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.

4.5 star, adult

Review: The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi

Image result for the oyster thiefThe mermaid’s scales were bronze, and they shimmered like hundreds of pennies arranged close together. Her immense blue-green eyes gave a look of fragility to her face, yet he found her eyes unsettling. She was leaning against a thirty-foot-long shark, which emerged from behind her and opened its mouth to reveal a great big cavern lined with hundreds of teeth – a black tunnel ready to swallow him.

Coralline is a mermaid who is engaged to the merman of her dreams. But when an oil spill wreaks havoc on her idyllic village life, her little brother falls gravely ill. Desperate to save him, she embarks on a quest to find a legendary elixir made of starlight.

Izar, a human man, is on the cusp of an invention that will enable him to mine the depths of the ocean. Her discovery will soon make him the richest man on earth – while threatening merpeople with extinction. But then, suddenly, Izar finds himself transformed into a merman and caught in a web of betrayal and intrigue. Meeting Coralline in the ocean, he decides to join her on her quest for the elixir, hoping it will turn him human again.

The quest pushes Coralline and Izar together, even though their worlds are at odds. Their pasts threaten to tear them apart, while a growing attraction adds to the danger. Ultimately, each of them faces an impossible choice. Should Coralline leave her fiancé for a man who might betray her? And Izar has a dark secret of his own – one that could cause him to lose Coralline forever.

Magnificent and moving, set against a breathtaking ocean landscape, The Oyster Thief is a richly imagined odyssey destined to become a classic.


4.5 Drink Me Potions


Two world collide when a mermaid and human man meet, plunging readers into a vast underwater realm brimming with adventure and intrigue.

Coralline is a mermaid living in her hometown of Urchin Grove, working as an apothecary to heal others. Meanwhile, Izar on land is the adopted son of the CEO of the prosperous Ocean Dominion, a company which seeks is to destroy the ocean and mine the precious minerals on the ocean floor. Izar is a gifted inventor, and discovers how ot create underwater fire to raze the ocean floor. Their two worlds collide when Izar is left for dead but becomes a merman instead, meeting Coralline.

The story begins at Coralline’s engagement to a handsome rich merman, whose family’s wealth and status precedes him. Immediately you are reminded of The Little Mermaid, with the beautiful scenery and world created by Faruqi. Vibrant colours and animal familiars exist in this imaginary underwater world and it is as beautiful as any land could be. Faruqi draws many contrasting parallels between the underwater world and the world above and we quickly learn that each is bitterly aware of the other.

When Coralline’s brother falls sick, she embarks on a treacherous journey filled with lies and deceit to try and find a magical elixir to cure him. On her way she meets a half-dead Izar, whom she nurses back to full health. Together they travel a large expanse of the Atlantic looking for this mysterious magician who created this elixir of starlight said to save any life once in exchange for a curse (unicorn blood, anyone?).

I thought this book had all the elements of a classic fairytale that one might want: a loveable and relatable protagonist, Prince Charming, betrayal and plot twists, and a very clever villain, all tied together with the classic true love romance. There’s also a lot that wasn’t expected, and that’s what really drew me into this book. The story really explored different aspects of real life like environmental issues, doing what is right versus what you want, morality and propriety. In addition, koodos to the author for doing her research: as a science major, it really pains me to have to read through very faulty scientific logic in a book. Not in this one! The scenery, ideas and theoretical science that are proposed are all very believable and logical, giving these two contrasting worlds a very realistic feel.

They weren’t kidding when they said that this book is filled with betrayal and intrigue. It almost feels like a whodunnit novel, with lies and misperceptions around every corner, waiting to strain relationships, whether they be familial or romantic. I think this book will resonate with many people with all the different issues that are explored, and I would definitely recommend this exciting adventure to anyone.

“Fire vaporizes water, and water vanquishes fire. The two can never truly meet.”

One of the most exciting and thought provoking lines in the book, it is quickly a theme that emerges tying the balance of the whole book together. Can the underwater world and the land of fire above truly ever be at peace? Or are they just too different?

Overall Recommendation:

A beautiful underwater world not unlike our own that really pulls you into the ocean with the characters themselves. Although most of the story takes place underwater, all of the issues that are brought up are all relevant to our lives. Even as a reader, it is hard to trust anyone in the book, and you are also forced to take a side as you follow Coralline on her journey for the magic elixir. A constant rollercoaster of emotion and suspense, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys observing these parallel worlds where it is easier to more candidly address some real world issues. If you loved The Little Mermaid as much as I did, this grown up version will definitely be the twist you’ve been waiting for.