Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: Court of Lions

 

Author: Somaiya Daud

 

Book Series: Mirage Book 2

 

Diversity: Moroccan based characters

 

Rating: 4/5

 

Recommended For…: kidnapping, switching places tales, Moroccan characters

 

Publication Date: August 6, 2020

 

Publisher: Hodder

 

Pages: 336

 

Recommended Age: 16+ (romance, some sexual content, violence, slight gore)

 

Synopsis: After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

 

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

 

Review: Overall, I thought the series greatly improved from the first series. I loved the whole series and I love how much more developed the characters became in this book, especially Maram. I loved the duel POV and loved Maram’s scenes the best in the book. The world building continued to be grand and I loved the plot of this book.

 

However, the book is incredibly slow and the book does tend to slow down even more at random times, especially during Amani and Idris’ scenes.

 

Verdict: It’s a great duology! Definitely one that’s unique and will be rememberable.

Through A White Wood by Jessica Leake

Disclaimer: I received this arc from a library sale. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: Through the White Wood

 

Author: Jessica Leake

 

Book Series: Side book to the Through A Dark Wood series

 

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Diversity: Slavic folklore

 

Recommended For…: dark fantasy and Elsa powers!

 

Publication Date: April 9, 2019

 

Genre: YA Fantasy

 

Recommended Age: 16+ (violence, war, gore, innocent killings)

 

Publisher: HarperTeen

 

Pages: 416

 

Synopsis: Katya’s power to freeze anything she touches has made her an outcast in her isolated village. And when she loses control of her ability, accidentally killing several villagers, she is banished to the palace of the terrifying Prince Sasha in Kiev.

At the castle, though, she is surprised to find that Sasha is just like her—with his own strange talent, the ability to summon fire. Instead of punishment, Sasha offers Katya friendship, and the chance to embrace her power rather than fear it.

But outside the walls of Kiev, Sasha’s enemies have organized their own army of people who can control the very earth. Bent on taking over the entire world, they won’t stop until they’ve destroyed everything.

Katya and Sasha are desperate to stop the encroaching army, and together their powers are a fearsome weapon. But as their enemies draw nearer, leaving destruction in their wake, will fire and frost be enough to save the world? Or will they lose everything they hold dear?

 

Review: For the most part I thought this was a great book. I loved the magic system in it and I loved the use of Slavic folklore. The book had great character development and world building as well.

 

However, the book wasn’t that interesting in my opinion. It was a struggle to get through it. I had to keep picking it up and putting it down. The book didn’t seem to have anything unique or surprising about it.

 

Verdict: It was an ok book.

Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: Ever Cursed

 

Author: Corey Ann Haydu

 

Book Series: Standalone

 

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Diversity: trans side character!

 

Recommended For…: witches, twisted fairytales, feminism

 

Publication Date: July 28, 2020

 

Genre: YA Fantasy

 

Recommended Age: 17+ (violence, TW rape allegories and mentions, TW eating disorder allegory, TW creepy comments made by men on at least one barely legal girl)

 

Publisher: Simon Pulse

 

Pages: 304

 

Synopsis: The Princesses of Ever are beloved by the kingdom and their father, the King. They are cherished, admired.

Cursed.

Jane, Alice, Nora, Grace, and Eden carry the burden of being punished for a crime they did not commit, or even know about. They are each cursed to be Without one essential thing—the ability to eat, sleep, love, remember, or hope. And their mother, the Queen, is imprisoned, frozen in time in an unbreakable glass box.

But when Eden’s curse sets in on her thirteenth birthday, the princesses are given the opportunity to break the curse, preventing it from becoming a True Spell and dooming the princesses for life. To do this, they must confront the one who cast the spell—Reagan, a young witch who might not be the villain they thought—as well as the wickedness plaguing their own kingdom…and family.

Told through the eyes of Reagan and Jane—the witch and the bewitched—this insightful twist of a fairy tale explores power in a patriarchal kingdom not unlike our own.

 

Review: Overall, I thought this was a pretty good book. The book did well to describe the trauma and the mental health of the characters. I really liked Alice, who was a trans character, and I liked how the story was a twist on modern fairytales to show their ugliness that we rarely talk about. I thought the book also did well on the feminist side of the story too.

 

However, there were some issues I had with the book. I didn’t like all the similarities to eating disorders as I didn’t see a trigger warning. The book didn’t really discuss it but alluded to it through one of the main characters and I could see where it could be upsetting for some people. There were also a lot of rape allegories without a trigger warning and the book was generally hard to get into. The book didn’t do well describing the world building and the characters weren’t that well developed in my opinion. You’re also thrown into the story and it takes a bit to orient yourself in it.

 

Verdict: It was good, but I wanted it to be a bit more fleshed out and I would like to see some trigger warnings in the final version.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by JK Rowling

I wrote this review months ago before JK Rowling came out with her latest tirade of transphobia. Although I did forget to put in my disclaimer that JK is a transphobic narcissist who will one day have to face the reckoning of the hurt she’s wrought upon others, I will say to not buy any of her books from major retailers and to keep actively unfollowing anyone who is still following her, as they have demonstrated to be passively agreeing with her statements when they follow her.

Disclaimer: I still don’t support JK Rowling’s anti-trans statements, but I wanted to finish the series that I had purchased before her sentiments came to light.

Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

Author: JK Rowling

Book Series: Harry Potter Book 7

Rating: 4/5

Recommended For…: harry potter fans and those who like magic

Publication Date: July 21, 2007

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: 16+ (war, violence, torture TW, gore, death, animal death TW)

Publisher: Scholastic Inc

Pages: 759

Synopsis: Harry Potter is leaving Privet Drive for the last time. But as he climbs into the sidecar of Hagrid’s motorbike and they take to the skies, he knows Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters will not be far behind.

The protective charm that has kept him safe until now is broken. But the Dark Lord is breathing fear into everything he loves. And he knows he can’t keep hiding.

To stop Voldemort, Harry knows he must find the remaining Horcruxes and destroy them.

Review: For the most part I adored this book! The plot was intriguing from start to finish and the characters were well developed. I loved how much more developed Ron was in this book as well. The book also did decent with the world building and the pacing.

However, I felt like the book had some unclear moments, especially during the fight scene. The writing was a bit unclear and not as well detailed as one would have liked. The book also had a lot of information coming at the reader and it takes a good deal of attention to detail to understand it all.

Verdict: It was a great ending to the series.

A Wicked Magic by Sasha Laurens

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: A Wicked Magic

Author: Sasha Laurens

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Recommended For…: fantasy, ya, magic

Publication Date: July 28, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: 16+ (slight romance, violence, death, slight gore)

Publisher: Razorbill

Pages: 368

Synopsis: Dan and Liss are witches. The Black Book granted them that power. Harnessing that power feels good, especially when everything in their lives makes them feel powerless.

During a spell gone wrong, Liss’s boyfriend is snatched away by an evil entity and presumed dead. Dan and Liss’s friendship dies that night, too. How can they practice magic after the darkness that they conjured?

Months later, Liss discovers that her boyfriend is alive, trapped underground in the grips of an ancient force. She must save him, and she needs Dan and the power of The Black Book to do so. Dan is quickly sucked back into Liss’s orbit and pushes away her best friend, Alexa. But Alexa has some big secrets she’s hiding and her own unique magical disaster to deal with.

When another teenager disappears, the girls know it’s no coincidence. What greedy magic have they awakened? And what does it want with these teens it has stolen?

Set in the atmospheric wilds of California’s northern coast, Sasha Laurens’s thrilling debut novel is about the complications of friendship, how to take back power, and how to embrace the darkness that lives within us all.

Review: Overall, this is a good book. The book had a lot of good character development and the world building was well done. The book was also wrote with a good atmosphere. The book had this creepy vibe throughout it and I think it fit well for the story. The book also had a decent plot.

However, I didn’t like the switching POVs and I think the book would have been better with just one. I think the ending battle was weirdly wrote and it bored me a bit. The pacing of this book is super slow. Also, I got super mad at this book because there is a character who is, in my mind, queer but the author doesn’t write them that way. The book felt weird and I didn’t connect with it at all.

Verdict: It was good, just not for me.

BOOK INFORMATION
A Wicked Magic
by Sasha Laurens
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: July 28th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Witches, ParanormalSynopsis:The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The Craft when modern witches must save teens stolen by an ancient demon in this YA fantasy-thriller debut.Dan and Liss are witches. The Black Book granted them that power. Harnessing that power feels good, especially when everything in their lives makes them feel powerless.During a spell gone wrong, Liss’s boyfriend is snatched away by an evil entity and presumed dead. Dan and Liss’s friendship dies that night, too. How can they practice magic after the darkness that they conjured?Months later, Liss discovers that her boyfriend is alive, trapped underground in the grips of an ancient force. She must save him, and she needs Dan and the power of The Black Book to do so. Dan is quickly sucked back into Liss’s orbit and pushes away her best friend, Alexa. But Alexa has some big secrets she’s hiding and her own unique magical disaster to deal with.When another teenager disappears, the girls know it’s no coincidence. What greedy magic have they awakened? And what does it want with these teens it has stolen?Set in the atmospheric wilds of California’s northern coast, Sasha Laurens’s thrilling debut novel is about the complications of friendship, how to take back power, and how to embrace the darkness that lives within us all.BOOK LINKS
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48675479-a-wicked-magic
Amazon: https://amzn.to/3dchWC4
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-wicked-magic-sasha-laurens/1134672639?ean=9780593117255
Bookdepository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Wicked-Magic-Sasha-Laurens/9780593117255
iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-wicked-magic/id1486110588
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/a-wicked-magic-1
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Sasha_Laurens_A_Wicked_Magic?id=bNK7DwAAQBAJAUTHOR INFORMATION
SASHA LAURENS grew up in Northern California, where she learned to drive on Highway 1’s switchback turns and got accustomed to the best weather in the world. After studying creative writing and literature at Columbia University, she lived in New York for years and, at various times, in Russia. She currently resides in Michigan, where she is pursuing a PhD in political science. A Wicked Magic is her first novel (Razorbill, July 2020).AUTHOR LINKS
Website: https://www.sashalaurens.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19707476.Sasha_Laurens
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sasha_laurens
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sashalwrites/

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Disclaimer: I bought this book at an event when I met the author! Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Gravemaidens

Author: Kelly Coon

Book Series: Gravemaidens Book 1

Rating: 5/5

Recommended For…: fantasy lovers who want sibling rivalries and dangerous secrets

Publication Date: October 29, 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: 16+ (rape mention tw, “underage” drinking, sexual assault scene tw, “suicide” tw, gore, violence, poisoning)

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Pages: 416

Synopsis: In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.

When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.

Review: Holy cow this book was absolutely wonderful! I loved the unique and immersive world of Gravemaidens and I love the world building Kelly Coon put into this book! The characters were also compelling and well developed. The book definitely did not disappoint me and I anxiously await for the second book!

My only complaint is that sometimes the book was slow and I didn’t understand some of the words used outside of some context. There were also words used for queen, king, mother, father, etc. (the author did well to build what I assume is a made up language) but then substituted the “real” words in other parts of the book, making the book just slightly confusing at those points.

Verdict: Highly recommend!

Shielded by KayLynn Flanders

Disclaimer: I received an e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: Shielded

 

Author: KayLynn Flanders

 

Book Series: Shielded Book 1

 

Rating: 3/5

 

Recommended For…: fantasy, ya, magic

 

Publication Date: July 21, 2020

 

Genre: YA Fantasy

 

Recommended Age: 16+ (slight romance, violence, slight gore, secrets)

 

Publisher: Delacorte Press

 

Pages: 432

 

Synopsis: The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.

 

Review: Overall this book was pretty good. I thought the character development was well done and the book is evenly paced. I liked the author’s interpretation on fantasy set reads and I liked the character descriptions.

 

However, I did feel like that book is weirdly wrote. Not only did it take me a long time to get into the book, the book has some very weird moments, like when a murderer is on the loose so the royal family leaves… but also leaves two of their family alone. It was very weird! The book also lacked in world building.

 

Verdict: It was good, just weird.

 

BOOK INFORMATION

Shielded (Shielded #1)

by KayLynn Flanders
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: July 21st 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

 

Synopsis:

 

For fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Furyborn comes a thrilling new fantasy about a kingdom ravaged by war, and the princess who might be the key to saving not only those closest to her, but the kingdom itself, if she reveals the very secret that could destroy her.

 

The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

 

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

 

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.

 

BOOK LINKS

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42281684-shielded

Amazon: https://amzn.to/36tYZrI

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shielded-kaylynn-flanders/1134256504?ean=9780593118535

iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/shielded/id1485156731

Bookdepository: https://books.apple.com/us/book/shielded/id1485156731

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=Fka5DwAAQBAJ&gl=us

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/shielded

 

 

AUTHOR INFORMATION

KayLynn Flanders has a degree in English Language and editing and has been a freelance editor and book designer for over ten years. Her debut novel, a YA fantasy, will be published by Delacorte (Penguin Random House) July 21, 2020. KayLynn and her family live in Utah between some mountains and a lake, and she is directionally challenged without them. She loves reading, writing, traveling, and volleyball, and thinks there’s nothing better than a spur-of -the-moment road trip. Find her online at kaylynnflanders.com.

 

AUTHOR LINKS

Website: https://www.kaylynnflanders.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18515282.KayLynn_Flanders

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kaylynnflanders

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kaylynnflanders/

The Lost City by Amanda Hocking

The Lost City Blog Tour banner--Twitter

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Lost City

Author: Amanda Hocking

Book Series: The Omte Origins Book 1

Rating: 4/5

Recommended For…: fantasy, family secrets

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: 16+ (violence, slight gore, romance)

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 384

Synopsis: Ulla Tulin was left abandoned in an isolated Kanin city as a baby, taken in by strangers and raised hidden away like many of the trolls of mixed blood. Even knowing this truth, she’s never stopped wondering about her family.

When Ulla is offered an internship working alongside the handsome Pan Soriano at the Mimirin, a prestigious institution, she jumps at the chance to use this opportunity to hopefully find her parents. All she wants is to focus on her job and the search for her parents, but all of her attempts to find them are blocked when she learns her mother may be connected to the Omte royal family.

With little progress made, Ulla and Pan soon find themselves wrapped up in helping Eliana, an amnestic girl with abilities unlike any they have ever seen before—a girl who seems to be running from something. To figure out who she is they must leave the city, and possibly, along the way, they may learn more about Ulla’s parents.

Review: Overall, this was a good book! I love Amanda Hocking and I fell in love with her Trylle series about 3 years ago and this is set in the same world, so if you liked it to then you’ll love this book. The book had great world building. The writing was also well done.

However, I felt like the pacing was super slow. The beginning of the book takes a bit to get into as well. I’ve also not finished the Trylle series and I do think you need that background info for this book. The book also suffers from the lack of character development for a lot of the characters.

Verdict: Well done and sucks you back into the popular Trylle series!

The Lost City Book Description
Amanda Hocking, the New York Times bestselling author of The Kanin Chronicles, returns to the magical world of the Trylle Trilogy with The Lost City, the first novel in The Omte Origins—and the final story arc in her beloved series.
The storm and the orphan
Twenty years ago, a woman sought safety from the spinning ice and darkness that descended upon a small village. She was given shelter for the night by the local innkeepers but in the morning, she disappeared—leaving behind an infant. Now nineteen, Ulla Tulin is ready to find who abandoned her as a baby or why.
The institution and the quest
Ulla knows the answers to her identity and heritage may be found at the Mimirin where scholars dedicate themselves to chronicling troll history. Granted an internship translating old documents, Ulla starts researching her own family lineage with help from her handsome and charming colleague Pan Soriano.
The runaway and the mystery
But then Ulla meets Eliana, a young girl who no memory of who she is but who possesses otherworldly abilities. When Eliana is pursued and captured by bounty hunters, Ulla and Pan find themselves wrapped up in a dangerous game where folklore and myth become very real and very deadly—but one that could lead Ulla to the answers she’s been looking for.

Amanda Hocking NEW--credit Mariah Paaverud with Chimera Photography

Author bio:
AMANDA HOCKING is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.
Early Praise for The Lost City:
“Hocking’s fast, engaging fantasy will draw in new and seasoned fans of the genre… [She] keeps the surprises coming, [leaving] readers eager to know more”

—School Library Journal (starred review)
Excerpt!
Prologue
Ten Years Ago
“Tell me about it again,” I entreated—begged, really, in a small voice, small especially for a girl like me.
s he had a little too much hot tea and brandy, would tell me stories of other, less fortunate babies. One had been left out for the wolves, another drowned in the icy river. Still another was killed by an angakkuq, this time to be mashed into a paste for one of her potions.
On the other nights, he’d try to convince me there wasn’t any time for a story. But I’d beg and plead, and his eyes would glimmer—already milky with cataracts, lighting up when he spoke about monsters. I would pull the covers up to my chin, and his normally crackled baritone would go even lower, rumbling with the threat of the monsters he impersonated.
I was never sure how much he’d made up or what had been passed down to him, as he’d weave through all sorts of patchwork folklore—the monsters and heroes pieced together from the neighboring Inuit, our Norse ancestry, and especially from the troll tribe that Mr. and Mrs. Tulin belonged to—the Kanin.
But I had a favorite story, one that I asked for over and over again.
This one I loved because it was about me, and because it was true.
“Which one?” Mr. Tulin asked, feigning ignorance as he lingered at my bedroom door.
It was dark in my room, except for the cast-iron woodstove in the corner. My room had been a pantry before I was here, before Mr. Tulin had converted it into a tiny bedroom. Outside, the wind howled, and if I hadn’t been buried underneath the blankets and furs, I would’ve felt the icy drafts that went along with all that howling.
“The day you met me,” I replied with unbridled glee.
“Well, you turned out to be a big one, didn’t ya?” That’s what Mr. Tulin liked to say, particularly when I was scooping another helping of potatoes on my plate at the supper table, and
then I would sheepishly put half a portion back, under the sharp gaze of Mrs. Tulin.
But he wasn’t wrong. I was tall, thick, and pale. By the age of nine I was nearly five feet tall, towering over the kids in the little schoolhouse.
Once, I’d overheard Mrs. Tulin complaining aloud to a neighbor, saying, “I don’t know why they chose our doorstep to leave ’er on. By the size of her, her da’ must be an ogre, and her ma’ must be a nanuq. She’ll eat us out of house and home before she’s eighteen.”
After that, I tried to make myself smaller, invisible, and I made sure that I mended all my clothing and cleaned up after myself. Mrs. Tulin didn’t complain too much about me after that, but every once in a while I would hear her muttering about how they really ought to set up a proper orphanage in Iskyla, so the townsfolk weren’t stuck taking in all the abandoned strays.
I didn’t complain either, and not only because there was nobody to listen. There were a few kids at my school who served as a reminder of how much worse it could be for me. They were sketches of children, really—thin lines, stark shadows, sad eyes, just the silhouettes of orphans.
“You sure you wanna hear that one again, ayuh?” Mr. Tulin said in response to my pleas.
“Yes, please!”
“If that’s the one the lil’ miss wants, then that be the one I tell.” He walked back over to the bed, limping slightly, the way he did every time the temperatures dipped this low.
Once he’d settled on the edge of the bed, his bones cracked and creaked almost as loudly as the bed itself.
“It was a night much like this—” he began.
“But darker and colder, right?” I interjected.
His bushy silver eyebrows pinched together. “Are you telling it this time?”

“No, no, you tell it.”
“Ayuh.” He nodded once. “So I will, then.”
It was a night much like this. The sun hadn’t been seen for days, hiding behind dark clouds that left even the daylight murky blue. When the wind came up, blowing fresh snow so
heavy and thick, you couldn’t hardly see an inch in front of your nose. All over, the town was battened down and quiet, waiting out the dark storm. Now, the folks in Iskyla had survived
many a winter storm, persisting through even the harshest of winters. This wasn’t the worst of the storms we’d faced, but there was something different about this one. Along with the cold and the dark, it brought with it a strange feeling in the air.
“And a stranger,” I interjected again, unable to help myself.
Mr. Tulin didn’t chastise me this time. He just winked and said, “Ayuh, and a stranger.”
The old missus, Hilde, and I were hunkered down in front of the fireplace, listening to the wind rattling the house, when a knock came at the door.
Hilde—who scoffed whenever Tapeesa the angakkuq spoke of the spirits and monsters—shrieked at me when I got up to answer the door. “Whaddya think you’re doing, Oskar?”
“We’re still an inn, aren’t we?” I paused before I reached the door to look back at my wife, who sat in her old rocker, clutching her knitting to her chest.
Well, of course we were. Her father had opened the inn years ago, back when the mines first opened and we had a brief bout of tourism from humans who got lost on their way to the mines.
But that had long dried up by the time Hilde inherited it. We only had a dozen or so customers every year, mostly Inuit or visiting trolls, but whenever I suggested we close up and move south, Hilde would pitch a fit, reminding me that her family settled Iskyla, and she was settled here until she died.
“Course we’re an inn, but we’re closed,” Hilde said. “The storm’s too bad to open.”
Again the knocking came at the door, pounding harder this time.
“We got all our rooms empty, Hilde!” I argued. “Anyone out in this storm needs a place to stay, and we won’t have to do much for ’em.”
“But you don’t know who—or what—is at the door,”
Hilde stammered, lowering her voice as if it would carry over the howling wind and out the door to whoever waited on our stoop. “No human or troll has any sense being out in a storm like this.”
“Well, someone has, and I aim to find out who it is.”
I headed toward the door, Hilde still spouting her hushed protests, but my mind had been made up. I wasn’t about to let anyone freeze to death outside our house, not when we had ample firewood and room to keep them warm.
When I opened the door, there she stood. The tallest woman I ever saw. She was buried under layers of fabric and fur, looking so much like a giant grizzly bear that Hilde let out a scream.
Then the woman pushed back her hood, letting us see her face. Ice and snow had frozen to her eyebrows and eyelashes, and her short wild hair nearly matched the grizzly fur. She wasn’t much to look at, with a broad face and a jagged scar across her ruddy cheeks, but she made up for it with her size.
She had to duck to come inside, ever mindful of the large bag she carried on her back.
“Don’t bother coming in,” Hilde called at the woman from where she sat angrily rocking. “We’re closed.”
“Please,” the giant woman begged, and then she quickly slipped off her gloves and fumbled in her pockets. “Please, I have money. I’ll give you all I have. I only need a place to stay for the night.”
When she went for her money, she’d pushed back her cloaks enough that I could see the dagger holstered on her hip. The fire glinted off the amber stone in the hilt, the dark
bronze handle carved into a trio of vultures.
It was the symbol of the Omte, and that was a weapon for a warrior. Here was this giant troll woman, with supernatural strength and a soldier’s training. She could’ve killed me and Hilde right there, taken everything we had, but instead she pleaded and offered us all she had.
“Since we’re closed, I won’t be taking any of your money.” I waved it away. “You need sanctuary from the storm, and I’m happy to give it to you.”
“Thank you.” The woman smiled, with tears in her eyes, and they sparkled in the light like the amber gemstone on her dagger.
Hilde huffed, but she didn’t say anything more. The woman herself didn’t say much either, not as I showed her up to her room and where the extra blankets were.
“Is there anything more you’ll be needing?” I asked before I left her alone.
“Quiet rest,” she replied with a weak smile.
“Well, you can always holler at me if you need anything. I’m Oskar.”
She hesitated a second before saying, “Call me Orra.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Orra, and I hope you enjoy your stay with us.”
She smiled again, then she shut the door. That was the last I ever saw of her.
All through the night, she made not a peep, which upset Hilde even more, since it gave her nothing to complain about. I slept soundly, but Hilde tossed and turned, certain that Orra would hurt us.
By the time morning came, the wind had stopped and the sun had broken through the clouds for the first time in days. I went up to check on Orra and see if she needed anything, and
I discovered her gone.
She rode in on the back of the dark storm, and she left before the sun.
Her room had been left empty—except for a little tiny baby, wrapped in a blanket, sleeping in the middle of the bed. The babe couldn’t be more than a few weeks old, but already had a thick head of wild blond hair. When I picked her up, the baby mewled, but didn’t open her eyes.
Not until I said, “Ullaakuut,”—a good-morning greeting.
Then her big amber eyes opened. She smiled up at me, and it was like the sun after the storm.
“That’s how we met.” I beamed, and he smiled back down at me. Mrs. Tulin wasn’t sure if they would keep me, so she wouldn’t let him name me yet, but then they called me Ullaakuut
until it stuck.
“It was quite the introduction,” he agreed with a chuckle. “Oskar!” Mrs. Tulin shouted from the other room. “The fire’s gone cold!”
“I’ll be right down!” he yelled over his shoulder before turning back to me. “Well, you’ve had your story now, and Hilde needs me. You best be getting to sleep now. Good night, Ulla.”
“Good night.” I settled back into the bed, and it wasn’t until he was at the door that I mustered the courage to ask him the question that burned on the tip of my tongue. “How come my mom left me here?”
“I can’t say that I understand it,” he said with a heavy sigh. “But she’d have to have got a mighty good reason to be traveling in that kinda storm, especially with a newborn. She was an Omte warrior, and I don’t know what kind of monsters she had to face down on her way to our doorstep. But she musta known that here you’d be safe.”
“Do you think she’ll come back?” I asked.
His lips pressed into a thin line. “I can’t say, lil’ miss. But it’s not the kind of thing I would hang my hat on. And it’s nothing that you should concern yourself with. You have a home here as long as you need it, and now it’s time for bed.”
Chapter 1
Home
Emma sprinted into my room first, clutching her older brother’s slingshot in her pudgy hands, and down the hall Liam was already yelling for me.
“Ulla! Emma keeps taking my stuff!” Liam rushed into my room in a huff, little Niko toddling behind him.
My bedroom was a maze of cardboard boxes—all of my worldly possessions carefully packed and labeled for my move in six weeks—and Emma darted between them to escape Liam’s grasp.
“He said he was going to shoot fairies in the garden!” Emma insisted vehemently.
Liam rolled his eyes and brushed his thick tangles of curls off his forehead. “Don’t be such a dumb baby. You know there’s no such things as fairies.”
“Don’t call your sister dumb,” I admonished him, which only caused him to huff even louder. For only being seven years old, Liam already had quite the flair for the dramatic. “You know, you’re going to have to learn how to get along with your sister on your own. I’m not going to be around to get in the middle of your squabbles.”
“You don’t have to tell me that,” Liam replied sourly. He stared down at the wood floor, letting his hair fall into his eyes. “She’s the one that always starts it.”
“I did not!” Emma shouted back. “I only wanted to protect the fairies!”
“Emma, will you give Liam back his slingshot if he promises not to kill anything with it?” I asked her. She seemed to consider this for a moment, wrinkling up her little freckled nose, but finally she nodded yes.
“I was never really going to kill anything anyway,” he said.
“Promise!” Emma insisted.
“Fine. I promise I won’t kill anything with my slingshot.”
He held his hand out to her, and she reluctantly handed it back to him. With that, he dashed out of the room, and Emma raced after him.
Niko, meanwhile, had no interest in the argument, and instead made his way over to me. I pulled him into my arms, relishing the way his soft curls felt tickling my chin as I held him, and breathing in his little-boy scent—the summer sun on his skin and sugared milk from his breakfast.
“How are you doing this morning, my sweet boy?” I asked him softly. He didn’t answer, but Niko rarely did. Instead, he curled up more into me and began sucking his thumb.
I know I shouldn’t pick favorites, but Niko would be the one I missed the most. Sandwiched between Emma and the twins, he was quiet and easily overlooked. Whenever I was having a bad day or feeling lonely, I could always count on him for cuddles and hugs that somehow managed to erase all the bad—at least for a few moments.
But now I could only smile at him and swallow down the lump in my throat.
This—all the scraped knees and runny noses, the giggles and tantrums, all the love and chaos and constant noise of a house full of children—had been my life for the past five years. Which was quite the contrast to the frozen isolation of the first fourteen and a half years of my life.
Five years ago, a Kanin tracker named Bryn Aven had been on an investigation that brought her to Iskyla in central Canada, and when I met her, I knew it was my chance out of that town. Maybe it was because of the way she came in, on the back of a storm, or because she was a half-breed. She was also blond like me, and that wasn’t something I saw often in a town populated by trolls and a handful of the native humans of the area, the Inuit.
Most trolls, especially from the three more populous tribes—the Kanin, Trylle, and Vittra—were
of a darker complexion. Their skin ran the gamut of medium brown shades, and their hair was dark brown and black, with eyes that matched. The Kanin and the Trylle looked like attractive
humans, and the Vittra often did as well.
The Omte had a slightly lighter complexion than that, and they were also more prone to gigantism and physical deformities, most notably in their large population of ogres. With
wild blond hair and blue eyes, the Skojare were the fairest, and they had a tendency to be born with gills, attuned to their aquatic lifestyle.
Each of the tribes even had different skill sets and extraordinary abilities. All of the kingdoms had some mild psychokinetic talents, with the Trylle being the most powerful. The Vittra and the Omte were known for their physical strength and ability to heal, while the Kanin had the skin-color- changing ability to blend in with their surroundings, much like intense chameleons.
Iskyla was officially a Kanin town, and the Inuit coloring wasn’t much different from that of the Kanin. Most everyone around me had a shock of dark hair and symmetrical features. My noticeable differences had always made me an easy target growing up, and seeing the blond-haired tracker Bryn, I recognized a kindred spirit.
Or maybe it was because I could tell she was running from something, and I had been itching to run since as soon as I could walk. The Tulins had been good to me—or as good as an elderly couple who had never wanted kids could be when a baby is dropped on them. But Mrs. Tulin had always made it clear that I would be on my own as soon as I was ready, and when I was fourteen I was sure I was ready.
Fortunately, Bryn had been smart enough—and kind enough—not to leave me to fend for myself. She brought me to Förening, the Trylle capital in Minnesota, and found me a job and a place to stay with friends of hers.
When I had started as a live-in nanny working for Finn and Mia Holmes, they’d only had two children with another on the way, but already their cottage was rather cramped. Shortly after I moved in, Emma came along—followed by a promotion for Finn to the head of the Trylle royal guard—and Mia insisted a house upgrade was long overdue.
This grand little house, nestled in the bluffs along the Mississippi River—cozy but clean and bright—had enough room for us all—Finn, Mia, Hanna, Liam, Emma, Niko, Lissa, Luna, and me. As of a few months ago, we’d even managed to fit in Finn’s mother, Annali, who had decided to move in with them after her husband passed away last fall.
This home had been my home for years, and really, this family had been my family too. They welcomed me with open arms. I grew to love them, and they loved me. Here, I felt like I belonged and mattered in a way that I had never been able to in Iskyla.
I was happy with them. But now I was leaving all of this behind.
From The Lost City. Copyright © 2020 by Amanda Hocking and reprinted by permission of Wednesday Books.

The Wrath of Silence by CE Clayton

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author! Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: The Wrath of Silence

 

Author: CE Clayton

 

Book Series: The Monster of Selkirk Book 6

 

Rating: 5/5

 

Publication Date: May 24, 2019

 

Genre: YA Fantasy

 

Recommended Age: 16+ (violence, gore, death)

 

Publisher: Independently Published

 

Pages: 422

 

Amazon Link

 

Synopsis: Desperate to thwart their ultimate foe, Tallis and her army sail for Selkirk. Urban has the advantage, however, as he has the lead and a maniacal determination to unlock a holy power capable of destroying the world. Tallis and Tomas have not stepped foot in Selkirk in over a year, having fled once the elves were free of their madness. Rosslyn had warned them of the growing civil unrest, but it did not prepare them for what they would face upon landfall in Kincardine. Low on resources, Tallis finds herself caught between two princes vying for the throne, and a cruel queen who is tempted by Urban’s fanatical allure, just as Konrad was. Now, Tallis must convince those who once hunted her to aid her, for if they do not work together, all of Selkirk will burn. Urban is unlike any enemy they have ever faced; he knows all too well what Tallis is capable of, and how to manipulate the venomous voice within her. Everything is at stake for Tallis-the fate of Selkirk, her friends and loved ones, and her own soul. Urban will exploit those perceived weaknesses, making Tallis choose whom to save; for nothing will stop Urban on his quest to bring back his silent god as he enacts the long dreaded prophecy. Tallis and her friends are coming to the end of their journey, one that will prove to the world once and for all who is the true monster of Selkirk.

 

Review: I really loved this book! I thought the book was a good ending to an amazing series! The book had a satisfying ending, the characters kept getting well developed throughout the book series and even in this last book. The writing was well done and the book was fast paced. The world building was marvelous as ever and I really felt content with this book.

 

The only issue I had was that the book has a TON of fight scenes and sometimes in fight scenes I get a bit confused as to who is doing what. The fight scenes got a bit chaotic for me, but they were well built for the most part.

 

Verdict: I love this series.

Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller (Reread)

Disclaimer: I bought this book! Support your authors.

 

Book: Warrior of the Wild

 

Author: Tricia Levenseller

 

Book Series: Standalone

 

Rating: 5/5

Publication Date: February 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: 14+ (gore, monsters, gods, Vikings, axe throwing, and badass girl power)

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

 

Pages: 336

 

Amazon Link

 

Synopsis: How do you kill a god?

As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: to win back her honour, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year or die trying.

 

Review: I reread this book because a friend requested I do so for my twelve friends twelve months challenge. I don’t have much more to say outside of what I did in my original review. The book is still absolutely fascinating to me, how Tricia was able to weave all of these details to the final boss battle. The book is a marvel, is full of well developed characters and moments, and awesome world building. Still one of my all time faves.

 

My only issue is still the fast pacing. It’s great if you’re running on a treadmill like I did the first time I read this book, but if you like slower books then you’ll be left in this ones dust.

 

Verdict: Vikings still get me excited.