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
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.

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.

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.

Atheist’s Angel review

A review of Atheist’s Angel by A. Velfman

Note: I received a free ARC and am voluntarily writing an honest review. Atheist’s Angel contains scenes of violence, child abuse, self-harm and torture.

I can honestly say I haven’t read another book like this! Atheist’s Angel delivers interesting takes on angels, djinn and Hades. It’s also darker than what I usually read, verging on grimdark without losing its hopeful message. It reminded me of Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes and Hannah Whitten’s For the Wolf.

At the beginning of Atheist’s Angel, human Gabriela rescues Tararus, a fallen angel in every sense of the word. Dropped into the affairs of angel-like celestials and gods, she’s forced into a bargain with Tararus and the god of punishment he serves. Thankfully, Tararus has already grown on her. She sees the good left in him that he can’t see in himself.

Atheist’s Angel book cover

The story really picks up when Gabriela ends up in Tararus’s old realm. Though early parts of the book felt slower due to dense language in the exposition, Gabriela’s sarcastic descriptions lift it. They also offer a welcome dose of humor in this often heavy story. One example: when speaking to a benevolent god “…her mortal self stood out like a forty-a-day smoker among vegan gym bunnies.”

I came very close to rating Atheist’s Angel higher (rounding up to 5 stars rather than 4 1/2) and would have if it leaned into the romance and emotion a bit more by the end. After all that darkness and suffering, I wanted a longer payoff. At least I have future books to look forward to for that, and I do expect good things. What could be more fun than watching the celestial and mundane human worlds collide?

My rating:
4.5/5

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

Cover reveal for Weaver

I’m back with a cover reveal for the intriguing Weaver, by Tish Thawer. This is another cover reveal I’ve gotten to participate in thanks to Book of Matches Media, and the description really intrigued me. Weaver is described as a good fit for fans of Rachel Griffin, Holly Black and Adrienne Young. You can head to my Instagram to join the giveaway contest. I’ve also got some cover art I can share!

Synopsis:

Weaver character art
Character art for Weaver

The choice between love and magic is a dangerous thing.

He walked out of my dream, identifying himself only as the Weaver. In a black cloak, with eyes like stars, there was a shimmer to the way he moved. He was beautiful … Ethereal. And I was going to make him mine.

Alone for most of her life, Milly is determined to make the man of her dreams a reality. Using her hereditary magic, she sets out on a lifelong quest, entering a world of shadows and secrets. Little does she know, to possess his heart, she’ll have to give away her own … for the only way to love a Dream Weaver is to become his Queen of Nightmares.

Weaver arrives June 21, 2022. And now for that cover…

Weaver cover

Preorder Weaver from Amazon.

That’s all from me for now! Expect a new review on Friday.

Cheers,

-CKB

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

Vow of the Shadow King cover reveal!

I’m fully sucked in to this romantic fantasy series by Sylvia Mercedes. Bride of the Shadow King (read my review here) took my breath away, and the cover was just as arresting. But I think the cover for Vow of the Shadow King is even better!

The Synopsis:

Warning: contains spoilers for book one!

A treacherous bride. A heartbroken groom. Is their marriage over before it’s begun?

Her deceit discovered, Faraine finds herself trapped in the Shadow Realm at the mercy of her new husband. She’s surrounded by enemies, far from any allies, and her best bet for survival is to convince Vor to send her home.

But to do so means to give up on the alliance. Which would spell disaster for her people.

With the tremors growing worse and poison spreading through his realm, Vor is more desperate than ever to find a solution. Only, it cannot involve his wife. Vor wants nothing to do with the woman he has inadvertently married. At one time, he thought he might love her, but now? How can love flourish where trust is broken?

When circumstances require them to spend more time together, however, Vor’s blood is stirred in ways he doesn’t like to acknowledge.

Can two lost hearts find healing and hope in one another? Or is their love already poisoned beyond recovery?

Book two of this epic romantasy trilogy, Vow of the Shadow King will sweep you away in a tale of betrayal, heartbreak, and forbidden love. Perfect for readers looking for their ideal “book husband” and a slow-burn romance ready to ignite!

Vow of the Shadow King is expected late summer 2022.

Without further eloquence…

Vow of the Shadow King cover

That’s all for now!

Cheers,

– CKB

To learn more about this author, visit www.sylviamercedesbooks.com.

Of Heists and Hexes review

If you like your fantasy romances extra spicy, my Of Heists and Hexes review is here! This is the first time I’ve read anything by S.L. Prater, and she certainly knows how to turn on the steam. Read on!

Of Heists and Hexes review graphic

Note: I received a free copy and have voluntarily written this honest review. Contains steamy open-door scenes, disturbing violent content and depictions of capital punishment.

Noah is an honest, likable sheriff. Robin is a witch and a thief on a mission to feed the people of Arm. The two are fated mates thanks to their magic, though Noah knows he should arrest her. The last thing he wants is for his young sister Marian and his nan to get caught up in Robin’s rebellion against the political status quo.

I loved the world-building, the witches and the cat and mouse game between Robin and Noah. Seeing Robin thwart him is genuine fun, and the tension, between them and throughout the kingdom, make it binge-worthy. There is a very serious side, too, as Noah brings depraved criminals to justice (the crimes are heartbreakingly real). Combined with depictions of poverty, these scenes show how broken their society is, because Noah and the witches are practically the only ones to do anything about it. With all he has to face, it is a challenge for Noah to be an honest law man.

Of Heists and Hexes book cover

I wish there’d been more in-person emotion between the two love interests. Much of the heart is in the form of notes, and when together they’re all heat (and yes, the heat level is VERY high). I was waiting for an emotional breakthrough to back the fated romance between these two that I never quite got, though they sometimes came close. I also thought the climax came up suddenly. Though the ending didn’t disappoint me, I’d invested enough in the characters that I wanted the epilogue to be longer, so I could learn the particulars of what they did next. And really, is that such a bad problem to have?

My rating:
4/5

To learn more about this author, visit streetwitch.net.