Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

WILDBLOOD by Lauren Blackwood

Eighteen-year-old Victoria is a Wildblood. Kidnapped at the age of six and manipulated by the Exotic Lands Touring Company, she’s worked as a tour guide ever since with a team of fellow Wildbloods who take turns using their magic to protect travelers in a Jamaican jungle teeming with ghostly monsters.

When the boss denies Victoria an earned promotion to team leader in favor of Dean, her backstabbing ex, she’s determined to prove herself. Her magic may be the most powerful on the team, but she’s not the image the boss wants to send their new client, Thorn, a renowned goldminer determined to reach an untouched gold supply deep in the jungle.

Thorn is everything Victoria isn’t – confident, impossibly kind, and so handsome he leaves her speechless. And when he entrusts the mission to her, kindness turns to mutual respect, turns to affection, turns to love. But the jungle is treacherous, and between hypnotic river spirits, soul-devouring women that shed their skin like snakes, and her ex out for revenge, Victoria has to decide – is promotion at a corrupt company really what she wants?


Title : Wildblood
Author : Lauren Blackwood
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : February 7, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★.5 


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

I’m sad to say it but I think had the setting, and some of the magic and wildness of the jungle — at least in the first half — not been so interesting, this rating would be even lower.

It didn’t take long before every chapter, every page, every interaction between these cardboard characters, became a chore. It became a trial not to DNF around the 30% mark, and maybe it would’ve been earlier had I not chipped away at this so slowly after initially picking it up, but I convinced myself I could at least try to skim through a little further to see where things were going and, unfortunately, eventually read through to the end. I’m not sure why I bothered.

No, sorry, I do know why. Because I enjoyed the author’s debut so much.

This did have a few good things to offer outside of the setting; it also talks about colourism, human trafficking, and more, but it quickly shifted gears to focusing on a stuttering girl getting starry eyed over her love interest. Complete with confessions of feelings and love after two days.

Sorry, miss me with this. I already had one foot out of the door but this was too much. Especially with the whole evil ex dynamic and.. yeah, no.

Victoria’s character see-sawed all over the place and there were too many men involved, plus a pseudo-brother/son who she seemed willing to do anything for and who just mostly slept the whole time. I truly have no idea what was going on with these characters and why. But I think in general there just wasn’t a solid running vibe because the latter half of the story goes off the rails; both in plot and tone. Sometimes jokey, sometimes angsty, quick to forgive, quick to abandon things it had spent a lot of time and energy setting up.. it was all over the place.

I am hugely disappointed by this but mostly disappointed in myself for not just putting it down and walking away instead of pushing on to make it work. Do not recommend.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

WILDWOOD DANCING by Juliet Marillier – double review!

High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.

But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom–an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop.

When Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine–tests of trust, strength, and true love.


Title : Wildwood Dancing
Author : Juliet Marillier
Series : Wildwood (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 407
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date : January 23, 2007

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5  / ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Even though this couldn’t be more different from the Sevenwaters Saga, there is something intrinsically Marillier about this story. A group of siblings. A mystery to be solved. Transformation. Magic. The Other folk. But this is still very unique, for all that it’s also based on, or paying homage to/a retelling of, folklore stories like The Twelve Dancing Princesses and, well, another one I won’t mention so it doesn’t ruin the surprise. Additionally, we have a story set not just in Britain, or Ireland, as most folklore and fairytales are, but in Transylvania, making the story further unique; because how often do we get that for a setting? And, complementing that setting, some of her creatures may feel a little.. familiar, too.

Joining me on this adventure was Micky but unlike previous Marillier buddy reads, I’m not sure I ever read this one. GR says no and having now read it I don’t think that was a data entry oversight on my part. While this won’t be one I revisit the way I reread her other works, there’s a lot of good here. But also, unfortunately fitting with the times perhaps, in addition to just being the conflict and antagonist of the plot, it’s also a struggle. Now, of course, often times I can enjoy the conflict for what it is without feeling like the book itself was less fun as a result but in this case.. what at first became a game to theorize and assign blame on a character, who was shit from the start, over time because wearisome. Marillier is always great at creating fantastic villains who truly believe they are on the right side, doing the right things, but this time.. it wore on me. Maybe because instead of machinations sprinkled over the course of a trilogy, everything was crammed into one instalment. Or maybe it was the kind conflicts (misogyny, patriarchal behaviour, all flavours of that kind) just rubbed me in places that were too raw. What also frustrated me was the fact that our lead was rarely, if ever, supported by those around her to fight these conflicts. Sure, again, maybe it’s a sign of the times. The reality was they had little support in the first place which could explain why things happened the way they did. But it was exhausting.

As for the mysteries and magic, well. They were mostly fairly obvious from the get-go. We definitely saw a lot of it coming without much surprise. Which is fine. And I did absolutely love how everything kicked off (the game they played as children and the ripples it would have throughout their lives) because it felt true to the mischief and mayhem that comes with involving yourself with the Others. So, too, was all of Jena, our lead’s, assumptions and judgments. She did become rather difficult near the end after having spent so much time judging her sister and what she was going through, only to be found guilty of her own follies and not truly realize the parallels (I’m thinking of her preoccupation in her moment of loss which she saw Tati going through the whole time). Having said that, though, said sister was a little.. dramatic I think. To go from distracted and heartsick to what she did.. I don’t know. A little much.

I definitely wanted to love this more than I did. But I did enjoy the world, even if the characters sometimes frustrated me, and as usual Marillier does fae like few authors can. And, of course, it was a joy to read this with my buddy and theorize and rant about what was going on at any given time.

I do want to read on and I’m looking forward to seeing what new experiences await in book two. 


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
A flavour of retellings
Dancing sisters
Other folk of many types

Marillier knows how to craft an interesting world to invest the reader from the start. In this duology starter, I found myself in the Transylvanian mountains of Romania, somewhere I’ve never been in fiction before; so fresh. This story had the flavour of some fairytales but set in it’s own unique way, one of the influences was the twelve dancing princesses (but there weren’t twelve).

In no surprise to any Marillier fan, the other folk and their world collided with those of the protagonist Jena and antagonist Cezar. Cezar, (deep sigh) was vile in an exponential way as the story developed. Expect to feel shades of patriarchy, misogyny and control. There were many parts of this story with Cezar that enraged me. That said, many of the men in this story were empowering towards women.

Jena and her sisters were a colourful bunch. By the end, I really wanted a Tati story, more of what happened to her in this story and the afterwards. Gogu was a great character and although Hollis and I guessed much about this character, the reading of it was still entertaining.

In the other world we met a lot of different folk, dissimilar to her sevenwaters fair folk. The night people were illusively intriguing, I loved the brief pictures and connections between the sisters and Anatoli, Sten and othe dancing partners.

The romp to the end was predictable in some ways and less so in others but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment. I’m looking forward to the next book (and hoping my buddy is on board for this soon) and wishing already that there were more than two books in this series.

GODKILLER by Hannah Kaner

You are not welcome here, godkiller

Kissen’s family were killed by zealots of a fire god. Now, she makes a living killing gods, and enjoys it. That is until she finds a god she cannot kill: Skedi, a god of white lies, has somehow bound himself to a young noble, and they are both on the run from unknown assassins.

Joined by a disillusioned knight on a secret quest, they must travel to the ruined city of Blenraden, where the last of the wild gods reside, to each beg a favour.

Pursued by demons, and in the midst of burgeoning civil war, they will all face a reckoning – something is rotting at the heart of their world, and only they can be the ones to stop it.


Title : Godkiller
Author : Hannah Kaner
Series : Godkiller #1
Format : eARC
Page Count : 296
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Harper Voyager
Release Date : January 19, 2023

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★.5


Micky’s 2.5 star review

I’m keeping this a short-ish review with thoughts in the positive and negative.

Positive:
The concept of gods, how they could be created, sustained and killed was so interesting
The characters’ sexuality, fluidity and how that played into this world
Elo was a great character
Great late plot twist

Negative:
Incredibly slow pacing, it was hard to stay invested
The middle section where the characters journey and journey felt lacking in excitement
Skedi was very annoying

I can see this book has worked well for many but for me it generally fell flat and if there’s more to come, I don’t think I’ll be joining in.

Thank you to Harper Voyager for the eARC.

MYSTERIES OF THORN MANOR by Margaret Rogerson

In this sequel novella to Sorcery of Thorns, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas must unravel the magical trap keeping them inside Thorn Manor in time for their Midwinter Ball!

Elisabeth Scrivener is finally settling into her new life with sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. Now that their demon companion Silas has returned, so has scrutiny from nosy reporters hungry for gossip about the city’s most powerful sorcerer and the librarian who stole his heart. But something strange is afoot at Thorn Manor: the estate’s wards, which are meant to keep their home safe, are acting up and forcibly trapping the Manor’s occupants inside. Surely it must be a coincidence that this happened just as Nathaniel and Elisabeth started getting closer to one another…

With no access to the outside world, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas – along with their new maid Mercy – will have to work together to discover the source of the magic behind the malfunctioning wards before they’re due to host the city’s Midwinter Ball. Not an easy task when the house is filled with unexpected secrets, and all Elisabeth can think about is kissing Nathaniel in peace. But when it becomes clear that the house, influenced by the magic of Nathaniel’s ancestors, requires a price for its obedience, Elisabeth and Nathaniel will have to lean on their connection like never before to set things right. 


Title : Mysteries of Thorn Manor
Author : Margaret Rogerson
Series : Sorcery of Thorns (book 1.5)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 192
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date : January 17, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, surprising no one because my brain is a sieve, I didn’t remember much about Sorcery of Thorns except that a) I really liked it, b) it’s the only Rogerson I’ve rated a four (which I suppose is related to the first point), and c) Silas. I mean, part of what I liked was the banter and vibes, the leads were very good, but I mean I don’t think anyone left that first book without thinking very fondly of a certain demon.

Naturally when I had the chance to possibly snatch up an early copy of this surprise reveal novella, I was pretty stoked. Even moreso to receive. And I waited, oh, an entire day before diving in. And what a treat. What a delight! Why did I rush into this but also I’m glad I didn’t have this gem waiting nearby unread because it was great. Perhaps has even inspired a reread..

Regardless, there isn’t a whole lot I can spoil if you haven’t yet read Sorcery of Thorns (so go do that now) but suffice it to say : fans? You will be pleased. Satisfied. Delighted! There were juicy little bits, lovely little bits, funny little bits, and the combination resulted in a very delicious whole. Saying that out loud sounds wrong but I think you get what I mean.

Highly recommend!

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

HELL BENT by Leigh Bardugo

Wealth. Power. Murder. Magic. Alex Stern is back and the Ivy League is going straight to hell in #1 New York Timesbestselling author Leigh Bardugo’s Hell Bent.

Find a gateway to the underworld. Steal a soul out of hell. A simple plan, except people who make this particular journey rarely come back. But Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to break Darlington out of purgatory―even if it costs her a future at Lethe and at Yale.

Forbidden from attempting a rescue, Alex and Dawes can’t call on the Ninth House for help, so they assemble a team of dubious allies to save the gentleman of Lethe. Together, they will have to navigate a maze of arcane texts and bizarre artifacts to uncover the societies’ most closely guarded secrets, and break every rule doing it. But when faculty members begin to die off, Alex knows these aren’t just accidents. Something deadly is at work in New Haven, and if she is going to survive, she’ll have to reckon with the monsters of her past and a darkness built into the university’s very walls.

Thick with history and packed with Bardugo’s signature twists, Hell Bent brings to life an intricate world full of magic, violence, and all too real monsters. 


Title : Hell Bent
Author : Leigh Bardugo
Series : Alex Stern (book two)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : adult fantasy
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : January 20, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Starting the year off with a book you’ve been anticipating since July of 2019 takes some courage. What if it’s bad? What if you have to stew in that disappointment for the next three plus years (or longer.. though, ideally, less) until the next instalment is out?

Thankfully I don’t have to reckon with either because Hell Bent was not bad. It was very not bad. Which just means I have to once more desperately anticipate a sequel. Darn. But also yay?

What had he imagined? Some muttered words, a voice from the beyond? Had he thought there would be dignity in this? But this is what real magic looked like — indecent, decadent, perverse.

This sequel opens with a banger of a chapter but, of course, it wouldn’t be the Alex Stern series if we didn’t bounce around in the timeline a bit. At first I worried it would feel samey, especially having just reread Ninth House, but it didn’t. I enjoyed it. It just worked so well and, in some ways, I hope it sorta becomes the vibe of this series going forward. Or not. I’ll be happy either way. Mostly just happy for more..

Anyway, what can be said about the plot of this without giving away the whole game for book one? Not much, really! But everything you loved from the first instalment is here.. and more. We get some solid found family/Scooby Gang vibes (but make it hell-ish and oh how I love the little twist to one of their addition near the end) adventures and some new paranormal additions beyond the rituals and artifacts we’ve seen so far. We were teased on Alex’s potential (and oh my the callback to book one was [chefs kiss]) along with a psych-out that literally had me wanting to throw my book against the wall (in a good frustrated kind of way, not mad at all). Not to be forgotten we, of course, had Darlington Darlington Darlington, plus an image of the aforementioned gentleman demon that will live in my head rent free for all eternity, a heist (of sorts!), and so much more.

[Darlington]’d go to hell for me, for you, for anyone who needed saving.”
Alex, he’d go to hell just to take notes on the climate.

Bardugo really leans into the darkness of this world. Not just in the deeds or the presence of violence but in the sense that magic isn’t sparkly rainbow funtimes. The preparation, the doing, the results? It’s messy. It’s messed up. And, like so much, it benefits only a certain crowd because who has access, who has the power at their fingertips, and is willing to do whatever they can to keep it? You know the answer.

But at the same time, I love that we got to see a side of Alex that is the opposite of the one who has dwelled in a different kind of darkness, one who could see herself at Yale, at lectures, learning and living a different kind of existence. There was such a great balance to the events of this book, to the characters, to how they’ve changed, and who they might still become, and it’s all mixed up into this perfect little.. well, tempest in a teapot.

In many ways Hell Bent has done more to whet my appetite for this series than Ninth House did because we’re just that much closer to seeing some things play out and become realized. Even if I think we’ll be waiting quite a while for most (all?) of it to come to fruition. And that’s even if it ever does.

That was all there was in this world. No heroes or villains, just the people you’d brave the waves for, and the ones you’d let drown.

I truly can’t wait for what comes next. I’m just hoping it doesn’t require a trip to hell to magic it into existence! But, like so many things, this was worth the wait. And I know the rest will be, too.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

SAINT by Adrienne Young

As a boy, Elias learned the hard way what happens when you don’t heed the old tales.

Nine years after his lack of superstition got his father killed, he’s grown into a young man of piety, with a deep reverence for the hallowed sea and her fickle favor. As stories of the fisherman’s son who has managed to escape the most deadly of storms spreads from port to port, his devotion to the myths and creeds has given him the reputation of the luckiest bastard to sail the Narrows.

Now, he’s mere days away from getting everything his father ever dreamed for him: a ship of his own, a crew, and a license that names him as one of the first Narrows-born traders. But when a young dredger from the Unnamed Sea with more than one secret crosses his path, Elias’ faith will be tested like never before. The greater the pull he feels toward her, the farther he drifts from the things he’s spent the last three years working for.

He is dangerously close to repeating his mistakes and he’s seen first hand how vicious the jealous sea can be. If he’s going to survive her retribution, he will have to decide which he wants more, the love of the girl who could change their shifting world, or the sacred beliefs that earned him the name that he’s known for―Saint.


Title : Saint
Author : Adrienne Young
Series : Fable 0.5
Format : Physical
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA Fantasy
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : December 16, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Still read after Fable/Namesake
Quietly brooding Saint

As a self confessed fan of the Fable series, the addition of Saint’s book just brings a 360 degree feeling to the series. I have come away from this feeling that even though its a prequel, it’s best read after Fable and Namesake. I think going into this book with the whole history of Saint good and bad is great, but more importantly, how you perceive Saint in the next books would be skewed if read first.

Saint was dark, brooding, quiet and contemplative. He was a fierce figure, quite severe in some ways but there was a slightly softer centred that slowly revealed itself. I enjoyed seeing the start of his and Clove’s sketchy sea life, the rye trade and that family. In addition, seeing Holland in earlier days sealed my negative thoughts of her. Isolde was a understandably secretive but she was honest and open in other ways.

The connection between these two I would describe as gentle, bourne of distrust but building into more. I wanted to see a bit more of that on the page but that’s probably just my love of the series and characters coming through.

I just loved this reading journey, being back in the world, the peril, adventures, allegiances and enemies. The series truly feels complete now.

Thank you to Titan Books for the review copy.

LOST IN THE MOMENT AND FOUND by Seanan McGuire

A young girl discovers an infinite variety of worlds in this standalone tale in the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Wayward Children series from Seanan McGuire, Lost in the Moment and Found.

Welcome to the Shop Where the Lost Things Go.

If you ever lost a sock, you’ll find it here.
If you ever wondered about favorite toy from childhood… it’s probably sitting on a shelf in the back.
And the headphones that you swore that this time you’d keep safe? You guessed it….

Antoinette has lost her father. Metaphorically. He’s not in the shop, and she’ll never see him again. But when Antsy finds herself lost (literally, this time), she finds that however many doors open for her, leaving the Shop for good might not be as simple as it sounds.

And stepping through those doors exacts a price.

Lost in the Moment and Found tells us that childhood and innocence, once lost, can never be found.


Title : Lost in the Moment and Found
Author : Seanan McGuire
Series : Wayward Children (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 160
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : January 10, 2023

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

This story had me in a chokehold the moment I read the dedication and my heart was immediately broken into bits — which reminds me, there is an author’s note and content warning so please be mindful before picking this one up. Due to the one-connected, one-standalone pattern, this particular instalment isn’t part of the main storyline and instead focuses on Antsy, a young girl who runs away from home rather than face the horrors that await her at the hands of her stepfather, and, stepping through a door (which also happens to be a Door), finds herself in a junk shop housing lost things; of which she, herself, has become one.

Unlike most instalments, main plot or otherwise, this doesn’t have a lot going on. It’s a very quiet book which is incredibly fitting considering the subject matter of the beginning and also the themes for the rest of the story. And while I didn’t break down and cry (though I foresee one particular scene maybe being cause for many a tear, though I’m not sure why I didn’t shed any myself!), this somehow still packed a punch.

This series had been on a downward trajectory for me up until the last book and I’m delighted that I’ve loved one of these enough to again award a four star (only the second ever). I hope that means we only continue to go up — though I’d be just as happy to stay steady here! — because I do love the concept of this series, I admire the themes, and often I’ll even enjoy the characters. And yet somehow they never combine into a win. But this time? They did.

As this reads as a standalone, even if you aren’t invested in this series already, I would highly recommend it.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

A SHADOW IN THE EMBER by Jennifer L Armentrout

Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.

However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then…end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot.

Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.


Title : A Shadow In The Ember
Authors : Jennifer L Armentrout
Series : Flesh & Fire #1
Format : ebook
Page Count : 695
Genre : Fantasy Romance
Publisher : Blue Box Press
Release Date : October 19, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Finished 2022 with a bang
Off shoot series gold
Dragon alert

Flesh and Fire series started blew From Blood and Ash out of the water for me. I think some of this was because I am comfortable and knowledgable in this world, I know most how it works, who are the good and bad guys, so there was limited world building needed. But more than that, I just adored the two main characters in this book so much.

Sera came from interested progeny but boy, did that evolve. Her life in some ways had similarities to Poppy. She was fierce, wreckless but loyal. I hated her brother and really liked Sir Holland, but wanted to know more.

As to Ash, he was mystery but I knew all along who he really was…that didn’t make it any less delicious in execution. These two together were irreverant, argumentative, quietly caring and literally oozing chemistry. How both their family lines evolved and mapped out their future was brilliant reading.

I’m gutted I don’t have the next two books just to roll straight into because these plots are intricate and I’m pretty obsessed with knowing what happens next.

I loved ending 2022 with five stars!

FORESTFALL by Lyndall Clipstone

The stunning sequel to Lyndall Clipstone’s Lakesedge, for fans of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely

At the lake’s edge, I made my promise. In the forest, I will fall.

The curse that haunted Lakesedge Estate has been broken, but at great cost. Violeta Graceling has sacrificed herself to end the Corruption.

To escape death, Leta makes a desperate bargain with the Lord Under, one that sees her living at his side in the land of the dead. And though he claims to have given her all he promised, Leta knows this world of souls and mists hides many secrets.

When she discovers she is still bound to Rowan, Leta goes to drastic lengths to reforge their connection. But her search for answers, and a path back home, will see her drawn into even more dangerous bargains, and struggling to resist the allure of a new, dark, power.


Title : Forestfall
Author : Lyndall Clipstone
Series : Lakesedge #2
Format : Physical
Page Count : 416
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Titan Books
Release Date : October 11, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Life under
Unwelcome family
Triangles

This rather dark fantasy du0logy continued with Forestfall and after book one which I enjoyed, I was pretty invested in this story. I don’t know why in retrospect but I really didn’t expect the love triangle we got, partly because I thought I knew where the female MC’s allegiances were; I was wrong.

This story continued in the land of the Lord Under and I did like reading about life there, where Violetta found herself and the family of the Lord Under. I didn’t like the separation between her and Rowan but we were set up for that previously.

Violetta’s conflicted feelings, her actions and the fast-paced journey to resolution didn’t hit the high I felt with book one but I was glad to see this duology to it’s end. I found it less dark than book one, probably because the corruption lost it’s fear in me as a reader.

Overall, this wasn’t as strong as book one for me, but I am glad I followed it to its conclusion.

Thank you to Titan Books for the review copy.

KUSHIEL’S AVATAR by Jacqueline Carey

The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassed beauty and grace. It’s inhabited by the race that rose from the seed of angels, and they live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay was sold into indentured servitude as a child. Her bond was purchased by a nobleman who recognized that she was pricked by Kushiel’s dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one. Phèdre’s path has been strange and dangerous. She has lain with princes and pirate kings, battled a wicked temptress, and saved two nations. Through it all, the devoted swordsman Joscelin has been at her side, following the central precept of the angel Cassiel: Protect and serve. 

But Phèdre’s plans will put his pledge to the test, for she has never forgotten her childhood friend Hyacinthe. She has spent ten long years searching for the key to free him from his eternal indenture to the Master of Straights, a bargain with the gods to save Phèdre and a nation. The search will take Phèdre and Joscelin across the world and down a fabled river to a forgotten land … and to a power so intense and mysterious, none dare speak its name.


Title : Kushiel’s Avatar
Author : Jacqueline Carey
Series : Phèdre’s Trilogy (book three)
Format : physical
Page Count : 750
Genre : fantasy romance
Publisher : Tor Fantasy
Release Date : March 14 2004

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’m going to complain a bit about repetition in this series, and most of it seemed to be in this final book (which I guess makes sense as it’s the culmination of this particular series), but here’s my own bit of repeat-y nonsense : the plot for this one came back to me as I read it. Maybe it’s like songs on the radio. You might not hear it for a decade, or think of it in that span of time, but with the sound of the melody, the lyrics are unearthed from within your brain and you can sing along. I guess it’s like that. I’ll stop assuming I have no recollection of things going forward. Here’s hoping Imriel’s Trilogy is likewise buried in my brain somewhere, too. But if not? Hey, bonus, I get to experience it a-new.

Overall, though, this was maybe not the best series to binge. Carey does a good job of weaving in past events, dynamics, and more, multiple times within her books, likely because the page count is so massive that it’s understandable you would forget things along the way. But if you’re reading these ceaselessly, one after the other, by the third one? You’re a bit tired. Not helped by the fact that even if the locales differ, it is a bit samesies in the sense that Phèdre risks all, endures all, poor Joscelin is along for the ride (because vows), they usually have a falling out (some worse, or more dramatic, than others), but eventually all is well. Queen gets mad, Queen forgives, here is your HEA. In that sense, this was the least interesting of the three because there was no real tension, we knew how things would play out almost exactly, which explains why I put this down the most of all three of them, but. But I still picked it back up.

I’ll admit I did skim some of the more story-based mythology as Phèdre traveled from one place to the next seeking knowledge, the Name of God, to rescue her childhood friend. It was a change of pace from the darkness and violence that we had endured prior but equally it did make for an odd balance of a story. But I think that is kind of represented by the whole series. Sex, and violence, and pain, yes, but also religion, and mythology, and learning, and knowledge. It’s a complex and layered universe Carey’s created and you can’t say she didn’t put in the work, and the endless research, in and around the more angsty romantic titilating bits. But even those have purpose. Even in the violence there’s reason and understanding and it’s.. well, it’s a lot.

I will definitely be pushing on with the various series but I am not sad to be taking a break, mayhap even for the rest of the year (little that remains of it). This isn’t a series, or a universe, I could really recommend but it does compel in some ways. It is interesting. And yes, layered, in every way. I don’t want to doubt my younger self but I wonder how much of this I really understand back in the day. But whatever it was, it left an impression because here I am all these years later rereading them. And I’m not mad about it.

This also completes the final series on my Five Series to Finish in 2022 list. Phew. This one was a close call.