Category: fantasy

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith Review

Title: Bloodleaf

Author: Crystal Smith

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Bloodleaf, book one

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               I found Bloodleaf on a book recommendation list for the new books of January 2019, and I ordered it. It’s been sitting on my book stack for a while, and I recently had to start over entirely. But I chose not to take Bloodleaf back, as I had already started it and was invested. With Bloodleaf, debut author Crystal Smith pens a dark, surprising fantasy that evokes Grimm’s Fairy tales and classics, like The Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t perfect, there were some flaws, but overall, this was an amazing book, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for Aurelia, Conrad, and Zan!

               Aurelia is the princess of Renalt, the daughter of the late king. Unwanted, surrounded by spirits, and forbidden from using her powerful blood magic, she is forced to flee to the country of her betrothed after a brutal assassination attempt. Disguising herself as a common girl, she finds the happiness she’s never known in her old life. As she begins to actively hone her magical skills, Aurelia finds herself falling for a man that can’t rule at her side. But the ghosts that haunt her so completely refuse to leave her be, and she finds herself giving in, despite the prejudices she’s carried all her life. But she soon finds herself trapped in a web of deceit, evil, and magic that only she can stop. Will she be able to balance the weight of the crown and her newfound freedom?

               This book was such a pleasant surprise! I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect with Bloodleaf, but I really enjoyed it! I loved the way that it took the classic fantasy tropes and turned them on their heads. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved Aurelia’s voice. I also loved the way that the author paid homage to classic fairy tales, specifically Grimm’s fairy tales and The Goose Girl. I also really liked the worldbuilding and the magical system of the book. But what really won me over about this debut was the characters. Aurelia was the princess no one wanted, who was forced to grow from a meek, passive girl into a strong and powerful young woman who shamelessly fights for those she loves. Lisette, Conrad, Kate, Nathaniel, and Zan made really good foils for her. Zan, though, was my absolute favorite! I almost related to him more than even Aurelia. The ending—oh, my goodness, it was crazy! I was absolutely blown away. I can’t wait for the sequel! There were a lot of times when I had to go back and reread because there were so many different characters and places to remember, and some of the romance between Zan and Aurelia felt a little contrived. Nonetheless, Crystal Smith has created a fun, dark fantasy that left me reeling, and I’m so excited for what’s coming next! The bottom line: Dark, magical, and surprising, I loved Bloodleaf, and I’m so excited for the sequel! Next on deck: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon!


(WP) Death’s Last Dance

               One minute, the room is full of laughing, talking people, and my partner and I are dancing through the crowd, parting the huge ocean of people. It’s almost overwhelming, all of my senses firing. I can smell his cologne, and he smiles down at me.

               “You look lovely tonight, Lyra,” He purrs into my ear, and I shiver, holding onto him tighter as we float through the crowd. “I cannot wait to make our announcement. Everyone will be so excited!”

               Then, within the next moment, everything is gone. The music cuts off abruptly, and the room is empty. The floor is pure, white marble, and my dress, a confection of blue silk, is suddenly red, as wine or as blood.

               The darkness is so complete I can see almost nothing, but from above, two spotlights appear. The white light shines down on me, blinding me after the darkness.

               On the other side of the room, a shrouded figure stands under the other spotlight, silent, watching me. And when its glowing eyes find mine, I know what’s happening.

               “It’s my time, isn’t it?”

               “Yes, it is.” The voice is impossible to identify, heavy and full of so many timbres that I can’t figure out whether it’s male or female, young or old.

               “May I finish my dance? Please? If this is the last time that I am to have on Earth, I just… I want to say goodbye. Please.”

               Perhaps it is selfish, asking Death for one last dance, but I can’t help it.

               For once in my life, everything was starting to go right. But I’ve known this was coming, I knew it wasn’t last.

               Why, then, does it hurt so terribly?

               I guess even for the most prepared soul, no one is ever really ready to die.

               My new companion watches me, hands folded across the handle of a long, wicked scythe. The blade gleams brightly under the spotlight, a purple so dark it looks almost black. There is a pregnant pause, and for a moment, I fear that my request will be denied.

               “Know that I don’t grant requests like this often,” It says, so quiet I have to strain my ears to hear it, “but as you have done so well in preparing for my arrival, you may.”


               Just as suddenly as everything stopped, it all starts again. I’m still in Patrick’s arms, held tightly against his body as we waltz.

               All the noise filters back in, and I wince, resisting the urge to cover my ears.

               Patrick’s lips are moving, but everything else is so loud I can’t hear him.

               “I need to tell you something!” I say in his ear, and he pulls back, staring at me, eyebrows knitted in concern.

               “What is it, darling? You look so frightened.”

               “I have to go, Patrick. I have to leave. I’m sorry. Goodbye.”

               I lean forward and kiss his lips, briefly, trying to memorize the taste of him: wine and salt and something uniquely his.

               When I pull away, it all disappears again, and the figure appears in front of me, holding out a hand to guide me home.

               And I take it.


Lovely War by Julie Berry Review

Title: Lovely War

Author: Julie Berry

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               A few years ago, I tried reading one of Julie Berry’s most popular novels, The Passion of Dolssa. For personal reasons, I had to shelve it. However, when I heard that she was writing a brand-new book, this time revolving around World Wars I and II and the Greek gods, I was so intrigued! I reserved it at my local library and was lucky enough to receive the first copy. Brutal, beautiful, and totally unforgettable, I was completely blown away by this epic worthy of Homer himself! This book is definitely one of my favorites of 2019, if not of all time!

Braiding together two bittersweet love stories at the dawn of World Wars I and II, Lovely War is narrated by four of the Greek gods: the lovely Aphrodite, brutal Ares, musical Apollo, and the stoic Hades. After being caught with Ares yet again, her disgruntled husband, Hephaestus, demands that she be put on trial before the entire pantheon of Greek gods. Aphrodite, however, persuades him to listen to her privately. Showcasing her best work, she tells her husband about two love stories that she had a hand in creating, with the help of a few witnesses. What unfolds is two stories, told across time, as the Goddess of Love sets out to show her family her trade.

I absolutely adored this book! Honestly, it felt as if it were written just for me. I wasn’t even in twenty pages and I was hooked. The pacing was breakneck, and I couldn’t put it down. I loved the premise of the novel—Greek gods having a family dispute! —and the different viewpoints from Aphrodite, Ares, Apollo, and Hades gave a great perspective on the events of the novel. Even more than the gods, though, I loved the humans that they watched over: James and Hazel, and Aubrey and Colette. I also adored the way that Berry adhered to historical accuracy; the notes at the back of the book and the acknowledgments fleshed out and answered any lingering questions I had about the historical details. I loved all of the characters and the gods that cupped their lives in their hands. The writing was beautiful, gorgeous, and raw. The horrors of both brutal world wars were a stark, sobering contrast to the glow of new love, against all odds. I was spellbound and horrified all at once. Meticulously researched, beautifully told, and wonderfully unique, I loved Lovely War, and it’s become one of my favorite books of the year, if not of all time! It was utterly wonderful, heartbreaking, and rewarding. The ending, for all involved, made all of the emotional investment worth it! Julie Berry has penned a modern classic in Lovely War! The bottom line: Rich, lush, beautiful and brutal, I loved every moment of Lovely War! One of my favorite books of 2019, if not of all time! Next on deck: Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith!

Enchantee by Gita Trelease Review

Title: Enchantee

Author: Gita Trelease

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Series: Enchantee, book one

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               Enchantee has been one of my most anticipated books of 2019, and for the most part, it didn’t disappoint. I ordered it at my local library, and it’d been sitting at the top of my library stack for a while. As soon as I was finished with Superman, I dove in. It had all the things that I love in a novel. Magic, romance, revolution, intrigue, dark secrets, strong sibling bonds! I really enjoyed a lot of elements in this book, but there were some aspects that I wish had been fleshed out more. Nonetheless, this was a knockout series debut, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series! Gita Trelease is a new author to watch, and I can’t wait to see what’s up her sleeve!

               Camille Durbonne is a young woman who is trapped. After the brutal death of her parents from smallpox, she and her sister, Sophie, are left penniless. Their older brother, Alain, has become a drunkard. Despite his position as a soldier for the French crown, he spends all of his money gambling and drinking. With her dreams to be the first female printer nearly crushed, she is forced to use the forbidden magic passed down through her family to disguise herself as a wealthy baroness. Infiltrating the sparkling, dangerous world of Versailles and the wealthy royals and nobles that rule it, Camille must use all of her wits, the la magie she inherited from her mother, and find a way to save herself and her sister. But even with the sudden arrival of a man she may love, she discovers that everyone has something to hide, and no one can be trusted…

               This book was very good! I really enjoyed it. I’m such a sucker for historical fiction, and this story had elements of magic and fantasy thrown in! It made for an intoxicating debut. The pacing was breakneck, and I was spellbound by the very first page. The setting was gorgeous: Versailles! The period of The French Revolution is one of my favorite historical periods to study, and the prose was so lush and beautiful I felt like I was really there. I also adored the characters, especially Camille, Sophie, Lazare, and Seguin. I also really liked the intrigue and secrets that permeated the French court, seductive and frightening. The only thing that I wish had been better was the experience of Lazare, as a person of color, in that time period. I wish it had been fleshed out more. Nonetheless, with the breathtaking ending, I cannot wait for the next book in this beautiful, tense new series! I’m so excited to see what’s coming for Camille, Sophie, and Lazare! The bottom line: Beautiful, lush, and seductive, I loved Enchantee, and I can’t wait for what Gita Trelease is going to do next! Next on deck: Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus!

(WP) The Dark Goddess and the Prophecy

(WP) The Dark Goddess and the Prophecy

               Everyone knew the old story. It had been told since the founding of the kingdom and the countries surrounding them. The prophecy had predicted that there would be six heroes that would face the old, dark god. They would all be chosen from different walks of life. All with different strengths and weaknesses, but united, they would overcome the god’s tyranny and free the people from under its thumb.

               Well, as it turns out, the prophecy was only correct about some things.

               First of all, it was not a god, but a goddess. One of unimaginable darkness and rage, twisted by all of the negative emotion she’d repressed when she was a human, several centuries ago.

               The whole of humanity cowered under her cruel rule, but there were some who had willingly helped her rise to power: assassins, criminals, those dissatisfied with the law and the people who had ruled before.

               Second, only five heroes showed up.  No one knew what had happened to the sixth member of the group. There were rumors, of course. They’d died, been assassinated, or worse, even become one of the goddess’s spies.

               The first of the heroes, a young man named Nikolai, arrived at the abandoned palace, where the goddess and her cohorts were rumored to be hiding out. He was astride a handsome stallion, and he himself was adorned with furs. There were weapons hidden everywhere on his person, and he frowned. He couldn’t help wondering, if, indeed, he should wait for the others: the people said to help him in this monumental task.

               But he already had so little time. Perhaps it would be better to wait until the sun set, to hide in the lush, green foliage that surrounded the old palace.

               It was so different from his homeland, frigid and cold, where snowflakes and ice decorated everything like a pale, glimmering veil.

               Sick of thinking instead of acting, he directed his horse to the thick, leafy trees, and there they hid, waiting until the next hero in the group showed up.

               Never mind that they all didn’t know each other, they were said to save the world.


But the newcomer had doubts that could not be silenced.

                 Eris knew that she came from nothing. Her family had been poor all their lives, and what chance they’d had of glory and comforted had gone up in smoke, thanks to their mother’s leaving to serve The Dark Goddess.

               It didn’t matter that she’d sent extravagant gifts, bolts of silk from which to make gowns, heavy gold and silver coins, jewelry studded with real precious stones instead of the false ones that were pasted on in the village, or that she’d done it for their family’s safety.

               That meant nothing to their proud, bitter father. He’d been so certain when Eris’s mark had shown up, inked across her back in glittering runes. He’d even asked their neighbors to donate things she needed so she could get to the palace. But even with all this planning, she’d been late.

               There was a mean, ugly little voice that spoke in the back of her mind.

               If even your own family did not want you, did not think you were capable of anything, what makes you think you will be able to unseat the Dark Goddess?

               But she, and all the others mentioned in the vision, had little choice in the matter.

               Destiny and fate seemed to have their own plans.


The Afterward by E.K. Johnston Review

Title: The Afterward

Author: E.K. Johnston

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

               I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

               E.K. Johnston is one of my favorite authors, so when I heard that she was writing a brand-new book coming out in February, I ordered it from my local library. After I finished Archenemies, I pushed it right to the top of my stack; I renewed it once and didn’t want to have to return it without reading it. And this book… It’s probably one of the most unique in her entire body of work. It is an adventure story, told from two points in time and three points of view. It was full of brave, courageous female knights, a just queen, forbidden love, thievery, magic and mayhem, and I really enjoyed it! It wasn’t entirely perfect, but it is easily one of my favorite books of 2019. I’m almost wishing that it was a series, waiting for a sequel, so I don’t have to say goodbye to all the friends I’ve made!

               A group of female knights set out at the behest of a young prince, in hopes of eradicating an ancient, untold evil. After defeating the Old God and stopping his tyranny from spreading across the world, they return to their old lives. But the girls, save their leader, Sir Erris, are having troubles readjusting, particularly Kalanthe Ironheart, a knight-in-training burdened by debts and doubts and the futility of her future, and Olsa Rhetsdaughter, a ne’er do well thief who longs for freedom, in every sense of the world. But it turns out that even though they’ve finished their epic quest, other problems arise, and this time, it’s possible that more than hearts will be broken…

               I really enjoyed this book! I loved the way that it took the classic adventure trope and turned it on its head. I also really liked the format, and the way that the book went back and forth between the before, during the actual quest, and the after, where the women had to deal with the aftermath. This book has everything that I love in a fantasy novel: tough girls who take no prisoners and are strong and feminine at the same time, forbidden love, magic, war, (lady) knights, and strong friendships! It was a wonderful novel. The pacing was breakneck, and I loved the way that the different times were shown. I also adored Kalanthe and Osla’s distinct, authentic voices, and the way the narration was made more interesting by both of their perspectives. I’m also such a sucker for a good love story, and this book delivered several times over on that score! I loved the ending, too. The only thing that really bothered me was that several of the side characters weren’t sketched out very well, and there were so many to keep track of that I wish there had been a dramatis personae at the front of the book. It also got confusing when the time periods switched; but after rereading some passages, it got easier. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed The Afterward; it’s probably my favorite book in Johnston’s extensive body of work. Easily one of my favorite books of 2019! The bottom line: Rich, enchanting, funny and heartfelt, I loved The Afterward! Next on deck: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid!

(WP) Blood Like Poppies

(WP) Blood Like Poppies

Queen has summoned her executioner to her chambers for a ‘private audience and

page kneels before the woman, so petrified that the parchment, sealed with
bright green wax, trembles in hand.

you,” She murmurs, slipping him a couple of coins for his trouble.

missive is short and to the point, “Meet me for dinner in my private chambers.
You and I have something to discuss.”

tells Poppy Bloodletter that this is not exactly a social call.

her luck has finally run out, and her queen has discovered one of her many

goes to her room and changes her clothes. When she comes out, she is dressed in
black, as if she is attending a mourning ceremony. Gloves, shot through with silver,
adorn her hands, to mask her fear.

were many different kinds of armor, she has learned, and she will be a fool not
to protect herself in what little ways she could.

queen is not a patient woman, and there is no use in delaying the inevitable.


is announced by the queen’s page, and after several long heartbeats, she is
allowed inside. She is escorted through the sitting room and brought to the
queen herself, and there she is, pouring tea herself.

realizes that there is not a servant to be seen, and she can feel her heartbeat
all through her flesh, but especially in her throat. She doesn’t dare speak;
she just waited, the minutes stretching out like taffy.

               “Do you
remember, my dear, when you first came to my castle, when your father demanded
you be trained in the arts of killing and assassination?” The Queen looks up at
her, beckons her to sit at the small table, across from her.

Queen was dressed in a gown of forest green, with emeralds dotting the bodice.
Along the hem, there is a ring of garnets. To Poppy, she looks like spring
embodied, given human form. With her dark skin, dusted with subtle glitter, and
black curls, the color is a stunning contrast. Her eyes, though, are the red of
the poppies that gave the executioner her name. She is beautiful, terrifying,
and arresting. More like a goddess than a monarch.

               “How could
I forget?” Poppy murmurs in reply, smiling in spite of herself. “It was the day
that my life changed forever. You told my father that I would be taking up his
trade, once he retired.”

is also the day that you swore fealty to me, my children, my house and kingdom,”
Queen Kali whispers, and a cruel, sharp smile graces her full, lovely lips.

feel, my darling Poppy, that you have lost sight of your duty. Are you unhappy
here? Is there anything you need that I have not provided?”

               As she
speaks, her voice grows dangerously lower, more like a growl than a purr.

               As if
to give Poppy more time to answer, Queen Kali quickly uncovers the food she has
ordered for them both: a tureen of spiced lentil stew, a roasted haunch of
beef, crusted with mushrooms and spices and served with a rich wine sauce,
thick, dark bread slathered with butter and still warm, and for dessert, meringue
lemon tarts.

really pulling out the big guns, Poppy realizes.

not at all, Your Majesty. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”

why, my dear Poppy, have you spent all of these years lying to me? Betraying myself and the Crown? I know
what you’ve done, and consider this your last meal. You will die for your
crimes against the Kingdom, Poppy Bloodletter.”


The Drawing Of Three Book Review

Author: Stephen King

Rating: 5/5

Stephen King is like the Smashing Pumpkins of story-telling: he isn’t afraid to sit back and explore his ideas, grow them and develop them, before he has to move on. He draws on other perspectives, tells the same moment from multiple characters, twists the timeline and takes the time to express a scenario completely. Yet, he does it effortlessly, without chunks of exposition or idle rambling (which isn’t uncommon for high fantasies).

This book came and went so so fast – and nothing except for everything has changed. It’s gonna be spoilers from here onwards, so for non-spoilery thoughts check out my review of The Gunslinger.


Eddie Dean – what an unlikely hero. He came from misfortune and his brother cultivated until it was all he knew. Enter Roland, and he gets an odd redemption. One thing I loved was his brilliant reaction to this quest. His denial and despair was understandable and heart-breaking, until he reaches acceptance. I loved his relationship with Roland, and I’m hoping Roland becomes the older brother Eddie never had, someone to guide and nurture him.

Odetta was a curious case, and definitely someone I’m excited to see develop in this moved on world. Her becoming was… confusing for me – but I’m accepting it. Her story comes full circle, even if some parts of the circle were completed before others!

I hope we get to hear more of Jake in future instalments. Roland’s attachment to him is too precious of a character arc to drop!

(WP) Phoenix’s Fire

(WP) Phoenix’s Fire

               The mansion that had once stood proud on the hill was nothing more than a pile of burned wood and stone.

               The family that had lived inside were all dead, burned to a crisp in their own beds.

               Still, this wasn’t exactly an open and closed case.

               The only member of the de la Fuego family that was unharmed was the youngest of them all, an infant named Phoenix.

               The firefighter who had saved her, a young woman by the name of Stone, was in shock. She’d even spoken to several local news stations about the incident.

               “Unfortunately, I did not arrive in time to save the rest of this poor child’s family. But I climbed what was left of the stairs, and I could’ve sworn that I heard a baby crying. I walked into her bedroom and there she was, sitting in her crib, unharmed, crying her little lungs out.”

               Stone looked away from the camera, a comely blush darkening her cheeks. Tears ran down her cheeks at the memory.

               “That little girl has some lucky stars, she does. She’s a living miracle.”


The infant was placed in the care of Child Protective Services while the police and fire department investigated the circumstances of her family’s death.

The case grew more perplexing as time went on.

In the care of a social worker, Phoenix grew. She grew from a tiny infant to a chubby, apple-cheeked toddler with a cap of dark curls and bright amber eyes that were the same color as honey.

The social worker taking care of the child began to notice strange things about her ward.

The near-constant smell of smoke faintly wafting off of her, reminding Miss Haypenny of a campfire.

The way Phoenix’s eyes glowed whenever something went wrong or she was denied what she wanted.

Miss Haypenny began to suspect that the little girl she’d taken in was extraordinary.


Eventually, the investigation was put on hold. There was no accelerant used, nothing to suggest that the fire had been more than an unfortunate accident. People throughout the city donated to pay for the de la Fuegos’ funeral, though they had mostly kept to themselves and were called eccentric by the kinder folks in town, and weird and unfriendly by the others.

Miss Haypenny put the papers through to have Phoenix adopted, though if she were being honest, she had grown used to the little girl in her own home.

But perhaps it was better that she be adopted by other people. There was only so much of herself she could give.

And, if she was being completely honest with herself, Phoenix scared the hell out of her.

She suspected, somehow, that the girl had started the fire that had killed the rest of her family.

But that was crazy, the stuff of fiction. After all, this wasn’t a Stephen King novel.

Still, she could not quiet the voice inside her mind, that said that something was deeply, irrevocably wrong with Phoenix de la Fuego.


(WP) Reincarnation Nation

(WP) Reincarnation Nation

               I had the first dream on my wedding night, wrapped in the arms of my wife. It was the happiest night of my life, and we’d fallen asleep tangled together, with her head on my chest.

               As I drifted off to sleep, though, the hotel room started to disappear. The air became sweltering, and thick with humidity. The fragrance of wet earth and flowers surrounded me, and I gasped.

               I’d been having the several variations of the same dream, but the main detail was always the same: a beautiful woman, begging me to come back to her. Sometimes I didn’t even see her; I could just hear her calling, her voice sweet and mournful.

               Considering that I had just married the love of my life, I had hoped that the dreams would stop. But apparently luck wasn’t on my side.

               “My love, where are you? I’ve waited for you to come back to me, for so long… I need you, and I grow impatient. Husband, come back to me…”

               The voice was distant, echoing throughout the quickly forming jungle setting. All of the sounds were overwhelming, but her voice cut right through it all, slicing through my mind.

               High and sweet, I followed the source of the sound, hands trembling, though from fear or anticipation, I could not tell.

               When I finally reached the sound, the foliage parted to reveal the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.

               She was perched on a sun-drenched rock, her head turned upward. It exposed her long neck, and for a few moments, I was overtaken by the urge to take her in my arms and cover that skin with kisses. She wore a gown more fit for a ball than a romp in the wild, untamed jungle, hugging her curvy frame. It was emerald green, and the full skirt ended in tulle that sparkled. She was barefoot, but I could see tattoos covering her skin. Her hair was brown, and flowed loosely down her back. It was her eyes, though, that were truly arresting.

They were the bright, glowing orange of a harvest moon, and she turned her head to look at me, head tilting coyly to the side.

“You don’t know how long I’ve waited to see you,” She purred, stretching herself out on the rock; her movements were like a cat’s, languid and graceful.

“But you always did enjoy making me wait. Do you know who I am?”

I shook my head, struck mute by her beauty.

Something sparked in her eyes, and she clenched her fists, sitting up. She rose from the rock and stomped toward me.

“Allow me to enlighten you, husband. I am your goddess, your wife, the mother of your children. And I have come to collect you. It is time to rejoin us, your celestial family. I’ve had enough waiting.”

Though her voice was defiant, when she touched me, her skin was soft, and I shivered when she took my wrist in her hand.

When she took her hand away, I felt a weight on my wrist: a gold bangle, with moon and star charms dangling from it.

“Find me, my love. We need your help.

We don’t have much time.”

I awoke to my wife, Gabby, shaking my shoulder gently.

“Liam? Are you all right, love?”

“Yes,” I said, the word crumbling to ash on my tongue. I knew it to be a lie.

When I felt under my pillow, the bangle was there, as cold and smooth as it had been in my dream.