Tag Archive | fantasy

Review: Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Series: Everlife #1

firstlife -gena showalterStep one…you die.


Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live — after she dies. There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, long-time enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms that will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t where the boy she’s falling for lives? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

2 Drink Me Potions

Firstlife had impressive ambition with its unique focus on the afterlife but all it really left me was a taste of mild interest.

What I do know and love about Gena Showalter is that there are always very intriguing (and hot!) guys in her stories. So it’s no surprise that the story starts off with two really good-looking guys fighting it out for Ten Lockwood.

While grappling and very sarcastic guys are totally my thing, lately it just hasn’t really hit the spot. And if I had to narrow down why this book just wasn’t doing much for me, I can probably point out 3 things.

1- Kieran, the main love interest, did not make me pity him at all. There was no “aww” factor or anything. Yes, his life sucked once. Does that excuse all his previous poor treatment of girls he was assigned to? No. Did I understand his attraction to Ten? Uh, if a girl doesn’t fall for your charm right away, yeah I guess she’s interesting but man, that romance really fell flat to me and I found myself grimacing half the time reading their interactions.

2- While you’d expect plenty of action occurring, it all boils down to one thing: Ten is trying to escape her tormentors and is on the run. Constantly. Because she cannot freaking decide where she wants to be after she dies. Like a pendulum, she swings back and forth constantly. Although from an outside perspective as a reader, it seems kinda obvious where she should go. So the whole point of the story dwindles to waiting for her to FIGURE IT OUT HERSELF.

3- There wasn’t enough storybuilding or character development left in here. The poor romance line took up so much time and space (of course, you gotta give many pages to Kieran’s attempts at sucking Ten in – and then when she does fall for him, many sappy heartsick moments there too). Ten barely changes over time, no matter how many dangerous situations she puts herself (and all the people around her) in. Honestly, I’m not a fan of hers at all.

So was this book redeemable in any way?

Yeah, sure, in some minute ways. That other hot guy fighting with Kieran? Archer Prince. Totally swoony in his own way. No, it was never a love triangle here ’cause he never tried to get Ten in that manner, but he’s the one redeemable character I liked reading about. Sacrificial in all that he did, taking all the crap Ten gave him when she couldn’t decide on anything, humble and all around amazing guy. If there’s a book on him, Gena, I will DEFINITELY buy it.

Honestly, the world building should’ve been prioritized more. I wanted to know more about Troika and Myriad. Their history. How they came to be. How it’s run. Yes, I get that it’s a trilogy but book 1 is there for us to learn the world a bit more. Otherwise the whole gist of this book wasn’t so much about the afterlife and more about Ten on the run while on Earth – which doesn’t really separate out much from the pack of thrillers who do a WAY better job.

I wonder what book 2 will be like.

Overall Recommendation:
Firstlife fell flatter than I had hoped with precious few moments dedicated to character growth and world building. While the focus was heavy on the romantic tensions between Ten and a certain Myriad Laborer trying to get her to his realm, the rest of the story just kinda fell off to the side. Constantly on the run with people attacking them, Ten and her group of friends don’t really have to do anything at the end of the day. This story felt like a filler waiting for Ten’s ultimate decision on her afterlife realm, with the only highlight being her friend Archer and the crumbs of information we get on what the afterlife is like. Will book 2 be any better? Heck, I sure hope so or else I may die of boredom next.


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.