3.5 star, YA

Review: Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

Series: Dance of Thieves #1

Dance of Thieves_FINAL 9.18A new novel in the New York Times–bestselling Remnant Chronicles universe, in which a reformed thief and the young leader of an outlaw dynasty lock wits in a battle that may cost them their lives—and their hearts.

When the patriarch of the Ballenger empire dies, his son, Jase, becomes its new leader. Even nearby kingdoms bow to the strength of this outlaw family, who have always governed by their own rules. But a new era looms on the horizon, set in motion by a young queen, which makes her the target of the dynasty’s resentment and anger.

At the same time, Kazi, a legendary former street thief, is sent by the queen to investigate transgressions against the new settlements. When Kazi arrives in the forbidding land of the Ballengers, she learns that there is more to Jase than she thought. As unexpected events spiral out of their control, bringing them intimately together, they continue to play a cat and mouse game of false moves and motives in order to fulfill their own secret missions.


3.5 Drink Me Potions


Smart and filled with an interesting cast of characters, entering back into the world of The Remnant Chronicles was like slipping on a cozy shawl in the winter and sitting by the fireplace in Dance of Thieves.

Although my memory isn’t what it’s used to – so you can guess just how many details I recall from the other series – little tidbits dropped here and there made me smile, though you definitely don’t have to have read any of Mary Pearson’s other books to jump right into this one.

I liked that I never quite knew what was exactly gonna happen next. One moment, our heroine Kazi has everything in control, and the next? She can find herself tied up with a guy like Jase Ballenger. And from there, things do get interesting.

The pacing is fast enough, settling into the story right away. And it doesn’t stay in one place for too long so I never felt like it dragged its heels in for scenes/moments that should’ve been done with a long while ago.

Yet. There’s something in me that feels like the story took its time in laying out the foundations too much. You don’t get many details into Kazi’s mission to the Ballengers in the beginning, only vague notes about having to come under the guise of something else. And you don’t get why the Ballengers may be doing something wrong.

Where it’s not as high action as I had hoped from this author, the romance was sufficient. I know. Not a very heartwarming comment but at the moment, not many romantic relationships in books have really tugged at me. Frankly, I feel almost bored with them so this is a compliment at this moment.

Yes, it was a bit rushed at times. But the reality of how their feelings built through the moments they shared and the trust they slowly gave to each other was real.

And though these elements are normally essential to me as a reader, nothing warmed my heart as much as the focus on family ties and fierce girls who can kick butt. The Ballengers were large in number but they had each other’s’ backs over anything else. Likewise, Kazi’s group, the Rahtan, that served the queen was like a found family from different backgrounds now all serving one purpose together.

In reality, without some of these extra things, Dance of Thieves may have been harder to swallow.

And of course, wonderful appearances of our main cast in the Remnant Chronicles are featured here so that was the icing on top.

While I may have been expecting too much from this story (what with everything that I remember from Mary’s writings), this novel still weaves together an imaginative new story in a familiar world that has intrigue, fun personalities and the different families we have. A definite story to check out for fans of Mary and her previous series, but also for anyone looking for a fantasy read in a well crafted world.

Overall Recommendation:

Dance of Thieves features a mostly new cast in the wonderful world of the Remnant Chronicles. With enough romance, a decent plot pace and an intriguing mission hanging over our heads, diving back into this land is like slipping on a shoe. Two different families, the Rahtan and the Ballengers, come head to head as missions collide and tenuous trust is built. Beautiful world building and surprising appearances of former characters, this novel is a perfect companion to the previous series and something fun to read if you’re into all-things fantasy.

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3.5 star, YA

Review: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

Series: Seafire #1

seafire -natalie c parker After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, who have lost their families and homes because of Aric and his men. The crew has one mission: stay alive, and take down Aric’s armed and armored fleet.

But when Caledonia’s best friend and second-in-command barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all . . . or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?


3.5 Drink Me Potions


“Remember, when they call you girl, they’re trying to tell you something. They’re trying to tell you that they’re more than you, that the body you’re in makes you less. But you know, and I know, that you’re exactly what you need to be.”

Seafire is the feminist pirate story type story that I feel is on the rise in YA. With elements reminiscent of Daughter of a Pirate King, this story was more than the trope it may be immediately associated with.

This is also a story about FAMILY. A family that goes beyond blood. A family that lasts.

After a devastating loss of her family from a cruel man who rules the seas in these lands, Caledonia Styx is a captain of her own ship with a crew of 53 girls under her. While we unfortunately don’t get to really know most of the girls in the crew, we do get the chance to love a few of them: Caledonia’s command crew and closest friends/sisters.

The names of people and settings were a bit hard at first. There’s no map (at least, not in the ebook version of it) to preview or a character guide at the beginning of the book, so it took a bit of time to familiarize myself with this world. And with a bit of information dump, it becomes a bit hard to really feel for all the individuals who lived or died. I mean, I barely got to spend time with them, so their loss could hardly be felt, right?

While the worldbuilding is a bit simple compared to some fantasy stories (port cities, open seas, ruling maniac on a boat), the pacing was excellent. With revenge on her heart warring with the safety of her crew, Caledonia made for an entertaining protagonist. On one hand, I absolutely hated how she always doubted herself and in turn, her decisions that affected her crew. But she also made the smartest decisions out of the not-so-good options that she had, led by her heart and her seafaring mind.

The romance wasn’t present much. After all, this isn’t the point of the book. When there’s only 1 male character who is actually present for most of the plot, it’s not hard to guess he’s the potential love interest, if that were to happen. I wouldn’t say it was an unnecessary add-on as I thought it was the perfect little bit, though the romance building was a bit paper-thin. Hopefully it’ll be properly crafted as the series goes on.

But back to the main point as to why I enjoyed Seafire.

In a modern world where females sometimes are still seen as less and the opportunities given are unfairly skewed, it was nice to see strong females who could fight for themselves, heck even save themselves. The crew of women who were like family to Caledonia, who would do anything for each other including hurtle into a battle that may mean their deaths, was an astonishingly warm environment that I didn’t want to leave so quickly from.

“On the back of the sea, who do we trust? Our sisters. When our ship falters, who do we trust? Our sisters. In a storm of Bullets, who do we trust? Our sisters! We fight together! Or not at all!”

I look forward to seeing what develops with this crew led by Caledonia in a world of action, justice and family.

Overall Recommendation:
Seafire brings together fun battles on the sea, brave young women and the heart to do whatever it takes for those we consider family. While this book could’ve easily been just another carbon copy of other YA feminist pirate stories that are already out there, I was captivated by the crew of girls who worked as one unit but also loved one another deeply. Captained by our unique protagonist, Caledonia Styx, a flawed girl who struggled with her own doubts and guilt, this story took it beyond the seas and into the areas of the human heart. Equal parts action and character building, Seafire is a lesser known book that deserves a bit more attention.

3 star, YA

Review: Evermore by Sara Holland

Series: Everless #2

evermore -sara hollandThe highly anticipated sequel to New York Times bestseller, Everless!

Jules Ember was raised hearing legends of the ancient magic of the wicked Alchemist and the good Sorceress. But she has just learned the truth: not only are the stories true, but she herself is the Alchemist, and Caro—a woman who single-handedly murdered the Queen and Jules’s first love, Roan, in cold blood—is the Sorceress.

The whole kingdom believes that Jules is responsible for the murders, and a hefty bounty has been placed on her head. And Caro is intent on destroying Jules, who stole her heart twelve lifetimes ago. Jules must delve into the stories that she now recognizes are accounts of her own past. For it is only by piecing together the mysteries of her lives that Jules will be able to save the person who has captured her own heart in this one.


3 Drink Me Potions


**Evermore comes out December 31, 2018**

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

Evermore was a quick journey back into a world where blood is bound by time and into a centuries old battle between the Alchemist and Sorceress. While I read through this book in almost one sitting, I’m left with some mixed feelings.

Jules Ember, aka the long-lost Alchemist in her 12th life, is on the run for murder. And what a semi-cliffhanger that was, wasn’t it? The queen and Roan are dead but unfortunately, Jules has been framed.

Her only ally and friend? Liam Gerling, brother of Roan and for the longest time, sworn enemy of Jules.

I feel that every single element of Evermore has both made me happy and slightly dissatisfied at the same time. I will try to break it down.

World building
PRO: I still thoroughly enjoy this kingdom of Sempera who thrives on blood irons as currency. As a quick recap, people’s blood can contain time of varying lengths depending on the volume taken, such as hour coins to year coins. Ingesting blood irons allows others to ‘gain’ the time that was bound to that amount of blood. I still find this element unique among the overly congested world of YA fantasy.
CON: Yet, there’s almost nothing largely new about this world found in Evermore. We hardly even get to spend much time at Everless, the setting that much of Everless took place. New lands are mentioned and some new histories into this kingdom come to light, but if you took away the use of blood irons here, it’s like Sempera could be like ANY other place. There’s nothing special at the end of the day.

Age old battle trope
PRO: Jules gets fragments of her previous lives at a time, kind of like a mystery slowly unfolding piece by piece. We have no idea exactly what happened between her and the Sorceress and just how she may end this battle once and for all. It adds to the mysterious air of the book, driving some urgency towards the conclusion of this duology.
CON: But this is ALL it seems Evermore focuses on. Jules: how to kill Caro. Jules: keep on running from Caro. Jules: keep all loved ones at arm’s length because Caro may try to will kill them. Jules: WHO am I as the Alchemist?
After a while, it just got tiring, you know? Maybe I just needed a little something else to focus on sometimes.

Romance
PRO: I never had any huge love for Roan in book 1 so I was desperately excited at the hints of Liam becoming more in book 2. Yes, he’s your stereotypical brooding male who may not always be so great at showing his feelings. Okay. Maybe that suggest he’s emotionally unavailable but somehow, he did almost a 180 change in Evermore so *shrugs*. I’m good with that.
CON: However….
Somehow in between book 1 and 2, I lost the connection I felt for Liam and Jules together. Although Liam was very much present here (yay!), it just took a long time for me to really be happy about it. To really feel their love and connection. Come on, you’re trying to sell me on the fact that Jules’ heart may break if Caro kills Liam. I NEED to feel it to believe that without just being told so. And sadly, it didn’t really work most of the time.

I think this duology overall was a great debut and the ideas were definitely intriguing. It’s hard to deliver a stunning ending to such a good start to a series, so here I am feeling like I’m left holding the bag waiting for something.

That’s not to say the ending wasn’t great. It was a really good couple of last chapters with many answered questions. The middle just needs some working on, in my opinion.

Overall Recommendation:
Evermore had big shoes to fill after its predecessor and it may not have fully reached its potential. While the action amps with the centuries old war between the Alchemist and Sorceress taking front stage again, everything else seemed to have been pushed aside as less important. The romance with Liam was hard to believe sometimes (and oh, I wanted to believe) while the world building felt lacking after what was already learned in book 1. With a heartfelt ending, I do believe Evermore still has something to offer but just may not have met my high expectations.