Born of Illusion by Terri Brown

Born Of Illusion

Born of Illusion by Terri Brown

Book Stats:
Reading level: YA
Genre: Historical fantasy
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release date: June 11, 2013

Series: Born of Illusion #1

Source: NetGalley

Reviewed by: Tynga

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

Anna Van Housen is thirteen the first time she breaks her mother out of jail. By sixteen she’s street smart and savvy, assisting her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, and easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums and mentalists in 1920’s New York City. Handcuffs and sleight of hand illusions have never been much of a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her true gifts secret from her opportunistic mother, who will stop at nothing to gain her ambition of becoming the most famous medium who ever lived. But when a strange, serious young man moves into the flat downstairs, introducing her to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, he threatens to reveal the secrets Anna has fought so hard to keep, forcing her to face the truth about her past. Could the stories her mother has told her really be true? Could she really be the illegitimate daughter of the greatest magician of all?

Anna Van Housen’s life has never been easy. Cruising from town to town with her mom and the circus, always wondering if they will have enough money to eat or a roof above their heads. Not to mention the police and their anti-medium laws. When she moves to New York city with a her mother and have a nice apartment, she dare hope for a better future. But at what cost?

Terri Brown offered us a very original tale when she wrote Born of Illusion. I honestly never read something of the likes before and I enjoyed it! Anna is rumoured to be Harry Houdini’s illegitimate daughter and has a knack for magic. She performs shows with her mother and even though Marguerite is the headline, she’s nothing but an actress. Anna on the other hand, she has real abilities and strives hard to keep them secret.

The plot line revolves around Anna’s strong desire to keep her mother safe. She’s been having visions of her mom and her being in danger and it’s her top priority to keep them safe. The story progress smoothly and I liked how Anna didn’t know whom to trust and that she made mistakes judging her peers. It made her that much more human despite her supernatural abilities.

One of the aspect I liked best was the historical set up. 1920s New York with its fashion and people’s proper etiquette. I also liked the references to big events such as the first world war and the Titanic. The atmosphere felt really vivid and I loved it!

I must admit though, there is one aspect of this novel I’m unsure how I feel about. See, Anna and her mother have a very complex relationship. Anna loves her to death and would do anything for her, but her mom treats her very poorly, almost like a tool. She refuses Anna to have any kind of success and to share the spotlight. She’s very self-centered and it made me uncomfortable. From a purely literary angle though, it was a great decision by Terri Brown because it brought more depth to the characters. 

Speaking of characters, this novel falls victim to the love triangle trend. It wasn’t heavy or bothersome, but not very original either. One is sexy and brooding the other is good looking and outgoing – both want her for different reasons and I think Terri went a bit too heavy on the stereotype and it was easy from early on and see which one was the good boy and which one the bad boy. So Anna’s choice was no surprise and there wasn’t any suspense there. My favourite character was hands down was Mr. Darby her grumpy downstairs neighbour.

The end was suspenseful and satisfying if not surprising. A lot of mystery still surround Anna’s abilities but the main plot line wrapped up nicely. I haven’t decided yet if I will read the following books. I enjoyed this one and I would recommend it, but I wouldn’t say I loved it. I guess you’ll have to read it and judge for yourself!

tynsig

disclaimer

The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison

The Rose Throne

The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison

Book Stats:
Age Range: 12 and up
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Release date: May 14, 2013

Source: NetGalley

Reviewed by: Tynga

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

Richly-imagined fantasy romance from the author of Princess and the Hound, a tale of two princesses–one with magic, one with none–who dare seek love in a world where real choice can never be theirs. For fans of Megan Whalen Turner, Catherine Fisher, and Cassandra Clare. 

Ailsbet loves nothing more than music; tall and red-haired, she’s impatient with the artifice and ceremony of her father’s court. Marissa adores the world of her island home and feels she has much to offer when she finally inherits the throne from her wise, good-tempered father. The trouble is that neither princess has the power–or the magic–to rule alone, and if the kingdoms can be united, which princess will end up ruling the joint land? For both, the only goal would seem to be a strategic marriage to a man who can bring his own brand of power to the throne. But will either girl be able to marry for love? And can either of these two princesses, rivals though they have never met, afford to let the other live?

The Weyr Kingdoms were split in two when the King’s wife died. In his mourning, he felt such anger that he decided to keep his taweyr (fighting/death magic) and cast away Neweyr (life magic). Centuries later, the consequences are still very much present and only man can wield taweyr and woman neweyr. The unlucky ones born with the wrong magic, the Ekhono, are hunted down in the Kingdom of Rurik and forced to flee to Weirland. The princess of each kingdom thrives for something different and will do their very best to change their world, despite what little power they have.

The Rose Throne caught my interest while browsing netgalley because I’m such a fan of fantasy and I must confess, I’m still unsure if I liked this novel or not. There are elements I liked, others I disliked and even after thinking about it for a day after I finished reading, the juror is still out on that final decision. I guess I’m neutral?

One of the things I liked most about Mette Ivie Harrison’s book is the rich Lore she blessed us with. I loved the original magic she created and how it was handled by the characters. It created interesting tension between the characters and I appreciated that each Kingdoms had their own point of view on the matter. Further more, the fact that the Princess of Weirland (Issa) came to Rurik made things much more interesting as their culture clashed.

On the other hand, I had issued with the plot and pace. We follow both Princesses and their betrothed along their journey, for nearly a year and to my dismay, there wasn’t much action. They are executions, but it’s a common event in the Kingdom of Rurik and didn’t bring much heart-pounding energy. My main bother though, is the fact that there isn’t a clear goal during the whole journey. Yes, there is a desire to fulfill a prophecy, but every characters is so busy fulfilling their duties that it takes the passion out of it all. I wasn’t bored through the novel, don’t get me wrong, but I never felt an urgency nor a finish line to look forward to, so it was a disappointment to me. 

Thankfully, the individual character’s redeemed the previous issue in some ways. I liked that each of them had very unique personalities and each of them reacted in their own way when faced with the King in particular. Princess Issa is sweet and innocent and I loved her for it. She finds herself surrounded by wolves and is none the less determined to marry the young Prince Edik to save her own Kingdom. Her strong sense of duty could be dull but she was very endearing. Princess Ailsbet comes out as very austere because she keeps everyone out, but she loves her bother very much and I liked that she was willing to help Issa. Their unlikely relationship pleased me!

The young Edik was frustrating because he wanted so much to please his father that he was waking a fool of himself, on more than one occasion I felt this urge to shake some sense into him, but in the end, I simply pitied the poor kid. Lord Kellin, Ailsbet’s betrothed, turned out to be one of my favourite characters. I honestly couldn’t pin point the reason why, but I felt a connection to him. He is mysterious and play the part on the King’s most trusted man, all the while doing what’s best for his country, whether that King agrees or not (not that He would know).

The one thing I didn’t like, character wise, is the relationship between Issa and Kellin. They can’t stand each other as they meet, ignore each other, and at some point, without anything happening, they are madly in love. It was some unbelievable that I was completely baffled. I thought I might have missed a chapter or something.

I’m also on the fence regarding the conclusion of The Rose Throne, mostly because a lot happens at once, which felt very anti-climatic compared to the rest of the novel and because  miss Harrison made some very cleaving decisions. Not every character will live to tell the tale, and I was surprised at the way some characters dealt with the events. I can’t say much more without spoiling the conclusion to you, but in the end, I don’t know if I will read the second book in the series.

I liked the lore and the characters, and if you enjoy Mette Ivie Harrison’s writing style I’m sure you love enjoy this novel. Too bad it didn’t quite work for me in the end.

tynsig

disclaimer_thumb[2]

The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell

alex lidell - the cadet of tildor

The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell

Book Stats:

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 408 pages 
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Penguin
Release date: January 10, 2013

Series: n/a?

Reviewed by: Stéphanie

Source: Personal Shelf

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

For fans of Tamora Pierce and George R. R. Martin comes a gritty, complex debut that’s not to be missed.

Having already survived six years at the Tildor’s top military academy, Sixteen-year-old Renee De Winter is determined to graduate, training day and night to compete with her male classmates. When the boys overpower her parries, she works harder.  When a bully sabotages her gear, she fights without it.  But when an underground crime group captures her mentor for its illegal gladiatorial games, she must choose between her career and her conscience.  Determined to penetrate the group’s inner circles, Renee will leap from academia to the crime filled streets, pick up a sword, and weigh law against loyalty.

CADET OF TILDOR, then called SERVICE OF THE CROWN, was a finalist in Amazon’s Breakout Novel Awards 2010 competition.

Let me start off by saying that this book was amazing! Since I’m a big fan of the genre, I expected to like the book but I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Not only was the story and the setting amazing, I think what made the book so amazing is the great storytelling. The story came together so beautifully that you would never be able to guess that the book was the author’s debut.

The summary of the book compares it to George R. R. Martin’s books (A Song of Ice and Fire) but I wouldn’t say THE CADET OF TILDOR is as epic as his books. The genres are, however, similar since both are fantasy and both have war brewing in every corner of the story. While Martin’s books follow a multitude of characters, Lidell focuses mostly on Renee’s point of view. While the comparison might be somewhat false, I think anyone that enjoyed Martin’s work will enjoy THE CADET OF TILDOR.

In my opinion, Renee is a great main character because she feels genuine and authentic. She’s not the best at everything. She’s not the brightest of her class, or the strongest. On the contrary, she’s almost failing her year at Cadet School and risks being kicked out the program. She was raised as a lady but has her sights on becoming Servant of the Crown. As a warrior, it’s a highly wanted position and Renee has had the same goal ever since her mother and brother’s death. The fact that only boys usually graduate from the program doesn’t deter her. She is a strong-willed character but isn’t physically strong, which is very disadvantageous in her case.

I think what is most surprising about the book is when Renee’s friend’s brother is kidnapped and she immediately sets off to help find him, even if that means losing her spot as a cadet.That’s when we realize how important her friends are to her, even more important than her future as a Servant of the Crown. Her quest to find the missing child leads her to an enemy ruled city where gladiator games are at the center of the city’s economy and where her friend ends up being forced to fight. Since no one will help her, mostly for political reasons, she’s determined to help free everyone in the gladiator games even if she has to do it on her own.

I really enjoyed the chemistry between Renee and Savoy. As her teacher and her commander, Savoy tries to distance himself from Renee, but the more time they spend together training and fighting, the more the chemistry builds. At sixteen, she might be a little too young for a romantic relationship with the young man  of twenty three but their friendship, if you want to call it that, is very entertaining. I think Renee looks up to him more than anything since he’s considered the highest ranked soldier and one of the best swordsman there is. His ability to see Renee burgeoning talents leads him to tutor her in combat skills in hope to make her a better fighter.

The fantasy setting is what attracted me to the book but I ended up enjoying it more than I thought possible. The fact that magic is present in the book but doesn’t overpower the story is very smart on Lidell’s part. I think it’s very original how anyone yielding magic is more or less a slave to the crown if, of course, they register themselves.

I really hope that the author writes a sequel. While the story feels finished, I definitively see the potential for a series. This debut author really has a lot of talent and whether she writes a sequel or not, I’m definitively looking forward to anything she writes.

 

stephsig

Strange Fates by Marlene Perez

Strange Fates Marlene Perez

Strange Fates by Marlene Perez

Book Stats:
Reading level: New Adult
Print Length: 277 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Release date: March 5, 2013

Series: Nyx Fortuna #1

Source: NetGalley

Reviewed by: Tynga

Purchase: Amazon

The first in a line of three exciting new urban fantasy novels blending elements of Greek myth and forbidden romance against the backdrop of Minnesota’s magical underworld.

Brooding, leather jacket-wearing Nyx Fortuna looks like a 20-something, and has for centuries now. As the son of the forgotten fourth Fate, Lady Fortuna, he has been hunted his entire life by the three Sisters of Fate that murdered his mother.

Fed up and out for revenge, Nyx comes to Minneapolis following a tip that his aunts have set up a business there. His goal ­ to bring down his mother’s killers and retrieve the thread of fate that has trapped him in the body of a twenty year old unable to age or die.

But when a chance meeting with the mysterious, dangerous and very mortal Elizabeth Abernathy throws off his plans, he must reconcile his humanity and his immortality.

Nyx Fortuna, Son of Fortuna, has been running from his murderous aunts since he was born. See, he is professed to kill them and they plan to put an end to him before he has the chance to. To save him, his mother has hidden his thread of fate and he is looking for it since. When you live alone for hundreds of years, it gets lonely and Nyx is ready to give up. Or he was, until he met Elizabeth.

Highly attractive cover, compelling summary, I requested this novel as soon as I saw it on NetGalley. I enjoyed this novel but I will have to mention some elements that bothered me. Shall we get the negative stuff out of the way first?

I found Marlene Perez’s writing to be very repetitive, especially when it came to Nyx’s past, his aunts, his mother death, his need for revenge etc. I guess she wanted to emphasis on their relationship, but I found it bothersome after a while.

Also, when Nyx meets Elizabeth, he notices right away how she looks a lot like his late ex-girlfriend, and the memories seems painful.  Yet, when the girl asks him if he’s ever been in love, his answer is no and he mutters something along the lines of ‘until I met you’. I don’t know about you, but it just sits wrong with me that he didn’t love his ex-girlfriend and falls in love at first sight with a girl he doesn’t even know?  His unconditional and illogical love for her is the element that really annoyed me the whole length of the novel because I just didn’t buy it.

Now let’s focus on the positive. How cool is this guy’s name? Nyx is the name of one of my favourite characters ever, from another series, so I instantly took a liking to him. He is laid back, sarcastic and funny and I really enjoyed following his adventures. I particularly liked his relationship with Talbot and I wished there was even more scenes of the two of them together.

Marlene Perez brought to the table an amazing Greek mythology with her own spin to it and I greatly appreciated its originality. I’m not really clear if the novel is set in an open world though? It seems most people he meets is a paranormal creature, or sworn to an house (Zeus, Poseidon, or Hades, Fates being the fourth), and everyone seems pretty casual about magic. I honestly don’t know.The numerous twist and turns confused me at times, but overall, I had a good time and stayed engaged to the story.

The conclusion wrapped-up the main plot line nicely and set the table for the second instalment, Dark Descent. I still have many questions though, and I guess the second novel will answer them. Who is Nyx’s father? Is there more behind Ambrose’s interest in Nyx? Will he find his thread? What about about Gwen? And Willow?

I haven’t decided yet if I will read the second instalment in the trilogy. I genuinely loved Nyx, Talbot, Ambrose & Willow, but is it enough to counterbalance my annoyance with Elizabeth and Perez’s writing style that I don’t really care for? Either way, Strange Fates is a quick, fun read and I suggest you give it a try and make your own mind about it 🙂

tynsig

Fraction of Stone by Kelly Lynn

Fraction of Stone by Kelly Lynn

Book stats:
Reading level: Young Adult
eARC: 293 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Sapphire Star Publishing
Release date: March 21, 2013

Series: Fraction #1

Source: Provided by author for review

Reviewed by: Lili

Learn More: Goodreads

Wind tunnels, torrential rains and earthquakes tear apart Casden. The cause of the world’s imbalance is unknown, but the mounting occurrences suggest there’s little time before life ceases to exist.

Rydan Gale and Akara Nazreth are the only humans with the ability to wield magic. The tattoo on their necks and the discovery of an ancient book, dictate they are the key to the world’s survival.

But the greatest obstacle for saving mankind isn’t the bizarre creatures, extreme betrayals and magic-fearing men hunting them.

It’s that Akara doesn’t believe the world is worth saving.

When Kelly first sent this review pitch to Tynga, I was very excited to snatch this book up for myself. It sounded like a really unique debut novel, and I’m happy to report that my initial hunch was correct. Lynn’s debut was both creative and well written. She introduced us to two characters that I very much enjoyed. And the fact that this book was a light, quick read will make it the type of book that you can read just about anywhere.

In my opinion, the strongest point of Lynn’s debut is her characterization. To put it simply, I adore both Rydan and Akara for different reasons. Though they fight for two different kingdoms in war, they are the last two people on the planet that possess magic, thus they are inexplicably connected. When Rydan’s people win the war, the good king decides that one of the requirements for surrender is putting the enemies sorceress to death so that only he can control the only remaining sorcerer in the world. But Rydan being both the kind and curious individual that he is saves Akara at the last moment, making himself a fugitive in the process. Together, they must discover the truth of their ancestry and save the world. There’s only one problem…Akara is firmly set in the belief that the world is not worth saving.

Clearly, Rydan and Akara’s characters differentiate greatly. Rydan’s kingdom raised him as if he were a prince. He was taught properly from a teacher and all of the girls fawned over him. In truth, he is the ultimate optimist, though he is slightly naïve. Than there is Akara. Her kingdom drugged her often and abused her, only being kind when they needed her powers for war. But due to her lack of proper teaching, she never learned how to properly wield her powers. Instead she just pointed and released her magic and the only thing she was good at was causing destruction while Rydan could not only do that ten times better, but he could heal people too. When her people lost the war, Akara almost sang in relief because her death meant the end of her suffering. Unlike Rydan, she’s arguably the ultimate pessimist. My one pet peeve with Akara is her insistence on her low worth. As the book progresses it becomes apparent that she simply is a negative person because of the abuse she endured for yours, but she thought so little of herself. When that was shown in direct contrast to Rydan’s constant positivity, it was hard to not be slightly frustrated. I just wish that, at times, Akara’s pity parties could be toned down.

I also enjoyed how this book makes you think. Are people who kill others worth saving? What if not saving them means wiping out humanity and allowing the planet to die? Are people who have hurt you specifically worth saving? It truly makes you question humanity and the negative human tendencies that war can bring about. Anything that makes you step back and question aspects of your life is a positive in my book.

I also have to admit that this novel is a quick read, though it drags in the middle. The plot progression and timing is not Lynn’s strong point, though it certainly could be worse. She easily held my attention with her creativity and both the journey that Rydan and Akara take to save the world combined with the journey to discover their ancestry and purpose of their magic was astounding to me. The creativity was definitely there and kept me reading, but the pacing was slow at times. The beginning and the end of the novel were easier to get through than parts of the middle because of this, but such a thing was not a huge hindrance because the story was so fascinating.

All in all, this was a solid debut. It impressed me though it did not blow me away. I can’t wait to see what happens next with Rydan and Akara because they are two characters that are easy to adore. This book is great for fantasy readers looking for a quick read.

<img style="background-image: none; border-right-width: 0px; padding-left: 0px; padding-right: 0px; display: inline; border-top-width: 0px; border-bottom-width: 0px; border-left-width: 0px; padding-top: 0px" title="jensig" border="0" alt="Lili" src="https://tyngatest.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/lilisig.png"

The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Córdova

cordova - vicious deepThe Vicious Deep by Zoraida Córdova

Book Stats:

Reading level: YA
ARC: 370 pages
Genre: Paranormal
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release date: May 1, 2012

Series: The Vicious Deep #1

Reviewed by: Stéphanie

Source: Won

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

For Tristan Hart, everything changes with one crashing wave.

He was gone for three days. Sucked out to sea in a tidal wave and spit back ashore at Coney Island with no memory of what happened. Now his dreams are haunted by a terrifying silver mermaid with razor-sharp teeth.

His best friend Layla is convinced something is wrong. But how can he explain he can sense emotion like never before? How can he explain he’s heir to a kingdom he never knew existed? That he’s suddenly a pawn in a battle as ancient as the gods.

Something happened to him in those three days. He was claimed by the sea…and now it wants him back.

When I was child, one of my favorite movies was Disney’s The Little Mermaid. So it comes to no surprise that I would be interested in this mermaid/merman book. There’s just something special and attractive about the ocean, and so I felt compelled to pick up this book. While I did enjoy the story and the mythology, it did have a few shortcomings.

I think my expectations were set too high and I was disappointed with the result.The actual story was very entertaining and the mythology of the merfolk was well thought out, but I was a bit disappointed with the writing. The pace of the story was very fast, and while sometimes that means non-stop action, in this case it felt like the scenes were rushed and unfinished. At times, it was hard to follow the storyline since the change of scenes was too quick and I felt lost entering a new one. I think the introduction of vampires was unnecessary and it introduced us to characters that didn’t have any real purpose. In my opinion, some scenes should have been cut out, while others could have used a little more expansion.

I did find Tristan Hart, the main character, a little egocentric but that’s to be expected with a teenage boy, especially when he learns he’s in line to be the king of the merfolk. And especially when he learns he’s a merman. Right until a freak storm hit Coney Island, he had no clue about his heritage. With a human father and a mermaid mother, he was raised as a human boy after his grandfather, the king, bound his tail when he was a baby. However, nothing could pull him away from the sea. A great swimmer and a beach lifeguard, you could say water runs in his blood.

Tristan’s relationship with Layla, his best friend, is typical in the sense that both want to be together but their long friendship prevents either of them from making the first step. Their almost-relationship is entertaining but my favorite characters have to be Kurt and Thalia, Tristan’s “mermaid cousins.” Thalia’s naivety about the human world is funny and Kurt’s a riot because he tries to be so serious all the times.

I’m anxious to learn more about these mermaids—oops—merfolk. These are definitively not similar to the ones portrayed  by Disney. Some are absolutely vicious, while others will simply charm you senseless. Even if I’m not crazy about THE VICIOUS DEEP, I do plan to read the next book. Hopefully the writing will improve because the story has only just begun! Tristan’s quest to prove that he would be a worthy king will certainly bring new adventures to him and his friends. The cliffhanger at the end will definitively leave you hanging because if feels as if the author stopped right in the middle of Tristan’s “quest.”

0stephsig

Daring You To Read… Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

0daringyou_thumb[2]

Daring You To Read is a weekly feature here on Tynga’s Reviews where we dare you to read some of our favorite older releases (at least 6 months old). All the books/series we choose to feature are titles we adored and think you should give them a shot! We think it’s a super awesome way to discover that special book who might have slipped off your radar!

You’ve already read the book? Let’s us know what you thought!
You are accepting the dare? We’d love to know!
Have a dare of your own? Leave a comment ^^

I have a feeling some people won’t exactly agree with me on this dare. I read BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl about a month ago and I immediately fell in love with the dark but thrilling southern tale. Some critics aren’t too crazy about the series because they say it’s not very realistic and that the book drags on for nothing. I obviously disagree with that because I’m daring you to read it this week! I’m not from the south so I don’t know how realistic it really is but lets face it, it is a story about magic and witches (or casters as they call them in this book), so how real can it actually be? And personally, I really liked all the extra details that shaped the story into this thick and long book. I really don’t think you should critic a book based on the page count.

This YA book was one of my favorite YA reads of 2012 so it’s no wonder it found its way onto this post. All the characters are well developed which made it so easy to fall for the story. It was full of mystery and a lots of unknowns, exactly how I like my books. I like to be kept guessing right until the end, and BEAUTIFUL CREATURES did that wonderfully.

I still haven’t read the other three books of the series so I’m only speaking for the first, but if the rest is anything like this one, I’m sure they’ll be great. Some people must agree with me that this book is worth reading because a movie is coming out on February 13, 2013. Check out the movie trailer down below.

 

beautiful creatures #1Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Tynga’s thoughts

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

The rest of the Caster Chronicles:

beautiful creatures #2 beautiful creatures #3 beautiful creatures #4

What do you think? Have you read this series? Are you willing to accept my dare?

0stephsig

Knight Awakened by Coreene Callahan

coreene callahan - knight awakened

Knight Awakened by Coreene Callahan

Book Stats:

Reading level: Adult
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance
ARC: 443 pages
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release date: December 4, 2012

Series: Circle of Seven #1

Source: Publisher (via Jenn)

Reviewed by: Stéphanie

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

In AD 1331, warlord Vladimir Barbu seizes control of Transylvania. But in spite of his bloody triumph, his claim to the throne remains out of reach. The king of Hungary opposes his rule, the Transylvanian people despise his brutal ways, and the high priestess needed to crown him has vanished without a trace. But Barbu hasn’t come this far only to be thwarted by a woman. He unleashes his best hunters to track her down and bring her to him — dead or alive.

For Xavian Ramir, killing is the only life he has ever known. Torn from his family when he was a child, he was trained from an early age to be an elite assassin. But now he longs for something more, vowing to start anew after one last job. The bounty on his target’s head is enough to set him up for good — if he can resist the long-dead conscience that stirs to life when he meets his beautiful mark.

Afina Lazar never wanted to become high priestess, but the brutal murders of her beloved mother and sister leave her no choice. Now she is running for her life, desperate to protect the magical amulet entrusted to her care. But when Barbu’s assassin comes for her, she realizes her only chance of stopping the warlord’s rise to power is to convince this enigmatic — and handsome — hunter that she is more valuable alive than dead. Dramatic and fast-paced, Knight Awakened is a stirring love story between two people searching for a second chance in a magical world of assassins, warlords, unearthly beasts, and nonstop.

If you’ve been following my reviews here on Tynga’s Reviews this past year, you might have noticed how much I’ve enjoyed Coreene Callahan’s Dragonfury series so far. It reminds me so much of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series because of the brotherly bond between the warriors and the intense bond they share with their mates. While this newest series of hers has those qualities, it’s a forage into a different genre altogether. Although KNIGHT AWAKENED does have a few dragons, the story concentrates more on the high priestess Afina Lazar and her bodyguard of sorts, Xavian Ramir who has declined the task of bringing Afina to the evil warlord Vladimir Barbu for a bounty.

This book promises non-stop action in a wonderful historical setting of greedy lords, yummy warriors and humble heroines. I really enjoyed the first book in this new series mainly because of the admirable characters and dragons shapeshifting dragons. The main characters, like in all Coreene Callahan books, are unforgettable. Afina has the right amount of strength and tenacity to survive and protect her niece while being hunted by an evil warlord. It’s her dedication to goodness that makes her an admirable and loveable character. The fact that we see her grow as a character in a short amount of time, makes her a more believable character. As for Xavian, he might seem like your typical warrior but his history and dark past add depth to his character. He is undoubtedly haunted by the things he’s done as an assassin and feels unworthy of Afina’s love.

While the story itself can seem like your typical woman-in-distress-meets-strong-warrior, I have no problem with the storyline because for me, that type of hook will never get old. It’s what happens during the rest of the novel that keeps you entertained anyways. Afina is wanted by many parties because of her magical powers and her high priestess title. As she runs away with Xavian from anybody that wants to harm her, an obvious bond starts to form between the two. I’m glad the author didn’t rush the relationship between the two. I’m not going to reveal too much about Afina’s magical powers and her quest because finding out everything is one of the charms of this book.

There’s a huge cast of secondary characters in this book, which made it hard to keep track of them sometimes. That’s probably the only negative thing I have to say about the novel. I understand the author wanted to introduce us to all the members of her prophesized Circle of Seven (the name of the series), but I think it’s the additional characters like the dragons, the bad guys and the various townspeople/household members that made it hard to keep track of everyone. Despite this minor inconvenience, the story is still very clear and enjoyable.

I have a guilty pleasure for historical paranormal romances and KNIGHT AWAKENED was able to satisfy my craving for the genre. There’s something special about this genre that makes me want to read more of it. With some of the secondary characters being shapeshifting dragons, I believe this Circle of Seven series might be a prequel of sorts to the Dragonfury series. If that’s true, I can’t wait to read more of either series so I can learn more about the magical world of Coreene Callahan’s dragon shapeshifters.

0stephsig

River Road blog tour: Preternatural Noshes, New Orleans Style by Suzanne Johnson + giveaway!

River Road blog tour

Today we have a special visitor: Suzanne Johnson! I adored ROYAL STREET, the first book in her urban fantasy series, the Sentinel of New Orleans, and so I jumped on the opportunity to be a part of her latest blog tour. She’s here today to talk about a holiday gathering with characters from the series, New Orleans style. It’s a really fun post that I’m sure you’ll enjoy!

————————-

Preternatural Noshes, New Orleans Style
(c) Suzanne Johnson

It’s that time of the year—you know, when everyone gets together around a table of people with whom they might not normally fraternize. In New Orleans, we call it Reveillon. In the 19th century, New Orleans families would gather for a big meal after breaking their post-midnight mass holiday fast. Today, Reveillon lasts for most of December, with restaurants offering special holiday menus so theoretically you could have a Reveillon meal at a different restaurant every night of the holiday season.

Suzanne Johnson Royal StreetIn the spirit of Reveillon, and with much trepidation, I rented a banquet room in Jax Brewery on the New Orleans riverfront and invited some of the characters of River Road to join me for a holiday meal. It was with even more trepidation that I asked each one to bring a favorite dish.

The undead pirate Jean Lafitte arrived first, looking sexy as hell in a fine indigo-colored suit that was the height of fashion about 250 years ago. He only had to walk a few blocks from the Hotel Monteleone, where he has been ensconced in the swank Eudora Welty Suite ever since the borders between the modern world and the Beyond came down.

I had thought Jean would bring some brandy or some seafood grilled on a plank (you know…walk the plank?), or maybe sea biscuits, but no. He’d been totally lazy and stopped in Criollo, the hotel’s restaurant, and sauntered over trailed by one of his pirate flunkies from Old Orleans. Said flunky was laden down with what has become in recent years a New Orleans dining tradition—a soup trio. Three demitasse cups are filled with soups…well, except since this was take-out, Jean’s flunky arrived toting three fancy cardboard containers with a rich turtle soup swimming in sherry; a seafood gumbo swimming with crab; and an Andouille and sweet potato bisque.

While Jean busied himself pouring brandy and berating his flunky about how to arrange the soup on the banquet table, merman Rene Delachaise arrived with a boxful of dishes he finally admitted had been made by his stepmother Michelle. “She stays up in da parish, babe,” he told me (which in the local vernacular means she lives in St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans).

Michelle had made a feast of traditional South Louisiana dishes. We had stuffed merliton (a locally grown, mild winter squash, baked and then stuffed with the squash and shrimp and crab); oyster dressing (made with day-old French bread and seasoned with oysters, onions, celery, parsley); and, finally, a platter of gator bites (cut in meaty chunks, battered, and fried).

Being old buddies, Jean and Rene got rid of the flunky (they didn’t kill him but just sent him back to the Beyond clutching a fistful of gator bites), then huddled at the end of the table to talk business. I heard something about slot machines before I was distracted by Alex and Jake Warin, who arrived toting desserts and making bets on the chances of the New Orleans Saints making the playoffs.

Suzanne Johnson River RoadWhen I asked if they’d actually MADE the desserts, they both gave me blank shifter/loup-garou face. “Yeah, we used the same kitchen as the pirate,” Alex said, nodding at Rene and giving Jean a cool, scornful look. Jean grinned at him, and though I heard some muttering about “le petit chien,” I decided to ignore both of them and help Jake unpack the goods.

As soon as I saw the coconut cake, I knew one of the guys had made a trip to Mississippi. Jake’s mom does a mean coconut cake, and Alex’s mom, Norma, had contributed a rich bread pudding heavy with raisins and bourbon.

Alex and Jean spoke at the same time. “There’s DJ” and “There is my lovely Jolie!”

“Well, crap. I didn’t know they were ALL going to be here or I’d have gone to see Lincoln.” DJ’s voice beat her up the stairs from the Napoleon House courtyard a few seconds before she appeared, carrying her contribution to the dinner. I eyed the giant plastic bag from Popeye’s Fried Chicken in one hand and the box of Aunt Sally’s pralines under the other arm, and remembered why I like this snarky little wizard.

A crash from behind us drew our attention. The pan of oyster dressing lay on the floor, minus most of its contents, which now adorned the front of Alex’s sweater.

“Pardon, Monsieur Chien. My hand slipped.” Jean Lafitte tossed a linen napkin at Alex and was too busy smirking to notice Jake until he upended the bread pudding over the pirate’s head.

“I bet that bread pudding was great,” DJ said, stepping back as Rene launched himself at Jake and sent the platter of gator bites flying.

“Yeah.” I eyed the overturned soup dishes regretfully but shifted my gaze to the bag of spicy fried chicken. “Bet we could eat that in the car on the way to the theater. Where’s Lincoln playing?”

“Elmwood.” DJ handed me the Aunt Sally’s box. “They’ll never miss us. Who’s going to pay for the damages?”

A chair collapsed between the combined weight of Alex and Jean with a crack of splintering wood. One was choking the other, but I couldn’t quite tell which was which.
“Whoever has the most cash or gold on them.” I followed DJ down the stairs. “My money’s on the pirate.”

From the cast of River Road, happy Reveillon! What’s your favorite family holiday dish?

————————-

Thanks for visiting us and giving us a peek at your characters over the holidays, Suzanne!

Want more Suzanne? You can find her online at her website or on Facebook, or Twitter.

You can also see the rest of her tour by clicking on the tour button below.

River Road blog tour

————————-

More about RIVER ROAD:

River Road by Suzanne JohnsonHurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.

Jenn’s thoughts

Read an excerpt

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

You can see what I thought of ROYAL STREET by clicking on the cover:

Suzanne Johnson Royal Street

———————————

giveaway

One (1) tour-wide winner will get his or her choice of Kindle Paperwhite or Nook Simple Touch (or $100 gift card for Amazon, B&N, or Book Depository)
and five (5) lucky people will win a $10 gift card for Amazon, B&N or Book Depository

To enter the giveaway, obey the Rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jenn

River Road by Suzanne Johnson

River Road by Suzanne Johnson River Road by Suzanne Johnson

Book stats:
Reading level: Adult
Trade paperback: 360 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Release date: November 13, 2012

Series: Sentinel of New Orleans #2

Source: Review copy from Bewitching Book Tours

Reviewed by: Jenn

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.

Three year have passed since the events in ROYAL STREET (which I talked about a little while ago) but some things remain the same. New Orleans hasn’t fully recovered from Katrina, though things are better than they were. DJ and Alex are still co-sentinels, policing the prete (as in “preternatural”) world. They’ve developed a good working relationship but their attraction simmers underneath it all, though they haven’t acted on it *too much* because of their friendship and work relationship. Jean Lafitte, the dead pirate who likes to visit from the Beyond, is still very interested in DJ and she often finds herself drawn to him despite her better judgment. Jake, Alex’s cousin who went loup garou in the last book, is also still around but he and DJ haven’t seen each other since the events in ROYAL STREET.

Something that has changed: the scope of the series. Suzanne Johnson really expands DJ’s world with RIVER ROAD, as we venture further afield from New Orleans and meet new species of pretes: merpeople and nymphs! It’s an exciting development because we’re seeing more of the physical world and because we’re seeing DJ grow as a person and a sentinel. In ROYAL STREET, she had a lot to adjust to but now, in RIVER ROAD, she’s a bit more confident, even when the problem goes from being just a dispute between two families of merpeople to something with a greater scope. DJ and Alex also have to solve the murder of two Green Congress wizards that are discovered early on in their work with the merpeople, so the investigative and problem-solving aspects of the book are on full display.

Of course, DJ also has to grapple with the three men in her life. Jake is no longer human so dating him comes with a new set of rules, Jean Lafitte is interested and has some redeeming qualities, to DJ’s dismay, and Alex is, well, Alex. He’s attractive and capable and off-limits, which makes some of his behaviour confusing. It just breaks my heart, her being desired by these three interesting characters. 😉

Also in play in RIVER ROAD is DJ’s elven heritage. She learned about it in ROYAL STREET and she’s still learning how to use her abilities, particularly the wooden staff she’s named Charlie. There are some very interesting developments, including a character who enters later in the book that will remain nameless in this post (and of whom I am very suspicious). I hope this is something that Suzanne Johnson will explore in future books in the series because I’m very curious about elves and the Elven Synod.

RIVER ROAD is a strong sequel to ROYAL STREET sure to please existing fans and win new ones. Suzanne Johnson takes us on quite an adventure and has me eagerly anticipating ELYSIAN FIELDS, due out in August.

Read an excerpt

Jenn