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.

3 star, YA

Review: Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

Series: The Gold Seer Trilogy #3

into the bright unknown -rae carsonThe stunning conclusion to Rae Carson’s New York Times–bestselling Gold Seer trilogy, which Publishers Weekly in a starred review called “Simply terrific.” A historical fantasy brimming with magic, romance, and adventure—perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Sarah Maas, and Westworld.

Leah Westfall, her fiancé Jefferson, and her friends have become rich in the California Territory, thanks to Lee’s magical ability to sense precious gold. But their fortune has made them a target, and when a dangerous billionaire sets out to destroy them, Lee and her friends decide they’ve had enough—they will fight back with all their power and talents. Lee’s magic is continuing to strengthen and grow, but someone is on to her—someone who might have a bit of magic herself. The stakes are higher than ever as Lee and her friends hatch a daring scheme that could alter the California landscape forever. With a distinctive young heroine and a unique interpretation of American history, Into the Bright Unknown strikes a rich vein of romance, magic, and adventure, bringing the Gold Seer Trilogy to its epic conclusion. Includes a map and an author’s note.


3 Drink Me Potions


Into the Bright Unknown plays well as a wrap-up to Rae Carson’s latest trilogy but ultimately falls a bit flat in amping up suspense for an explosive finish.

What exactly do I mean by that? Well, with the ultimate enemy as I saw it, that being Lee’s Uncle Hiram, being dealt with at the end of the last book, there just wasn’t a whole lot left that threatened their existence now that everyone’s arrived in California. The first book had the action and pacing that came from the hard journey across the country. The second book dealt with the ramifications of coming to this supposedly wondrous land and Lee’s uncle catching up to her like a big dark storm cloud.

What’s left for this book, you may ask? Not too much, really.

The “enemy” is the man Lee made a deal with earlier who may or may not be altogether good. Turns out, he’s not. Yet their whole demise and plan to destroying their last enemy in the way of their happiness was the only thing in this book. It was too simple of a plot. I suppose there’s beauty in simplicity at times, but I was expecting more from a finale. Maybe too much of the action occurred in book 2 so now there really wasn’t much more to add to everyone’s problems to continue the story.

Alas, if suspense and action couldn’t sustain my expectations, maybe a dose of romance could? Yet the beauty in the tension and sometimes misunderstandings between Lee and her best friend Jefferson just wasn’t really there anymore now that things have settled between them. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the fact that they finally are together and that they’re happy, but it’s like a bit of their chemistry was snuffed out in the process! Unlike Rae’s other trilogy with plenty of romance that was sustained even when the love interests got together, this was almost the exactly opposite. Maybe it’s the time setting. People weren’t as expressive of love before marriage as they are now? Yet I can’t help but think even historical fictions do fairly well in the romance section while keeping it fairly accurate.

Aside from these things, Into the Bright Unknown WAS a good ending overall. Things get wrapped up in a nice bow for everyone. Dreams that were half-formed in the beginning are coming to fruition, and even those we weren’t aware of initially are coming true. I do like myself some happy endings and an optimistic look towards the future. I do also admire the amount of effort it takes to research historical fictions accurately for the time period it’s set in. Rae has done an amazing job with this and I do feel like I’m there in the 1850s with these characters, excited about the prospect of gold and infuriated by the limited rights of the indigenous peoples, Chinese and African Americans.

Overall, it wasn’t all that I expected it to be, but it at least delivered a decent ending for a trilogy ensconced with characters that have captured my heart.

Overall Recommendation:
Things did not go all as I expected with Into the Bright Unknown. While still characteristically and historically accurate as is Rae Carson’s style, I felt it lacked in plot development. Where there are normally many layers to her previous plotlines, this lacked substance and came across as way too simple. Even the romantic aspects weren’t too satisfying now that the tensions are gone between Lee and Jefferson. I love Rae’s work overall, and this finale delivered a happy ending for the characters I’ve come to enjoy, albeit a light one.

5 star, YA

Review: The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

Series: The Last Magician #1

the last magician -lisa maxwellStop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.


5 Drink Me Potions


If you want action, excitement, mystery, intrigue and plot twists, then The Last Magician is completely for you!

First off, I need to say that Lisa Maxwell is absolutely phenomenal in her storytelling. I fell in love with this 1900s version of New York and I never wanted to leave it. It’s so very hard to write a good historical fantasy that stays true to the time and location that was chosen. I absolutely loved this, and felt completely immersed in this land as much as Esta did.

Mystery and intrigue are high up there as we follow Esta back to the past to stop this elusive man known only as The Magician from destroying a book of magic that held secrets to protecting all those born with magical abilities in the future. What a tall order that was, but this girl was courageous – if not a bit too reckless at times. She was an amazing protagonist to follow as she navigated a world that wasn’t completely her own yet felt somewhat familiar at the same time.

If that wasn’t enough, the pacing of the book always felt just right. Yes, it could get a little slower in some places, but this gave room for introducing new characters and building relationships. Although a good romance is always forefront on my mind whenever I read a book, I enjoyed the friendships made along the way in this past time. And the book wasn’t completely devoid of romance!

The Magician, as it turns out, was no other than Harte Darrigan, an intriguing guy to follow in the book as well. Although it wasn’t always clear what his intentions and plans were, he’s a character that you can totally put your faith in and support no matter how sketchy others may have viewed him at times. And his chemistry with Esta was tangible, especially when they were at odds with each other. No matter that she’s supposedly his enemy and would have to betray him at some point to get the book, there was so much anticipation for what could be between them. And let me just say, it was enough to satisfy, although I honestly can’t wait for book 2 to come out already.

Even if none of the above has gotten your heart pumping by now, how about this? At the heart of the story, it’s a complicated con and heist that the crew Esta joins would need to pull off in order to steal from the horrendous Order that is hunting all magical people. Who doesn’t love a good villain, first of all? What’s better than some elusive and secretive group chasing the good guys? Honestly, this book HAS IT ALL.

Whether you’re looking for romance, action, suspense, plot twists, good world building or character development, The Last Magician really does have it all . It’s been a long time since I felt this way for a new author, but this feeling Lisa Maxwell induced in me is akin to reading some of Cassandra Clare, J.K. Rowling and Julie Kagawa’s books. No matter what you love more, or if you aren’t the biggest fan of historical books, trust me, you have GOT to give this a try.

It just may change your entire perspective. Or engulf a good portion of your time as you escape into New York, 1902.

Overall Recommendation:
Words are no match to the strong feelings that The Last Magician has invoked in me. Full of intrigue, suspense, action, character development and romance, Esta’s mission into the past to steal back a book that could save other magical people is both daring and more complex than it initially seems. Along the way, you’ll fall in love with the people she meets there, from a magical crew who becomes like family and a certain Magician who is more than meets the eye. And if not the people, you’ll come to love New York as it was in 1902, with magic as normal as your average person. Lisa Maxwell has created a world that I fell completely into and never wanted to leave. Book 2 is on my most anticipated list for 2018!