Tag Archive | magic

Review: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Series: Ash Princess Trilogy #1

ash princess -laura sebastianTheodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.


4 Drink Me Potions


**Ash Princess comes out April 24, 2018**

An ARC was provided by the publisher and Indigo Books & Music

My name is Theodosia Eirene Houzzarah, and like my mother and all my foremothers before her, I am a Fire Queen, with the blood of a god in my veins.


Ash Princess features a strong heroine who would not be broken by her captors while placing everything on the line for the people she aimed to serve. This was a story that embraced self-sacrifice, the bonds of friendship forged in the craziest of times, and courage. A totally feel-good kind of story where no matter the trials and sacrifices made along the way, the good people will triumph in the end (although that may occur later in the series).

As other reviewers have mentioned, this book wasn’t necessarily a happy story. Theodosia, otherwise known as Thora to her Kalovaxian captors, was subjected to much abuse. Whether it be the physical markings of a whip to her back or the threat of the ruler wanting her physical body, this story can get a bit much at times. Although I wouldn’t say it was as dark as some recent dark YA fantasies (see Rosamund Hodge or Kendare Blake), it’s still not a pleasant situation Theo’s in.

That aside, there’s plenty to love in this book. All your favourite fantasy tropes are here – whether that be a good thing or not. You’ve got your almost-love triangle (where I for once did not hate it at all), a sworn enemy that the protagonist is attracted to against her strongest will, an evil tyrant ruling their beloved kingdom, and a strong heroine who would do anything for her people. Yes, it sounds like any other YA fantasy story out there, even down to the religion and special abilities derived from the 4 elements of nature, but we read these things because we like them, right?

The romance was sweet. I’m a sucker for a forbidden match where you wonder “how can they possibly be together?” The other potential guy is an amazing match for Theo too, but I’m holding my judgment to see where that’s going.

Secondary characters make you want to believe in their cause. None are perfect. Their experiences have been tough, but these rebels who band around their queen – grudgingly or not – make the foundation of the story. Underlying all the self-growth and courageous themes that Theo had to go through, there’s the strong implication that she’d be nothing and nowhere if it wasn’t for those who were willing to step up, no matter their station and circumstances in life, and do their part for their futures. Including encouraging a queen who felt the weight of all her people on her shoulders.

“…that’s how water works. The river flows, pushing against a stone, even as it knows it won’t move it. It doesn’t have to. Enough currents go by, over enough time, and even the strongest stone gives in. It might take a lifetime or more, but water doesn’t give up.”


Of course, this book wouldn’t be complete without betrayal and an ending that makes you want to grab the next novel! For a debut novel, Laura Sebastian is definitely an author to look out for, especially if you love all these common YA fantasy tropes (and don’t mind the somewhat lack of originality).

Overall Recommendation:
Ash Princess has everything I love about YA fantasies. Featuring a heroine who grows into her own as she faces down an evil tyrant for her kingdom, this story is one of growth, courage, and trusting others. While many of the tropes found in this book are not anything you haven’t seen before in the YA genre, the lack of originality is made up by the real and lovable characters, even the semi love triangle that’s kind of going on. All in all, I would say you should give this debut novel a try as you may find yourself falling in love with these common tropes that really do fit so well together.

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Review: Dream On by Kerstin Gier

Series: Silver #2

dream on -kerstin gierThings seem to be going well for Liv Silver: she’s adjusting to her new home in London; she has a burgeoning romance with Henry Harper, one of the cutest boys in school; and the girl who’s been turning her dreams into nightmares, Anabel, is now locked up. But serenity doesn’t last for long.

It seems that Liv’s troubles are far from over—in fact, suddenly they’re piling up. School gossip blogger Secrecy knows all of Liv’s most intimate secrets, Henry might be hiding something from her, and at night Liv senses a dark presence following her through the corridors of the dream world.

Does someone have a score to settle with Liv?


4 Drink Me Potions


Dream On continues along in the same thread as its first book with whimsical dreaming and the threat of dangerous entities waiting for our protagonists in their dreams.

There are many things I love about this book. First, for a second book in a trilogy, it sure was a fast read. Things have settled down somewhat since the crazy ending events in book 1, but there seems to be something hanging in the air that unsettles poor Liv. And while the danger that presents itself isn’t anything crazy (now don’t be thinking of demons and weird monsters and other fantastical creatures), it’s no less a dangerous threat to these sweet individuals I’ve come to love.

That brings me to this point. The characters. They’re just so…. lovable !

Liv and her sister Mia are fun and so real. They don’t necessarily act like mini adults that a lot of YA seems to portray their protagonists. They’re sweet girls who sometimes have a hard time adjusting to their new familial lives with the Spencer family. They make mistakes – no one’s perfect – but the thing is, neither of them are particularly special either. And they don’t have to be! I love them for how they are, their unique personalities that make them so tangible, without having those super protagonist powers that also are so prominent.

The secondary characters are all unique as well. From the eccentric but sweet au pair to the boys Liv hangs with and the completely intolerable Spencer matriarch, each one isn’t just a cookie cutter mold of someone else that is vaguely familiar.

I will admit that the plot is a bit slow at times, especially when it comes to isolating what this feeling of trepidation is whenever Liv and Henry are exploring the dream corridor. But the romantic tensions between them both drove me nuts and kept me reading like crazy. The progression of their relationship felt real. No need for weirdly complicated love triangles, dastardly plots trying to destroy their relationship or other crazy things that I’ve seen occur. Liv just had her doubts about Henry’s interest in her sometimes. And the trajectory of their sweet romance was a lot fun to follow, especially for you romance lovers out there! It was just enough to the story that added a bit of sugar on top.

I once said that this whole series reminded me of Wonderland. Maybe it’s the covers with the keyhole showing the other side of one’s dream door. Maybe it’s the whimsical and nonsensical nature of what goes on in dreams sometimes. Maybe it’s the innocence and curiosity of Liv that I see in Alice as well. I’m not sure if this extra layer could’ve coloured my view on these books, but either way, I think it’s another solid story added to the series and I can’t wait to see how things go for this wonderful eclectic family of dreamers.

Overall Recommendation:
Dream On has a bit of everything: suspenseful wait for what other dangers may be present, romantic relationships with a certain dreamer and the fun antics of a truly unique family. I loved every single bit of it, but especially the way that Gier makes her characters come alive. For any dreamer out there, I definitely recommend this book – in fact, the whole darn series – for you. ‘Cause in dreams, anything can happen. And the imagination can run wild, although sometimes a little too wild as these wonderful protagonists find out.

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.