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.

3.5 star, YA

Review: Once a King by Erin Summerill

Series: Clash of Kingdoms #3

once a king -erin summerillAodren: A lonely, young king, searching for a way to dismantle his father’s dark legacy.

Lirra: A girl with the power to control the wind, torn between duty and following her dreams

For twenty years, Channelers—women with a magical ability—have been persecuted in Malam by those without magic. Now King Aodren wants to end the bloody divide and unite his kingdom. But decades of hatred can’t be overcome by issuing decrees, and rumors of a deadly Channeler-made substance are only fueling people’s fears. Lirra has every reason to distrust Aodren. Yet when he asks for help to discover the truth behind the rumors, she can’t say no. With Lirra by his side, Aodren sees a way forward for his people. But can he rewrite the mistakes of the past before his enemies destroy the world he’s working so hard to rebuild?


3.5 Drink Me Potions


Finishing the Clash of Kingdoms series had me wondering this exact thought: what would the king of Malam do now that his crush chose someone else and there’s a whole kingdom to restore in unity and reputation.

Thankfully, Erin Summerill clearly heard my thoughts. And this, my friends, was the answer to that question.

While Once a King was marketed as a separate standalone from the Clash of Kingdoms series, I wouldn’t recommend it necessarily to be read before the others. It’ll still mildly make sense but a) there are spoilers as to what happened with the plot and some characters from the prequel series and b) there isn’t as much background information of the world building here so it would make the experience less enjoyable in a way with so much scrambling to catch up.

Much of the book (if not it’s entirety) was spent in the kingdom of Shaerdan, a kingdom that celebrated its channellers (women with magical abilities) while Malam was known in the past for hunting them down for their differences. Being king of that kingdom here? Not such a fun position to be in.

Aodren was an amazing protagonist. I loved his POV as you really get to see what’s inside. He felt so deeply, especially for his people, yet no one else could seem to understand how hard he was trying to restore Malam in the eyes of the rest of the world. And even among its own people who were still being prejudiced against Channellers.

Meanwhile, I can’t quite say the same for his love interest, Lirra. I liked her POV but I’m not sure I could stand her at times. She was initially the epitome of judgmental towards Aodren, listening to all the stereotypes about his character, calling him the bloody king o’ Malam. Yes, she changed over time, and really came through for everything that tied the plot together, but something about her just still sets me apart from truly loving her.

Aside from the characters, I must say that the plot line was leaning towards the simpler side. A counterfeit product has been released among the different factions of warriors from the different kingdoms that came to celebrate the festival. Marketed as an elixir of energy and strength, it unfortunately has lethal consequences that point towards Channeller magic, further fueling the still-remaining hatred and prejudices among the people of Malam. Wow, Aodren has his work cut out for him.

It was kind of fun hunting down the culprits with the clock ticking down as the contest and festivities came to an end with Aodren no closer to regaining trust and union for his kingdom. I didn’t quite guess who it was, although in hindsight I probably should’ve.

While I always love a good high fantasy with many twists and turns that are usually unpredictable by nature, sometimes a nice simple fantasy is also great for a quiet day in. It was a little slow sometimes but overall, it was a cute and heartwarming story of individuals learning to reach out to those who are different and not cower in fear ’cause of it. I definitely stand by the moral of the story, and that’s the most important part.

Overall Recommendation:

Once a King continues the storyline from the Clash of Kingdoms series with King Aodren as the protagonist. At its heart is a mystery for the supplier of a deadly product that has fueled more hatred against magical women in Aodren’s kingdom. But around this central storyline is a heart for those who are different, and a man who starts the call for change by humbly doing what he can for the people he loves. If that speaks to you, regardless of the simplicity of the plot, you should pick this book up (maybe after the other two books).