4 star, Uncategorized, YA

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.

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YA

Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

geekerella -ashley postonAnything can happen once upon a con…

When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


Geekerella is the best combination of fairy tale retelling and tribute to geeky fandom culture. What more could a girl ask for?

To make quick of the synopsis, this is the kind of story that I would dream of writing yet I feel Poston does it in a way I could never do justice. Elle is our heroine (aka Cinderella) with her awful stepmother who berates her for her love of Starfield, this world’s version of *enter your own favourite sci-fi/fantasy show/movie that you love/cosplay*. Her stepsisters Chloe and Calliope are not much better, particularly Chloe who constantly points out to the rest of their mutual classmates that Elle’s nothing.

Our dear prince charming is none other than an up and coming movie star, set to play the hero of Starfield’s movie remake. Darien is everything a girl can dream of in a prince, yet he also has his own unique character besides the prince-fitting mold. First, he’s a person of colour, and second, he’s not someone who’s so confident about himself. That’s not to say it was to the point that he was unattractively insecure of his own abilities and person, but it was refreshing to see that inside even Prince Charming’s head, he’s not so much godlike as he is still a human being with those insecurities. I suppose that it helps that Poston made it into 2 POVs so we could see into Darien’s head. Not many Cinderella retellings allow that so it’s good to see that inside such a perfect character, he still had flaws that were relatable and made the match with “Cinderella” understandable and more equal instead of being an image of Prince Charming sweeping down to save the poor, pitiful girl from her family.

Anyway, there are so many things to rave about this novel. I will try to keep this succinct and readable.

1) If you know me, then you’ll know that Cinderella is hands down my favourite fairy tale. I love how the happily-ever-after feels all the more satisfying because the transformation in Cinderella’s life is so great. And this book keeps to the essence of Cinderella so well, it basically pays tribute to the “original” tale as well. (By original, I don’t mean you, Grimm Brothers).

2) I know not everyone counts themselves as sci-fi geeks, and frankly neither do I, but I couldn’t help but smile every time a little popular culture reference made its way into the novel. A shoutout to Firefly fans – gosh, I love Nathan Fillion – and Star Wars (which is totally making a comeback with all the recent movies) and Lord of the Rings (honestly, please tell me someone else LOL’d when the entire Fellowship of the Ring was mentioned – or joking about Boromir – anyone???), I was fangirling myself.

I don’t know about you, but these little things connect us all, whether we were the hugest fans who cosplayed these characters to conventions (I will admit, I did cosplay once, but as Alice of course) or just appreciated the stories that went with them at one point our lives, I think this story paid tribute to so many greats that traversed the years and to the ones that only blew through the skies for too short a period yet still left an afterimage in some people’s eyes.

3) Lastly, Geekerella may have followed the traditional Cinderella route in plot, but I love the kinda story where the characters don’t know who’s on the other end of the line – whether it be through texts, emails, or notes – yet can’t help but fall for that person. I was rooting for these two for so long. The romance is just right. Not too much that it becomes unbelievable, but not too little that it feels unsatisfactory.

Everything about this book honestly can be summed into two words: just right .

Overall Recommendation:
Geekerella blew my mind beyond the stars. I’ve never truly considered myself a hardcore geek or part of any specific fandom, but I do appreciate the shows/movies that were referenced. This is a novel that does both a Cinderella retelling and introduction to sci-fi fandom justice in a beautiful blend within today’s world. It’s the perfect balance of both, while showcasing themes of personal growth and friendship. Honestly, whether you’re a fan of fairy tale retellings or geeky fandoms or not, this is one book that could honestly surprise you beyond the stars. And if you’re a fan of both elements… then what are you waiting for ? Go out and find a copy.


Question for you (aka the reader):

Part of a fandom? What is your favourite sci-fi/fantasy show/movie? Ever been to a convention? If yes, did you cosplay as someone as I did? 😉 Let me know in the comments below! (I’m genuinely curious!)

YA

Review: The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson

Series: Hagenheim #6

the golden braid -melanie dickersonThe one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower.

Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man around. And her skills as an artist rival those of any artist she’s met. But for a woman in medieval times, the one skill she most desires is the hardest one to obtain: the ability to read.

After yet another young man asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides they need to move once again, but this time to a larger city. Rapunzel’s heart soars—surely there she can fulfill her dream. But Mother won’t let her close to a man. She claims that no man can be trusted.

After being rescued by a knight on the road to the city, and in turn rescuing him farther down the road, Rapunzel’s opportunity arrives at last. This knight, Sir Gerek, agrees to educate Rapunzel in order to pay back his debt. She just has to put up with his arrogant nature and single-minded focus on riches and prestige.

But this Rapunzel story is unlike any other and the mystery that she uncovers will change everything—except her happily ever after.


 

3 Drink Me Potions


The Golden Braid brings to life an interesting re-telling of Rapunzel with a Christian twist that fits well with the characters and themes we already enjoy in the world of Hagenheim, and tacks on another good moral for the readers to mull over.

Set partially concurrently with the events of the previous book in this series, The Princess Spy, the next installment in Dickerson’s Hagenheim books met all the expectations that I’ve come to have for her and her novels. Rapunzel, with her name actually sticking to Rapunzel oddly enough, was a very shy girl sheltered from the world by an overbearing mother who could be seen right from the beginning to have more than one side than the one she showed her daughter. She was afraid of all men for fear of becoming entrapped in their lies and being left alone to take care of a babe out of wedlock.

The comes along the hero of the story, Sir Gerek, who is actually quite arrogant. I didn’t think he’d be as prideful as the synopsis depicted him, but he set on marrying a wealthy widow just to prove to himself that he can and does deserve such riches. His interactions with Rapunzel initially didn’t capture too much of my intention as the pace was slow around this point.

It wasn’t until more towards the middle of the book that everything picks up more. We see how the storyline with Margaretha from the previous novel intersects with Rapunzel’s story, and the aftermath of those events in her POV. I rather enjoyed the character development, particularly in Sir Gerek. It was humbling to see the two of them learn to put the other first, and above all, God at the top. The big “plot twist”, although it might not have been meant to be such a surprise, was very predictable. As soon as both points were mentioned in the book, you’d so easily connect the dots way before anyone else does, especially if you know the story of Rapunzel well.

Although predictable and occasionally slow, The Golden Braid is another example of combining Christian elements with a fairy tale we find very familiar. Dickerson continues to write in a manner that’s consistent with my expectations, but maybe one of these days, I hope to be surprised by her to bring up a rating.

Overall Recommendation:
The Golden Braid brings readers a re-telling of Rapunzel in the land of Hagenheim. With wonderful continuity with the previous novels of the series, Rapunzel’s story fits extremely well with what happened in an earlier novel. Rapunzel and Sir Gerek’s character development turned them from slightly irritating people to stronger people with better goals in life. Fitting with my expectations from Dickerson these days, I found myself mildly entertained by the book as it’s not meant to be unpredictable but rather a pleasantly familiar journey to walk through on a lazy afternoon (or night).