Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Category: YA Fantasy (Page 1 of 10)

Book Review: Daughter of Sparta

Daughter of Sparta – Claire M. Andrews – Daughter of Sparta #1 – Jimmy Patterson Books – Published 8 June 2021

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Daphne has spent her entire life honing her body and mind into that of a warrior, hoping to be accepted by the unyielding people of ancient Sparta. But an unexpected encounter with the goddess Artemis—who holds Daphne’s brother’s fate in her hands—upends the life she’s worked so hard to build. Nine mysterious items have been stolen from Mount Olympus and if Daphne cannot find them, the gods’ waning powers will fade away, the mortal world will descend into chaos, and her brother’s life will be forfeit.

Guided by Artemis’s twin-the handsome and entirely-too-self-assured god Apollo-Daphne’s journey will take her from the labyrinth of the Minotaur to the riddle-spinning Sphinx of Thebes, team her up with mythological legends such as Theseus and Hippolyta of the Amazons, and pit her against the gods themselves.

My thoughts

For every reader who loved Percy Jackson or Greek Mythology, Daughter of Sparta is the book for you. I get so many requests in my school library for books that feature mythology, especially Greek mythology. Daughter of Sparta is a thrilling adventure. It is fresh yet fans of the mythological legends will recognise some familiar characters and quests.

There is so much in this story. The author could have used just one legend to inspire the story but we have multiple, with multiple gods, creatures and challenges that Daphne must face. It makes this book endlessly engaging and there is never a dull moment. I did find it a little confusing to keep track of all the characters, but having the familiar Greek gods and characters was helpful.

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Book Review: This Poison Heart

This Poison Heart – Kalynn Bayron – This Poison Heart #1 – Bloomsbury YA – Published 29 June 2021

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Synopsis

Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.

When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.

When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.

My thoughts

This Poison Heart starts with a magical realism vibe but by halfway becomes a thoroughly fun paranormal title with myths, eternal creatures with super speed and strength, and centuries-old feuds. I love books about plants and gardens. I love the vibe they give to books and This Poison Heart brings with it that same plant and garden goodness I adore, with the added benefit that Briseis can control the plants around her – or sort of. She has long hidden her gift and isn’t sure how to master it when she fears it and what it can do.

When Briseis and her mothers receive news that Briseis has been left an estate as an inheritance by her birth family, they think it might be the thing to save their struggling finances. Moving to the country also gives Briseis the first chance to really stretch her powers of controlling plants. Away from the city, she discovers that her birth family have a strange affinity with plants, especially poisonous ones. As Briseis revives the gardens that surround the estate, she begins to learn there is far more to her powers and far more to the secrets that surround her family’s history.

There is a lot to like about This Poison Heart. It kind of felt like two books joined together. The first half is focused on getting to know Briseis, her two mothers, their florist business and their struggling finances. The inheritance is a welcome reprieve for them, as is the move to the country. The banter between Briseis and her mothers is lots of fun, as is the banter the two older women share. They are full on mother-embarrassing, which Briseis pretends to hate but really loves. The move also allows Briseis to experiment with her powers, bringing the garden back to life, learning about the apothecary business her aunt and birth mother were running. She also meets Carter, who works at the bookshop in town and she finally makes a friend who knows the extent of her magical powers and doesn’t shun her for them.

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Book Review: Fire With Fire

Fire With Fire – Destiny Soria – HMH Books for Young Readers – Published 8 June 2021

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Synopsis

Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

My thoughts

I do love a good dragon book and this one is unique, taking us away from the traditional fantasy world and into a very familiar landscape of high school, modern society and dragons, of course. Most people don’t think dragons exist – why would they?, but Eden and Dani know the truth. They have been raised as the next generation of dragon hunters. Taught by their parents, legendary slayers in their own right, to keep humans safe from the furious beasts.

When Dani discovers a dragon close to home and becomes soul bonded with it, everything she ever knew or was taught about dragons is challenged. Nox is powerful and can breath fire, with a deadly tail, but he doesn’t wish to harm anyone. Instead, he protects the dragon eggs entrusted to him and wants Dani’s help to hatch and raise them. Dani is torn between her old and new worlds and has no idea how to tell her parents. Eden is Dani’s elder sister. She trained Dani and only wishes it was she that people referred to as destined to be the greatest slayer. Instead, her dedication to the craft is unrecognised and her skills surpasses by the uninterested Dani. When The High Sorcerer enlists Eden’s help she is flattered and wants to use the opportunity to show everyone that she has what it takes to be the best slayer.

Written in alternating chapters, we readers get to see this story from both Eden and Dani’s perspective. They are both equally likeable as much as they are flawed and make some really silly mistakes. They are teens in a world of dragons and magic and choices that mean life or death. I found myself rooting for first one sister and then the other and then switching again. It’s easy to judge Eden’s choices yet harder to know see how easy it is for her to by lured by the promises she is made. Same with Dani, she makes some obvious mistakes trusting the wrong people and then not trusting those allied to her – like Nox, she’s rather mean to him I think – but this is so true to her character and upbringing and it makes both Dani and Eden genuine and authentic teen characters, trying to figure out school (high school for Dani, online college for Eden), friendships, romantic relationships and getting along as sisters – or at least not betraying, capturing and killing each other (though a far big of that does happen).

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Book Review: A Vow So Bold and Deadly

A Vow So Bold and Deadly – Brigid Kemmerer – A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Bloomsbury YA – Published 26 January 2020

 

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Synopsis

Face your fears, fight the battle.
Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone—even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace.

Fight the battle, save the kingdom.
Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.

As two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and an old enemy resurfaces who could destroy them all, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.

My thoughts

I absolutely loved this book. A Vow So Bold and Deadly is the third book in the Cursebreakers series. It concludes (maybe, or maybe not…?) Rhen, Harper, Grey and Lia Mara’s journey.

Maybe I just enjoyed being with these characters again, but I loved every second of this story. We are given the book from the perspective of the four main characters, but it was so great to see all our favourite secondary characters again.

The story is brought full circle and it’s great to see the redemption of some the characters who broke our hearts in book two, without wiping the slate clean. There are consequences to be faced, after all.

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Book Review: Blade of Secrets

Blade of Secrets – Tricia Levenseller – Bladesmith #1 – Feiwel & Friends – Published 4 May 2021

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Synopsis

Eighteen-year-old Ziva prefers metal to people. She spends her days tucked away in her forge, safe from society and the anxiety it causes her, using her magical gift to craft unique weapons imbued with power.

Then Ziva receives a commission from a powerful warlord, and the result is a sword capable of stealing its victims’ secrets. A sword that can cut far deeper than the length of its blade. A sword with the strength to topple kingdoms. When Ziva learns of the warlord’s intentions to use the weapon to enslave all the world under her rule, she takes her sister and flees.

Joined by a distractingly handsome mercenary and a young scholar with extensive knowledge of the world’s known magics, Ziva and her sister set out on a quest to keep the sword safe until they can find a worthy wielder or a way to destroy it entirely.

My thoughts

Blade of Secrets is the first book in a new duology by Tricia Levenseller. It is a great fantasy novel, with an authentic main character, intrigue, and romance.

Ziva is a blacksmith. She feels most comfortable when she is in her forge, tucked safe away from other people. She also has the ability to infuse magic within the weapons she creates and she is building a name for herself with these abilities. When a warlord commissions Ziva to create a powerful weapon, Ziva discovers that the weapon she creates – far more powerful than she ever could have imagined – is not destined to help keep the peace in their newly divided kingdom, but to wreak destruction. Ziva, her sister, a scholar interested in magic and a mercenary for hire, unexpectedly band together to outrun the warlord.

This is a bit of a quest novel, except they are trying to outrun someone rather than find something. A lot of the book is spend as the four main characters are on the road, trying to find someplace safe to stay, as well as discover some way that Ziva might be able to destroy or hide her powerful weapon.

Ziva has social anxiety and this presented very authentically throughout the book. It’s not a feature of the story, and yet it does effect every part of the book, as it is Ziva’s story and she narrates. It’s a very powerful part of the book and the way Ziva thinks, reacts and guards herself is a genuine reflection of her anxiety.

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Book Review: The Prison Healer

The Prison Healer – Lynette Noni – The Prison Healer #1 – HMH Books for Young Readers – Published 13 April 2021

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan has spent the last ten years fighting for survival in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, working as the prison healer.

When the Rebel Queen is captured, Kiva is charged with keeping the terminally ill woman alive long enough for her to undergo the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals.

Then a coded message from Kiva’s family arrives, containing a single order: “Don’t let her die. We are coming.” Aware that the Trials will kill the sickly queen, Kiva risks her own life to volunteer in her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

With an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

My thoughts

If you love Sarah J Maas or Maria V Snyder’s books you will fall in absolute love with Lynette Noni’s The Prison Healer. This book utterly entranced me and yet I wanted to savour it and enjoy every agonising, horrible, tortuous moment. This book is set in a horrible prison, features illness and death, and the character face lots of abuse, torture and trials designed to kill – and I loved every single moment!!! Crazy! But so, so good.

Kiva has survived ten long years in Zalindov prison. When her father was accused of meeting with a traitor and sentenced to life in prison, Kiva was also taken. After the death of her father, Kiva assumed the role of prison healer. It’s a role that provides her some sense of purpose within the treacherous walls, but it costs her dearly in other ways. In the depths of winter, the prison accepts two unexpected arrivals – a wounded man who, after she saves his life, seems to want to get close to Kiva and the Rebel Queen. The Rebel Queen is sentenced to face the Trials of Earth, Wind, Air and Water, but Kiva knows she is not well enough to survive. In a bold move and prompted by a secret message from her family waiting for her outside of the prison walls, Kiva takes the Rebel Queen’s place in the trials and seals her fate to the woman. 

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Book Review: The Stolen Kingdom

The Stolen Kingdom – Jillian Boehme – Tor Teen – Published 2 March 2021

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Synopsis

For a hundred years, the once-prosperous kingdom of Perin Faye has suffered under the rule of the greedy and power-hungry Thungrave kings.

Maralyth Graylaern, a cacao farmer’s daughter, has no idea her hidden magical power is proof of a secret bloodline and claim to the throne.

Alac Thungrave, the king’s second son, has always been uncomfortable with his position as the spare heir—and the dark, stolen magic that comes with ruling.

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

My thoughts

I love stand-alone fantasy novels and The Stolen Kingdom is a fantastic example. It has everything you need from a complete trilogy or series: the intrigue and political scheming; romance which moves from enemies to reluctant allies to someone the other can wholly depend on; and there is also magic.

Maralyth Graylaern is the daughter of a renown vintners. She has a head for business and a heart for making a difference to others. Ever since her mother died, Maralyth has been confined to the kitchen, except for when she can make a quiet trip to the vines and use her secret magic to help them flourish.

Alac is a spare. His brother is set to inherit the thrown and Alac will only inherit should something happen to his brother. Alac wants no part in ruling the kingdom or the dark magic that forever changed him, but his father seems determined to teach Alac the ways of the dark magic and Alac is surprised by the pull it has on him.

Maralyth and Alac are both heirs in their own way. Yet, neither are prepared for taking over the kingdom nor did either dream they ever would. Maralyth has dreams of being a business woman and making conditions better for small wineries. Alac dreams of becoming a vineyard owner and finally escaping the shadow of his father, the memories of who his father was before being consumed by the magic and the darkness that seems to pervade the castle. When Maralyth is unwilling drawn into a plot to overthrow the king, she has to choose to step up to her destiny and equally Alac must decide how much the crown really means to him.

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Book Review: Glimpsed

Glimpsed – G.F. Miller – Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers – Published 5 January 2021

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Synopsis

Charity is a fairy godmother. She doesn’t wear a poofy dress or go around waving a wand, but she does make sure the deepest desires of the student population at Jack London High School come true. And she knows what they want even better than they do because she can glimpse their perfect futures.

But when Charity fulfills a glimpse that gets Vibha crowned homecoming queen, it ends in disaster. Suddenly, every wish Charity has ever granted is called into question. Has she really been helping people? Where do these glimpses come from, anyway? What if she’s not getting the whole picture?

Making this existential crisis way worse is Noah—the adorkable and (in Charity’s opinion) diabolical ex of one of her past clients—who blames her for sabotaging his prom plans and claims her interventions are doing more harm than good. He demands that she stop granting wishes and help him get his girl back. At first, Charity has no choice but to play along. But soon, Noah becomes an unexpected ally in getting to the bottom of the glimpses. Before long, Charity dares to call him her friend…and even starts to wish he were something more. But can the fairy godmother ever get the happily ever after?

My thoughts

I wasn’t entirely convinced from the summary that Glimpsed was going to be the right book for me. Then one of my favourite authors, Abigail Johnson, posted her enjoyed of the novel and I knew I needed to give it a go. Despite my dislike of the cover (sorry, it just doesn’t appeal to me), this is a really fun, flirty, enjoyable romp. And yet, it also has a depth of character, character growth and introspection, enough for me to really enjoy it.

Charity is a fairy godmother. She’s also an average teenager – student bogged down by homework, cheerleader, and daughter of an absent workaholic mother. Her mission is to grant the wish of her Cindys and she is good at it. But when she receives a message telling her to stop or face having her secret revealed, Charity decides she will not bow to her blackmailer. Instead, she decides to grant her blackmailer a wish – he wants his best friend back – but it means working closely with Noah and he is determined to change her mind about the good she does with her fairy godmother skills.

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Book Review: To Whatever End

To Whatever End – Lindsey Frydman –  Entangled:Teen – Published 4 January 2021

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Synopsis

What if with every person you met, after just one touch, you have a vision of the last time you’ll see each other? Ever. Normally, these visions are innocent—two friends just drifting apart, a random stranger that brushed past you then never crossed your path again.

But not today.

When I accidentally touch him, within only moments of our first meeting, I’m bombarded by visions of his death.

And from what I can see, I’m the reason he dies.

Now I just need to figure out why, and how to stop this from happening. Because not only am I to blame, but his very last words to me are…I love you.

My thoughts

Visions. Death. Visions of death. Romance. Count me in! At least, that’s what I thought I was getting. Instead, right from the first page you know there is going to be a whole lot of romantic tension, chemistry and flirting. This book ended up being completely about the romance and very little about the visions. This just didn’t grab me. It’s a book that I will sadly easily forget. 

Quinn is cursed to experience the end of every relationship she has with anyone she touches. While this is the underlying thread, Quinn’s curse doesn’t feature all that much in the story. Instead, Quinn and Griffin’s romance takes centre stage. Quinn states that she isn’t interested in romance or guys, yet just seconds after meeting Griffin, Quinn is pretty ready to give love a go. Quinn is a few years older and has finished school, so that gives the book an older feel. He is living by himself, while Quinn lives with grandmother. 

I would have liked to learn more about Quinn’s curse. Cursed seems a strong word for Quinn’s curse. It seems she only experiences the vision the first time she touches a person. Sometimes, with casual contacts, their relationship end is the same experience they have just had, never to meet again. With others, like the vision she has of Griffin, it’s a far more dramatic vision. The only explanation given for Quinn’s curse is that all the women in her family have experienced similar curses. Something I couldn’t understand is why do girls with special gifts or ‘curses’ only start experimenting with them or their ability to control that gift once a guy is involved? If I had special skills, especially one I didn’t like, I’d be playing, testing and learning from the day I first realised it. Not Quinn. Previously she has just shied away from people, except her one best friend, and she is only motivated to start investigating once Griffin’s life is threatened. 

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Book Review: Winterkeep

Winterkeep – Kristin Cashore – Graceling Realm #4 – Dial Books – Published 19 January 2021

 

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Synopsis

Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.

But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.

Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life.

My thoughts

It has been a long time since I read Bitterblue and the rest of the Graceling series. And yet, despite the years, the characters and story have remained fresh in my mind. They are books I regularly recommend to other readers. Bitterblue is a book I so clearly remember finishing and I just needed to sit and soak it in. It is the book I measure all other 5 star reads against. So, when I heard that the Graceling series was getting another book I was thrilled!! I am pleased to say, Winterkeep is a fantastic addition to a wonderful fantasy series. It continues the story of Bitterblue and her rule over her country. But it also expands the series in ways I didn’t expect.

Bitterblue has spent the last five years renewing her country as Queen – trying to repair the damage done by her father. When she hears about lands to the East, countries with strange flying airships and foxes that communicate with humans telepathically, Bitterblue sends out envoys to learn more. But when the envoys do not return, Bitterblue and her trusted Council members journey east. But they find far more deception and danger than they were expecting.

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