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1.5 star, YA

Review: The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson

Hagenheim #9

the warrior maiden -melanie dickersonFrom New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson comes a fresh reimagining of the classic Mulan tale.

Mulan isn’t afraid to pretend to be a son and assume her father’s soldier duties in war. But what happens when the handsome son of a duke discovers her secret?

Mulan is trying to resign herself to marrying the village butcher for the good of her family, but her adventurous spirit just can’t stand the thought. At the last minute, she pretends to be the son her father never had, assumes his duties as a soldier, and rides off to join the fight to protect the castle of her liege lord’s ally from the besieging Teutonic Knights.

Wolfgang and his brother Steffan leave Hagenheim with several other soldiers to help their father’s ally in Poland. When they arrive, Wolfgang is exasperated by the young soldier Mikolai who seems to either always be one step away from disaster . . . or showing Wolfgang up in embarrassing ways.

When Wolfgang discovers his former rival and reluctant friend Mikolai is actually a girl, he is determined to protect her. But battle is a dangerous place where anything can happen—and usually does.

When Mulan receives word that her mother has been accused of practicing witchcraft through her healing herbs and skills, Mulan’s only thought is of defending her. Will she be able to trust Wolfgang to help? Or will sacrificing her own life be the only way to save her mother?


1.5 Drink Me Potions


**The Warrior Maiden comes out February 5, 2019**

Thank you Edelweiss and Thomas Nelson for this copy in exchange for an honest review

The Warrior Maiden reminds me why I stopped reading Melanie’s books for a while. Sometimes Christian fiction elements just don’t mix well with your typical fairy tale retelling.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it’s weird and strange to try. I loved some of the earlier Hagenheim books but I think there reaches a point where all the more popular fairy tales have been done and you’re left trying to weave just one more story out of a tale that should be left alone.

The story of Mulan fits that bill.

For medieval age Lithuania, I’m not sure this story fit well. For one, Melanie kept the protagonist’s name as Mulan. Sure, I like the authenticity and the allusion to the Chinese heritage (for which I’m extremely happy about ’cause we’ve all had enough of westerners changing an original Asian cast to a white version while fans keep their complaints quiet or their grumbles come to nothing), but it just seemed far fetched too me.

Then came the romance. The “prince”. Wolfgang. I didn’t feel it. It was love at first sight. She saw him when she joined the army to fight the Knights and like fell in love? Was it lust? I mean, she really liked how handsome he was and she felt something different about him. Some kind of stirring in her. Yes, she got to know him afterwards and her attraction grew, but it was so strong so fast and I just didn’t feel a thing.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the plot fell flat. At like half point, the “big” bad was kind of defeated and they were celebrating. I’m sitting there thinking, well what’s the next half of the book gonna be about if it’s almost happily ever after already? Of course, things “still” happen but I wouldn’t say that it was very exciting from that point since it seemed we hit our climax in some way already.

I really wanted to like this book. I like the story of Mulan. She’s a strong female character, not your typical princess, who still got an amazing happily ever after. There’s nothing wrong with princesses but sometimes you just want a warrior girl.

I think it’s amazing to try and combine fairy tales and Christian themes/morals but maybe it’s almost time to conclude this series. Kudos to Melanie for even attempting such a creative process but I don’t know if I can sit through another book where I felt nothing for anyone and the story just bores me to tears.

Overall Recommendation:

The Warrior Maiden tried to be a Mulan retelling that just fell flat from its ambitions. The story was slow and there was no real buildup to create anticipation and excitement. The storytelling and actual prose was too simple, making it hard to stay enthusiastic about anyone or anything that was happening. I wanted to love a Chinese girl in medieval age Lithuania but the story just didn’t work for me. Maybe this is goodbye to Hagenheim at last.

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3 star, YA

Review: The Blood Spell by C.J. Redwine

Series: Ravenspire #4

the blood spell -cj redwineBlue de la Cour has her life planned: hide the magic in her blood and continue trying to turn metal into gold so she can help her city’s homeless. But when her father is murdered and a cruel but powerful woman claims custody of Blue and her property, one wrong move could expose her—and doom her once and for all. The only one who can help? The boy she’s loathed since childhood: Prince Kellan.

Kellan Renard, crown prince of Balavata, is walking a thin line between political success and devastating violence. Newly returned from boarding school, he must find a bride among the kingdom’s head families and announce his betrothal—but escalating tension among the families makes the search nearly impossible. He’s surprised to discover that the one person who makes him feel like he can breathe is Blue, the girl who once ruined all his best adventures.

When mysterious forces lead to disappearances throughout Balavata, Blue and Kellan must work together to find the truth. What they discover will lead them to the darkest reaches of the kingdom, and to the most painful moments of their pasts. When romance is forbidden and evil is rising, can Blue save those she loves, even if it costs her everything?


3 Drink Me Potions


**The Blood Spell comes out February 12, 2019**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

If you know me, I’m a huge Cinderella fan. It’s my absolute favourite fairy tale. There’s something beautiful in a story where the heartaches and injustice of the past is somehow all made worth it when someone finally recognizes her efforts and her character. I don’t see the manly prince sweeping the girl off her feet where I know many feminists prefer otherwise. I focus and love that the good and worthy finally gets what she deserves and more.

And that’s what I don’t see in The Blood Spell.

The premise of the book follows the Cinderella arc when it comes to the loss of a loved father, and a twisted stepmotherly figure taking advantage of Blue, our Cinderella character. But in the vein of Redwine’s other Ravenspire books set in this world, that’s where the similarities really stop. There’s magic, mayhem, witches (are we in the right fairy tale?), and a royal who’s just come home from a school of other royals (wink wink, an allusion to other memorable characters).

Blue has an ability to create gold (once again, are we in another tale?), which for obvious reasons will attract your unsavory types. I wanted to like her as a character but it was an effort. There’s nothing wrong with her per se. She’s not defenseless or weak or “just waiting for her Prince Charming”. But she’s nothing memorable. After these few months since I’ve read this book, I can barely remember a thing about her.

The pacing was slow, which otherwise could’ve redeemed the story a little bit. The suspense and mystery around the witch locked outside her cities’ gates and the disappearance of the poorest district’s children ramped up pretty slowly, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to guess what was going on.

And the prince!

He was maybe the one thing that kept me going. Secretly wrecked from an incident from his childhood, Kellan needed a partner who’d listen and empathize. Be his rock when he couldn’t hold up the burdens all on his own shoulders.

And that person was Blue?

I love the Cinderella romance. Of finding the one you belong to. Of better things to come and the equality of partners, no matter where you’re from. It felt slightly off here ’cause Blue knew him since they were kids. Their originally antagonistic feelings felt artificial so their eventual romantic developments didn’t feel any more genuine. This is usually the highlight for me in fairy tale retellings and I couldn’t help but feel a bit let down this time.

I don’t wanna end this book review on a sour note. After all, it’s not like I hated it. The Blood Spell was still an ingenious way of adding her own personal spin to a famous fairy tale that fit into the world she’s crafted. Redwine is still a great storyteller, but just that this book didn’t personally hit the mark for me with my rather high expectations coming in. I’m sure many people will enjoy more from the Ravenspire world and the beauty in this story.

Overall Recommendation:

The Blood Spell has its own spin on the Cinderella tale that fell a bit short of my expectations. Blue, with the uncanny ability to make gold from regular metals, attracts the attention of evil stepmother figures and witches, and maybe an old acquaintance who happens to be a prince. Although it has the makings for a wonderful fairy tale retelling, the pacing was a bit slow and the romance just didn’t fit very well. This book could’ve been great but I suppose it’s best not to bring high expectations into it. Maybe it’ll be better for someone else.

4 star, adult

Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Image result for the death of mrs. westaway Harriet Westaway – better known as Hal – makes ends meet as a tarot reader, but she doesn’t believe in the power of her trade. If she did, what would the cards say about the choice that lies ahead of her?

When Hal receives a mysterious and unexpected letter bequeather her a substantial inheritance, she knows that it wasn’t meant for her because Mrs. Westaway is not her grandmother. Struggling with crippling debt, Hal is presented with a difficult choice: ignore the letter, or use her cold-reading skills to potentially claim the money and change her life.

After a loan sharks pays Hal a threatening visit, she decides to attend Mrs. Westaway’s funeral. she meets the family at Trepassen House, the Westaways’ country estate. Once there, Hal discovers more secrets than she could have ever imagined. There is something very, very wrong with this family, and somehow Hal and the inheritance are at the centre of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Death of Mrs. Westaway is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.


4 Drink Me Potions


Never believe your own lies.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway begins as an almost innocent backdrop of a story. Classic rich grandmother leaving behind a massive fortune in a dramatic reading of her final will. However, the story (and mystery) is so much more than what can be seen on the surface. Behind layers of lies and deceit lies the story of a girl who has never known family, struggling to find her place in a world which seemingly has no place for her.

This mystery follows the life of our protagonist, Harriet (aka Hal), who was born into a poor life and tries to make ends meet providing tarot-reading services on a pier. This is important, as the tarot cards become the crux upon which the story moves along. It is completely fascinating and enthralling, as the whole mystery is almost like a lengthy tarot card reading on its own. As the suspense unfolds, each path is laid forward by the explanation of a different card, and this really gave the whole story a mystical element. Even if you don’t believe in such things, Ware really gives it life in this number.

One for sorrow, Two for joy.

Hal was raised by a single mother, who tragically passed away in an accident when she was eighteen, leaving her an orphan. Forced to take up her mother’s role in tarot reading with no family to turn to, her life takes a surprising turn when she receives a letter indicating she is a beneficiary in Mrs. Westaway’s will. As her crippling debt comes catching up to her, she is forced to go to Trepassen to find out what is in store for her in the Westaway family.

Preparing herself to attend her “grandmother’s” funeral, she does not realize what she steps into when she arrives. Behind every member of the family seems to be another door, with secrets of their past hidden. While every mystery may be like this, instead of a murder mystery, this story revolves more around the secret of Hal’s past – just how is she linked to the Westaway family? And will she be caught in her own lies as she tries to take a piece of the Westaway fortune with her to repay her debts?

The whole novel has a very ethereal quality and an air of mystique. It is impossible not to follow along the signs the cards give, and the omens given in the magpies as we follow Hal down the dark alley of her past. The overarching theme of mysticism and cold-reading are beautifully woven into the story, and spellbinding really is the word to describe this page-turner of a suspense. Definitely an enjoyable read – full of mystery even without revolving around a murder.

Overall Recommendation:
If you are into mysteries at all, and the suspenseful writing of a whodunnit novel, this book is definitely for you. This story features a young adult fighting her way through thick and thin, with only her tarot cards and cold-reading skills to guide her through. While understandably the whole art of tarot may be met with skepticism (admittedly for me as well), this book definitely paints it in a different light. Additionally, it really was well woven into story and really was the propelling force of the whole suspense. I definitely recommend this one!