Series Review: The Changeling Chronicles

Faerie1Faerie Blood
Faerie Magic
Faerie Realm
Faerie Wrath
Faerie Curse
Faerie Hunt
Faerie War
Emma L. Adams
Urban Fantasy
Around 400 pages each
Published 2016-17

Oh my. This is a seven-book series, only available on Kindle, as far as I can tell, and they’re very good. (The whole series is free via Kindle Unlimited.) There were a few grammatical hiccups in the first book, and one or two spelling errors in the series, but overall, very well done writing. (Although calling them piskies instead of pixies was annoying after a while.)

So this series centers on Ivy Lane, a girl who was taken to faerie at age 13 when the faeries invaded our world and wrecked it. Seriously wrecked it. Supernaturals were faerie2revealed, whole swaths of cities destroyed, large numbers of people killed. I do mean wrecked. She spends 3 years in faerie, as the slave of an evil Sidhe, before escaping and making it back to Earth, where she finds that ten years have passed.

Like most urban fantasy series, each book sees Ivy fighting a world-ending threat. One slight difference here is that the world-ending threat in each one isn’t exactly different. As the series goes on, we discover the plot behind the initial invasion, how it was fought off, and how it ties into the current threat.

I wish Ivy’s best friend, Isabel, had been fleshed out more – even some of Ivy’s enemies and other side characters got more personality and character development that Ivy’s supposed best friend did, and that bugged me a bit. But the world-building and magic is pretty fascinating, and the romance is sweet. I was also pleased to see a couple of nods to non-traditional relationships, though I wish they’d not been in the same book, been a bit more explicit, and been more spread out in the series. (A faerie talking about her girlfriend, and a two lady mages who were….a bit more concerned about each other’s safety that most people expected.)

For all the tropes I’ve mentioned, though, I REALLY REALLY liked this series. She’s written a few other books in the same world – Earth wrecked by faerie invasion – a trilogy about a dragon shifter, and one book (so far) about a half-Sidhe girl. I’ll probably faerie 3read those next, after I get through some of the library books on my stack. (…I may have been hiding from the nonfiction by burying my face in urban fantasy – oops.) If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted romp through Faerie to distract you from the real world, this is a great way to do it.

From the cover of Faerie Blood:

I’m Ivy Lane, and if I never see another faerie again, it’ll be too soon.

Twenty years after the faeries came and destroyed the world as we knew it, I use my specialist skills to keep rogue faeries in line and ensure humans and their magically gifted neighbours can coexist (relatively) peacefully.

Nobody knows those skills came from the darkest corner of Faerie itself.

When a human child disappears, replaced with a faerie changeling, I have to choose between taking the safe road or exposing my own history with the faeries to the seductively dangerous head of the Mage Lords. He’s the exact kind of distraction I don’t need, but it’s work with him or lose my chance to save the victims. It’ll take all my skills to catch the kidnappers and stop Faerie’s dark denizens overrunning the city — but if the faerie lords find out about the magic I stole last time I went into their realm, running won’t save me this time…

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Book Review: Alice

aliceAlice
by Christina Henry
Fairy Tale Retelling
291 pages
Published 2015

I was a little wary going into this one – Alice in Wonderland is a difficult tale to reshape. You need enough crazy that it IS Alice, but not enough that it veers into “what is going on here anymore I can’t follow this.” This book did it wonderfully. It’s a dark re-telling – it begins in an asylum, that Alice and Hatcher (The stand-in for the Mad Hatter) break out of. Hatcher’s a murderer, and Alice is no wilting flower herself. Together they fight their way through a neglected, abandoned city run by gangs, to recover the one weapon that can vanquish the Jabberwocky.

It’s a dark book – rape is rampant throughout a city without law, though it’s never graphically described, at least. The weak are chattel to be used, sold, and killed by the strong. But Alice has been weak, and refuses to be weak again. She’s a bit of an avenging angel, descending on the oppressors and freeing anyone she can.

Both Alice and Hatcher have incomplete memories – their trauma both from the city and the asylum fracturing and hiding their pasts. They recover some of those memories throughout the story, and Henry has handled it perfectly, revealing to both them and us key parts of plotline when it’s needed, in a very natural way.

The romance plotline is unconventional, but also very believable, given what the two experience together. Though it’s also a love that I’m not sure can survive outside of their circumstances. After the book, when they (I assume) settle down in peace and quiet – I don’t know that their romance will persevere. They’re traumatized and broken and cling together to hide some of the sharp edges – or cling together in such a way that those sharp edges face out to protect them from the gangs in the city. When they no longer need to kill to survive, what happens?

I’m glad to find there’s a sequel, as they do still have an uncompleted task when the book ends. I’m also intrigued to read Henry’s other series, Black Wings.

Final verdict: I loved it. But it’s dark, so be prepared for that.

From the cover of Alice:

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City stands a hospital with cinder-block walls that echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place – just a tea party long ago, and long ears and blood….

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape. She tumbles out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the Rabbit waits for his Alice.

Book Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass

girlsGirls Made of Snow and Glass
Melissa Bashardoust
Fairy-tale Retelling
372 pages
Published 2017

WOW! I received an ARC of this book through Goodreads and got to read it before the release date (September 5th! Today! GO GET IT!) and I was SO excited to read it. It did not disappoint! This is her debut novel, and the story is absolutely fantastic. It’s billed as a “fantasy feminist fairy tale” and I think it lives up to that pretty well. There are no princes in this story. There are a couple of men – the King, the Queen’s father, and the Huntsman, but they are not who the story is about. The story really is about the Queen/stepmother and her stepdaughter, the Princess.

It’s hard to talk to much about the plot without giving things away, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a GLBT relationship, and one that was treated pretty matter-of-factly. It’s really lovely to see someone take a medieval-ish fantasy setting and make GLBT relationships a perfectly normal thing. Too often medieval fantasy comes with a big dose of bigotry because “that’s the way things were!” ignoring that this IS YOUR FANTASY WORLD WITH MAGIC IN IT so why on earth can’t things be different?!

There was definitely a bit of stilted dialogue, and early plot events were a little cliche, but it’s her debut novel and I’ll forgive that for how outstanding everything else about the book was. It flips back and forth between the Princess’s viewpoint and the Queen’s, and early in the book it also flips between current events (the Princess’s viewpoint) and many years ago (the Queen’s viewpoint, before she became Queen and stepmother to the Princess). It was a little jarring the first time, before I realized it had also jumped backward in time, but after that it was smooth.

All things considered, I love this book. I think it’s probably one of my favorite books of 2017. I am SO happy I own a physical copy of the book! I’ve been getting most of my books from the library recently, so it’s pretty awesome to own a copy of a book I enjoyed so much. I highly recommend this one.

From the cover of Girls Made of Snow and Glass:

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone. Her heart has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that normal – she never guessed that her father had cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Winterspring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: Win the King’s heart, become queen, and finally know love.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: A magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do – and who to be – to win back the only mother she’s ever known. 

 

Book Review: The Wolves of Dynamo

wolvesThe Wolves of Dynamo
Gareth S. Young
Urban Fantasy
297 pages
Published 2016

This book arrived unexpectedly in the mail – I believe it was from a Goodreads Giveaway, but I was never notified I’d won one. It’s even signed by the author!

I am….a little puzzled on how I feel about this book. It has a bit of a confusing, dream-like quality to it, which fits the book, but left me a little less than satisfied. It always felt like I was forgetting details, or like the book assumed I knew things about the world that I didn’t. (Much like many dreams.) The plot was unique, the characters could have used more depth, the division between forest and city was indistinct, and the conclusion was unsatisfying. It could have been very good, but I think it needs a lot more polish.

The physical book itself felt like an ARC, even though it’s not. I think it’s the simplistic cover and the typesetting. It just doesn’t feel – finished. Like much of the book. I’d give this a pass, but I might be interested in future writings by the author, if his style matures and his editor improves.

From the cover of The Wolves of Dynamo:

Thirteen-year-old Eileen MacCormick has always called Dynamo City home. Its bustling streets, imposing Cathedral, and enveloping forest fascinate her, giving her solace after the death of her father. But after moving closer to the forest she finds so comforting, she discovers that it hides a dark, magical world.

Eileen’s life changes irrevocably when she crosses paths with a murderer who is terrorizing the city. Heartsick, she finds herself drawn back to the forest where an enclave of mysterious wolves reveal themselves to her. Eileen is shocked to learn she can communicate with the wolves and outraged when the ancient animals demand she lure the murderer to the forest.

How can these creatures ask this of her? How can a thirteen-year-old possibly catch a killer?

Bewildered by her role in this new magical world, and by the wolves’ extraordinary request, Eileen must battle her sorrow and find courage as she begins the most dangerous and incredible adventure of her life.

Book Review: The Empire’s Ghost

empghostThe Empire’s Ghost
Isabelle Steiger
High/Epic Fantasy
419 pages
Published 2017

So I’ve had pretty good luck with debut novels, overall. (The Golem and the Jinni, The Crown’s Game, and The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic come to mind.) This one was good – not what I’d called spectacular, like those three, but good. If the sequel was out now, I’d read it. Knowing my reading habits, I probably won’t, because by the time the sequel does come out, I’ll have forgotten too much of this first book. (I strongly dislike only reading the first book in a series and then having to wait.)

What I really liked was how the author painted every character. Even the would-be Emperor, who is probably the closest to evil any character is in this book, was interesting and had clear motivations that made sense. I wouldn’t even call him evil, just ambitious. His assassin shows a different side in part of the book that also removes him from the “evil” category. I’m impressed that Steiger manager to set up several factions at odds with each other without making any of them evil. Wrong, perhaps, misguided perhaps, but not evil. Which is unusual in high fantasy.

What I disliked was there was a point in the middle where I had to set aside the book for real life – and I almost never picked it up again. Three days later, I finally did, but to me, that means I wasn’t invested in the characters or the story. I could have moved on to a different book, and I almost did. I liked most of the characters – but without liking any of them enough to truly care what happened. I also wish the pacing was a little faster, but that’s a victim of too many viewpoints, I think.

So I could go either way on this book. It was well-written but a little slow and didn’t just GRAB me the way some books do.

From the cover of The Empire’s Ghost:

The empire of Elesthene once spanned a continent, but its rise heralded the death of magic. It tore itself apart from within, leaving behind a patchwork of kingdoms struggling to rebuild. 

But when a new dictator, the ambitious and enigmatic Imperator Elgar, seizes power in the old capital and seeks to re-create the lost empire anew, the other kingdoms have little hope of stopping him. Prince Kelken of Reglay finds himself at odds with his father at his country’s darkest hour; the marquise of Esthrades is unmatched in politics and strategy, but she sits at a staggering military disadvantage. And Issamira, the most powerful of the free countries, has shut itself off from the conflict, thrown into confusion by the disappearance of its crown prince and the ensuing struggle for succession.

Everything seems aligned in Elgar’s favor, but when he presses a band of insignificant but skilled alley-dwellers into his service for a mission of the greatest secrecy, they find an unexpected opportunity to alter the balance of power in the war. Through their actions and those of the remaining royals, they may uncover not just a way to defeat Elgar, but also a deeper truth about their world’s lost history.

Set in a fantastical world that is both welcomingly familiar and excitingly unique, The Empire’s Ghost shows nobles and commoners alike struggling to survive and maintain power in an ever-changing, chaotic world.

Book Review: Red Winter Trilogy

RW1Red Winter
Dark Tempest
Immortal Fire
Annette Marie
Fantasy
About 350 pages each
Published 2016, 2017, 2017

So I didn’t actually realize this series was written by a Canadian author until the end of the first book, when I skimmed the “about the author” section! I picked up the first book on a whim – the entire trilogy is free on Kindle Unlimited – and I am so, SO GLAD I DID. This trilogy is amazing. It’s a little anime-like – the illustrations are definitely drawn in anime style and there’s about ten per book – but it’s simply beautiful writing, blending elements of Japanese mythology with a beautifully sweet romance and an epic fantasy task. (Release trapped gods and goddesses and stop a goddess.) The main character was likeable, sweet, and a little naive, but she realizes why she is naive and consciously works to overcome that.

The first book starts with a revelation – Emi has been training for ten years to receive her goddess into her body, with the expectation that their personalities will meld – only to discover that the goddess’s divine energy will instead destroy Emi’s mind and personality. She will be dead while the goddess inhabits her body. Which will be happening two months from the book’s beginning, so she doesn’t have much time to change her fate. The goddess herself is not unsympathetic, and wishes it could be different. I loved the interaction between Emi and her goddess. The compassion, love, and regret shown by Amaterasu means it’s impossible to dislike her, even though we know she’ll be the agent of our protagonist’s death.

RW3But all is not as it seems among the gods, and Emi is attacked by someone who should be an ally, and defended by those who should want her dead. Conspiracies unravel in the second book, as Emi and her friends race to finish the task set them by Amaterasu – a task that must be finished before the winter solstice, when Amaterasu will descend into Emi’s body and destroy her mind. Dark Tempest ends with the task still uncompleted, and Immortal Fire picks up immediately. (I read almost the entire trilogy in one sitting – I finally set the third book aside and got some sleep before the final confrontation.)

RW2I don’t want to say too much, and I’m only going to include the description on the first book, because I don’t want to spoil anything. I liked Emi, I absolutely loved Yumei, the dark, standoffish Crow Lord, and Shiro the kitsune was an amazing character. Reveals and pacing and dialogue and action and exposition were all excellently done. This is a gorgeous, absorbing trilogy and I highly recommend it.

 

From the back of Red Winter:

In a few short months, Emi’s mortal life will end when she becomes the human host of an immortal goddess. Carefully hidden from those who would destroy her, she has prepared her mind, body, and soul to unite with the goddess–and not once has she doubted her chosen fate.

Shiro is a spirit of the earth and an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host. Mystery shrouds his every move and his ruby eyes shine with cunning she can’t match and dares not trust. But she saved his life, and until his debt is paid, he is hers to command–whether she wants him or not.

On the day they meet, everything Emi believes comes undone, swept away like snow upon the winter wind. For the first time, she wants to change her fate–but how can she erase a destiny already wrought in stone? Against the power of the gods, Shiro is her only hope … and hope is all she has left.

 

About the author:

Annette Marie is the author of the Amazon best-selling YA urban fantasy series Steel & Stone, which includes the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award nominee Yield the Night. Her first love is fantasy, a limitless realm of creativity where she can break all the boring rules of real life, but fast-paced urban fantasy, bold heroines, and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She proudly admits she has a thing for dragons, and her editor has politely inquired as to whether she intends to include them in every single book.

Annette lives in the frozen winter wasteland of northern Alberta, Canada (okay, it’s not quite that bad). She shares her life with her remarkably patient, comparatively sensible husband and their furry minion of darkness — sorry, cat — Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.

To find out more about Annette and her books, visit her website at www.authorannettemarie.com.