War of Mist – Helen Scheuerer

44780383._SY475_Following on from the events in book #2, Reign of Mist, tensions are running high across the realm. Bleak and Casimir are searching for the one thing that might give them an advantage over Ines, while the others are preparing for battle.

The Oremere Chronicles has been one of my all-time favourite fantasy series. It has everything: magic, action, humour, spunky characters, giant wild cats, friendship, betrayal, epic battles, a little bit of romance, fantastic world building and great plot development.

There are so many strong female characters. These books are very feminist and filled to the brim with powerful women, but the male characters aren’t pushed to the side or forgotten. Every single character brings something significant to the story, and they all have unique, memorable personalities despite there being so many different characters. I could go on for hours about each character individually, but my best advice would be to read the book and fall in love with them yourself.

There is a teeny bit of romance, but that is very much a minor element in the plot. It was actually a cross between very enjoyable and quite frustrating because I shipped everyone in this book. Especially Bleak – I shipped her with almost every other character: Dash, Bren, Fiore, Cazimir, Henri, even Swinton once or twice. To be honest, I think I’d have been happy with any outcome on that front.

Being the third and final part of the trilogy, the story comes to an eventful – and at times traumatic – climax. I won’t spoil it, but prepare to weep in between moments of triumph.

Overall, this series was truly excellent. I loved every second of all three books, and War of Mist did not let the series down at all. It might even have been my favourite. I can’t wait to see what Helen Scheuerer comes up with next.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Reign of Mist – Helen Scheuerer

39216289.jpgIn book #2 of The Oremere Chronicles, it is all kicking off. As more people learn the truth behind the deadly mist and King Arden’s treachery, war is brewing. Scattered across continents, Bleak and her friends are forced to choose sides, forge their own alliances and prepare themselves for the battles ahead.

I adored book #1 in this series, Heart of Mist, so I was really excited to get straight on with reading book #2. It didn’t disappoint.

At the start of the book, all our main players are separated and spread out across the continents. This meant there were a few different threads to follow simultaneously. Initially, I was concerned that this would make the story too complicated (and one of my favourite things about this series has been the relationships between characters, so splitting them up was not so good), but fortunately the whole gang was reunited fairly quickly and all my concerns were dispelled.

The plot progresses much quicker in this book. There are a lot of characters to follow and a lot of politics to cover, but none of it felt rushed or lacking in detail. The pacing was pretty much spot on to keep the story moving and maintain excitement. The story really comes to life through Scheuerer’s brilliant writing, fantastic characters and strong world-building.

I haven’t enjoyed a YA fantasy series this much in so long.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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A Symphony of Echoes – Jodi Taylor

43450940.jpgIn Book #2 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s, things are as crazy as ever. The St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research are an organisation of historians who travel back in time in order to carry out research and make sure that History stays on track. In the second instalment of the series, Max and the team visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, observe the murder of Archbishop Thomas Beckett, undertake the recovery of some dodos with no survival instincts, and make a risky visit to Mary Queen of Scots in an attempt to prevent an old enemy from changing the course of History.

A Symphony of Echoes is fast-paced and action-packed. Multiple adventures are stuffed into one book, so it’s a bit full-on but very well done and so much fun. I really love the quirky humour and adventures of these books; there really isn’t a dull moment. The characters are incredibly likeable and reasonably well developed, and I enjoy the time jumps. The historical elements seems to be reasonably well researched and accurate, up to the point where accuracy becomes irrelevant due to the actions of the characters.

My only criticism would be that there’s too much going on. The plot is a bit hard to follow because it really doesn’t stop, and story-development takes a clear back-seat behind the humour and wackiness. That being said, it’s such a fun read that none of that really matters.

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Heart of Mist – Helen Scheuerer

34865933All Bleak wants is a cure for her power. The ability to hear the thoughts of others may seem like a gift, but when the only way to drown it out is through copious amounts of alcohol, it’s more of a curse. Despite never telling anyone of her abilities, Bleak is suddenly snatched from her home by the King’s Army and summoned to the capital. But the journey doesn’t quite go according to plan as Bleak is rescued by the queen of a nation if female warriors, the Valian Kindred. Saved from one form of captivity and pulled straight into another, Bleak finds herself right in the middle of a power-struggle, with a much bigger role than she ever could have anticipated.

It’s really difficult to guess which YA/New Adult Fantasy books are going to be good, and which are going to be mediocre. As a serious fantasy lover, I haven’t come across many that I thought were bad, but truly great ones are few and far between. Heart of Mist is one of them. I absolutely loved it, from cover to cover.

I pretty much loved every character. Bleak was probably my least favourite, but she’s got tough competition and, with the full cast supporting her, she’s a fantastic protagonist. I adored Fiore from the moment we meet him and thought he would be my instant favourite, but then we were introduced to the Valians and suddenly everyone was my favourite. Even Swinton really grew on me as the story progressed.

The plot is fairly slow paced, but because the characters were so fantastic and I know there’s more to come in the series, I was totally fine with the pacing. The story has a good amount of depth to it, with the main story line being backed up by a couple of mysteries which I’m really looking forward to finding out more about.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Bored Of The Rings – The Harvard Lampoon

45298617.jpgThis funny, rude parody of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings tells the story of Frito the boggie and his friends, Goodgulf, Arrowroot, Legolam, Gimlet and the rest as they head off to destroy a magic ring in the pits of Fordor.

Honestly, the best thing about this book is that they managed not to overdo it. The entire Tolkien trilogy is covered in less than 200 pages and, somehow, no vital aspects of the story are left out. The first book is parodied in a lot more detail than #2 and #3, but that’s really for the best because, although it’s funny, Bored of the Rings would have dragged if it had been much longer.

The humour in this book isn’t subtle in any way. It is silly, rude and childish, often falling back on the simplest forms of wit (Uncle Dildo being a prime example), and yet it is somehow very clever. There are quite a lot of cultural references that are out of date (e.g. Goodgulf is apparently a reference to a brand of gasoline), but enough of it has withstood the test of time and will be amusing to most generations.

The funniest parts were almost definitely the character names and their altered personalities. Arrowroot, son of Arrowshirt, a useless dolt instead of the handsome, heroic Aragorn and Tim Benzedrino (Tom Bombadill) as a drugged-out hippie were my favourites.

I’d never read a parody before this, and I can see both sides of why people do or don’t like them. On the one hand, I don’t feel like I’ve gained anything having read this book. But on the other hand, it did make me laugh.

I received a copy of the 50th anniversary edition of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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To Kill a Kingdom – Alexandra Christo

37541225.jpgPrincess Lira is siren royalty, feared and revered throughout the ocean but living in the terrifying shadow of her mother, the Sea Queen. Prince Elain is heir to the golden throne of Midas, dedicating himself to hunting down the elusive Prince’s Bane – a siren known for stealing the hearts of princes all over the world. The pair’s paths cross when the Sea Queen curses Lira with humanity, banishing her from life in the sea until she returns with the heart of the great siren hunter.

To Kill a Kingdom is inspired by The Little Mermaid, which I didn’t realise until I started reading and picked up on all the similarities. The story is very different, but some aspects are clearly taken from The Little Mermaid (Lira’s red hair, the Sea Queen’s tentacles, Lira being turned human and losing her ‘song’, etc). This was actually a really exciting feature for me because, although fairy-tale inspired books are common, The Little Mermaid is quite a rare one.

The book is generally well-written, but I did struggle to picture one or two aspects. I found it really difficult to visualise the difference between sirens, mermaids and mermen, but I’m not too sure why. I’m not going to blame the author’s descriptions, because it could simply be that the image of mer-people is one so ingrained in my brain that I can’t visualise an alternative. However, this didn’t hinder my overall enjoyment of the story.

There are a lot of great characters. Lira and Elain are both decent enough protagonists, but the side characters really stole the show. Elain crew, especially Madrid and Kye, are fantastic and entertaining while even much smaller characters like Khalia play important roles within the plot.

It’s not perfect, but the excessive sassy banter that fills this book really makes up for it’s flaws. The flaws are minor and difficult to pick out; there’s just something about this book that stops it being a work of genius, but it’s a good read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Empress of all Seasons – Emiko Jean

41435393.jpgIn this Japanese inspired fantasy, a competition is held every generation to find the next empress of Honoku. The winner will be the woman who survives all four seasonal rooms: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. Al are eligible to compete, except Yokai – supernatural beings whom the emperor is determined to destroy. Mari is a Yokai with the ability to transform into a monster, and she has spent a lifetime training to become empress. As the competition progresses, Mari finds herself torn between duty and love.

Empress of All Seasons is a very strong YA fantasy. I absolutely loved that this is a standalone novel, not part of a series. Every YA fantasy I read seems to be part of a series these days and it was wonderful to be able to read a full, complete story in just one book for a change. It has potential to grow more stories in the same world with some of the same characters, but this particular story, at least, is finished.

I liked the concept of the seasonal rooms and the competition. It’s quite Hunger Games-esk, but the contestants only have to survive, rather than kill each other. I actually would have liked more of the book to have been focused on the competition instead of the wider rebellion.

My other favourite aspect of this book was that the Japanese features were so fully integrated into the story. I recently read another Asian-inspired fantasy – The Girl King – and was sorely disappointed by how western it actually was. In this book, the world is filled with words, creatures and scenery that are clearly inspired by Japanese culture. It was fantastic.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Ravencry – Ed McDonald

36666672It’s been four years since the events of Blackwing when Nall’s Engline drove the Deep Kings back across the Misery, but all is still not well. A new power is rising: a ghostly apparition known as the Bright Lady has developed a fanatical following, and an object of great power is stolen from Crowfoot’s highly protected vault. Galharrow and his Blackwings must recover the object before it can be used, a mission which takes him deeper into the Misery than ever before.

Blackwing was an excellent, absorbing fantasy debut, and Ravencry is somehow even better. The story continues with one or two new characters as well as the wonderful ones we’ve already met.I loved following Galharrow again, he really is a brilliant main character and – after the loss of Ezabeth – he’s even more damaged and tormented than before. Luckily, this does absolutely nothing to make him weak or whiny. If anything, it makes him even more heroic.

The scene-setting and story-telling is exceptionally good. There is no extensive or excessive description of landscapes and events, and yet everything is super easy to picture. Another strong aspect is that there is no definitive ‘good’ vs ‘bad’. Apart from Galharrow who is the obvious hero, both sides of the fight seem to be relatively bad. Instead of working for anyone in particular (he’s under Crowfoot’s control, but is reluctant about it), Galharrow fights for the survival of his city and not a righteous ‘good’ side.

The story is emotional, funny, action-packed and addictive. It is a fantasy-adventure through and through, with some very dark, gritty elements. I am beyond excited for Crowfall.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Battlestar Suburbia – Chris McCrudden

41951951Battlestar Suburbia is a really difficult book to summarise in any way that makes sense, but I’ll give it a go… Humanity has been downgraded to a secondary life-form, living to serve the electrical appliances that are now in charge. When Darren’s charge-cart gets knocked off the Mars-to-Earth highway, he thinks his day can’t get any worse. That is, until he accidentally short-circuits a sentient lamppost and finds himself right at the head of a human uprising against the machines.

As you may be able to gather from the synopsis, this book is very weird. Almost too weird. It took a really long time for me to get into it, so much so that I came very close to giving up and DNF-ing it. However, I’m glad I didn’t. When I finally found myself settling in to the madness, I LOVED IT. The general plot was insane but well thought-out and the characters, well, they were the best part.

Freda (an old lady cyborg) and Pam (a bread maker refitted into the body of a flashy motorbike) were my favourites. They were sassy and quirky and I loved reading about them. But all the other characters were good as well, and there were plenty of butt-kicking females.

The comedy aspect of this book is very good. It reminded me a lot of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but with a very different plot. It’s a fun, crazy space adventure with lovable characters and laugh-out-loud moments.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Girl King – Mimi Yu

41832496Lu is destined to become Emperor when her father dies – to become the dynasty’s first female ruler – while Min, her sister, is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then, in a shocking betrayal, their father names their cousin, Set, as his heir instead. Lu is forced to go on the run to keep her life and fight for her birthright. During her escape, she meets Nokhai: a wolf shapeshifter and the last of his kind. Together, they set off to find an army to retake Lu’s throne. Meanwhile, Min is left behind with Set and his mysterious adviser, a monk named Brother, who is determined to awaken an ancient power hidden within her.

I enjoyed this book. It didn’t particularly stand out in any way, but it was a standard, enjoyable YA fantasy. It follows the same formula as many other YA novels, with your expected characters and tropes, but it was still good.

Lu and Nok’s story line was definitely the best part. Lu was a strong character, because she really developed. She started out feisty and stubborn (and kind of annoying), but as the story progressed she grew into someone more caring and determined. She wanted to get back what she felt she deserved, but she also wanted to make things better for other people as well. I also found Nok very likeable. His relationship with Lu was predictable and unremarkable but very sweet and I liked reading it.

Min, on the other hand, I didn’t like so much. She had so much potential to be a unique character and really make the book stand out from the rest, but instead she remained childish and pathetic even when she’d discovered her powers. She didn’t grow at all, all that happened to her was that she got some magic and had a tantrum. I didn’t particularly enjoy her story line, but it did provide a necessary break from Lu’s thread, which would have gotten kind of boring without the cuts to the palace to see how Min was getting on.

Another point of note is that this is supposed to be an Asian-inspired fantasy, which I’m sure will attract many readers. Unfortunately, other than the characters having Asian names and a few mentions of Asian-style clothing, there isn’t anything about the culture integrated into the plot. If you changed the names of the characters, the story would read exactly the same as any Western-based YA fantasy, which was kinda disappointing.

My overall view is that The Girl King isn’t a special or unique book, but it is enjoyable and I will certainly be reading the next book when it comes out.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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