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Review: The Traitor Prince by C.J. Redwine

Series: Ravenspire #3

the traitor prince -cj redwineJavan Najafai, crown prince of Akram, has spent the last ten years at an elite boarding school, far away from his kingdom. But his eagerly awaited return home is cut short when a mysterious imposter takes his place—and no one believes Javan is the true prince.

After barely escaping the imposter’s assassins, Javan is thrown into Maqbara, the kingdom’s most dangerous prison. The only way to gain an audience with the king — and reveal Javan’s identity — is to fight in Maqbara’s yearly tournament. But winning is much harder than acing competitions at school, and soon Javan finds himself beset not just by the terrifying creatures in the arena, but also a band of prisoners allied against him, and even the warden herself.

The only person who can help him is Sajda, who has been enslaved by Maqbara’s warden since she was a child, and whose guarded demeanor and powerful right hook keep the prisoners in check. Working with Sajda might be the only way Javan can escape alive — but she has dangerous secrets.

Together, Javan and Sajda have to outwit the vicious warden, outfight the deadly creatures, and outlast the murderous prisoners intent on killing Javan. If they fail, they’ll be trapped in Maqbara for good—and the secret Sajda’s been hiding will bury them both.

4 Drink Me Potions

**The Traitor Prince comes out February 13, 2018**

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

This may be my favourite book from CJ Redwine yet! The Traitor Prince artfully pieces together another story in the Ravenspire universe, this time set in the deserts of Akram. While the story starts off with another character (the traitor devising a plan to steal the throne), we follow the male protagonist, Javan, a lot in the beginning which was a refreshing change.

The story was fairly fast-paced, and oh boy, pretty action-packed. With people working against him and betrayals coming from every direction, Javan gets sent to Maqbara, the infamous prison that’s changed since he’s been gone in another kingdom. There he meets Sajda, the warden’s slave, an initially fearsome girl with a deep secret.

Their romantic chemistry is subtle and not over done – just the way I like it. Redwine doesn’t make it seem like they instantly hit it off, or confess any huge attraction for each other instantaneously. In fact, they’re downright hostile to each other at first (particularly Sajda). To my delight, the transformation in their relationship as they’re forced to work together to escape Maqbara was so realistic and honestly, felt JUST right. As wariness slowly turned into trust, you can totally reach out and roll around in the feels there. Not just in their own relationship, but the tenuous ones forged in the heart of the prison.

If you’re not such a huge romance lover, never fear! There’re fights to the death in this novel.

That’s right. To the DEATH.

Like, gladiator style. Good thing Javan can fight.

The descriptions throughout these fights and the messes Javan gets in with other inmates keep your blood pumping as vicious creatures – all crazily described including their abilities and fatal weaknesses – attack the prisoners from all sides. And they’re not this prince’s only problem! I love that I felt everything just as deeply as he did. The injustice that was done to him. The honour he tried to bestow on his family all these years that could disappear in this prison with him. But mostly, I loved how his character strengthened throughout this ordeal. His faith in his god wavered at times, but there was a purpose in his being here – a royal who wouldn’t ever get this chance – mingling with the lowest of the lows.

Now, if none of the above draws you into this story, I dunno what would impress you. To throw it in there, little sweet cameos/appearances or mentions of the previous protagonists in the Ravenspire series also feature. But if you haven’t read them, never fear! Sajda and Javan’s story work well on its own as well.

So what are you waiting for?

Overall Recommendation:
The Traitor Prince has outdone itself with a well-paced plot, continuous action and suspense (to the death style), and a slow simmering chemistry between the main characters. The emotion it can invoke in you is outstanding as we get drawn into Javan’s story from the very beginning. If you’re one to enjoy fantasies with the odds stacked against you and a slow-burn kind of romance that develops along with the characters, I’d say this is a book for you.


Review: The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

Series: The Queen’s Rising #1

the queen's rising -rebecca rossWhen her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

3 Drink Me Potions

**The Queen’s Rising comes out February 6, 2018!**

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

The Queen’s Rising was a refreshing take on different factions known as “passions” with a good mix of impending battles and forbidden love.

I didn’t bring too many expectations into this novel and I think that made it more enjoyable for me. We follow Brienna, a half-Maevan girl living in another neighbouring kingdom of Valenia, who just doesn’t know how to choose between the different passions. Like, girl, just make up your mind! But the system was interesting. There are 5 passions which include knowledge, music, art, wit, and dramatics. It takes 7 years of schooling to complete the training at which time you gain a passion cloak that is a symbol of prestige and completion akin to a school degree upon graduation.

Likewise, the different clans in Maevana was really cool, especially the history and timelines of certain clans. With Brienna being part Maevan, I assumed there’d be quite a bit of information about them.

While I enjoyed this world building, I felt it wasn’t ENOUGH.

First, there’re beautiful maps made of the kingdoms at the front of the book. Half the places here we never really get much information on, or barely mentioned at all during the plot. Maybe I’m just jumping the gun and they’ll appear more in later books of the series, but besides the bits about individual clans and certain city names, there’s really not much given to us in the actual book.

Second, those darn ancestry timelines! Of course since they’re at the front of the book, I looked at it. And if you were hoping for a surprise twist or whatever in the plot, especially about the identity of Brienna’s father, then don’t look at it! It totally ruins everything unless the point was that this tidbit of information wasn’t meant to be a surprise to the readers.

Third, both the passion system and the magical abilities of the Kavanaugh clan wasn’t really developed. Most of the story is focused on Maevana while the Valenian half was like a filler leading towards how Brienna could understand more of her Maevan heritage. What I don’t get is that there’s really nothing much explored with WHY the Kavanaughs are solely powerful and HOW it can go awry if used poorly. And the passion system seemed thrown in there like a last minute thought sometimes without truly developing the system such as who is allowed to passion, and what is the point of it all when you complete/waste 7 years of your life on it? Maybe these questions don’t matter to some of you, but it does for me as it gives me more of a taste of this world that they live in.

The amount of character building felt lacking to me too! With a page full of different characters at the front and their roles in the story, it just made me assume that this was necessary in order to keep track of all the people we’d meet along the way.

But no! That is not the case here. I thought the girls Brienna passioned with would play more prominent roles but most of them aren’t mentioned after a quarter into the plot. And for the ones who feature more, they just felt flat. I couldn’t understand how they could “love” each other so strongly after such a short period of time. The lengths they’d go to to sacrifice for each other was difficult to comprehend. It was nice, but hard for me to wrap my mind around.

Overall, yes, I had my issues with this book, but there were a lot of good ideas that just needed more time to flesh out more thoroughly. I enjoyed the passion system. I liked some of the characters that we do stick with, and I love the romantic interest. It’s a very slow-burn kinda romance that probably started before the timeline of the story which makes it more plausible in my opinion. It may be a bit weird for some people who don’t love the previous teacher-student relationship, but if you’re into forbidden love tropes, then this was delicious in a slow-burn way.

The ending wrapped things up nicely (maybe a bit too nicely) so I’m not sure what’s in store for the future books. However, I still think this was a good start no matter my less-than-ecstatic comments. There is a whole lot of potential for great improvement with this series and this author in the future, and I wanna be there when that happens.

Overall Recommendation:
The Queen’s Rising was fairly fast-paced with a unique system of passions. While the romance was a bit more subtle which normally would bug me more, I appreciated the role it played and the ability to focus more on the main plotline. However, character development and plot could’ve been better thought out but there was definitely potential in its world building. Ending on a happy note, I am curious and still interested in seeing where else this story is going.

Review: Ever the Brave by Erin Summerill

Series: Clash of Kingdoms #2

ever the brave -erin summerillEver the Divided. Ever the Feared. Ever the Brave.

After saving King Aodren with her newfound Channeler powers, Britta only wants to live a peaceful life in her childhood home.

Unfortunately, saving the King has created a tether between them she cannot sever, no matter how much she’d like to, and now he’s insisting on making her a noble lady.

And there are those who want to use Britta’s power for evil designs. If Britta cannot find a way to harness her new magical ability, her life—as well as her country—may be lost.

The stakes are higher than ever in the sequel to Ever the Hunted, as Britta struggles to protect her kingdom and her heart.

3 Drink Me Potions

Ever the Brave brings this duology into a satisfactory ending with bits of action, romance and girl-power stances.

Moving a while after the end of book 1, this novel continues to develop the conspiracy angle and the mystery behind the magical attack on the king. While it doesn’t remain a mystery for long (like, it’s literally given away in Britta’s first POV), that little twist was a nice add-on. I’m not sure if I liked having it given away so early on, or knowing the fact of who it is but trying to figure out where the author is going with this little tidbit of information.

The action gets a little slow at times what with POV transitionings. A few newer characters are introduced here, with familiar faces from book 1 making appearances. However, they seemed a bit two-dimensional at times as the focus was on the 3 main characters.

That’s right. THREE main characters.

I will admit that the previous novel left me in a tizzy as there were hints of a love triangle blooming. Well guess what? I was RIGHT. Erin added in the king as a separate protagonist. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I suppose it wasn’t so bad as it wasn’t a true triangle.

What do I mean by that? Well, Britta was somewhat easy to like still but I had trouble connecting with her on this book. Maybe it had to do with 3 POVs instead of 2, but she didn’t really stick out to me. However, I adore her for standing firm to her feelings, and taking the time to decide who was the one for her without dragging both boys along.

Of course, a lot of that good thinking came from Cohen. Ah, Cohen. If he was the protagonist in this whole series, I would’ve gobbled up this novel so much faster. Erin does well in writing out both his flaws and his abilities. I felt I didn’t get enough of him in book 1 so I’m quite satisfied with how it went with his character development here.

While I enjoyed Ever the Brave enough, sometimes I felt like it was missing something. That extra umph you know? The plot was fine, the 3 protagonists were fine (aside from those weird scenes with the king whose name I shall not even bother mentioning – but he was a nice guy otherwise), and the ending was pretty great – all wrapped up in a bow.

Then what was I missing? I’m not sure. Maybe a bit more action, or a few more unexpected twists to keep readers on their toes. The solution to all their conflicts wasn’t as amazing or dramatic as it was set up to be and that was a bit of a letdown.

Would I recommend this then? Well, I’m a sucker for YA fantasies, especially those with cute romances and happy endings. Ever the Brave checked both these things off although I may have had some issues with it overall. But the answer would still be yes. I suggest coming into this with an open mind. Maybe it’s just me very used to high fantasies and unpredictable story lines. I think this series was worthwhile reading in the end.

Overall Recommendation:
Ever the Brave smoothly brought forth a happy ending for this duology, and while that sounds like a good thing, it could have done a bit better. From a love triangle that almost seemed unnecessary to the inability for me to connect with Britta, I had some issues getting through the book. The plot is simple and sometimes predictable, but if you love a book that brings out good and heartwarming feelings in you, then it more than does the job. Maybe a little lacking compared to high fantasies, this series at least put a smile on my face at the end of the day.