The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty’s royal family–with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl’s deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh’s aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.
Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the Crown Prince, and despite her family’s history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes this union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Ramesses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful Pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history. (goodreads.com)
Ugh. I love Moran’s writing. Few people can write historical fiction that’s as engaging and vivid as Moran can. The extensive amount of research she does for each book is evident, but not in a I’M GOING TO SHOW YOU ALL MY RESEARCH sort of way that some authors have a tendency of falling into. With Moran you only get what’s necessary to paint the scene and to bring the world to life. She never bogs down her work with superfluous detail and with everything I’ve ever read by her she sucks me into the story and doesn’t let me go until the very end, leaving me out of breath and vaguely stunned.
Moran brings life to the past and makes these ancient people as relatable as anyone else, despite the fact that they’re inbred royalty. The inbreeding is mentioned a little bit toward the beginning, because, and someone can correct me if I’m wrong, Nefertari is a half sibling to Ramesses. Egyptians were really into bloodline purity to the point of siblings procreating. Pharaohs were descendants of gods and those lines need to be kept pure. Whatever they needed to tell themselves.
Anyway, Moran really makes you feel for Nefertari. She’s basically this shunned princess (the niece of the heretic ruler Akhenaton who tried to convert the Egyptians to monotheism by worshiping one god, Aten), grudgingly kept around because she’s in favor with Seti and that’s about it. She has people around her desperate to get her to maneuver politically in order to ensure not only her own survival, but to bring their own desires to fruition, and they just to happen to line up nicely with Nefertari. You see her, and Ramesses, make grievous errors in their judgment that have serious repercussions and it kills them that these things happen. Neither one of them are really game for political posturing, but both understand the necessity and neither want to do something rash just because they can. They’re both very self-aware in that regard and it humbles them even more.
I never want to come out of one of Moran’s books. Especially those about Egypt. The amount of love she has for history is so evident in the life she breathes into the past. Hell, Moran is such a fantastic writer that I’ve found myself reading books of hers pertaining to things I was never previously interested in. Well, I am now! Her dedication to preserving the past and her love for it are evident in her writing. She handles these ancient worlds with a kind of reverence that’s missing in some historical fiction. It’s why I can’t get enough of her work.
Okay. Before this totally turns into a gush fest. THE HERETIC QUEEN brings ancient Egypt to life and breaths life into historical figures whom we only know as drawings on rocks, nearly lost to the sands. Not only does she bring the technical aspect to her writing, but she gives these ancient people lives. Personalities. Experiences. She makes them human and reachable. I can’t get enough of it.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
A burning vengeance.
Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. The son of the queen of the Fells, Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can Ash use his powers not to save a life but to take it?
A blood-based curse.
Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target. But when the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers, Jenna assumes that it has more to do with her role as a saboteur than any birth-based curse. Though Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted, she knows that she can’t get caught.
Destiny’s fiery hand.
Eventually, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths will collide in Arden. Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the king, they will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine. (goodreads.com)
Just as good as any book in the Seven Realms series, FLAMECASTER did not disappoint in the slightest. The Shattered Realms novels do stand on their own and can be read without having read the Seven Realms books but 1) why would you do that? And 2) you’re missing out on an incredibly well-rounded world.
One thing Chima doesn’t skimp on is world-building. The world around the characters is just as rich and independent as the characters themselves, acting as its own entity. From there you get characters that have some semblance of roots in the older stories (if you’ve read them) and they’re built around the world, being a part of it as opposed to standing apart from it.
Chima tore my heart out at the very beginning of the book. Awful, awful woman. Not cool. Of course it’s the catalyst for the whole story but still. THERE WASN’T ANOTHER WAY??? Ugh. My soul hurt after that.
I’ve always liked the way Chima sprinkled in characters and didn’t have it be overwhelming. There’s a lot going on in FLAMECASTER and you get the story from multiple points of view, but never once was I ever confused about who was talking nor was I ever not able to juggle all of the characters in front of me. They’re all introduced and managed wonderfully, being sprinkled in in such a way that they all stick as opposed to being rushed with characters and it taking multiple reads to get them all straight.
Of course the ending was a total cliffhanger and I’m salivating for SHADOWCASTER. Must get my hands on it. God, I love this whole series. All of it. The world is fantastic, Chima’s written amazing characters, from the heroes and anti-heroes to the villains themselves, and the plot just sucks me in from the beginning. It was nothing reading the book and it wasn’t nearly long enough for my liking. Must get MOAR.
When Jocelyn and her best friend, Madge, arrive at the gates of Brookline sanatorium—fresh out of nursing school—they are eager and excited to start their new careers. But from their very first meeting with Brookline’s austere warden, they can tell their new boss will be . . . difficult. Then Jocelyn wakes up in her room one night to the sound of screaming, and she starts to wonder if the treatments in this asylum are entirely humane. But the warden has his eye on Jocelyn—and the treatment of patients should be the least of her concerns. (goodreads.com)
THE WARDEN, I think, is the creepiest out of all of the novellas Roux’s written within the ASYLUM world. Not only is it set within the asylum itself, but you get to interact with the warden himself in a very tangible way. He’s no longer a flashback or something seen out of the corner of an eye or whispered about in passing. He’s a living character in this snippet of a story and you get to see firsthand just how manipulative and insistent he is about his way of doing things and experimenting. You see how he plays with people and actively distorts their realities in order to achieve his ends. He’s more terrifying than any jump scares could offer.
Within a short number of pages you see how the characters spiral despite their best intentions and greatest efforts. Really no one’s any match for Warden Crawford. Once you’re in his web he’s got you and there’s no getting out.
Considering I just bought the book that has this complete set of novellas in it, I’d say THE WARDEN is an excellent addition to the spooky, creepy world of ASYLUM. It’s not overwhelming, it’s not about cheap scares. It’s far more insidious and will dig into the heart of a person’s fears and uncover it for all to see.
Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.
Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.
Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire. (goodreads.com)
Ugh. If there ever was a sequel just as good as the first in a series, it’s A CROWN OF WISHES. Written in the same golden prose as A STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN with a story that stabs you in the gut and a heroine that would sooner set you on fire than save you, I couldn’t get enough of it. I just want to eat it all up.
But then I might turn into a werewolf creature. And that would be bad. Maybe.
Gauri is Maya’s sister, for whom A STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN was about. And she does make a brief appearance in A CROWN OF WISHES, but don’t expect a lot. This is Gauri’s story. And she’s so incredibly fierce and determined and vengeful and sometimes pig-headed. I actually think Chokshi balanced her character well, creating a wholly likable person in Gauri while being incredibly flawed and not obnoxious. Personalities like Gauri’s, if overdone, can come off forceful and off-putting. But she was snarky, witty, and all around awesome.
And, like the first one, there was some prince being in need of rescuing. I love that Chokshi keeps flipping the story like that. Gives me the warm and fuzzies.
And let’s not forget the world. My god, the world! Just as strong and vivid as in the original, it’s its own character in the book, coming to life on the pages as Chokshi weaves a dark and dangerous and appealing web of her world. I couldn’t get enough of it, the world whore that I am.
If there were to be a third book, and I’m thinking there might be, I think I know just whose story it might be, and my god. I can’t wait. MOAR! When’s the next one coming out? What do you mean A CROWN OF WISHES isn’t out yet? How’s that relevant? MOAR!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Click the link to read an excerpt from A CROWN OF WISHES! –> A Crown of Wishes_Blog Tour Excerpt
The letters went out in mid-February. Each letter invited its recipient to spend a week at Camp So-and-So, a lakeside retreat for girls nestled high in the Starveling Mountains. Each letter came with a glossy brochure with photographs of young women climbing rocks, performing Shakespearean theatre under the stars, and spiking volleyballs. Each letter was signed in ink by the famed and reclusive businessman and philanthropist, Inge F. Yancey IV.
By the end of the month, twenty-five applications had been completed, signed, and mailed to a post office box in an obscure Appalachian town.
Had any of these girls tried to follow the directions in the brochure and visit the camp for themselves on that day in February, they would have discovered that there was no such town and no such mountain and that no one within a fifty-mile radius had ever heard of Camp So-and-So. (goodreads.com)
At first I was really disoriented by CAMP SO-AND-SO (as, I’m sure, were all the campers I was reading about). It’s a very non-traditional story told from multiple viewpoints in third person omniscient that tells multiple stories that are otherwise connected, but functioning independently from each other. It’s very strange but I adored the voice so I pushed through and I’m so glad I did.
What a fantastic story. Every time I’m surprised by a Carolrhoda Lab book and I shouldn’t be because I’ve loved nearly every book I’ve read from them. They just know how to pick them. And CAMP SO-AND-SO is no exception. It’s campy (ha!) but in a grounded sort of way that mixes in the supernatural and the faery world in a way that perfectly blends together. Despite the fact that you literally have twenty-five different characters you’re following I never lost track of any of them (okay, I may have mixed up the girl in the orange hoodie and the girl with beads in her hair a couple times toward the end, but I think I’m a little justified there considering what happened between the two). They’re all completely independent of each other and they stand out against each other.
CAMP SO-AND-SO was a downright fun book. It had the very quirky camp feel, but completely upended that entire trope on its head and nearly bastardized the whole idea. I loved it. I also loved that not everyone come out unscathed. Or at all. That appeased my blackened soul nicely. And the ending fit nicely with the overall tone of the book: fun and quirky with a dark underlying tone lurking just beneath the surface of the world McCoy created. Awesome.
It’s a story that’ll appeal to the younger reluctant YA reader for all the action and playing around the story does along with the older YA reader who’s looking for something different, but still plays to known tropes within the genre (camping genre? is that a thing?). I was never a camp person (I was allergic to the outside when I was little, camp probably would have killed me) and CAMP SO-AND-SO made camp both appealing and appalling all at the same time. Although I’m pretty sure that was the point.
An excellent read, I highly recommend McCoy’s book. There’s literally something for everyone (a hint of romance, the supernatural, super villains, the outdoors, an epic quest, and stagehands!).
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.