Book Reviews

Seafire (Seafire, #1) by Natalie C. Parker

SeafireTitle: Seafire (Seafire, #1)
Author: Natalie C. Parker
Rating: ★★★

After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, who have lost their families and homes because of Aric and his men. The crew has one mission: stay alive, and take down Aric’s armed and armored fleet.

But when Caledonia’s best friend and second-in-command barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all . . . or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?

Seafire: ★★★

Caledonia Styx is the captain of the infamous Mors Navis. After her family and many other families are destroyed by Aric Athair, Caledonia and her crew of mismatched women do everything in their power to stop Athair and try to restore the families lost as much as they can. But when one of the enemy boards the ship, will he only make matters worse or aid in the destruction of Athair?

pirate

When this novel came out, there were many other novels with nautical themes coming out at the same time. Having just read one, this one left me a little flat. There were many parts that I enjoyed, but many others that just had me feeling, “meh”. I wanted to love it. The premise was intriguing: an all-female crew of a ship!

I cannot promise you safety. I thought I could, but we don’t live in a safe world. We live in a world with no good options, but it’s because of you that we can make the best of them.

Probably my favorite theme of the entire novel was unity. Not only do we see it from the crew, but every other group we come across of the journey that the girls take. “Family” not necessarily in the form of blood is a big bonding theme shown throughout the novel. The selflessness for the greater good of humanity is a constant subject.

“The thing about family is sometimes you don’t have to ask us to do stupid things, and sometimes you don’t get to tell us we can’t.

arya

Girl power is probably the strongest theme throughout the novel. Women are more powerful than they appear. In most instances, women have just as much power, if not more, than the men. We see many of the leaders (besides Athair) who are women.

There are no children anymore. Just babes and the rest of us. Remember, when they call you girl, they’re trying to tell you something. They’re trying to tell you that they’re more than you, that the body you’re in makes you less. But you know, and I know, that you’re exactly what you need to be.

Parker does a great job emulating the strength and power women can also have. The sense of strength and capability established by this all-women crew instills pride and gratitude to always try your best, even when others doubt you. The unity and sense of family presence throughout the novel is heart-warming. I’m excited for what the next installment has in store!

Book Reviews

These Rebel Waves (Stream Raiders, #1) by Sara Raasch

These Rebel WavesTitle:These Rebel Waves (Stream Raiders, #1)
Author: Sara Raasch
Rating: ★★★★

Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice—but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work.

Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.

Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country—or if he’s building his own pyre.

As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.

These Rebel Waves: ★★★★

A politican, a spy, and a pirate walk into a bar…nah, more like try to save the world!

“Everyone, remain calm,” she announced. “I’m about to blow some shit up.” “Nay!” Vex shouted from the pilothouse. “We’ve a kid here now, all right?” “Sorry. I’m about to chaotically rearrange some shit up.” “That wasn’t the problem—” Vex started to say at the same moment Lu cried, “Don’t—”

First of all, look at that cover! Not only that, but I have the FairyLoot edition and I’m in love with the green sprayed edges. So beautiful!

So, pretty much everyone I follow on Goodreads gave this novel a lower rating, besides for one. I really enjoyed this novel! And for the first time ever, I think I fell in love with the world. I want to visit Cansu and the secret spot. I want to hop aboard the Meander. 

I believe this idea is unique. Very rarely do we read stories based upon the effects of botanical magic. We have the Argridians who pray to a Pious God and want to cleanse everyone else of the “evil” these magical plants possess. This is a different kind of “evil” from what I’ve seen in most novels because it is not inherently human.

Not only that, but there are so many reasons that war is looming. We see the difficulties of immigration, prejudice, and other political issues known to us in our very own world.

“My sister used to say you could tell a person’s character by what they considered their weaknesses, rather than their strengths.”

For once, there wasn’t one character who irritated me beyond measure. The closest one would have to be Jakes. I love Adeluna (Lu)! And who wouldn’t fall in love with Vex?! But even more than that, Raasch created some amazing supporting characters. I want friends like Vex, Edda, and Nayali (and I think, am lucky to have them!).

Adeluna “Lu”: Growing up as a spy for her father as a child, Lu tries to forget the harm she caused others while being an assassin. Bent on using magic to overthrow Argrid, she doesn’t realize the extent the Council (her parents are part of) is truly “helping” others. What I love about love is how genuine of a person she is. She would do anything for the people she cares about. But there is a secret even Lu can’t unfold.

Devereux “Vex”: Pirate, thief, scoundrel. Vex is a black market trader of magic plants forbidden on the island. People believe Vex is behind the abduction of a political scandal, making all who use the magical plants as a means to life a target. Hired by Lu to find the Argridian, this wittier Jack Sparrow is my favorite character. His loyalty, devotion, and selflessness to those he loves easily overpowers his flaws.

Benat “Ben”: his father is the king of Argrid. Unbeknownst to others, he works with the same magic his father is strictly against. But when his father asks him to pursue his dreams and work with these magical plants, will it be for the betterment of his country, or for Argrid’s gain?

“You forgive yourself for what you’ve done,” Edda told her. “You admit mistakes. You learn from them. And you improve.”

I expect to hear more from Ben’s perspective in the sequel, I hope love blooms between Lu and Vex, and we hear more from Nayali and Edda!

That ending, though! I’m excited to see what will become of that!

 

Book Reviews

Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1) by Elizabeth Lim

spin the dawn

Title: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars, #1)
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Rating: ★★★★★

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Buddy read with Breanna.

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

This is not what I expected, but it definitely didn’t disappoint! Maia is the epitome of a strong, female character. Just like in Mulan, with no eligible male heir able to assist the emperor, Maia takes it upon herself to represent her family and restore honor to their name. In a time where women hold no power, she takes it upon herself to swallow her pride, dress like her brother, and hide her true identity from everyone else.

“And you?”
“The obedient one.”
“No”, Edan said. “You’re the strong one.”
The strong one. The one who held the seams of my family together.

But not everyone is deceived. The emperor’s Enchanter catches on to Maia’s ploy. Is he on her side or will he reveal her true identity?

I was definitely intrigued by the idea of a competition, sort of like Project Runway, but tailor-version. After the competition is over, Maia sets out on a new mission…a dangerous one that either she will succeed, or die painfully. This is the unexpected part since I thought the story would end at the end of the competition. But, alas! Another adventure!

Yes, Sendo used to tell me fairy tales. How he’d love mine if he were still alive: the tale of a girl who’d sewn the sun, the moon, and the stars into three dresses, the tale of a girl whom a demon have vowed to possess.

It was the tale of a boy, too. A boy who could fly but not swim. A boy with the powers of the gods but the shackles of a slave. A boy who loved me.

It was a tale still being written.

I can’t choose a favorite character. I love Edan and Maia equally.

The expected publication date is July 30, 2019.

Book Reviews

Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox, #2) by Julie Kagawa

Soul of the SwordTitle: Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox, #2)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Rating: ★★★

One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.

Now he has broken free.

Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos.

Shadow of the Fox: ★★★
Soul of the Sword: ★★★

Soul of the Sword is exactly how the title reads. The story delves into the relationship between the Demonslayer and Hakaimono. We see a different side to these characters. The only problem is…I’m not sure that I like it.

One thing I wish the novel had more of was the supporting characters. Shadow of the Fox left me wanting to know each and every one of their stories. I was just left hanging on some of them.

Soul of the Sword is the picture of loyalty, love, and justice. Some parts even took me for a spin and the next installment is sure to bring some more!

Check out my review for Shadow of the Fox.

Book Reviews

We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya, #1) by Hafsah Faizal

we hunt the flameTitle: We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya, #1)
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Rating: ★★★

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

We Hunt the Flame: ★★★★

Originally, this novel was listed as a retelling of Aladdin, but I only see a small similarity to the original story. What starts out as a slow-paced read quickly turns into one of action and suspense. I was hoping for some more of the Middle Eastern influence incorporated in the story, but I didn’t get much besides for a mention of food here and a little geographic there.

There once was a boy with a future.
Until all he had left was his past.

I’ll be honest. Faizal crushed me with the death of my favorite character. Which, like always, the authors like to crush my dreams and have the protagonist choose the guy I don’t want them to. And then I fall for another character and it seems he may be turning evil wahhhh!

crying

The Hunter is depicted as a hero who provides food for her village, a legend, feared for her constant survival in a deadly forest. But what secret lies beneath those clothes?

The Prince of Death is a legend in his own, killer of those who defy the king. What is he hiding?

We find two people whose appearance seems to be fearless, but who are actually a lot weaker. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m not sure if I buy it.

Let the games begin and the deception fly!

jewel

We hunt the flame, the light in the darkness, the good this world deserves. You are like Tamin. You remind me that hope is not lost.

I’m interested to see how the story will play out. It was surprising that epilogue included someone very briefly touched upon in the novel. I don’t think I’m ready for a story with her viewpoint. I want the story how it is now finished first before we head somewhere else!

aladdin

Book Reviews

Esther: Royal Beauty (Dangerous Beauty #1) by Angela Hunt

Esther

Title: Esther: Royal Beauty (Dangerous Beauty #1)
Author: Angela Hunt
Rating: ★★★★★

A Bible story brought to life! After she is forcibly taken to the palace of the king, a beautiful young Jewish woman, known to the Persians as Esther, wins a queen’s crown and then must risk everything in order to save her people . . . and bind her husband’s heart…

An ambitious tyrant threatens genocide against the Jews in ancient Persia, so an inexperienced beautiful young queen must take a stand for her people.

When Xerxes, king of Persia, issues a call for beautiful young women, Hadassah, a Jewish orphan living in Susa, is forcibly taken to the palace of the pagan ruler. After months of preparation, the girl known to the Persians as Esther wins the king’s heart and a queen’s crown. But because her situation is uncertain, she keeps her ethnic identity a secret until she learns that an evil and ambitious man has won the king’s permission to exterminate all Jews–young and old, powerful and helpless. Purposely violating an ancient Persian law, she risks her life in order to save her people…and bind her husband’s heart.

Esther marks bestselling author Angela Hunt’s return to biblical fiction. In each novel she explores an example of a Hebrew Old Testament tob woman: a woman whose physical beauty influences those around her–and can change the course of history.

Esther: Royal Beauty ★★★★★

This is a historical fiction novel based on the story of Esther. Living in a time where women are seen more as objects than equals, Hadassah dreams of becoming a royal one day. After both of her parents die, Hadassah is sent to live with her cousin and his wife. Not truly understanding the life of a royal, she wants more than the simple life her cousin provides and is content with.

After getting bored with his current wife, Xerxes sends out a royal decree in the search of a new wife. Men go on the lookout for these women and kidnap them in exchange for money. On the way to freedom with her betrothed, Esther is captured and brought to the king’s eunuchs. When presented to the king’s eunuchs, these women are prepped and pampered to impress the king. However, only one will be chosen and the rest will be sentenced to lives as the king’s concubines. In a place where Jews are viewed as inferior and killed for no reason other than their nationality, Hadassah cannot let anyone in the castle know her secret, so she changes her name to Esther.

Esther is the first presented to the king and chosen as his new Queen. However, she receives all of the king’s attention in the beginning, until her own unhappiness reveals itself after losing her first child. After that, the king seeks the comfort of others.

When a new counselor takes an evil approach to Jews, especially Esther’s cousin, Esther must stand up for what she believes, even if that means risking her life. With the help of the king’s eunuch, Harbonah, Esther finds true friendship and empathy.

Hadassah (“Esther”) – Queen; Beautiful; Courageous

Harbonah – Eunuch; Gentle; Emphathetic

A story of growth, disappointment, ambition, and an exciting account of the Bible, Esther will have readers fall in love with a story of righteousness and maturity.

Book Reviews

Furyborn (Empirium, #1) by Claire Legrand

Furyborn

Title: Furyborn (Empirium, #1)
Author: Claire Legrand
Rating: ★★★

The stunningly original, must-read fantasy of 2018 follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world…or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.

 Furyborn: ★★★

Meet Rielle, a girl with a secret. After saving her best friend and crush, not to mention her other friend’s fiance, her powers are exposed. But this means either a life of glory or death for her depending on the outcome. After the king sees her powers, he has Rielle engage in a series of “tests” to prove if she is a prophesied queen of light or queen of blood. 

zuko

Meet Eliana, a girl with no fears except losing those she loves. After the disappearance of her mother, she joins sides with the “Wolf” in exchange for his help with finding her mother.

girl fighting

What I really admired about this novel was that we see two courageous girls a millennium apart, yet woven seamlessly together. Legrand sculpted two beautifully crated women that possess so many qualities that I admire and I can’t choose a favorite (said no one ever)!

Perhaps if nothing else, what’s happened has taught you that there is more to life – and even to war – than simply staying alive.