close

The Qwillery | category: Melanie | (page 1 of 8)

home

The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

qwillery.blogspot.com

Review: The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman


The Secret Chapter
Author:  Genevieve Cogman
Series:  The Invisible Library Novel 6
Publisher: Ace, January 7, 2020
Format:  Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
List Price: US$26.00 (HC); US$16.00 (TP); US$11.99  (eBook)
ISBN:  978059317844 (HC); 9781984804761 (TP);  9781984804778 (eBook)

Review: The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman
Time-travelling, dimension-jumping, Librarian-spy Irene and dragon-prince Kai will have to team up with an unlikely band of misfits to pull off an amazing art heist—or risk the wrath of a dangerous villain with a secret island lair.

A Librarian’s work is never done, and Irene is summoned to the Library. The world where she grew up is in danger of veering deep into chaos, and she needs to obtain a particular book to stop this from happening. Her only choice is to contact a mysterious Fae information-broker and trader of rare objects: Mr. Nemo.

Irene and Kai make their way to Mr. Nemo’s remote Caribbean island and are invited to dinner, which includes unlikely company. Mr. Nemo has an offer for everyone there: he wants them to steal a specific painting from a specific world. But to get their reward, they will have to form a team, including a dragon techie, a Fae thief, a gambler, a driver, and the muscle. Their goal? The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, in an early twenty-first-century world, where their toughest challenge might be each other.



Melanie's Thoughts

This instalment of the Invisible Library series is a librarian version of Ocean's 11 meets the Italian job with a little of the Thomas Crown Affair thrown in for good measure. Irene is barely afforded the time to rest after the traumatic events of the last story where she helped to broker a deal between the dragons and fae. Her mission, this time, is to obtain a specific book or else the World in which she spent her teenage years will fall into chaos. Unfortunately, the key to finding this book rests in the hands of an information broker - Mr. Nemo. Before he gives up the secret to the book he wants Irene to steal a painting from another world. Irene won't be doing this on her own. She has a crack team at her disposal, each with their own specialism - a thief, a gambler, the muscle, a computer geek and a driver. If they return the painting to Mr. Nemo within a week he will give them something from his collection.  For Irene it's the book she desperately wants. Irene is not normally a 'team player' but she has to cooperate with the others or she has no chance of stealing the painting let alone surviving the mission.

This book seems to signal another change in direction for the series. Books 1-3 focused on the Alberich plotline. Then the direction changes in Books 4 and 5 which leads up to the confrontation between the fae and dragons. Then Book 6 (The Secret Chapter) is different again, where Irene is joined by Kai and a couple of 'players' in order to complete the mission. The only things that are consistent through all novels are Irene, the Library and Kai. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the story. I did. However, that is due to how much I like Irene and Kai and less about the plotline which I found quite predictable in comparison to other stories. Cogman really focuses on stereotypes and the roles that people play in life and the plot lends itself to this theme. I feel that if Cogman represented her characters in colour then everyone apart from Irene and Kai would been in black and white.

Cogam also introduces us to Irene's parents. They are both typical and atypical parents. Irene is unique as she has grown up with the Library but didn't spend a lot of time with her parents as they were off on their own book retrieval missions. The fact that they weren't always around doesn't stop Irene's parents from acting like typical parents and the scenes they are together are quite humorous. Typically being introduced to someone's parents gives you a better idea of what they are like as a person. As we have already spent 5 novels with Irene I don't think there is much about this character that we don't already know and while amusing it does seem more like her parents are a plot device rather than developing Irene's backstory and character.

Overall, this is another solid instalment in the Invisible Library series. I do, however, worry that Cogman has lost the over-arching plot arc. As much as I love Irene, Kai and friends I don't want this to continue to be one off, semi-standalone series with no end in sight.

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019


There was a point this year when I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to write a 'best of' post this year. I found it hard to find books I wanted to read, but more importantly, books I really enjoyed reading. I did hit the jackpot and found some books I really adored and here are my top 5 reads of 2019, starting in reverse order:



Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
Number 5 - Circe by Madeline Miller 

Back in April I finally decided to check out a recommendation from one of my friends Circe by Madeline Miller. I had the audio version of the book so this is technically a 'listen to' rather than a read...but lets not split hairs. Perdita Weeks brought the troubled daughter of the sun god Helios to life, as we follow Circe from her home with the gods, to her exile by Zeus on Aiaia. Miller creates a fantastic story for the mythical Circe and interweaves a number of other myths and mythical characters to share the stage with her. Miller has received awards and accolades for this Circe and here is one more - one of my fave books of 2019!





Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
Number 4 - Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

In July I took my sister's advice this time and purchased Machines Like Me (again another audio book). I loved everything about this book - the alternate history of 80's Britain, McEwan's android science, the moral conflict and finally, the narrator - Billy Howle. McEwan is one of those authors who are a bit hit and miss with me but this time it was a big hit. See my thoughts here.







Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
Number 3 - Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

I thoroughly enjoyed Arden's Winternight trilogy and thought that The Winter of the Witch was a fantastic ending to this series. Again, this was another audio book (I did actually read some books!) and the narration, again was amazing. In this final instalment we join Vasya on the end of her magical journey that is steeped in Russian folklore.  I liked it sooo much I wrote a full review if you want to check it out here.







Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
Number 2 - La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

I was late to the prequel of the His Dark Materials party.  I had La Belle Sauvage on my TBR (yes Audible library) for too long before I decided I needed to find out what it was all about.  I was totally gripped from the first word until the last. Michael Sheen is a superlative narrator but it's Pullman's story that really shines through here. The young Malcolm, his daemon and the baby Lyra have an epic adventure that only Pullman could tell.  I almost think I liked this story better than the original  - His Dark Materials.






Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
Number 1 - it's a tie for first place in my book reading heart for 2019

A Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

A Thousand Doors of January tells the story of January Scaller and her life as the ward of the very wealthy Mr Locke. The story flits from past to present and from one world to another and it's not until near the very end that the reader gets to discover the intricacies of Harrow's plot.  Needless to say I loved this book and what is even more exceptional is that it is a debut novel. Kudos x 10 to Harrow for this very first novel. I wrote a full review if you want to find out more. Check it out here.



Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
The Binding by Bridget Collins

I described The Binding in my review as a gentle love story but the more I think about my description of the story I don't think I did the book justice. There is a real ethereal and haunting quality to this story. The binding and what it really means for the main protagonist Emmett isn't uncovered until most of the way through which adds to the tension and the mood of story itself. This is a book that stays with you and even a year later (almost) I am still caught up thinking about Emmett and what happened to him and imagining what could happen next. Great book and a fantastic audio book as well.


Well that is it....my faves of 2019.



I have an honourable mention (well mentions) - Aching God and Sin Eater by Michael Shel. Aching God was a finalist in the SPFBO 4 and one of Qwill's faves in 2018 but I only just read it in 2019. This is an amazing book and Sin Eater is even better. Thought I would keep these two as 'mentions' as Aching God was part of the SPFBO. My recommendation is to read both together to get the full effect. I can hardly wait for book 3 to come out.



I would love find out what your top reads of 2019 were so please leave me your top picks in the comments section.





Circe
Little, Brown and Company, April 10, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
“A bold and subversive retelling of the goddess’s story,” this #1 New York Times bestseller is “both epic and intimate in its scope, recasting the most infamous female figure from the Odyssey as a hero in her own right” (Alexandra Alter, The New York Times).

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER–NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR, The Washington Post, People, Time, Amazon, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, Newsweek, the A.V. Club, Christian Science Monitor and Refinery 29, Buzzfeed, Paste, Audible, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Thrillist, NYPL, Self Real Simple, Goodreads, Boston Globe, Electric Literature, BookPage, the Guardian, Book Riot, Seattle Times, and Business Insider





Machines Like Me
Nan A. Telese, April 23, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
New from Ian McEwan, Booker Prize winner and international bestselling author of Atonement and The Children Act

Machines Like Me takes place in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first synthetic humans and—with Miranda’s help—he designs Adam’s personality. The near-perfect human that emerges is beautiful, strong, and clever. It isn’t long before a love triangle soon forms, and these three beings confront a profound moral dilemma.

In his subversive new novel, Ian McEwan asks whether a machine can understand the human heart—or whether we are the ones who lack understanding.





Winter of the Witch
Winternight Trilogy 3
Del Rey, October 1, 2019
Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Hardcover, Audiobook, and eBook, January 8, 2019

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

“A tale both intimate and epic, featuring a heroine whose harrowing and wondrous journey culminates in an emotionally resonant finale.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Vasilisa Petrovna is an unforgettable heroine determined to forge her own path. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.





La Belle Sauvage
The Book of Dust 1
June 4, 2019
Trade Paperback, 480 pages
 eBook, October 19, 2017

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Philip Pullman returns to the parallel world of His Dark Materials–soon to be an HBO original series starring Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda–to expand on the story of Lyra, “one of fantasy’s most indelible heroines” (The New York Times Magazine).

Don’t miss Volume II of The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth

Malcolm Polstead and his daemon, Asta, are used to overhearing news and the occasional scandal at the inn run by his family. But during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm finds a mysterious object—and finds himself in grave danger.

Inside the object is a cryptic message about something called Dust; and it’s not long before Malcolm is approached by the spy for whom this message was actually intended. When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he begins to notice suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl—just a baby—named Lyra.

Lyra is at the center of a storm, and Malcolm will brave any peril, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through it.

“Too few things in our world are worth a seventeen-year wait: The Book of Dust is one of them.” —The Washington Post
 
“The book is full of wonder. . . . Truly thrilling.” —The New York Times
 
“People will love the first volume of Philip Pullman’s new trilogy with the same helpless vehemence that stole over them when The Golden Compass came out.” —Slate





A Thousand Doors of January
Redhook, September 10, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.





The Binding
William Morrow, April 16, 2019
Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
Proclaimed as “truly spellbinding,” a “great fable” that “functions as transporting romance” by the Guardian, the runaway #1 international bestseller

"A rich, gothic entertainment that explores what books have trapped inside them and reminds us of the power of storytelling. Spellbinding.” — TRACY CHEVALIER

Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.
Forever.


Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice amongst their small community, but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.

An unforgettable novel of enchantment, mystery, memory, and forbidden love, The Binding is a beautiful homage to the allure and life-changing power of books—and a reminder to us all that knowledge can be its own kind of magic.





Honorable Mention

Aching God
Iconoclasts 1
April 9, 2018
   eBook, 604 pages
March 27, 2019
   Trade Paperback 602 pages

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019
“Closer, mortal. You are here, finally, to feed the Aching God…”

The days of adventure are passed for Auric Manteo. Retired to the countryside and isolated with his scars and riches, he no longer delves into forbidden ruins seeking dark wisdom and treasure. But just as old nightmares begin plaguing his sleep, he receives an urgent summons back to that old life.

To save his only daughter, he must return to the place of his greatest trauma: the haunted Barrowlands. Along with a group of inexperienced companions and an old soldier, he must confront the dangers of the ancient and wicked Djao civilization. He has survived fell beasts, insidious traps, and deadly hazards before. But how can he contend with the malice of a bloodthirsty living god?

First volume in the planned epic fantasy trilogy Iconoclasts, Aching God is the debut novel by RPG adventure designer Mike Shel.

Also included is an advanced preview of Iconoclasts - Book II: Sin Eater.



Sin Eater
Iconoclasts 2
May 20,  2019
Trade Paperback and eBook, 574 pages

Melanie's Top Reads of 2019

"I SHALL BAPTIZE YOU, SIR, AND MY BAPTISM WILL BURN YOUR FOLLY AND FLESH AWAY."

A year has passed since Auric Manteo descended into the haunted depths of a Djao ruin to return a lethal artifact, only to face down a bloodthirsty, imprisoned god. Now his daughter Agnes comes to bring him back to the capital with promises of hidden secrets finally revealed.

But the city decays, poisonous disorder is rife, and whispered prophecy foretells of cataclysm and doom. Summoned by their no-longer human queen, Auric and Agnes are commanded to carry out an impossible task, one that can be accomplished only with the mysterious blade Szaa’da’shaela, gifted to Auric on a lunatic's whim.

Can Auric and his daughter survive a journey fraught with blood, menace, and madness? And can they pay the price demanded by a being every bit as evil as the Aching God?

Sin Eater is the sequel to 2018’s widely praised Aching God and book 2 of the Iconoclasts Trilogy. Get your copy today!

Review: Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows by Kate Griffin


Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows
Author:  Kate Griffin
Series:  The Kitty Peck Mysteries 4
Publisher:  Faber & Faber, November 7, 2019
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 204 pages
List Price:  US$12.55 (print); US$7.49 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780571325603 (print); 9780571325610 (eBook)

Review: Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows by Kate Griffin
Even though Paradise was riddled with rot, I reckoned I could make it a cleaner place for the poor types who came with the dirty trades. I could make them all love me, I thought.

I was wrong about that. I’ve been wrong about so much.

When Kitty Peck took over Paradise – her grandmother’s East End criminal empire – she thought she would be able to run it her own way. What Kitty didn’t know was that her grandmother had also left her violently entwined with the Barons of London. This coterie of fiends will stop at nothing to gain power, and they’ve already robbed Kitty of so much that she held dear.

Kitty is determined to do away with the dark underbelly of Paradise and to transform her music halls into the jewels of Limehouse. But as she begins her final assault on the Barons, a new threat appears in the form of an eerily charismatic preacher on a crusade against ‘wickedness and vice’. Can Kitty save Paradise from destruction, without losing any more of the people she loves?



Melanie's Thoughts

Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows is the final instalment of Kate Griffin's Kitty Peck series. Poor Kitty has risen to great heights - both literally and metaphorically. She has flown high above the dance halls in a golden cage as a performer and now that she has inherited her grandmother's east end empire she wants to make changes. It's not as easy as she hoped especially when the Barons still have control of her fate. However, its not just the Barons that are causing a problem for Kitty's plans to clean up the rot in her new empire. An extremely charismatic preacher has come to town preaching against the sinful ways of the residents of the east end. He is whipping up the locals against the dance halls and everyone who earns a living from them...Kitty included. If the Barons and the preacher weren't enough certain members of Kitty's theatre family have ended up dead, in the most gruesome ways possible. Now she has a serial killer to contend with. Things are not looking up for the Limehouse Linnet.

This final instalment is action packed with a capital 'A' from the first chapter to the very last. I quite enjoyed it (not the gruesome parts, of course) as there was a real sense throughout that life was going to get better for Kitty. The previous books were quite harrowing and while the murders on her doorstep, the omnipresent guilt she feels for Dan's death and the fact she was the reason her love interest loses an eye it doesn't stop her striving to be someone better. I thought it was quite interesting how Griffin uses the preacher as the tool to resolve one of the story's main plot points. Without revealing too much it was quite clever how she wound a number of plot threads and characters around one another to resolve not just the preacher plotline but the mystery of Kitty's parentage as well.  Usually, I can guess what will happen but I was on the edge of my seat throughout the final chapters of the book as I had no clue what Giffin had in store for Kitty and friends.

I did enjoy this series as a whole and Griffin clearly had done a lot of research into the period so that Kitty's life was true to the period. The book is very visceral and you can really picture Kitty, her clothes, and her home. I felt very sorry for Kitty in previous books but she was like a phoenix who has risen from the ashes...or in her case from the opium smoke to take control and create her own future. If you want to find out for yourself then you need to start at book 1 - Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders.

Review - The Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E Harrow


A Thousand Doors of January
Author:  Alix E. Harrow
Publisher:  Redhook, September 10, 2019
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages
List Price:  US$27.00 (print); US$ 9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780316421997(print); 9780316421980 (eBook)

Review - The Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E Harrow
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.



Melanie's Thoughts

Living as the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, January Scaller is as much of a rare curiosity as the many rare treasures that fill his mansion. January spends much of her life alone and lonely with her father off searching for new treasures for Mr. Locke and the New England Archaeological Society. When she finds a strange book that tells a story of mysterious doors that lead to dangerous and exotic places her life starts to change with every turn of the page.

I absolutely love The Thousand Doors of January. I was really very pleasantly surprised to discover that this was a debut novel. Harrow has crafted an excellent story within a story that carefully unfolds as January reads the book - The Ten Thousand Doors. It took me a while to realise what was happening and how the story is interwoven with January's life. I don't want to say too much and ruin the surprise.

In my opinion Harrow mastered the three essential components of a good book - characterisation, setting, and plot. I found January completely believable as the lonely young girl who wanders the halls of Locke's mansion desperate for her father's attention. Despite having a companion and a pet January is very much on her own and even more so when her father fails to return from one of his missions abroad. This 'aloneness' and loneliness is a prevalent theme throughout. Harrow uses multiple settings for her story - everywhere from a luxurious mansion, to a desolate farm in the midwest to a multitude of exotic and dangerous 'other' worlds. Harrow writing is descriptive enough that you can feel the hot wind on your cheek or smell the perfumed air yet she does this without being verbose. Now about the plot. As I mentioned earlier there is a story within a story and this is the same with the plot. There are two main dimensions to the plot - one is a love story or the search for love and the other is about overcoming the odds. I know this sounds very vague but I don't want to accidentally give anything away by describing too much of what happens.

The Thousand Doors of January is a great book that had me gripped from page 1 all the way to the end. It has easily made it into my top 5 books of the year....and the year isn't over yet. I am also pretty sure that it will make it into my top 20 fave books ever! All these accolades and Harrow is new author. Imagine what is going to come next for Harrow! I can hardly wait.

Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden


Winter of the Witch
Author:  Katherine Arden
Series:  Winternight Trilogy 3
Publisher:  Del Rey, October 1, 2019
Format:  Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Format:  Hardcover, Audiobook, and eBook, January 8, 2019
List Price:  US$17.00 (print); US$13.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781101886014 (print); 9781101886007 (eBook)

Review: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

“A tale both intimate and epic, featuring a heroine whose harrowing and wondrous journey culminates in an emotionally resonant finale.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Vasilisa Petrovna is an unforgettable heroine determined to forge her own path. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.



Melanie's Review

The Winter of the Witch, Arden's final instalment of her Winternight Trilogy, starts immediately after the dramatic events of book 2 - The Girl in the Tower. The residents of Moscow have woken up to the devastation left by a massive fire. Parts of the city are in ruins and friends and family are dead or homeless. They are looking for answers but more importantly for someone to blame. Unfortunately, Vasya is in the cross hairs as she no longer has the protection of the Grand Prince who is angry and no longer trusts her or her brother, the monk Alexander. Without his support Vasya is left vulnerable and on her own. Even more dangerous than the mobs looking for revenge is Father Konstantin. He is determined to destroy Vasya and teams up with a demon who wants revenge and to create chaos wherever he goes. With all of Russia on the brink of war and desperate to protect those she loves Vasya embarks on a journey to find the one person who can help her, the Winter King. Time is running out for Vasya to save her family and the magical world she has grown to love.

Arden keeps the pressure on Vasya throughout this novel and the suspense is high from the very start through to the very end of the story. She doesn't do this by dragging her heroine through countless high action scenes like many authors like to do. Instead the story is a clever balance of action, character development and strategically placed reveals or uncovering of secrets. Arden has the unique ability to create the sense that you are reading folklore rather than new fantasy fiction. This adds another element to the enjoyment of this instalment and the series as a whole.

Vasya is a great character and throughout the series the reader has the opportunity to see her grow and evolve. It's hard to believe she is only in her late teens in the final book but give the time period that was probably middle age. She certainly acts like someone far older and more mature than a 17 year old. I love her relationship with the magical characters she was trying to save, especially the various domovoy who protect the home and hearth. Through Vasya, the readers learns how the spread of Christianity started to cause the magical creatures and pagan gods to weaken and disappear. This is one of the causes the rift between Vasya and her brother who is a monk as she has magical abilities that conflict with his Christian beliefs. This is also the reason why Father Konstantin hates her so.

Through her travels Vasya meets many of the magical creatures that make up Russian folklore. Arden uses real historic events and people as the basis of the main plot of this story which again, gives the impression you are reading something other than fantasy fiction.

I actually listened to the audio version The Winter of the Witch and if you have this opportunity available to you I highly recommend it. The story is narrated by Kathleen Gati and she does an excellent job of bringing Vasya to life. Unlike some narrators, Gati doesn't try to sound like a man when reading the dialogue of male characters which I much prefer. Keeping the narration in one tone of voice reinforces the impression that this is folklore, a story retold from one generation to the next.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and The Winter of the Witch is a fantastic ending to Vasya's story. There isn't anything I would change in this instalment. Great book, great series but start with book 1 - The Bear and the Nightingale.

Review: Blood Broken by Lindsay J. Pryor


Blood Broken
Author:  Lindsay J. Pryor
Series:  Blackthorn 8
Publisher:  Bookouture, May 20, 2019
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 500 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$4.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781786813992 (print); 9781786813985 (eBook)

Review: Blood Broken by Lindsay J. Pryor
‘Our love could save us both. Or it could destroy everything.’

Leila McKay is both blessed and cursed. Her potent serryn powers are growing stronger, but they come with a heavy price. And to prove her love for vampire leader Caleb, she needs to bring his murdered brother Jake back to life. The only way is to cast a spell no one has dared to attempt before, that could tear apart the fabric of time itself…

But Caleb fears that treachery runs deep in Leila’s veins. Although the heat between them grows hotter by the second, Caleb’s past has left him with a hard heart and a mistrustful nature, and it was at her sister’s hands that Jake was killed… but with his brother’s life in the balance, giving in to his primal instincts is more tempting than ever.

Time is running out for Caleb. In a matter of hours, Jake will be past the point of saving: and around them, all-out war rages in Blackthorn. With genetically modified lycans and vicious convicts roaming the streets, Sirius Throme at the Global Council has secret plans that threaten to devastate the whole district… and Leila is the only one powerful enough to save them all. But can Caleb really trust her?

With countless lives at stake, will Leila and Caleb’s fierce attraction be strong enough to see them through the ultimate test? Or in unleashing the darkness within, will they destroy everything they hold dear?

The explosive, action-packed conclusion to the utterly addictive Blackthorn series will leave fans of paranormal romance breathless. Blackthorn is an eight-book series with an overarching plot, so if you’re at the start of your Blackthorn journey, read BLOOD SHADOWS to discover how it all began…



Melanie's Thoughts

I can't believe the time has come when I have to say good-bye to Leila, Caleb, Kane, Caitlen and the rest of the Blackthorn crew in this final instalment of the Blackthorn series, Blood Broken. The prophecy that has threatened our heroes and heroines over the last 7 books is about to come to pass....or is it? The fourth dimension has broken through, super lycans have wreaked devastation, the cons have escaped out of their territory killing innocents all while the Global Council has a devastating plan to rid the world of the 3rd species. Blackthorn has become a battle ground and Leila has the solution to all their problems. Can she be trusted? Will she succeed and save Blackthorn? I will leave it to you to find out.

You could be led to believe that this is another story of Caleb the vampire king and the vampire killer Leila but it's much more. All of the main characters across the whole series have full chapters or part chapters dedicated to their own personal story. All our favourite goodies and baddies have something to say about the prophecy and whether the 3rd species should prevail. I especially enjoyed those chapters dedicated to the various baddies that have made our heroes and heroines lives hell over the series. I especially like Sirius Throme. Even his name sounds nasty and boy he is really really nasty. Since most of the characters are paired off with their love interests there isn't a lot of character development until near the very end of the story and be prepared for the big plot twist that comes with that.

Blood Broken is rather a challenging book to read due to the violence, specifically the violence against women. I have mentioned in previous reviews that I have found the sex scenes rather disturbing and this is even more so in this instalment. If you read one of the sex scenes out of the context of this series then you could very much believe that it was a scene of sexual assault and not of love making There was nothing that was loving, romantic or caring about the scene and I am not sure it added that much to the story as a whole.

Violence aside Pryor ensures that fans of this series are left satisfied as every thread of the plot over the entire series are tied up, every baddy gets their comeuppance and there is a bittersweet HEA for certain characters. Pryor delivers a very satisfying epilogue to end the series which I thought was a good touch.  Overall, I liked Pryor's innovative and complex plot and this would have been a 5 star series had I liked the characters a bit more and she toned down the kidnapping and abuse of the female leads. If you like your bad boys to be really bad then this is the series for you.

SPFBO Finalist Review: Orconomics by J.Zachary Pike


Orconomics
The Dark Profit Saga 1
Gnomish Press, November 22, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 389 pages

SPFBO Finalist Review: Orconomics by J.Zachary Pike
A disgraced Dwarven hero. A band of deadbeat adventurers. His last shot at redemption could get him killed.

If Gorm Ingerson really wanted to drink himself to death, he never should have helped the Goblin. When his good deed lands him in a bad contract, Gorm finds himself entangled in a quest that will pit him against business magnates, the king of the Freedlands, and a mad goddess trying to fulfill a suicidal prophecy.

But Gorm’s tarnished circumstances may be hiding a golden opportunity. If he and his half-baked party can overcome deep conspiracies and dark magics, he just might redeem himself and his career enough to be a professional hero once more.

Orconomics: A Satire is the first book in The Dark Profit Saga, a trilogy so funny it’s epic. If you like down-and-out heroes, sidesplitting misadventures, and ingenious world-building, then you’ll love J. Zachary Pike’s dark and delightful ribbing of high fantasy.

Buy Orconomics to join the campaign for a high-energy, hilarious fantasy adventure today!



Melanie's Review

Are goblins ruining your crops? Wyrm nesting in your shrubbery? You found a map to buried treasure but don't have time to find it? Look no further than the Hero's Guild to solve all your problems and to turn a tidy profit in the process. In Arth, speculating on the success of a hero's quest is big business. The success of your business and your shareholders can all depend on the heroics of a single individual. Gorm, used to be the best of the best, a dwarven hero with no rival until a job went bad and he lost his reputation, his clan and his livelihood. When he is offered the opportunity to redeem his fortunes he can't really say no....well the gun held to his head helped make that decision. The next thing he knows Gorm is joined but a motley crew of misfits, all of who have something to prove and something to gain. Orconomics is well and truly an epic adventure with heroes and villains galore, a tale of self discovery and a cracking good mystery to boot.

Orconomics has restored my faith in self-published fantasy. I absolutely loved this book. It was funny, the plot was original and the characters were well developed. When I describe this book as an epic I am not kidding, it really is. It took me ages to get through so many pages. It can be really challenging for me to stay interested in a book that is as long as Orconomics but Pike kept a solid pace that mixed action, adventure and storytelling.

Gorm Ingerson, this story's hero, has a great group of characters to interact with. Gorm is supported by a cast of characters that could only be described as supporting cast in your favourite dungeons and dragons-esque video game. The story is largely told from Gorm's POV, however, there are a few chapters where the story is told from other perspectives which all help to enrich the plot. While I am sure that many readers loved Gorm's goblin companion, Gleebek, it was actually the ogre Thane and his unrequited love that made me giggle the most. I feel that I need to warn you not to get attached to any character as Pike doesn't play it safe with his characters.

Hats off to Pike as he has written a truly original story that is drenched in sarcasm and wit. I never quite knew what would happen next which made Orconomics a real page turner. I can hardly wait to find out what happens next to Gorm and his friends. I loved this booked so much that I could easily give it a 9 out of 10. If you like fantasy, have a sense of humour and need a nice meaty read then be sure to get Orconomics on your TBR.

9 out of 10

SPFBO Finalist Review: Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnon


Symphony of the Wind
The Raincatcher's Ballad 1
Steven McKinnon DBA Vividarium Books, June 25, 2018
Kindle eBook and Trade Paperback, 660 pages

Longlisted for the Booknest 2018 Fantasy Awards - Best Self Published Fantasy

Current Finalist in Mark Lawrence's SPFBO 2018

A bounty hunter with a death wish. A girl with fearsome powers. A kingdom on the brink of destruction.
Serena dreams of leaving her unforgiving desert home far behind in her very own airship. But when an assassin's knife meant for Serena kills her friend instead, the rebellious orphan ventures into the corrupt heart of the kingdom to discover who put a price on her head. With each new turn, she edges closer to uncovering the awful truth… And the mystical powers brewing deep within her.

After his fiancée’s death, soldier-turned-bounty hunter Tyson Gallows is eager to sacrifice his life in the line of duty. When a foreign enemy assassinates a high-ranking official, he vows to bring them to justice. On the hunt for a killer, Gallows exposes a sinister plot that proves his fiancée’s death was no accident.

Driven by revenge, Serena and Gallows must join forces to take down the conspiracy before the kingdom falls to ruin.

Symphony of the Wind is the first book in a gritty epic fantasy trilogy. If you like hardened heroes, bloody action, and dark magic and monsters, then you’ll love Steven McKinnon’s visceral adventure.

Buy Symphony of the Wind to climb aboard a brutal, breathtaking thrill ride today!




Melanie's Thoughts

I have read a number of very positive reviews about Symphony of Wind and it has made into the finals of the SPFBO so I was really expecting to like it. Unfortunately, I just couldn't connect with either the characters or the plotline. Part of the book description on the back cover of the novel says this
If you like hardened heroes, steampunk airships, and dark magic and monsters, then you’ll love Steven McKinnon’s visceral adventure.
I like hardened heroes, steampunk airships, dark magic, and monsters so I was sure this would be a good fit for me. I have come to realise that I don't like them all together. I found the steampunk setting mixed with what read like a sword and shield fantasy quite jarring. I think that McKinnon was trying for a very complex epic fantasy but sometimes less rather than more gives you a winner. There were too many elements from other genres all mixed together into one big soup of a story - the steampunk ships, the magic, the wars, the government conspiracy, the prostitute with heart, and on and on.

Had their been fewer characters and perhaps more explanation of the society and culture at the beginning I might have liked the story a bit more. I re-read the first four chapters more than once because I couldn't figure out what was going on. This is never a good sign for me. I need a hook to grab me in, especially when the main character is a young teenager. One of the other books I read for this SPFBO had a teenager for a lead character and I made the decision that there has to be something more adult or 'special' about teenage lead characters for me to enjoy reading youth fiction. In the case of Symphony of Wind Serena was quite immature. In one scene she has just discovered that one of her friends has been murdered - it was supposed to be her that died - and then next minute she is walking down the street with hardly a care in the world. There was a very similar reaction in an earlier scene where members of her Raincatcher crew are killed in a freak accident right in front of her. It was Serena's self involvement and lack of empathy that made her rather unlikeable. While she did mature a bit over the course of the story my interest in her had already waned.

The other main character Tyson Gallows was older but not what I would say much wiser. He was quite two dimensional and spent much of the book reliving memories of the time when his fiancée was still alive. He was cast as a bounty hunter but he came across too soft-hearted for that role and not that heroic. There were a number of other characters that shared the plot with Serena and Gallows. In fact, there were quite a few POVs and you had to really pay attention to who was speaking as the interchange between the characters was quite quick.

This is McKinnon's first novel so hats off to him for being so ambitious as not only is the story complex but it is also very long (a whopping 660 pages). I think the story could have benefited if the plot focused on a few key characters and there was a tiny bit more world building at the start. Without this however, I struggled to finish this tome and due to the complexity supported by weak characters I am going to have to give Symphony of Wind a 5/10.

5 out of 10

SPFBO Finalist Review: Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe


Ruthless Magic
Author:  Megan Crewe
Series:  Conspiracy of Magic 1
Publisher:  Another World Press, May 2018
Format:  Hardcover, Trade Paperback and eBook
List Price:  US$19.99 (Hardcover); US$12.99 (Trade Paperback),
                  US$12.99 (eBook)             

SPFBO Finalist Review: Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe
In the contest to keep their magic, the only options may be die... or kill.

Each year, the North American Confederation of Mages assesses every sixteen-year-old novice. Some will be chosen. The rest must undergo a procedure to destroy their magical ability unless they prove themselves in the mysterious and brutal Mages' Exam.

Disadvantaged by her parents' low standing, Rocío Lopez has dedicated herself to expanding her considerable talent to earn a place in the Confederation. Their rejection leaves her reeling—and determined to fight to keep her magic.

Long ashamed of his mediocre abilities, Finn Lockwood knows the Confederation accepted him only because of his prominent family. Declaring for the Exam instead means a chance to confirm his true worth.

Thrown into the testing with little preparation, Rocío and Finn find themselves becoming unlikely allies—and possibly more. But the Exam holds secrets more horrifying than either could have imagined. What are the examiners really testing them for? And as the trials become increasingly vicious, how much are they willing to sacrifice to win?





Melanie's Review

I can't really describe the plot any more adequately as the book description itself so will leave you to read it for yourself. What I can say is that it is a pretty straightforward story of a talented girl from the wrong side of the tracks who falls for the less talented boy from a magically prominent family. The mage examinations are like no exam you ever want to have to take. It is literally a fight for survival and talent doesn't guarantee a pass.

Ruthless Magic is described as a combination of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. While I am a big fan of both of those series I am not a big fan of Ruthless Magic. I found Finn really dull and Rocío was one big stereotype. The fact they were making googly eyes at each other when they were fighting for their lives made me more than a little bit annoyed. Katniss wasn't swooning over Peta when they were in a fight for their lives and Harry Potter didn't even have a love interest. I didn't really find either character that credible and I wasn't really invested in them as characters or whether they survived the mage exam or not.

I really struggled to finish this book and at one point I didn't think I was going to be able to. Authors of YA fiction, who want their work to appeal to adult readers, have an additional challenge. Young adult characters have to be believable for readers in both age groups (Adult and Young Adult) otherwise the story can end up sounding really trite and/or the characters are really bland.  Unfortunately, this was the case for me and Ruthless Magic. I found nothing in either of the main characters that I could grab hold of and say 'yeah, that makes sense, that's how I would expect a 16 year old to act'. It was this lack of character credibility that had me struggling to finish the book and why I only give it a 3/10.

Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven


Phoenix Unbound
Author:  Grace Draven
Series:  The Fallen Empire 1
Publisher:  Ace, September 25, 2018
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  US$15.00 (print); US$4.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780451489753 (print); 9780451489760 (eBook)

Review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven
A woman with power over fire and illusion and the enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.

Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. Unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will abandon everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more.



Melanie's Thoughts

Had Grace Draven's name not been on the front cover I would not have guessed this is one of her novels....well at least not for the first few chapters. Gilene and Azarion are both victims who had endured rape and torture at the hands of the Empire. The Krael Empire is not a typical setting for a Draven novel and most certainly, the systematic rape and torture is not typical of what happens to her characters. Sure, her characters have endured hardship or isolation but never anything to this extreme, especially for the story's hero Azarion. Before you start to this think that this story is something completely different to Draven romance let me reassure you as Draven doesn't focus unduly on what Azarion or Gilene have experienced as captives of the Empire. Azarion and Gilene's memories of their treatment is not too graphic and Draven successfully uses these scenes for character development, possibly also as a backdrop for other books of the series.

Phoenix Unbound is set in, what best can be described, in a time period similar to the Roman Empire where the pagan gods are worshipped and the rich rule by controlling the populace through blood sport and ritual killing. Draven's Krael Empire is not too different to periods of our own history, just with a little more magic. This makes it easier to relate to her characters and could also make you believe that Gilene and Azarion were from a page in history rather than the pages of a fantasy novel.

Draven has a lyrical or poetic writing style and the latter scenes between the two lead characters are written to be read like one long love letter. One of the lines that reminded me that I was reading a Draven novel occurred when Azarion sees Gilene for the first time after nearly a year. He calls her the 'wife of my soul'. For me this is typical Draven. At its core Phoenix Unbound is romance but not as obviously romance as some of her other novels. I am very finicky about what romance I enjoy. I have to say I read quite a bit of that genre but I invariably don't enjoy it, especially when there is a lot of sex. I really enjoyed Draven's Master of Crows series and if she continues to build the Fallen Empire series on the foundation of this first novel then I think I may enjoy it more.

Draven has such beautifully illustrated novels - Masters of Crows is beautiful. The cover of Phoenix Unbound is absolutely gorgeous and I have spent quite a bit of time staring at it. She is very lucky to have someone to create such lovely illustrations.

This may not be a novel to suit every lover of romance but if you like something a little different and not a lot on the hot and steamy then this may be the book for you.
Review: The Secret Chapter by Genevieve CogmanMelanie's Top Reads of 2019Review: Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows by Kate GriffinReview - The Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E HarrowReview: The Winter of the Witch by Katherine ArdenReview: Blood Broken by Lindsay J. PryorSPFBO Finalist Review: Orconomics by J.Zachary PikeSPFBO Finalist Review: Symphony of the Wind by Steven McKinnonSPFBO Finalist Review: Ruthless Magic by Megan CreweReview: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Report "The Qwillery"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?

Cancel
×