Arc Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Arc Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Happy Monday friends! I just got back from Yallfest last night and it was such a fantastic weekend! I’ll be sharing a recap of the weekend tomorrow.  But after this weekend I’m more excited to be sharing this review. This weekend I met a bunch a girls who all had Wicked Saints ARCs and I couldn’t help but fangirl over it with them. So this review is dedicated to my 5 new friends who let me  rave about this book while standing in line for an hour.

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1)

 

Title: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1)

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Ratings: ★★★★★

Release Date: April 2,2019

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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Something Dark and Holy, indeed. My friends, I hope you’re ready for April because Wicked Saints is ready to sweep you away. Are you ready to enter this dark, new world? Reminiscent of The Grisha Trilogy and Joan of Arc, Wicked Saints takes the reader on a journey where right and wrong aren’t always black and white.

Trigger Warnings: Self Harm and Abuse are very much a part of the entire novel. The author has been very vocal about this but please stay safe everyone. You can read her review and explanation here.

“Intentions were not always kind nor just.”

Most clerics hear the voice of one god to grant them a particular power. Nadezhda Lapteva hears the whole pantheon of gods and they each give power as well as a divine calling. Nadya grew up understanding she was the last cleric and her will was the gods’ will. Her country is at war with the neighboring country, a country her religion calls “heretics”. People who have shunned the gods and practice their own form of magic, blood mages.
When Serefin, the high prince and a dangerous blood mage, attacks her monastery, Nadya is forced to flee her home to fulfill her divine calling. While on the run from the enemy, she finds a group of so-called rebels. These people have decided not to choose a side but would still like for the war to be over. Their leader, Malachiaz, convinces Nadya to go against the god’s wishes and infiltrate the enemy from within the palace. This begins Nadya’s journey into enemy territory while not know who she can trust.
The magic system was one of the best things I’ve ever read. This is a big part of the plot and it was so cool to see. Clerics vs. the Blood Mages; two sides of the same coin. Both sides of the war believed they were right and the other side were the heretics. I definitely questioned both sides multiple times. (I was raised Catholic and I know who Joan of Arc is as well as the idea of a holy war. So for me, I think it added a lot to the plot.)
This story is told in dual POV. While I enjoyed Serefin’s character development I am more excited to see where he will be in the next book. They left it so open-ended, I think he’s going to be a huge part of this overall story. Nadya is my girl. Her character development was amazingly on point. Who she was at the beginning is not how she ended up by the ending.

“We’re all monsters, Nadya.” Malachiasz said, his voice gaining a few tangled chords of chaos. “Some of us just hide it better than others.”

The ROMANCE!!!!! The perfect ship. The optimist vs. pragmatist. Light vs. Darkness. I can’t help but think of Alina/The Darkling from Grisha and Damon/Elena from TVD. Morozko from The Winterwitch Trilogy.

Duncan’s writing gives off the best medieval vibes. Nadya has strong characteristics to Joan of Arc and other medieval martyrs. The story was so intriguing to read. Betrayal and the blurred line between faith and heresy makes Wicked Saints a perfect story for fans of Grey areas. Raw imaginary make this an extremely easy and fast read. This is a one of a kind story that takes the reader on a journey through medieval cathedrals and ruins of a war-torn country.

I think I lot of people will fall in love with Wicked Saints come April. I quick-paced book sure to thrill any fan of dark fantasy YA. Be sure to keep Wicked Saints in your sights in April 2019!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

 

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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“Will you tell her? asked the mare. “Everything?” the demon said. “Of bears and sorcerers, spells made of sapphire and a witch that lost her daughter? No, of course not. I shall tell her as little as possible. And hope that it is enough.” 

I have loved many books in my life. I’ve loved books that tell of fantasy, friendship, and adventure, but I have never loved a book liked I love The Bear and the Nightingale. One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, it reached deep into my soul fall truly in love with this book. Bear and the Nightingale is on the list of books I wish I could reread over for the first time. I could talk all day about how beautiful this book is to me.

Where does one begin describing their favorite book? This book is magical. The writing is lyrical, it is everything I could ever want in a book. This book is truly a centuries-old fairytale. Russian fairy tales are intertwined to make for a brand new fairytale. A story about family dynamics, gender roles in society, and faith vs tradition are wrapped up in beautiful prose.

“All my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me.”

The Bear and the Nightingale tells the story of a girl named Vasya and her bravery in keeping her family safe from horrors that seem to be right out of the stories her nursemaid would tell her. Vasya has the special ability to talk with some of the magical creatures from her nursemaid, Dunya, stories. She befriends these creatures and in turn, they befriend her and teach Vasya the secrets of the magical world.

Vasya’s wild and care-free nature is strained when her father takes a new bride who also can see the creatures. While both Vasya and Anna can both see the creatures, Anna considers them to be demons and treats Vasya cruelly for acknowledging them.

“It is a cruel task, to frighten people in God’s name.”

Then an arrogant priest is sent to the village dreaming of a higher calling.  But after talking to Anna about the old ways of honoring the magical creatures, he decides he is the village’s salvation. Fearing demons are everywhere, the priest uses fear and intimidation in the village. Frightened for their souls, the village slowly follows the priest’s crooked ways and turn away from past tradition.

With the priest and Anna’s own cruelty, Vasya finds herself even more of an outcast. But a frost-demon has taken an interest in her wild heart. He tells her stories of the old ways and of his wicked brother. Thus begins the tale of a girl, a frost-demon, a bear and the nightingale.

“Solovey will take me to the ends of the earth if I ask it. I am going into the world, Alyosha. I will be no one’s bride, neither of man nor of God. I am going to Kiev and Sarai and Tsargrad, and I will look upon the sun on the sea.”

I love many things about The Bear and the Nightingale, but a few things really connected me to the story: the character arcs, the setting, and the deeper themes of the story.

Vasya is probably one of my favorite female characters of all time. She is a very strong-willed, compassionate, care-free protagonist and it’s easy to fall in love with her. We get to see Vasya grow from a child loved by her family for her antics to a young girl who is desperate to stay free. Her need for independence is probably the compelling part of this book.

“Wild birds die in cages.”

The antagonists of this story are very complex because while the main villain is the Bear, the villains in Vasya’s immediate life are her stepmother and the foreign priest.  The stepmother is a perfect foil for Vasya because she can also see the magical creatures but to her, these creatures are not friends but demons who need to be purged. She takes her anger out on Vasya and her cruelty towards her stepdaughter was really the true villain to Vasya’s life. I even consider the priest a villain in the way he strokes animosity and anger toward Vasya. His hatred for her masks underlining feelings he can’t define towards her. Instead of confronting his own arrogance, he blames all of his problems and the problems in the village on Vasya.

Katherine Arden has absolutely stunning writing. I keep forgetting this is a debut because the visuals the reader can get is astounding. You really feel a part of the story. 

The setting for this book has everything:

*wintery setting

*magical forest

*demons

* Characters who are good, bad and somewhere in-between

*mythology and folklore

If you’re looking for a great wintery read or dark fantasy with great themes, and even better character arcs, The Bear and the Nightingale is for you. The audiobook is also beautiful because you actually feel like you are listening to one of Dunya’s stories.

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Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Did you ever watch the Legend of Korra? If the answer is yes, then we should probably be best friends. If the answer is no, you should watch it so we can then be best friends. One of my favorite quotes from that entire show is “When we reach our lowest point, we are opened to the greatest change.” What am I talking about Legend of Korra in an Heir of Fire review? Because that quote perfectly encapsulates my feelings on why Heir of Fire is my favorite novel in the Throne of Glass series.

 Fireheart – why do you cry? “Because I am lost,” she whispered onto the earth. “And I do not know the way.”

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The Throne of Glass series has always been Aelin Ashryver Galathynius’ story. Heir of Fire is special because this is the story of Celaena’s lowest point. We finally get to fully see broken Celaena. Up until this point, Celaena has been a strong, badass woman who sasses the hell out of everyone. But after the ending of Crown of Midnight, we are left with a Celaena who is still grieving the loss of her dear friend, Nehemia. Heir of Fire is a different type of a strong, badass woman; we see a woman who is grieving.

“Because she is dead!” She screamed the last word so loudly it burned in her throat. “Because she is dead, and I am left with my worthless life!”

Celaena is grieving the loss of her friend, her lost love, and the past she tries so desperately to hide. For a good chunk of Heir of Fire, Celaena is in such a state of self-loathing and guilt. It’s heartbreaking to see a character so down, but it helped me really connect with Celaena as a character. Seeing her struggles, I was able to relate way more to Celaena than I did before. She hits rock bottom, but she builds herself back up to becoming Aelin. And that’s why she’s such a strong character. Because even when she hit rock bottom, Aelin found a way to come out on top, and be a stronger person for it.

But where there is darkness there is also light. And SJM does a wonderful job of truly giving Celaena the best character development. Celaena is finally confronted with her past and she’s a better person for it. She chose the future instead of looking at the past. And she finally is beginning to lean on others for help.

I could talk for 100 years about the Heir of Fire being the best character development for Celaena, but there are other people who really make me love this book too soooo…….

“Their hands clasped between them, he whispered into her ear, “I claim you, too, Aelin Galathynius.”

ROWAN…. My fae prince. I absolutely love that grumpy old man. Seriously, one of my favorite book boyfriends. I love me some rough around the edges-broken men, hide their heart of gold under a thick skin of asshole. He fits right in.  Rowan was just as broken as Celaena but in his own way, and they learned to be better together. They became good friends who were able to lean on each other for strength.

 

MANON…. Finally some witches. This was such a great addition to this story. I loved how she was death incarnate but her wyvern loved to roll around in wildflowers. I think Abraxos was really the start of her slowly becoming less ruthless. Asterin is also fantastic and Book 4 is where she really shines.

 

CHAOL….. Unpopular opinion, I’m not a fan of Chaol. I never really was until like the very end of Queen of Shadows. I don’t know he just isn’t my cup of tea. But I did like seeing him be unsure of everything. He made a bunch of mistakes and he’s learning from them. He doesn’t know who to trust. But he’ll get there, he’s just going through some stuff.

 

“You cannot pick and choose what parts of her to love.”

DORIAN….. I loved how Dorian had the most character growth after Celaena in Heir of Fire. He really has the worst luck, but he’s always willing to be a good person. I love Dorian staying true to himself. But man this guy cannot catch a break.

 

This is an emotional rollercoaster, but if you stick with it the end of this book is simply amazing. We are finally getting to the true plot of the series and how it all fits together. I could talk about this forever, but don’t want to give too much away!

“She was the heir of ash and fire, and she would bow to no one.” 

✮✮✮✮

 

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Mini- Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Mini- Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Image result for the iron kingAfter how much I loved Shadow of the Fox, I decided to read Julie Kagawa other books. I picked The Iron Fey and I used my new library card for the first time. (Yay!) First, I was drawn to the fantasy aspect including faeries. The Iron Fey series is a little older, so of course, you also run into old YA tropes.

The Iron King starts the series off with Megan Chase, a sixteen-year-old girl who is an awkward, loner at her high school. She discovers there is a world unlike her own when her brother gets kidnapped and taken to the Nevernever. She must then go to Nevernever to rescue her brother with the help of her friend, Puck. Along the way, Megan uncovers many dark secrets about Nevernever.

Despite being very much a part of the old YA, this book does have a different feeling compared to most YA paranormal stories. Routed in fantasy, The Iron King gives more of an adventure fantasy novel instead of a romantic angst central plot. A Midsummer Night’s Dream has great references in this book and it really gave this book a unique feel. Yes, there was still a love triangle with a best friend and clearly a bad boy, but it wasn’t that bad for me.

“Oh, we’re playing nice now? Shall we have tea first? Brew up a nice pot of kiss-my-ass?”

I really think Julie’s best writing style is her use of making fun and interesting secondary characters. In their own way, Puck and Grimalkin were exactly what was needed to move the plot along. Puck’s comic relief, this sarcastic character was exactly like Puck from Midsummer Night’s Dream. While Grimalkin was very much like the Cheshire Cat, who only provided help when it suited him. Charismatic and fun, these characters along with fast-paced fantasy makes for an exciting story.

“I’m a cat.” 

The Iron King was a cool series started for what could be an interesting series. This was a very easy read and I was able to finish in just a couple hours. With  Great illusions to a great Shakespearean play, charismatic characters, and pretty interesting villains, The Iron King set itself apart from other YA fantasy from the 2000s. Now onto The Iron Daughter.

✮✮✮✮

 

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The Lantern’s Ember by Colleen Houck

The Lantern’s Ember by Colleen Houck

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“The Line between greatness and villainy is as thin as a garrote wire.”

First, let me start off by saying I’ve never read anything by Colleen Houck before. The Lantern’s Ember is written in third person omniscient (reading all the point of views from the main characters) while this did, in fact, help to figure out some of the plots, it was very clunky at times. It was hard to figure out whose point of view you were reading until the name was listed. This third person style also made it hard for me really feel invested into the main characters.

While the cover is indeed beautiful and I love how creepy it is, it annoys me how this cover doesn’t go well with this story at all. Jack is mentioned to be a Lantern multiple times, he had a floating pumpkin following him the whole book. Pick a Jack-o-Lantern as a play on words. The pumpkin makes different faces MULTIPLE times.

For the plot itself, I was just torn on what I did and didn’t like. This was such a cool premise and really got me excited to read something reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow and Penny Dreadful. However, the story really felt more like Halloweentown. The setting itself confused me. There was mention of some technology, submersibles, airships, but then Ember was wearing a corset and bustle. The four characters were just overused tropes that sometimes didn’t work for me. This was a mess of a love rectangle, that seemed to stop anyone’s character development. 

Ember: I wasn’t really a fan of Ember throughout the whole book, she had no character development and never listened to reason. It frustrated me how shocked she was that people were tricking/lying to her.

Jack: I liked a little more. I’m always down for morally ambiguous characters and he fit right in. Seemed to not really care too much for the whole lantern thing. He was a little more developed and give me some cool Ichabod Crane vibes.  I enjoyed his relationship with Finney.

Finney…. Ahhh the unrequited best friend love interest. I thought he was actually the most enjoyable to read. He was eager to learn and was an inventor. He was down any adventure. Still, his development stopped cold in its tracks as soon as he had to have internal monologues for Ember.

Dev: Listen I read Twilight when it came out I thought it was the best thing ever. I thought Edward Cullen was the end all be all to book boyfriends, but it’s been 10 years and I’ve grown. So for me to be reading about a Vampire with serious possessive issues rubbed me the wrong way. I HATED DEV. I don’t hate many characters, but I hated everything about DEV. He was a manipulated jerk, who was possessive of Ember so suddenly it gave me whiplash.

Spoiler Alert: There is this one scene where he didn’t like Ember dancing with Jack too closely, so he lures her outside, lies about his strength dwindling and then asks if he can feed off her, she says yes because Ember has been blind the whole time, and then while feeding her trying to compel her to run away with just him. Just thinking about that scene makes my blood boil. AND THERE ARE NO REPERCUSSIONS!!! Because the plot has to continue and then it’s like oh well, I guess we don’t have time for this. Ember doesn’t even care that she was manipulated like that because the plot doesn’t give time for anyone to discuss this. 

Overall, I thought The Lantern’s Ember was a cool idea but a little bogged down by the overlapping romance and third-person storytelling. Yes, I ended up enjoying the story and I’ll recommend this to anyone who likes Halloweentown or just Halloween in general. I’m giving The Lantern’s Ember three stars for the cool story idea and because I did enjoy how easy it was to read.

★★★

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

 

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The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

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“The only rule that counted was to not get caught.”

I FREAKING LOVE THE LAST MAGICIAN, AND THIS COVER WITH ALL MY HEART!! The plot is well done, the characters are flawed and wonderful to read, great world building. The Last Magician is a fast-paced book that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Told from 3 POV: the main character, Esta, Dolph Saunders- the gang leader, and Harte Darrigan- magician.

The Last Magician follows Esta’s journey into 1900 New York City, to steal a book that could save all the Mageus from extinction. Surrounding Manhattan is the Brink, a magical barrier trapping all Mageus in the city. Any Mageus trying to leave risks losing their magic and usually their life.

What I enjoyed most was the magic system and how magic ruled the 1900s in NYC. Persons with magic are Mageus hunted for years by the Order, a secret society trying to eradicate raw magic while also seeking power from ritual magic. Each Mageus’s powers were very different. This talent wasn’t like power over an element or extra strength, stuff like that. No, these powers were so unique and special to each person. This unique world building was one of my favorite parts to read. The 1900s were run by gangs as well as the Order, and you really got a  sense of what life was like in Manhattan at the time.

My girl Esta was just an unbelievable character. Her magic was something I had never heard of before, the ability to slow down time. Yes, she could time travel, but only with the help of magical artifacts and even then it was a difficult thing to do. Esta was smart, strong, and a great thief. She could pickpocket almost anyone.

It was thrilling to read about her time in the 1900s. Women were a little more submissive and Maxwell does a great job of showing Esta’s integration into the past. Esta was still a witty, fierce character who was able to distinguish herself as someone who could be trusted while also stabbing you in the back.

“But then, liars do make the best magicians, and he happened to be exceptional.”

Man, do I wish Harte Darrigan was real, sigh. I will be fangirling over Harte for years to come. I’m never a fan of inst-love, I think it’s just too much for me. But The Last Magician takes slow burn romance to another level. Two sides of the same coin, Harte was a brilliant foil for Esta. A magician on stage and a Mageus of persuasion, Harte was able to lie his true intentions to pretty much every character. His deception POV was insane and I loved any minute of it.

“They were sitting on opposite sides of the board, playing each other in hopes of gaining the prize.”

The Last Magician is a great story about deception and is deceiving someone really bad if it’s for a good cause. If you’re a fan of morally ambiguous characters, time travel, gangs, magic, and twists and turns, The Last Magician is right for you. I definitely recommend this to fans of The Six of Crows, and Ace of Shades.

     

★★★★★

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Guest Review: Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

Guest Review: Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

Hey Booklovers! My friend Lexi wrote a great review for the third DC universe book; Catwoman by Sarah J. Maas. You can find her on instagram @blueeyed-bookbanditCatwoman: Soulstealer (DC Icons Series) by [Maas, Sarah J.]

I do not fancy myself a superhero person. I have little knowledge about all the heroes, can barely decipher which is Marvel or DC, and what i do know is I pick up in conversations my comic loving friends have.

So I knew going into Catwoman I was taking a gamble. But Sarah J Maas is one of my absolute favorite authors, so it was a gamble I was willing to take.

I know next to nothing about Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Batman, and Batwing. So with that being said I’m going to give you an outsiders review of Catwoman Soulstealer by Sarah J Maas.

The story starts with an almost 18 year old Selina Kyle doing everything she can to keep her sister Maggie safe and alive. They live in the rundown section of Gotham, their mother abandoning them for the drugged filled streets. So Selina picks up the slack and joins the Leopards in order to earn money as well as a way to protect her sister.

Selina is the undefeated champion in the Leopards. 27 tattoos line her arms because she hasn’t lost a match. But it’s still not enough. Because Maggie has cystic fibrosis and her lungs are constantly failing her. Their medical bills are piling up and without treatment Maggie will die.

One night Selina is arrested, but someone takes pity on her. She’s offered a deal. Talia, a woman she’s never met before offers her a brand new life, in exchange for her services. Selina, knowing she has little to lose, starts bargaining. Talia wants to make her into whoever she wants her to be, and so she agrees. As long as she makes sure her sister has the best life possible for someone with a chronic illness.

Then Selina Kyle disappears.

She re-emerges two years later, calling herself Holly Vanderhees. A rich socialite, who’s bored with Europe and decides Gotham is the place to see. She moves into the apartment next to Luke Fox, who has his own secret. Besides being one of the only African American families of wealth, he’s also a newly discharged Marine who’s learning to deal with his PTSD. Batman takes him under his wing (ha pun intended!) and now he’s keeping watch over the city while his boss is out on a top secret mission. He thought he had a grip on the city. Until a mysterious new criminal appears.

She didn’t choose the name Catwoman. But it fits so she embraces it. As she steals, fights for her life, and recruits Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, we learn that Catwoman has been scheming and planning while she was in the League of Assassins. There is one thing Selina doesn’t plan for; the friendship Ivy offers her. The feelings she starts to have for Batwing.

Sarah has an amazing way of writing a story so you never realize the little pieces of the puzzle are being spread out before you. Every single sentence matters. Every little move any of her characters make is there to show you just how the end happens. And just like her other series, Sarah did not disappoint with this story.

Selina is strong and fierce. But she reminds me of both Celaena as Aelin and her ever scheming self, trying to get her crown back. Selina is just trying to do everything she can for the only person she truly loved. The only person she ever felt truly loved her despite the tattoos, despite the scars: her sister Maggie.

I think what I loved about his story the most was the fact that Ivy and Harley are villains and yet I found myself rooting for their friendship with Selina. I found myself understanding Ivy and how she wanted to save the planet. As she says, “I chose this path, now I have to see it through.”

Luke is a flawed hero. Not because of his PTSD but because he thinks justice is black and white. Until he meets Catwoman, until he sees that she’s been trained by someone other than the streets. He learns her story in pieces and when he puts them all together he realizes maybe they are fighting for the same side. They’re just doing it in their own way.

I wish this story had been three hundred pages longer. Going in with no superhero knowledge helped me enjoy the plot. Even made me consider possibly reading a comic or two. So trust me. If you’re thinking about reading this because you like Sarah’s writing, or because you think it sounds entertaining, don’t let the superhero aspect deter you. It’s an action packed story that will leave you wanting more.

Selina’s story will keep you turning the page long into the night. But it’s Sarah’s effortless writing will keep you wanting more and wondering if you should join the villainous girl gang or root for Batwing to save the day.

 

Special Thanks to my friend, Lexi for being super awesome and writing this cool review. As a big comic book fan, I’m so excited to begin Catwoman, whenever I get to that section of my neverending TBR.