she did made me cringe and I was so engrossed in the story that I was having “sympathy pains”. It was a weird experience – but so well worth it. The rest of the characters are very well developed. Even ones that aren’t in the story very long are given enough background that I really did get a sense of who they were.

Outside of the exciting story and the wonderful characters was the world that Sky City takes place in. It was beautiful. Even in the dark parts of the story I loved this world so much that I didn’t want to put this one down. I used to say I’d love to live in Wonderland if I could live in any fictional place I wanted – but now I would have to say the sky boats and water lands would be a wonderful place to live. Well at least it would be beautiful – living in the same world as Nix is not something I would find enjoyable.

I loved the plot, the characters, the imagery, and the background. I will be checking out steampunk again soon and will absolutely be reading more S.M. Blooding. This was just an amazing story – can’t wait to read the next in the series.

I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for a review. This review is my truthful honest opinion.
Profile Image for Rae Ryans.
Author 8 books178 followers
April 29, 2013
In depth world, wonderful and interesting characters, strong, active plot are all words to describe Fall of Sky City.

I love steam punk, I couldn't tell you why, but it's become a favorite sub-genre of fantasy. Perhaps it's the geek in me, falling in love with the technology, Eco-systems, and so forth. Fall of Sky City brought a lot of that to the table, with magic to boot. But what I really loved most of all were the creatures, and the idea of symbiosis that occurred with the Families. It didn't matter if it was land, sea, or the air, they worked and developed relationships with these creatures. The Hands were the complete opposite, and much like the world we know today.

The Queens ... love them or hate them, they had realism. Greed, strife, follow or die attitudes ... through history we've witnessed these types of rulers, although we really only see Nix in this book, I do think we'll see more in the next book. But back to Nix, she rules with an iron fist. Fall to her feet or die, that's her motto, unless of course you are a highly gifted or unique Mark. Then she'll break you until your world, your existence is to serve her.

Synn is barely a man when he watches his father die at the hand of Queen Nix. Even though he's too old for proper training, she wants him for his Mark and other, more well ... reasons. Over the course of a year, she starves him, beats him, and tortures him until he can take no more and gives in. At least that is what she believes, and that is all that matters to Synn as he begins to attend school, and eventually leads him to make friends with two other captured Families children. But they aren't kids anymore, they've grown up under Hand rule, but secretly they plot their escape.

From here the story really blooms, and unfolds into a wild adventure for Synn who must first learn who he is, and then find the faith within himself to lead his people, and friends, in the Fall of Sky City.
Profile Image for Stacey Blake.
4 reviews8 followers
May 21, 2013
I really had no idea what to expect when I started reading this book. I had never read a “steam punk” adventure novel. I was transported to another world by descriptions of underwater cities, boats that travel the sky, and the many creatures that inhabit that world. The main character Synn is very likable. He is brave, strong, and does what is right, not what is easy. He is captured and brought to Sky City. Their queen, Nix, makes it her mission to make Synn hers, which she does viciously. He escapes with the assistance of his friends and gets back to his mother’s city. There, he learns to use his very powerful Mark and plans are made to bring down the evil Hands, who rule mercilessly. Synn is on a path on self-discovery, to find out just what it takes to be the leader he is meant to be. His life is not turning out how he thought.
This book is full of action, adventure, and even a little humor. It was enjoyable to read as the plot moved along and kept me interested. The fantastic imagery really made me want to go there and hang out with these characters. Well, except for Nix; she was pretty scary!
I am looking forward to the next book in this series so I can see what adventures Synn and his friends encounter as they fight for freedom.
I think a nice bold wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon goes well with this book. Bold like Synn.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are mine.
Profile Image for Simone.
472 reviews17 followers
May 12, 2013
I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. Synn El’Asim is caught in the middle of a war. In an effort to save his best friend’s family, Synn and his father are captured. Synn watches as Nix has his father burned to death. When it’s his turn, his rage causes his mark to come forth. Unfortunately, Nix now wants him as her pet because his mark is the most powerful they have ever seen. Nix is relentless and cruel; Synn gives in to be free of her not knowing the price he has just paid to the devil. Will he have the strength to break the bond? Will he be able to escape?

I was completely taken aback by this book. It drew me in from the very beginning with all of the action taking place. The descriptions were so vivid, that I felt I was visiting a secret place every time I opened the book. My favorite character would probably be Keeley, because she had the power to heal, I found that really cool. Synn becomes a strong main character enduring all, and fighting for his people. Nix, well Nix was evil to the core, she only knew what she wanted and took it. I was transfixed by this book from start to finish; this is one of those great sci-fi novels that you’ll want to read again and again!
Profile Image for Debra Martin.
Author 20 books250 followers
July 2, 2014
FALL OF SKY CITY is an ambitious debut for author S.M. Blooding. To start, the cover of this book is phenomenal, very eye-catching. Her world building skills are amazing although I did have a hard time trying trying to picture the letharans, but that did not take away from my enjoyment of the book. The story is a wonderful mix of fantasy and steampunk and moves along at a fast clip.

Because of all the action in the book, I found that some of the secondary characters were a bit flat, Nix, in particular. She was portrayed as just evil, but why was she so evil. What was her back story and why was she so obsessed with everyone "loving" her? I would have liked to learn what made her "tick." Synn, on the other hand, was very well written. He's a young man who is a bit naive, but then he's captured and forced to endure unimaginable torture at the hands of Queen Nix. He matures quickly and has an inner fortitude that keeps him going. I knew what was going to happen before the ending, but it was still an enjoyable story. No spoilers here. You'll have to read the book to find out what happens to Synn. Fans of fantasy and steampunk will thoroughly enjoy this book. Recommended.
Profile Image for Adele Carrington.
Author 2 books2 followers
November 16, 2012
It's been a long time since I read a book cover to cover without putting it down, but this one I did. I loved the characters and the originality of the story-line, the story flowed off the page and I really needed to know what was going to happen. Which I guess is the biggest compliment an author can receive.

I've been a fan of Fantasy Fiction since my teens and my book shelves are loaded with the greats, David Eddings and R. A Salvatore. What is great to see is a generation of female writers coming through with strong stories and a different take on the genre. It means the genre will continue to grow to change and to develop. With authors like S.m Blooding taking a place in the future.

The Hands of Tarot mixes traditional concepts, the fatherless main character discovering his powers in a time of crisis, with elements of steam punk, technology, nature and magic combined to create wonderfully weird contraptions. I don't want to spoil the twists and turns of the book for any other readers.

But I do have my order in for book two.
Profile Image for Edensbookshelf.com.
63 reviews2 followers
October 28, 2012
Hands of Tarot is part of a new genre of books – New Adult Fiction. NAF combines elements of Young Adult and Adult Fiction while targeting adults who enjoy reading exciting coming of age stories. Synn El’Asim, our hero, lives in a world in the midst of revolution. An organization called the Hand, overruns tribal families in search of powerful children who have been “marked” with talents or powers. The Hand steals these children and any useful inventions the family/colony may have in its possession, then destroys all remaining members of the family and their villages, towns or cities. The children are then transported to Sky City, a massive floating mechanical city based in the sky and in continual motion. The children are raised together and taught to use their powers for the benefit of the Hand.

In an effort to avoid the Hand, the remaining free people seek to strengthen their alliances with each other while eluding the Hands sentries at all costs. Each family has mastered a particular talent/element that marks its clan and determines where they live. Blooding has created a fantastical collection of living arrangements: cities built within the tentacles of massive man o’war type creatures, floating airships reminiscent of zepellins that travel in groups carrying the members of one large extended family, as well as traditional land dwelling cities and families. Each family has its own language and mark: El-Assim is a sky family that manipulates lightning.

Sky City is ruled by four queens – each corresponding to a house of the tarot deck: wands, coins, cups, swords; and a particular power/element. Queen Nix, Ruler of the House of Wands, strongest of all the queens and marked with the magic of fire has made Synn her pet project. 17 y.o Synn has watched his father and best friend’s family die at Nix’s hands while being helpless to intercede. Synn’s mark has not developed but in spite of this Nix takes an extreme interest in the boy determined to break his will and mold him into her Knight and paramour.

The ensuing chapters are difficult to read detailing months of torture, manipulation and molestation in an effort to break the boy. Synn refuses to bend to Nix’s will and is on the verge of death when a devil’s bargain is struck between the two. Nix allows Synn to attend university under heavy guard believing his need for intellectual stimulation will draw him closer to her. But it is while at university that Synn meets others who have survived the Hands cruelty and together they form a small team intent on overthrowing Nix and dismantling the Hand.

Blooding has created a rich and fantastical world with strong elements of steampunk. Synn’s inner group of confidants are a motley group of orphans with complimentary talents. Blooding plants some seeds for rather tame attractions between the characters here and there but if you are looking for smexy, this book is not for you.

The world building is intense and at times confusing with a broad range of chimeras, languages, living environments, and powers. The allusion to the tarot mentioned in the title is misleading. Outside the use of the symbols for the minor arcana suits to differentiate each of the four queens, the actual tarot, its meaning, legends and fortune telling properties are completely absent from the book. Perhaps this wonderfully clever opportunity will be explored in another book in the series (two more are planned at this time).

In its most bare bones description – this is a story of a boy becoming a brave leader in spite of the adversity and torture he faces. Make no mistake this is not Harry Potter, Percy Jackson or Narnia because much of the torture is way too sexual.

Editorially speaking – the books would benefit from additional editing. It was distracting to have the grammar deteriorate as the book progressed. Unfortunately this is a growing and rather disappointing trend in fiction. The book ends on a cliff hanger that seeks to establish a bridge to the next book in the series.

While world building is wonderfully creative, the characters are rather underdeveloped. I’m not sure that I would recommend this to my sons because the sexual torture is rather downplayed in its significance. But I could see 20 somethings reading this and enjoying it from a fantasy standpoint and less so a true Steampunk mindset.
Profile Image for Leah (White Sky Project).
126 reviews134 followers
December 5, 2012
I read this book for a blog tour and didn't realize it was steampunk when I first signed up for it. I saw the word tarot and thought I was in for a dark witchy fantasy. Oh, there's dark stuff alright and magick, too. Plus flying ships and inventions! Yeahboy, steampunk!

Why is it that when you say steampunk, flying ships are always involved? Anyway, that was just a thought. I don't mind flying ships. In fact, I think they're pretty nifty. Like this book.

Quick recap activate! Synn is of the El' Asim family who live on flying ships and whose mark is the storm or the power to wield lightning. Synn also happens to be part Ino family who live on land and whose mark is fire. The Families hide from The Hands who take the families' children and kill anyone they don't need. When Queen Nix of The Hands kills Synn's father, Synn's mark manifests and it's not storm or fire but a powerful combo of the two families' marks. Queen Nix captures Synn and tries to turn him to their side, but it's not that easy.

I thought The Hands of Tarot was fast-paced and exciting from start to finish. I liked the concept of the Families and of each family bearing unique marks, the source of their power. I liked the whole thought of the Marks appearing as intricate tattoos. I also loved the fact that these pretty pretty tattoos come alive whenever the person uses his or her power. Very very cool.

Even though I enjoyed this book, I would have liked more descriptions of the setting and a little more background on the Hands and the Families. A little history on this unique world and its people couldn't hurt. When I was reading the book, it felt like I was expected to already know why things were such, how things were supposed to work, the ways of the families, etc. I like my fantasy worlds larger than life and clear. To me the only things crystal clear in this book were two things: Families good, Hands bad. I would have liked a little more world building. The story was pretty cool and I wanted to be able to imagine and understand the fantastical world of this story.

Other than that little tidbit, this book was a fun read and I wouldn't mind finding out what happens next in the second book. Maybe there'll be more details on the history of the Hands and the Families!

Disclosure: I received a review copy for this tour in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated nor was I required to give a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Blog post here.
Profile Image for Carrie Ardoin.
558 reviews31 followers
September 5, 2012

Synn El' Asim is the son of two powerful families. But his parents are somewhat disappointed that his Mark of power hasn't shown up yet. Finally though, it does...and it comes at a most unfortunate time.

Because Synn is Marked in an unusual way, he immediately draws the attention of the sultry yet evil Queen of Wands. Synn falls under her spell through none of his own doing, and knows he must find a way to get out of her clutches. With the help of some crafty allies, maybe he can do just that...but it will be far from easy.

This book was my first foray in steampunk...and it's not exactly what I expected! Not in a bad way though. I will say this book was definitely unlike anything else I've ever read.

The author was quite skilled at world building. This novel takes place in a fantastical setting, and there are really some unique contraptions within! Synn is a bit of an inventor, so the author had some room for creativity when it comes to steampunk machines. The descriptions for everything were so vivid that I had no trouble imagining what objects would look like.

As for characters--well, there I am a little more judgmental. Synn is a hardworking boy that has already seen so much of the world at a very young age. Did I mention that the novel is told in first person, narrated by Synn? I love a male point of view. Nix, however, is a bit more of a quandary for me. I absolutely love that a woman is so powerful in this fantasy world--but she was positively heinous. Why can't a book ever have a dominant woman that also has some redeeming qualities?

I had two main problems with this novel. The first is that it kept throwing terms at me without telling me in any way what they meant. I would eventually figure things out for myself, but often it would be a few pages later and I'd find myself flipping back to reread the first instances of the word. Of course new terminology will be introduced in a novel such as this, but I would have appreciated a bit more definition for them. Secondly, the pacing was somewhat uneven. There were times when things happened so fast, I'd swear I missed something--which again, caused me to go back and reread. Then there were parts where conversations or details were kind of unnecessarily long-winded. I'd sometimes skim paragraphs.

All in all, I think Ms. Blooding did a great job bringing this rich fantasy world to life. I enjoyed the novel and her writing style, and I would be excited to read more from her in the future.
Profile Image for Victoria.
468 reviews43 followers
June 6, 2013
For this and other reviews please visit my blog:

I received this book compliment of the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you!

"Killer Queen" by Queen

She's a Killer Queen
Gunpowder, guillotine
Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind

Welcome aboard! You are about to immerse yourself into the world of steampunk adventures and unique fantasy world building; sail the ships through expanse of cool, windy skies, and dive deep into the blue oceans where whole cities have flourished. We follow Synn and his friends on their adventures as they learn to navigate the world amidst a war with an evil Queen Nix, who will stop at nothing to claim Synn as her own.

I find myself quite fortunate having had this book practically fall into my hands, because I enjoyed the story immensely and surprisingly so. At first, the story developed slowly and I dreaded the thought I will not find it interesting or entertaining, but once the first layers of foundation were laid, we were off on a fast-paced adventure ride. Ms. Blooding has managed to masterfully weave her story, devoting a great deal of attention to her unique and incredible world building, where it’s easy to lose oneself in the world of fantasy, adventure, and heroes.

As for heroes, Synn and his friends were quite heroic, interesting and compelling. They felt real, as they learned to work together, struggled to make the right choices, to survive and fight along one another, yet they never forgot to sprinkle everything with a sense of humor and a dash of sarcasm. While young Synn trained to harness his newly emerged magical abilities and was taking the reins of leadership for a trial spin, the evil Queen Nix was close on his heels. Cunning, powerful, and seductive Nix is the villainess to love. Throughout the novel I kept wishing for more sightings of Nix, to witness her evil highness in action, alas there were only glimpses, but I am hopeful we get a good dose of her next time.

“You cannot win, Synn,” she whispered. “You shall be mine.” She rose, leaving me on the floor. “Bring him to my chambers. We’ll see if there’s anything in the boy worth salvaging as a man." (p. 41).

Ultimately, all elements combined made for one great, captivating story and a nice cliffhanger ending, that will leave readers wanting more. I am now eagerly anticipating the second installment and hope that Ms. Blooding is fast at writing…

Happy reading!
Profile Image for Jill Swanson-Diaz.
160 reviews57 followers
January 12, 2015
There is a special guest post from the author up on my blog!

I LOVED this book.
I have to start by saying, this book was one that I had a good feeling about. I knew I had to read it the first time I saw a blog post about it. Everything about The Hands of Tarot, caught my attention and gushed originality. I WAS NOT DISAPPOINTED. Swept up by this story from the first, wonderfully written page, I could not put it down.
The Hands of Tarot has some of the best world building I have read yet. You can picture the air ships and Sky City, even the land beasts the characters encounter. The most important thing to me about a book, is that it transports you into another world when you read it. This book certainly did that for me. Man, do I wish we had air ships! SM Blooding has done an impeccable job with the creation of this world. It is exciting and slightly terrifying all at the same time. Magic and science mingle together perfectly and each character leaps from the pages. One of the most memorable characters, Nix, both disgusted and intrigued me. The terror she unleashes on Synn is unimaginable, yet I was somehow transfixed by her. Strange. My favorite character was Keeley. Her Mark was one of my favorites, giving her the ability to heal. Synn made a strong main character. Let's just say, Synn has quite a 'coming of age' so to speak. From the second he gains his Mark, he is thrust into a whirlwind of bad. But, he manages to come out fighting and transforms into a leader. His journey is as original as it is brilliant. It is one I would follow over and over again.
The beginning, middle and end of this book were equally as amazing. The pace never slows and by the time you reach the end you realize you are sitting at the very edge of your chair, nose practically pressed to the screen. (Or book if you don't have an ereader...) You are left craving more.
The Hands of Tarot is a mix of steampunk, fantasy and science fiction. I can not implore you enough to READ THIS BOOK.
It is riveting and I have NO DOUBT you will love every page.
I look forward to reading more in this series and other titles by SM Blooding. She is an amazing writer and has a mind most of us only dream about having.
Profile Image for Naj.
267 reviews30 followers
September 13, 2012
This is my first REAL steam punk book and I honestly didn't think I would like it much. But to my surprise I did like it a lot more than I expected.

At the beginning of the book the story was fairly slow (like most other books) but that doesn't mean you should stop reading. So I kept on reading until I got to the part where action rolled in and Synn, our protagonist, gets captured. I'm amazed of the world Blooding has created and built. It has Sky, Land, and Water Cities. These cities each has its own technologies, language, and a whole different way of life. These worlds remind me a lot of Avatar the Last Airbender and Star Wars, which I both loved wholeheartedly.

I loved the writing style, dialogue and the character development, it went on smoothly, with enough breathing space in between. One thing that worries me about books like these. Is the author's ability to sparingly spread information from one chapter to another. I've read books that slaps on so much information on one page that is way too overwhelming for readers. I hate it when they do that and I was so pleased when Blooding managed to easily and gradually spread how the world works in Hands of Tarot, throughout the whole book rather than compiling them in a prologue or somewhere in between the book. For that, The Hands of Tarot immediately gets 4 stars!

I enjoyed each character in the book (okay, maybe I didn't enjoy Joshua, I don't like how he says "Bloody" in every sentence! Gets annoying but he still cracks me up), my favorite being Ryo, Synn's older brother. Each character comes from a different "Family" that defines their way of life, language and Mark. Marks in this book is something a character gets by the age of 10, that defines the way they fight, or simply the purpose they have in life. Some have water as their mark, or fire, storm, and other elements we have yet to see.

I love the world Blooding has created. She managed to create it in a way that it combines specs of all my favorite movies, books, etc. It's a mixture of young adult fantasy, steam punk, dystopia, sci-fi, paranormal and even some tiny bit of romance. The Hands of Tarot is a diverse book that is intense, a little bit violent, and a whole lot of awesome! I look forward to reading the next book of the series!

Profile Image for Pam.
916 reviews40 followers
December 11, 2012
A lot of people are always asking for a new type of book to pick up and read.Well I can say here you go. This is a steampunk book with a dark side, fantastic worlds and magic. Sounds different doesn't it. Synn is a boy who lives in a world were The Hand takes children from their families as soon as their mark appears. Their mark gives them a power that The Hand wants. Synn is a late bloomer and doesn't have a mark or power. It finally appears when the evil Queen Nix kills his father. It couldn't have come at a worse time. It puts him in the eye of Queen Nix and she wants to turn him to her side. He is special because he has a different power than most. Even when the Queen tortures him with all types of horrors he still doesn't break. Synn finds another group of people like him who want one thing. To break free of her evil reign.

Synn is such an amazing character you can not help but want the best for him. He goes through so much torture which you get to read all about. It doesn't break him but makes him so much stronger and really shapes who he becomes. Queen Nix now here we have the perfect villain. She is such an evil woman and lets nothing stand in the way of what she wants. This is someone you can love to hate.

This book started off slow. It was slow enough that I put it down a few times. I didn't want to give up on it so I kept reading. Well once it took off it was so awesome. The author does a fantastic job building up the world you are reading about. From the different cities each with their own culture, technology, and general way of life. As I read more and more the slow beginning made more sense. It was letting you get inside Synn's head before the badness begun. I love the flying airships and all the steam punk aspects you get as you slowly draw yourself into this world. It is told from Synn's POV so that is something you don't get a lot of as well. The Queens are a different touch and I love reading about them. Like I said if you want something new to try here it is.
Profile Image for Victoria Limbert.
Author 3 books151 followers
February 10, 2013
Wow! What did I just read?? The story was deliciously complex, full of fear, wonder, magic, gadgets, gizmos, one heck of a psycho Queen and wonderful friends. Every character brought something to the story, each with a unique personality that came to life through the book, each with their own fears to overcome.

I didnt quite expect the story I got. The title/cover hinted at something else entirely...this is in no way a bad thing. The surprise kept me facinated. I loved the fact that S.M Blooding created a character with flaws, weakenesses, someone who doubted himself, had pride for the things he achieved, guilt for the plans that failed and had a focus I wish I could achieve! Young Synn is introduced to us as a youth who enjoys being aboard an airship, doesnt take life overly seriously but has a great sense of right and wrong. When he is captured by Nix, that way of thinking soon changes. We watch him transform from a boy with no magical mark, to a man with unrivalled strength. Much of that strength comes from within. Synn might have great power on the outside, the but real battle takes place in his mind, against a bond the evil queen Nix has formed with him.

I enjoyed so much about this book. The writing was great, the descriptions perfect, painitng a picture in my mind of what this world looks like. The realtionships between the characters were fun, unexpected and a pleasure to read. It was very steampunk, very techinical and geekish, with a dose of magic, fantasy and paranormal.

The Hands of Tarot is not my usual read, but sometimes it is healthy to step outside your usual genre. If anyone is worried about not enjoying this book because they prefer fantasy, horror, crime or any other genre, then put your mind at ease and try this one out. There is a little something for everyone.

I look forward to reading the Knight of Wands and can't wait to see how Synn climbs out of the dangerous hole he is in....talk about cliffhangers!

Profile Image for Ash Rowe.
195 reviews
December 29, 2014
I got this book in exchange for an honest review:

I LOVED this book. At first it was a little slow but still interesting. But when Synn finally gets to see just how horrible Queen Nix is and when he gets his “mark” things really start to pick up and it became a book I didn’t put down until I forced myself to at 5am. Only to pick it back up a two hours later to finish it.

S.M Blooding wrote a wonderful world with great detail. Everything was easy to imagine and was not overdone. I loved the places the characters lived! Airships floating using a sky jellyfish type animal, Octopus that protect cities with in them and of course the technological advanced Sky City.. So imaginitive and fascinating. Even the evolved animals that get described are intriguing

Synn was an awesome character so brave and strong and yet flawed. What happened to Synn was horrible and heartbreaking he was broken by Queen Nix but he still managed to escape with his friends and try and help save the great families from the wrath of The House of Tarot.

Queen Nix is a wonderful bad “guy”. She’s down right evil and does not think she is in the wrong at all. She will take what she wants any way she can and she does some horrible stuff to get what she wants.

I can not think of one thing about this book I didn’t like. Seriously, Airships, plasma guns, people who can control the elements, great action scenes, friendship, a great adventure and some awesome characters ( the good and the evil ones).

This book was a wonderful steampunk/ fantasy that I did not and could not put down. I got sucked into this amazing world and enjoyed every minute of it. I plan on picking up the next one as soon as possible.

Profile Image for W. Tinkanesh.
Author 21 books33 followers
January 18, 2015
Sky City will fall, the readers already know that. What they don't know is the how, and SM Blooding is a twisted writer. Sky City is where the Hands of Tarot live. Mighty families who believe themselves all-powerful and have no problems killing innocent people. Nix, the Queen of Wands, is the cruellest of the lot.

When Nix kills the leader of El'Asim (one of the three remaining Great Families) and captures his son, she thinks she's hit the jackpot. But Synn, broken or not, bonded, or not, will not stay with her. He escapes with Keeley, Joshua and Yvette, to return to his people (the El'Asim) and his mother's people (the Ino).

'Fall of Sky City' is the first instalment of the Devices of War trilogy, at the steampunk crossover of fantasy and science-fiction. SM Blooding created a remarkable world where some cities, no matter how big, are housed by Letharan (gigantic jellyfishes) and can hid beneath the ocean; ships can sail the clouds (the El'Asim's technology is more ecological than the ones used by the Hands of Tarot).

Our young heroes are Synn (El'Asim Family), Hadji (Umira Family), Yvette (Leblanc Family) and siblings Keeley and Joshua (Barhain Family). They each bear the Mark of their respective Families: control over an element. While reading the action-packed adventures of these well-developed characters, one can easily see them in their mind's eye and feel for them and with them when they face deadly dangers. They feel real.

Reading 'Fall of Sky City' is an amazing and entrancing experience. SM Blooding leaves the readers on a monumental cliffhanger. I can't wait to get hold of the sequel, 'Knight of Wands', as the last page left me with a compulsive need to find out what happens next……..
Profile Image for Julie.
614 reviews147 followers
July 31, 2013
I've only read about a handful of "steampunk" novels so I'm still a newbie and struggling with the world building. This novel was definitely a struggle for me and I wished I had a dictionary to help me keep up with the types of families and their names and languages. I admit that this was out of my comfort zone and was one of the most complicated worlds I've read. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the giant creatures that they built the cities on/in. I also thought the chapter titles were a bit spoilery.

I did enjoy it though. I really liked the unique "magick" that these characters have through their Marks. There was a lot of action and adventure to keep the plot moving and keep you guessing.

This novel also has some really great takeaways. One is that we are strong as individuals but as a team we are even stronger. Another, don't underestimate the power of friendship and trust.

The main character is so strong and so honorable. Even after watching his family die while getting captured by the evil Queen, and getting tortured to have his spirit broken, he remained strong and continued his fight. His actions were thought out and as deliberate as he could make them under the circumstances.

Here are some quotes from the main character that describe what I am talking about.
“We, as leaders of our Families, have a huge responsibility. We are responsible for the life and safety of our Family members. Our actions—all of them, big and small—have great impact on the world around us.”

“This is all happening because I was selfish, because I decided to run instead of stand up for myself. How much carnage will be too much?”
Profile Image for Krystal Willingham.
55 reviews20 followers
November 25, 2012
The Hands of Tarot started out slow and did not catch my interest at all. It took a lot for me to keep going but I did in hopes things would start to change and maybe I would start to understand this book a little more. Well, the story did get better, it got a lot better actually and I am so glad that I kept reading. Whether I understand anything about the book, the jury is still out but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that Blooding has written an amazing story with the most fascinating and amazing world that I wish existed. Flying cities and air ships have always been something that has fascinated me and this story brings that and more alive. The world that she has created is even more than what I could have imagined. It is simply amazing. I will say there are something’s about it that even I have yet to figure out such as what exactly letharans are but I do know they make the story that much better.

I wouldn’t say that this was the easiest book to follow because for me it wasn't but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be for anyone else and that shouldn't stop anyone from checking this book out for themselves. The writing is awesome and the story itself is original and completely entertaining. When I finally got into this book it was hard to put it down because it ended up being a page turner. I can't wait to see what happens in the second book.

*Disclosure Notice*
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my personal and honest review. I was not compensated in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.
Profile Image for Angie Lisle.
626 reviews67 followers
October 22, 2012
Action-packed steam-punk.

A highly civilized society called the Hands attempts to suppress the elemental Families who are rebelling under the leadership of Queen Nix.

Ms. Blooding forges mythology and cultural traditions with sci-fi and fantasy to create a vivid world where people inhabit not only the land, but also the skies and the seas. The story starts slowly, the details gradually doled out from the male perspective of the main character, Synn El'Asim, with the implication that there is so much more out there, just beyond the edge of the ship, waiting to be explored. The dialogue is well-written and the action-sequences are easy to visualize.

My only issue with the book is the inconsistent narration. The action-sequences read smoothly, with readers being shown the plot as it unfolds, but there are chapters where the narrator -still Synn- tells us what's happening without showing us. I'd like more showing, less telling, and I'm willing to read a thicker book for that.

I received a free copy of this book to review from Bewitching Book Tours. While I've read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, this book marks my first venture into steam-punk. Maybe because this genre is new to me, this book kept me on my toes and, in 2013, I'll be watching for the release of the sequel, The Knight of Wands. I'd like to know what happens to Synn.
99 reviews15 followers
June 15, 2013
Fall of Sky City was an amazing book! That seems like a simple description, but it fits so perfectly.

Synn was such an interesting character. His thoughts and feelings throughout this book were very relateable. Sure I don't live my life on an airship or in a city on a lethara, but I could understand how he was feeling. I don't read many books based on male protagonists but Synn outdid many female protagonists I've read about in the past. He was fierce and incredibly brave.

This entire world that SM Blooding created sounds beautiful. I can picture it in my mind while I am reading. The people, their homes, the creatures, the sky. Blooding gave me such a clear picture of it all. The dynamics between the people were very interesting. I was especially interested in how the Elders of the Great Families held meetings, and how the House of Tarot could gain so much control over people. I also loved the different Marks and the powers people had.

I will end by repeating that this book is amazing. I was drawn into quickly and I hated when it ended. I want to know what will happen in the next book. SM Blooding did such a great job with Fall of Sky City. It's a book I will love reading again and again.

I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts an opinions are 100% my own.
Profile Image for Heidi.
2,615 reviews52 followers
August 14, 2012
If I had to describe this book in one word, I would have to say: intense and violent. The book was darker than most books that I read. So why did I keep reading? In one word, Synn. The courage of the main character amid the horrible things that he endures, his determination to escape despite all the Queen has done to torment him and bind him, which he struggles to deal with, as would anyone compelled me to keep reading. But with the help of family and friends, he faces his fears and decides that someone must stop Queen Nix before she conquers all families, but will anyone stand beside him against a better armed and better prepared foe?

While the book contains more sexual innuendo and swearing than I am comfortable with, I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened to Synn. The plot twists and turns at a very rapid pace, one crisis ends just in time for another to arise. It made me tired just reading it. :) But it makes the book very hard to put down. I appreciated that the characters had depth as well as having their strengths and weaknesses. For me this makes for a much more enjoyable read. I do recommend this for those who enjoy intense, imaginative stories full of great characters both good and evil.
Profile Image for Yashima.
Author 2 books5 followers
October 20, 2015
The setting of this book mixes mixes fantastic, sci-fi and steampunk elements into something quite interesting. The marks of the families are a kind of magic and the hands use guns, gunpowder, radar and planes. I find the different families, especially those living in the letharan cities and those in the airships very enjoyable. But good world-building does not necessarily make a good story.

There were long passages that either felt like plot-holes/jumps or felt glossed over. I did not like the way the "compulsion" worked. All in all the characters could have had more depth. Also the motivation of the antagonists and their development fell kind of flat. Throughout the book it remains "I want him back!" and "I want to get him back for her!" Especially Varik has no internal conflict, development whatsoever.

The ending is very open and provides little closure to the reader. If I had enjoyed the book I would be reading the sequel at once. But since I did not enjoy it, the ending is very unsatisfying.

I barely finished this one and won't be reading the sequels.

PS: the chapter titles like the book title take away all surprises, because everytime the title already contains the most important thing that is going to happen ...
Profile Image for D.M. Cain.
Author 9 books504 followers
April 7, 2015
Wow, what a story! I read and review a lot of books and only a few of them grab me the way Fall of Sky City did. I loved it from start to finish and felt an encroaching depression as I neared the end. I sincerely did not want to part ways with characters I had invested so much in. But the ending did not disappoint. Far from it – it left me desperately wanting more!

This is usually the part of a review where I pick out a few amazing parts and a few things I felt the author could have done better. Honestly, I am really struggling with that for this book. Pretty much everything was fantastic – the vivid images painted in my mind by the intriguing ‘Mark’ magic system (this would make for some amazing movie special effects!); the detailed and well-developed worlds, races, languages and species of animal; in-depth, well thought-out engineering on the steampunk-esque airships and floating cities.

But the thing that impressed me the most was the range of interesting characters. From the devilishly evil Queen Nix, to gentle, clever Keeley and the strong-willed, charismatic Synn, I truly adored undertaking this journey with these characters. I really cannot wait to get my hands on Book 2!
Profile Image for Pauline Creeden.
Author 86 books580 followers
May 23, 2013
5-Stars – From the air ships kept afloat by sky jellyfish to the underwater cities, this fantasy – steampunk amalgam has fabulous, stunning world-building. From the natural-forming tattoos on the backs of the powerful to the power behind the words of a promise, the motivations of the characters and the progression of the plot are clear and cunningly done.

I am not a huge epic fantasy buff, but I do enjoy Terry Goodkind and Brent Weeks. In the realm of fantasy, S. M. Blooding can set her books right alongside with those. Her world has become a place I want to visit, and her characters are ones who I need to know what happens to. And even though I love the aesthetics of steampunk, so many authors get fixated on the gadgets. In Fall of Sky City, the gadgetry is so seamlessly ingrained in the plot that the story would be barren without them.

There are few books that you want to pull your bullhorn out about and tell everyone they should read. This is one of those books for me.
Profile Image for Anna.
497 reviews144 followers
June 13, 2013
The world of Devices of War is controlled by two forces, House of Tarot and The Great Families. With witnessing the death of innocent lives, Synn gets noticed by both sides. Especially Queen Nix, she will do anything to claim him and break him. But Synn is strong and will forever fight for his freedom.

Good read! I'm sure I've said this before but... Steampunk and I are not the best of friends. I really want to love it, but it hasn't really, really clicked with me as it has with other readers. That said I did enjoy this first book in the Devices of War series. Fall of Sky City was a wonderful book to read. Dark and intense. I liked the main character Synn, he was brilliant. Blooding's world building is very intricate and at times blew my mind. If you're looking for a Steampunk adventure this book is it.
Profile Image for A Baker.
18 reviews22 followers
March 9, 2017
This is a highly entertaining and well written book, that seems to be overlooked a bit...it build a wondrous steampunk/fantasy world similar to Leviathan but not as wordy(by Scott Westerfeld, which I highly recommend if you have read this book and wanted more world building!!), has an interesting group of main characters and for the first time in months, the story isn't predictable! The ending is surprising but not necessarily a cliffhanger so you can read this book as a standalone, but why would you want to, personally I'm looking forward to seeing what else this series has to offer!! The only negative I want to point out is that it is a short book so at times it feels rushed, not as fleshed out as it could be and the new terminology can go over your head as you are not being familiarized with the world enough.

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