Rise of the Fire Queen is here!

This indie author has been on my author TBR for a while, and also on my Kindle! Known for her romantic fantasy, Alisha Klapheke is back with her sequel to Stolen by the Shadow King (my current read! It’s very fast-paced and I can’t wait to see where it’s going in the romance plot. It’s all very fun so far). Look at just one of the pretty covers of Rise of the Fire Queen!

And a giveaway for series swag and a $25 Amazon gift card is happening on Instagram right now. Check out my account for details on this giveaway through Book of Matches Media!

Rise of the Fire Queen digital cover
Ebook cover of Rise of the Fire Queen

Synopsis for book one, Stolen by the Shadow King:

A human witch. A dangerous elven king. A betrothal set to save the world.

When the vicious king of the shadow elves drags Maren to the underworld and claims her as his fated match, she fights to escape. 

But when Maren learns she is the legendary seer of the underworld, everything changes. She discovers a magical poison spreading, and the only way to save both realms from complete destruction is to bind her power with the king’s to heal the land through their union.

Maren isn’t heartless. Of course, she’ll sacrifice herself to save her beloved family and the world. And her feelings for the protective, mercurial shadow king are changing…

When another shadow lord steals the key to the king’s power and demands Maren’s hand in marriage, she realizes what evil truly is in the underworld.

Now, she must either fight alongside the king and hope they don’t run out of time to save the realms, or surrender to the evil lord and stop the poison’s spread before it’s too late.

Maren can still save the realms, but it will require a true sacrifice of the heart.

The naked hardback and digital book cover with Tayto Potato
Rise of the Fire Queen with Tayto Potato
The ebook cover and hard cover of Rise of the Fire Queen (plus Tayto Potato, who is not affiliated)

That’s all for now!

Cheers,

CKB

To Carve a Fae Heart review

A Review of To Carve a Fae Heart, by Tessonja Odette

Note: I received a copy of this book as part of a Book of Matches Media tour and am leaving an honest and voluntary review.

Love enemies to lovers, or squeal at the thought of a heroine in STEM starring in a fantasy novel? Like The Cruel Prince but wish it was less…cruel? (And no, I’m not talking about The Queen of Nothing!) To Carve a Fae Heart is all that and more.

For me, this book did everything right. King Aspen is proof of how well Tessonja Odette knows her readership. He was the perfect dark and growly fae king, with all the right hints that there was more to him than met the eye. His character hit all the notes a fae king in a (semi) arranged marriage to a human should, the Beast and the handsome prince all in one.

To Carve a Fae Heart Cover

Having a heroine who relies on logic and scientific knowledge dropped into fae lands was also a lot of fun. And I can’t stress how much I appreciate that Evie is a STEM girl! I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and romance, and that familial love (both the comfort and the pain) is so bound into the story, too. Fans of Helena Rookwood and Elm Vince’s An Enchantment of Thorns will also appreciate this one. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next in To Wear a Fae Crown.

My rating:
5/5

To learn more about this author, visit tessonjaodette.com.

Heart of Cinders review

A Review of Heart of Cinders, by J. Darlene Everly

Note: I received an ARC and am leaving an honest, voluntary review

I picked up this book looking for a fun, exciting Cinderella retelling with a kick-butt heroine, and that is exactly what I got–plus a pair of touchingly loyal friends and modern Red Carpet-worthy gowns. Heart of Cinders is the story of a steely assassin who finds her heart softening and starts to question what she’s been taught.

Once MC Cinder headed to the palace, this book really picked up and was hard to put down. And what is a fairy tale retelling without a cheeky nod? Cinder’s ladies-in-waiting are Gus and Jacquetta, and it was so fun and lovely to see the friendships developing and see Cinder kick butt in a whole new way, this time as the lady she was meant to be (with knife skills and archery lessons on the side). I rooted for Cinder and her friends at every turn.

Heart of Cinders Book Cover

But the ending of this book! Heart of Cinders ended on the bad kind of cliffhanger, the kind that left me exclaiming “What do you mean it’s done?!” I actually enjoy a well-executed cliffhanger ending, but this one ended in mid-scene. The worst part is it worked and I wish I could grab book two right away. There were enough breadcrumbs along the way to make me extremely curious about where this series will go next, too.

My rating:
4/5

To learn more about this author, visit jdarleneeverly.com.

Tessonja Odette’s The Fair Isle Trilogy has a new look!

I’ve been reading book one of the Fair Isle Trilogy until the wee hours, and I can’t get enough! The fae king may have antlers, but he definitely has that steely charisma readers of fae romantic fantasy love so much (including this gal!) This YA/NA fae trilogy by Tessonja Odette is also getting a new look (including pretty new hardcovers, all designed by the author herself!).

I’m on the rebrand tour through Book of Matches Media, which is particularly awesome since I’ve had my eye on To Carve a Fae Heart for a while. I’m now wondering what took me so long! But there is a contest that goes with this tour…

For details on the giveaway contest, where you can win signed hardcovers of To Carve a Fae Heart, To Wear a Fae Crown, and To Spark a Fae War as part of the Book of Matches Media tour, head over to my Instagram page.

Here’s the synopsis for book one, To Carve a Fae Heart:

Every young woman dreams of marrying a king.
Everyone except for me.
Because the king I am to wed has razor sharp fangs and a thirst for blood.

All my life I knew I’d come of age during the Hundred Year Reaping. According to the ridiculous treaty, two human girls are sent to the faelands as brides for the fearsome fae king and his devilish younger brother.

Not me. I was supposed to be safe. Two girls were chosen from my village already. But when they are executed for offending the king, my sister and I are sent in their place.

What a mess. Then again, maybe it’s not so bad. The younger brother I’m paired with doesn’t seem as monstrous as I’d expected. He’s delightfully handsome too. But nothing compares to the chilling, dangerous beauty of the fae king. And when my sister flees the castle and her terrifying husband-to-be, I’m left to marry him instead.

If I go through with this, I might not survive my wedding night. If I don’t, no one is safe, neither human nor fae. An ancient war will return, bringing devastation we haven’t seen in a thousand years. Can I sacrifice myself for the good of my people? Or will a dangerous desire be the death of me first?

If I don’t lose my heart, the king will certainly lose his. I’ll carve it out with an iron blade if I have to.

…And now for those beautiful covers!

The Fair Isle Trilogy, by Tessonja Odette
The Fair Isle Trilogy, by Tessonja Odette
Fair Isle Trilogy
Naked hardbacks, designed by the author!

That’s all for now! Review of To Carve a Fae Heart coming soon.

Cheers!

CKB

Frozen Hearts and Death Magic review

A Review of Frozen Hearts and Death Magic

Note: I received an ARC and am leaving an honest, voluntary review. Parts of this book depict a violent, abusive situation.

This book was so much fun! Though Frozen Hearts and Death Magic is inspired by telanovelas, I didn’t find it overly dramatic. The characters, each a royal of kingdoms living in fear of a fae invasion or, in River’s case, an actual fae, were so lovely to get to know, and the intrigues were all interesting and absorbing (better still, readers are on the side of the one kingdom that suspects the bad guys). Because of the modern language and characters, this was a great book to read after Ashley Shuttleworth’s A Dark and Hollow Star.

I really enjoyed the magic system, which is hereditary and usually limited to one ability per character. Ironworkers can manipulate metal (Fel is so accomplished, he can fly; he also was born without hands and has learned to use metal ones seamlessly; he deals with ableism in a bit of fantasy representation). Leah is a necromancer grappling with fascinating dream magic. Naia is just beginning to discover her magic, and her relationship with mysterious fae River gave me the tingles from chapter one.

I would easily rate this book higher, but the writing changed in one of the storylines and there were flashbacks inserted late in the plot, interrupting all the exciting things that were happening. Combined with a lot of copy editing issues there that got distracting for me, I found myself getting a bit frustrated.

Frozen Hearts and Death Magic

A controlling, abusive situation that another character found themselves in was an extremely stressful surprise that others may also find hard to read. (Thankfully, the characters are awesomely magical enough that it doesn’t last long and they otherwise have plenty of agency.) It was well worth reading through these parts for me because I enjoyed everything else so much.

If you are the kind of reader who minds modern language in a high fantasy setting, this may not be for you (I did find it particularly well-suited to the teenage characters, and bristled a bit when the adults slipped into it at times). All that being said, I will happily pick up book two and see what happens to these wonderful characters and their developing magic.

Overall, I thought Frozen Hearts and Death Magic was un-put-downable.

My rating:
4/5

To learn more about this author, visit dayleitao.com.

A Darkness at the Door review

ReviewADarkness

Note: I received an ARC and am voluntarily leaving an honest review. Triggers for this book include child abduction, violence, execution and torture.

What a ride this book takes you on, and what an amazing arc for Rae! Better still, the outstanding plot points from Thorn return in A Darkness at the Door, in a way that isn’t forced and that I found very satisfying.

I didn’t get the whole “book boyfriends” thing until I read this book and Bren came along. In the early chapters of The Theft of Sunlight, we’re assured Rae will never get a match because of her turned foot and mobility issues. In A Darkness at the Door, Bren frequently laments that Rae is hard to keep up with. She’s a force for sure, because of both her determination and her goodness, and it is fantastic to see a person who sees that falling for her, and vice versa.

Slowly, Rae recaptures every scrap of dignity she lost in The Theft of Sunlight, redefining what it means to be a country girl in the city (hint: it means being more capable and grounded, now that she’s free from the pretenses of palace life). We also see her practice self-acceptance and body positivity, and coming to terms with the benefits of using a cane. In one scene, Rae thanks her body for how far it carries her, including the foot so often referred to as a limitation. She even uses opponents’ ableism against them. The disability representation is exceptional here.

This is an action-packed book with plenty of heart to balance its darkness. I can’t help but rave about the entire series, and the wonderful heights its heroine reaches in this last installment. Because I have the sense of there being so many more stories to tell in Rae’s world, I can only hope we’ll return to Menaiya again someday–or at the very least to wherever Bean is.

My rating:
5/5

To learn more about this author, visit booksbyintisar.com.

Kaz Brekker and my Fjerdan heist level character hangover

Caution: This post contains spoilers for Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.

Ever had a book hangover? How about a character hangover?

I’ve got one, and it’s because of Kaz Brekker.

Kaz Brekker and my Fjerda heist-level character hangover

Six of Crows introduces readers to the gritty underworld of Ketterdam, from scheming merchants to the gambling empires of the Barrel. As a top underling in a gang called the Dregs, Kaz Brekker is a half mythical figure–which is exactly how he designed his image. There aren’t many anti-heroes that intentional.

Throughout the Six of Crows duology, the story slowly prizes up Kaz’s carefully crafted mask. He’s only a marginally likeable character, his intellectual feats pulling off impossible victories like magic. He’s vicious, living up to his nicknames: Dirtyhands and the Bastard of the Barrel.

So why am I so weirdly obsessed with this character?

Kaz Brekker has a leg injury that leaves him with mobility issues. It’s a little odd in terms of representation because 1) it causes pain but doesn’t seem to hinder him in critical moments and 2) he actually could rid himself of it with a skilled Grisha tailor’s help. He considers it such a part of himself, though, that he doesn’t think of it when he has the chance.

Stock photo of an alley at night
A stock photo by Nicolas Postiglioni with serious Ketterdam vibes

There’s also something fiercely endearing about the moments he fails: when he finally reveals some of his feelings to Inej and when he passes out in the truck in Fjerda. Kaz has his painful backstory to be sure, but I don’t think that’s what makes him an unforgettable character.

It’s the way others view him that does it. From Inej’s challenge that makes him face his flaws, to the way they brighten when they spot his “scheming face.” He’s loyal to those loyal to him, the dark knight sweeping in for the rescue in a merciless city. He’s a super hero with a soft spot, clever and not at all charming, especially with a character like Jesper on the scene. Kaz even gives out second chances.

At the same time, he’s not all that complex: Kaz is totally driven by revenge and ambition. His most lovable moments come when he tries to do normal human things. For all his faults and miraculous heists, it’s this quality I love most about his character: the boy who knows he isn’t ordinary, but for others’ sake, makes the attempt anyway.

And that’s why I won’t forget Kaz Brekker anytime soon.

The Fox and the Briar review

The Fox and the Briar review

Note: I received a free ARC and am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

I’m so taken with this incredibly gentle, understated fantasy retelling! The Fox and the Briar is a fae retelling of Sleeping Beauty, with a reserved, Darcy-esque fae prince who can’t seem to find the right words to tell his princess how he feels.

Fans of the miscommunication trope will like the initial premise. Those who don’t will be pleased (and maybe squee a little) when it ends with the first quarter or so of the story. There’s an arranged marriage, a prince in magical disguise and Tristan, a wicked fae king with boldness for days. And who doesn’t love a villain with swagger?

The Fox and the Briar cover

The more I read of Tristan, the more I loved this story. While the (loveably) bumbling Seelie prince can’t find the nerve to express himself, Unseelie King Tristan casually worries about keeping a courtier from falling in love with him. The guy’s got confidence.

I really liked where the story was left, and hope to hear more from the characters, just like characters from author Chesney Infalt’s previous retelling, The Heart of the Sea, make an appearance in The Fox and the Briar. And if the Cheshire Cat is involved–included here as a denizen of faerie–you know it has to be good.

My rating:
5/5

To learn more about this author, check out the interview, 10 Questions with Chesney Infalt (live 6/3/22), or visit chesneyinfalt.com.

Want more fairytale retellings?

Retellings to Thrill Any Fantasy Reader (review list with links)

Enchanting Fate review

Throne of Sand review

From Storm and Shadow cover reveal!

Yes to fae fantasy and unlikely allies!

From Storm and Shadow, by Rachel Morgan, is the first in a new series, Storm Fae, and set in the same world as her Creepy Hollow series. It’s also one of my favorite cover types, but we’ll get to that…

Giveaway and Deals

For a giveaway through Book of Matches Media, head to my Instagram page for details. Otherwise, you can pick up Ms. Morgan’s entire previous series, Creepy Hollow, for just $2.99 until tomorrow (May 31, 2022). And in case you’re wondering, there are nine books! Get the deal through this UBL.

Synopsis
Return to the beloved bestselling World of Guardians…
 
When Silver’s parents are murdered in front of her by the people she’s trusted for years, she flees the fae realm and begins a new life pretending to be human.
 
More than two years later, she believes she’s finally safe—until the night someone from the Guild shows up.
 
Ash.
 
The boy who was once her best friend. The boy who tried to kill her.
 
He’s on the run now as well, after discovering the same secret that led to Silver’s parents’ deaths. Or so he says.
 
The forest they grew up in has become a dangerous place, crawling with fae monsters, and Ash claims he needs Silver’s help. The discovery her parents made years ago could be the only thing to save their home.
 
Silver knows Ash is only using her—he’s a guardian, after all, and they’re the ones who took everything from her—but she can’t turn her back on the home she still loves.
 
And so she forms a fragile truce with the boy who broke her heart. Stepping back into the world she swore never to return to, she sets out on a dangerous path to unlock the secrets of the past.
 
But neither Silver nor Ash are prepared for the true horror of what they will find lurking in the shadows of Stormsdrift.
 

From Storm and Shadow can be purchased here. And now for the pretty picture…

From Storm and Shadow cover

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for ominous covers with blossoms.  Maybe it’s from my childhood The Secret Garden obsession, but I always want to dive on in!

That’s all for now!

Cheers,

-CKB

16 awesome Asian-inspired fantasy worlds

Books with Asian-inspired faNtasy worlds 2

I should’ve called this 16 plus books, since so many of these are series…es?! In any event, I’m here with some bookish representation for those always in search of more. These 16 books represent places throughout Asia and Polynesia through fresh takes on mythology, settings and retellings. Check them out below!

The Chanter’s Blade, by A.A. Lee – When I found this Philippines-inspired fantasy, it went on my TBR list. So far, the writing has grabbed me.
 

Sunbolt, by Intisar Khanani – The intersection of cultures (and monsters) features prominently in this book. Set in a West Asian-inspired country with a feisty FMC whose mother came from an East Asian-inspured country, Hitomi is sure to steal readers’ hearts. (My review here.)

Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim – A coming of age story for the ages–or maybe just a few days for a dragon. (My review.)
 
The Singing Hills Cycle, by Nghi Vo (The Empress of Salt and Fortune; When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain) – Literary, whimsical and inventive, Vo’s stories get me every time. (Read my review of book one and two.)
 
The Jasmine Throne, by Tasha Suri – This India-inspired world is as haunting as its characters.
 
The Priory of the Orange Tree, by  Samantha Shannon – Part of this story is set in an East Asian-inspired country. I thought the plentiful storylines thin in this novel, but it’s a favorite for others.
 
Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses, by Anastasis Blythe – Blythe’s first book outside of Vella is a magic academy homerun, filled with sweet romance and convincing martial arts action. As of writing this, it’s free for her newsletter subscribers. (Check out my review here.)
 
The Pler Series, by Anna Velfman (Snowblind; Icedancer; Avalanche) – A fused East-Asian setting is the last great civilization in Velfman’s exciting, science-fantasy-leaning novels with a protagonist from the “uncivilized” south. (My review of Snowblind, Icedancer and Avalanche.)
 
Gunpowder Alchemy, by Jeannie Lin – Another novel on my TBR list! This one promises steampunk and I can’t wait to read it.
 
The Poppy War, by R.F. Kuang – Steeped in World War II history (chapters on city warfare are rooted in an actual battle), this one can be hard to stomach, but is undeniably a true fantasy epic. (My review.)
 
Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho – Okay, so this one is urban fantasy, but its expert fusion of myth, tradition and modern Malaysia are not to be missed. (My review here.)
 
The Daevabad Trilogy, by S.A. Chakraborty – I haven’t had time to read The Empire of Gold yet (each of these books is LONG) but this series just gets better as it goes. I highly recommend it. (Read my review of The City of Brass.)
 
Desert Nights series, by Helena Rookwood and Elm Vince – The fairytale retelling duo tackles the story of Aladdin in this fun series. (Read my review of Throne of Sand here.)
 
The Whale Rider, by Witi Ihimaera – One of my all-time favorite books is a quick a read as it is memorable. I’m including this because of its magical realism. Forget the movie and grab the heartwarming book!
 
Red Winter, by Annette Marie – Rooted in Japanese mythology, I picked up this book after multiple recommendations.
 
Tales of Akatsuki, by Nicolette Andrews (Kitsune; Yuki; Okami) – Fairytales are retold and blended with Japanese myth in this series I can’t wait to read.