Beyond the Filigree Wall review

A review of Beyond the FIligree Wall, by Melissa Wright

(Rivenwilde #1)

December 6, 2022

romantic fantasy, interconnected standalone series, fae fantasy, clean romantic fantasy

Note: I received an ARC and this is an honest, voluntary review

Beyond the Filigree Wall is a fast-paced story with a kick-butt heroine—except her only usable weapon is her wits. I really enjoyed this story and its world.

MC Etta is up against her father, the new chancellor Gideon (cue enemies to lovers tension!) and, on top of all that, the fae. But she can’t do anything about the fae until she becomes marshal, a position Etta’s trained most of her life for. Gideon has his doubts about her, however, and single-handedly derails her appointment by the Council.

The romance in Beyond the Filigree Wall develops steadily from a semi-forced proximity situation, with a dash of Pride and Prejudice. I liked that Etta starts as a formidable warrior, but the focus is on her mind, plus she has a bookish love interest. Though the ending was not perfectly tidy (and very complex), expect plenty of fae-worthy secrets, twists and tricks!

Beyond the Filigree mockup with Christmas decorations

Enchanting Fate review

It’s time for another Beauty and the Beast retelling! In this Enchanting Fate review, I’ll take a look at the clean romantic fantasy (with swearing but no spice) and the promising writing of a debut author. To learn more, read on!

A review of Enchanting Fate by Ashley Evercott
Note: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Ashley Evercott’s debut novel, Enchanting Fate, is a Beauty and the Beast retelling with shades of Downtown Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs. Told through four POVs by characters of varying social standing, this version stays true to the original tale’s spirit by focusing on money and social class without sacrificing romance.
That romantic side of the story is where Evercott’s writing excels. I only wish there was more of it. For Marguerite, who has fallen on hard times like Belle, breaking the Beast’s curse is mostly transactional. Yet those tuning in for the romance won’t be disappointed with descriptions like “All she wanted was to be looked at like how he was looking at her now—like she was spring itself, breathing life into his soul” and “He remained the keeper of her prickly heart.” Not to mention “If she had the choice, she would capture time, rearrange the stars, and hold this moment in her hands forever.” More of that, please!
Enchanting Fate cover

Because I enjoyed these moments of pure romantic storytelling so much, I wished the rest of the story was as polished. The pacing of Enchanting Fate can feel rushed. I also thought the characters needed deeper exploration. In particular, the POV-wielding servants in the cursed manor, Claude and Isa, could’ve used more backstory and personality separate from their situation and love interests.

That being said, the plot and overall message of being true to yourself is told in a unique and interesting way. Evercott has the potential to write like Sylvia Mercedes or Hannah Whitten (both authors of swoony fantasy romances with darker backbones). As this series of fairytale retellings continues, I hope to see more wonderfully described romance and the character-driven storytelling to match it.

My rating:

To learn more about this author, visit

Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses review

Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses Review Graphic

(Note: I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book contains brief scenes of non-consensual kissing and contact.)

Cute, swoony romance? Check. Kind, handsome prince? Check check! Serious underdog female MC with a ton of heart? Big ol’ check! All of these, plus an extremely engaging storytelling style (with plenty of action), are what made Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses a truly entertaining, well-written book I enjoyed reading every time I picked it up.
I had a brief introduction to Anastasis Blythe’s (formerly Anastasis Faith’s) writing through free chapters of her Kindle Vella series, Guardians of Talons and Snares, which is set in the same world as Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses. This was my first time reading a complete work by her, and I am officially a fan. Blythe excels at writing underdogs. Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses has a plucky, compassionate heroine at its helm, and she is great fun to follow, even through the darkest parts of the Academy.
Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses Cover With Background
The cover of Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses

Protagonist Song Liena begins Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses as the “half-barbarian” daughter of a poor millet-farming family in the north of Zheninghai. The Songs’ fate is tied to that of each harvest, and Liena never stops worrying about her family, long after a vision derails her trip to the matchmaker. The law requires Liena attend the national Academy for magic users, which means she has a chance to better her parents’ and grandmother’s lives.

Unfortunately for Liena, 16 is incredibly late for magic to develop, and she is more than a decade behind at the Academy. She loves learning and applies herself, but battle prowess (important for a low magic seer) is well out of her reach. The consequences of failure are huge: if expelled, Liena could end up a monster hunter, certain to meet a terrible end. When literally and figuratively warm Nianzu (and his dimples) takes an interest in her (along with mean girl Shu), Liena’s days get way more complicated, and not just because of her Magic Theory class. Nianzu is the equivalent of an ultra popular high school senior–and he’s also the Crown Prince of Zheninghai.
The world of the Zheninghai Chronicles is full of magic and mythology (protective or lucky creatures like dragons, phoenixes and qilin are fearsome monsters in Zheninghai). With its unforgiving academy for magic users, Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses reminded me of R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War (but far less grim) combined with Tamora Pierce’s Tempests and Slaughter (but more romantic). And the romance is definitely squeal-worthy.
My one complaint is that Liena often reads as younger than 16 (prior to the end). She is sometimes described as whining or giggling, which made her sound a good bit younger to me. She also goes completely weak-kneed at the sight of Nianzu and talks herself right out of being the focus of his attention. She has a serious case of “who, me?” when it comes to the handsome prince. (On the other hand, the butcher’s boy back home didn’t notice her existence; her experience with boys is nonexistent.)
Otherwise, Blythe’s writing is smooth and descriptive. I particularly enjoyed her atmospheric similes and metaphors, like “knife-cold air” and “her mind was like a mushy bowl of rice.” She also excels at combat descriptions, never getting bogged down in minutiae that would ruin the sense of speed. Yet the scenes in which Nianzu helps her with her training are highly convincing. I felt sure the author had martial arts and self-defense experience.
This was a 5-star read for me, and I’ll be sure to dive into whatever comes next in the world of Zheninghai.

To learn more about this author (or sign up for her mailing list), visit

Of Silver and Secrets review

A review of Of Silver and Secrets, by Sylvia Mercedes
(Note: I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review. This story also contains brief non-consentual kissing and nudity.)
If you haven’t realized it by now, I’m kind of an emotional reviewer. After book blogging for a couple years now, I also tend to mentally give stars to books as I go, knowing the rating will fluctuate at different parts of the story and then I can average them out, ideally so I don’t get swept away.
Of Silver and Secrets swept me away. I could squeal just thinking about it, and that is a noise I usually reserve for Pride and Prejudice, when Mr. Darcy finally remembers how a gentleman courts a lady.
Of Silver and Secrets is a shorter tale, once a serial release for author Sylvia Mercedes’ mailing list subscribers. It follows primary narrator Farryn’s trials as a ward witch’s dreamwalking apprentice who peeks into the wrong person’s enchanting dream. Farryn does not have the money and necessary connections to be trained as a Miphato, the erudite sorcerers of the Whispering Wood’s world. She has only the runes she’s learned from her mentor Mother Ulla (who is so perfectly described I instantly had a voice for her), and they are neither reliable nor powerful enough for the trouble she lands in.
Of Silver and Secrets cover
Of Silver and Secrets debuts December 20, 2021

The other narrator, Kellam, is a Miphato, and a new one at that. Worse still, he’s encroaching on Farryn’s mistress’s ward with his expensive, bookish ways (his spells, unlike Farryn’s, must be written on a page). And disastrously worse still, he’s Farryn’s childhood friend who almost kissed her at a dance, then shipped off to Miphato school and NEVER WROTE HER. When it comes to Kellam, Farryn hath some fury indeed.

The plot structure is happily unusual, with a smaller but high-stakes challenge for its narrators early on (in which Farryn and Kellam first collide). Then the mid-section of the book bucks the norm and features chapter after chapter of an in-depth battle so intense and authentically tricky for the protagonists that most authors would save it for the climax. There’s no “beginning, muddle and end” in Of Silver and Secrets.
Speaking of that end…
For much of the book, I figured a solid average of four stars, with an actual rating of 4.25 at times. The dreamwalking sequences were interesting and exciting, and contains Of Silver and Secrets‘ best imagery. But I also thought Kellam’s characterization could be stronger (especially with Mother Ulla stealing the show), and that Farryn tends to dissolve into fits of cursing instead of deeper thoughts. Then the ending approached. (Cue the belated Rumplestiltskin-inspired part of the plot.)
And it was…to borrow a popular phrase, *chef’s kiss.*
The conclusion Of Silver and Secrets is so darn satisfying. In the last quarter or so of the book, the author goes full-throttle with an extremely time-sensitive, tense plot development and it is exceptional—and clever and perfectly romantic. I was completely taken by it and mentally jumping with excitement and nerves on the characters’ behalfs. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending, and this one that had me rounding up to a swoony (and appreciative) 5 stars.

To learn more about this author, visit

Review of Icedancer (Velfman)

Icedancer, by Anna Velfman

“‘You seem to enjoy all these games, Chowa,’ she said without energy. ‘What does that say about you?’

”‘Best you don’t ponder that overlong.’ Chowa bowed and turned to leave. ‘You might not like the answer you arrive at.’”

Thus the Pler Series returns for a second tale of political and romantic intrigue, and it’s just as riveting as book one. Even more so, actually!

Lanna continues to shed her naïveté in this book. She hasn’t forgotten the farming village she’s left behind, though she hides it well for most of Icedancer. But she’s changed from that new Imperial who loved the headman’s son, in record time, thanks to Imperial Chemist Chowa-no-Ota. Lanna’s learned a few things about Flower Pavilion theatrics—or at least she thinks she has. As her star rises, a target grows on her back, leaving Lanna with a dangerous question: How much power does the Imperial Seer really have?

Icedancer Cover
Cover of Icedancer, Book 2 in what is now the Pler Series

The more time she spends in the palace, the more apparent it is that someone is always working in the shadows. Lanna finds one such person in Ethaan, head of the Hall of Enlightenment. He’s the only new character we actually meet besides Lanna’s assigned slave. While we also get to know Sonnatha, Itzander, Lucas and Ashioto more, the narrowed scope of Icedancer means characters like Epen, Frez and even Chowa become more peripheral.

Icedancer was refreshing in a lot of ways. The handsome emperor doesn’t get a pass just because he shows he cares and has plans to help the world (though the latter is exactly why Lanna helps him, and the former is a big part of why, despite herself, she finds herself wanting him). There’s so much more to powerful and cultured Ashioto, and Velfman (and the always formidable Lanna) never give in to girlish fancy.

Lucas, the mysterious voice only Lanna can hear, is also emerging as a very likeable and intriguing character. I’m excited to see what role he’ll play in the upcoming book. In all, another excellent book in this series with the writing to match.

To learn more about this author, visit

Review of Music of the Night (Ford)

A review of Music of the Night, by Angela J. Ford

(Note: This title is for mature readers only. Mild spoilers below.)

Phew, is it hot in here?! This is my second review of a steamy fantasy novel this month!

This romantic fantasy (with the bedroom door very, very open) is a loose retelling of The Phantom of the Opera. With a bewitching theater in a creepy castle and mysterious music floating on the night air, fans of dark fantasy and romance will want to dive right in to Music of the Night.

Music of the Night, by Angela J. Ford, book cover

Orphaned and beholden to the Count cousin who saved her, Aria lives the unglamorous life of a dancer in the Count’s theater. What she really wants to do is sing, if she had the chance—and the training. Seeking to follow in her late mother’s footsteps and avoid the Count marrying her off, Aria finds a teacher when she follows a haunting melody to a supposedly empty tower.

The chemistry between lonely and grieving Aria and the “ghost” of the tower comes on fast and strong (the author is a strong believer in insta-love). You’ll instantly mistrust the Count and never feel Aria is safe at night. It’s deeply creepy in that castle! As gristly murders begin in the castle, the tension grows and Aria’s need to escape to her new teacher becomes more dire.

In a lot of ways, Music of the Night turns the classic “prince comes to the rescue” trope right on its head; the brave knight is in need of a lot of redemption. In that element, Aria’s role pleasantly reminded me of Christine in the beloved musical. While I felt there were some unanswered questions, it’s a short and entertaining read with plenty of atmosphere and a modified fairytale ending.

To learn more about this author, visit Angela J. Ford’s website.

Review of Avalanche (Velfman)

A Review of Avalanche, by Anna Velfman
(Note: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. This book also contains mature content and allusions to non-consentual encounters.)
Lanna of the Clans is back–or at least she would be, if life at the palace didn’t have her so confused. This hard-hitting third installment of what used to be the Pler Trilogy brings readers a more introspective Lanna alongside true science-fantasy and an impeccable balance of action and character development. On top of that, it’s an excellent and binge-able read.
The main cause of the Southerner-turned-Imperial seer’s confusion is handsome Emperor Ashioto, who Lanna must marry after a period of seclusion. Nothing is black and white about their relationship. Ashioto can be tender and caring, yet dangles the fate of her old friend Mika, and the village she and Lanna came from, as bait whenever he wants something from her (and those things are never small). Still, Lanna is drawn to him and conflicted about her plans to bring down the Empire. Her background in the Machiavellian South doesn’t help that either. If Ashioto is cruel, it’s just a reminder that Southerners aren’t meant to bond anyway.
Avalanche (cover shown here) arrives November 20, 2021

A steamy scene very early in the book (there’s no dawdling in Avalanche, and the bedroom door is open) leaves Lanna to reckon with the truth: she’s sold herself to the Emperor, just as Lucas, the Augmented voice of reason who is literally in her head, warned her she would. Lanna has a price, and as she begins to question what she thought she wanted, we see her greatest development as a character.

As promised by Icedancer (review forthcoming) it’s also her biggest play for agency, even as the forces against her true freedom prove stronger and more calculating than she’d guessed. She’s also in her own way: forced into the position of sacrificial lamb, Avalanche takes time to ask what Lanna is worth to herself.
This, combined with her increasingly heart-warming relationship with Lucas, makes Avalanche Velfman’s most character-driven book yet. Given that Lanna is in seclusion, that seems natural–but the constant action and complications are unexpected and wonderful surprises. There is no shortage of action or plot twists in this book, even as Lanna’s character is fleshed out into the fifth dimension. We learn more about the midlands, too, as Lanna’s concerns stretch ever further from the Flower Hall. Even Chowa, who is mostly absent in the book, gets a fresh look.
Avalanche also lands firmly in science-fantasy territory (at last!). Gone are the teasers of another civilization; readers learn a whole lot more about where Lucas came from and how their world functions (hint: it involves more than a little tech). Both technology and its breakdown are to be feared in the Pler Series, as the marvels of that civilization behind the curtain may prove to be horrors for Lanna. Absolutely nothing in her world is simple.
This is one of the many reasons why I finished the book wishing I had the next title in the series already. Once again, I’m left eagerly awaiting whatever Lanna (and the charming Lucas) does next.

To learn more about this author, visit her website,

Review of The Daughter of Earth (Pey)

A Review of The Daughter of Earth, by Callie Pey

The Daughter of Earth (The Dryad Chronicles #1), by Callie Pey (romantic Fantasy, Steamy fantasy; 2021)

(Note: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. This title is for mature readers only.)

This is an engaging, extremely steamy story (with fated mate context) that reads quickly. Yes, a little too quickly at times (and yes there are copy editing issues), but the story and other raw materials are all there, which counts for more to me (and is harder to achieve). If you feel the same and like a good portal fantasy adventure, you’ll enjoy The Daughter of Earth, too. (Note that a late scene involves unwanted contact and may be triggering.)

The storytelling starts at a break-neck pace that was too quick for me. 2 1/2 to 3 chapters in, it slows and lets the characters develop (while remaining fairly fast). Melissa is dropped through a portal just as everything is going wrong, and her reactions are sometimes lost in the swift pacing. I did feel like I wanted to hear her thoughts more, especially as she meets a blur of characters. Some you’ll get to know and love, like Cassie, but others remain in the periphery, like Ferox.

Daughter of Earth, by Callie Pey, book cover autumn graphic

As the pacing eases, Melissa finds more acceptance with her new friends, the Watchtowers, than she found in all her years on Earth. She doesn’t have to justify herself to them or explain her past. They’re like the perfect found family, though they expect her to learn to defend herself. In response to their warmth, Melissa develops a drive to be useful, repaying kindness with service. She also finds love, which is another area where the story really shines.

The MFM romance in The Daughter of Earth is graphic but sex positive, and wonderfully nuanced. I really liked the sweetly awkward early advances of Kelan, who is drawn to MC Melissa and can’t stay away (as a wood elf, he’s pretty fixated on presenting her with his “credentials”), and that her brief interactions with satyr Graak are like a one night stand that leaves both of them confused and hurt. The gods brought the three of them together, and not everybody’s happy about it. I can’t say enough good things about that dynamic.

Throughout the story, Melissa grows in every way possible. We see her go from an orphaned and powerless woman on Earth who’s reduced to an object to a physically strong one who fights monsters and makes her own family. With a world of dryads, nymphs, elves, fae and satyrs, The Daughter of Earth has familiar world-building with a modern twist. The ending was satisfying, too—though I’m already wondering what happens next, thanks in part to one heck of a preview for book two!

All in all, this is a great, unpolished gem of a romantic fantasy yarn.

To learn more about this author, visit her Facebook page or follow her on Instagram (@calliepeyauthor).

Review: Between Jobs (Gingell)


Madcap is a word often associated with Gingell‘s writing. The beloved City Between series kicks off with a new take on her unique writing style, in which the absurd is juxtaposed onto the ordinary, with extraordinary results.

The narrator of Between Jobs is known only as Pet—and that’s what she becomes for three non-humans who enter her family home. That home isn’t really hers. Pet’s parents were murdered in that house, and being underage, she couldn’t inherit. So she squats in the well-hidden room that saved her years ago, and saves money by working under the table at a local cafe. When Atelas, Zeno and Jinyeong purchase the family home, Pet—who refers to them as her “three psychos”—gets accustomed to other people being in the home again. It’s sort of comforting.

Until they find her. Set in Hobart, Australia and full of local dialect (Pet’s catchphrase is practically “Flaming heck!”), Pet gets enmeshed in the supernatural murder investigation conducted by her “three psychos.” With the promise of a little endearingly awkward romance on the horizon, Pet’s plucky outlook and enthralling world-building, the book takes readers on a sometimes violent and often hilarious adventure through Hobart Between and Hobart Behind.

The gruesome opening, in which Pet finds herself next door to another murder, was a shock after reading Gingell’s other work, and sets a darker, grittier tone. The deeper I got into Between Jobs, the more I loved it. I came very close to binge-reading with this one, and certainly lost hours of sleep. I am firmly team Jinyeong (they have to get together, right? Never mind the part about him being a vampire who will only speak Korean until he masters English) and can’t wait to continue the series. Keeping the “three psychos” as enigmatic characters is also genius; reviews of later books on Goodreads promise a serious twist.

This is an unforgettable book that’s wonderfully strange, dark and endearing all at once. I hope you’re not as behind as me on this series, but if you haven’t started yet, you should pick this one up. Immediately.

To learn more about this author, please visit her website.

Review: A Trial of Thorns (Rookwood & Vince)

A Trial of Thorns (Rookwood & Vince) Review Graphic

(Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

A Trial of Thorns departs from its roots as a Beauty and the Beast retelling as a major plot twist plays out, dropping Aster in the middle of court fae trials to determine who will be the next king or queen of the fae. Best of all, Aster, whose character is drawn from Belle/Beauty, continues to forge her own path.

Caught in a contest of fae heirs as an unwilling champion, Aster flounders more desperately in A Trial of Thorns. And it’s no wonder: she’s in unfamiliar territory. Everything about the fae of this series sets them apart from humans, from their unearthly beauty to their superhuman abilities and lifespans. Aside from Thorn and the Forest Court, humans don’t mean much to the average fae—and are treated accordingly. Worse still, Aster’s abilities as a greenwitch and enchantress are rendered null in the Sky Court, where the only plants are contained in greenhouse.

I appreciated but did not fully love A Trial of Thorns at first (excepting the parts with the wonderful brownie Mosswhistle, who is perfect in all scenes). The last third to quarter of the book, however, is superb. The authors don’t let Aster and Thorn have a mindless happily ever after that ignores their problems. Instead, they lean in to the severe issues between humans and fae.

It’s a pleasure to see Aster not let Thorn and her other fae friends off the hook, and to take charge of her situation. The serious conversations between them are well-rendered and everything you’d want from an independent and compassionate heroine.

The descriptive writing is not as strong in this book, largely because Rookwood and Vince excel at writing about the natural world—especially when it skews toward dark fantasy. The Sky Court is almost clinical in nature, full of marble and character-less luxury (the House Hunters crowd would be unimpressed, but hey, Faolan’s got his own style). The Trials themselves are creatively designed, and reminded me pleasantly of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, with a dash of Greco-Roman mythology. Which means there’s always a clever twist for readers to enjoy. Those are my kind of trials.

I did miss the authors’ forest descriptions and the constant danger of the Folkwood. The dangers Aster faces in A Trial of Thorns come more from brutal, conniving fae plots and politics; those who enjoyed reading about Tyrion and the other Lannisters in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series will be happiest, while fans of Alexis Henderson’s The Year of the Witching will be rooting for Aster to find her way home.

A Trial of Thorns is something of a transitional book, as so many second books are (I’m looking at you, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!), and that usual means some growing pains. But I put down this book satisfied with the direction the series is going in, happy with Aster’s evolution (get ’em, girl!) and excited for whatever happens next.

To learn more about these authors, please visit and