Guardians of Talons and Snares

A review of Guardians of Talons and Snares, by Anastasis Blythe

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

Enemies to lovers romance meets a (mostly) cozy mystery in this East Asian-inspired fantasy novel by Anastasis Blythe (Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses). Full of action and a comrade/enemy best described as considerate Loki, the budding romance feels legitimate and the mysteries are thrilling.

Like much of Blythe’s work, Guardians of Talons and Snares began as a Kindle Vella serial. There’s more to come, so don’t expect a tidy ending—and better still, the dance between ultimate morning person Aranya and trickster Kai will keep you guessing throughout the book. From the very first prank Kai plays on her, it’s clear these two have a long way to go. Their developing (and then collapsing) romance is so well done, I can’t wait to read what comes next for them!

The mockup cover of Guardians of Talons and Snares with candles, a Kindle and a plush background

The villains are very villainous, the mysteries are well-plotted and there is political intrigue tied throughout the story. Better still, it’s also the story of a young woman caring for her grandfather, who would do anything to protect him and return to him. The story (and the stakes) really heightens as Aranya and Kai set out on assignments together. I’m really looking forward to see where their multi-layered journey will take them.

My rating:
4.5/5

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

Married by Fate review

A review of Married by Fate, by Jenny Hickman

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

I’d never read a book by Jenny Hickman before, and I’m now a fan! Married by Fate was an awesome enemies to lovers fae romance, with similarities to Tessonja Odette’s To Carve a Fae Heart.

The magic in this story is limited to the far and fits more of a low fantasy model. The character dynamics are so well-executed, and it’s easy to root for the two leads who are drawn to each other despite themselves. There’s even an optional spicy scene offered in a link at the end!

Married by Fate mockup

This a true romance, with no strong external conflict to make up the climax of the book, focusing more on the couple and their relationship as it develops. The writing in Married by Fate was great and the story carefully crafted, and I practically cheered at so many moments.

My rating:
5/5

To learn more about the Arranged Marriages of the Fae event, visit arrangedmarriagesofthefae.com.

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

Rise of the Fire Queen review

A review of Rise of the Fire Queen, by Alisha Klapheke

Note: I received a copy and this is an honest, voluntary review.

The hunkiest brooding king in the Underworld, Kynan, is back with a delightful ensemble cast and his own perspective this time, which was a great addition. Rise of the Fire Queen has some wonderful Voyage of the Dawn Treader vibes, as well as Maren’s quest to escape from a castle.

Rise of the Fire Queen Hardcover
The hardcover version of Rise of the Fire Queen

I thought the writing in the second installment was fantastic. The banter is better developed and well-placed in scenes, the heroes are endearing–and the villain is very, very villainous. This was an entertaining and page-turning read, driven by the reader’s desire to see Kynan and Maren together again.

Have I ever rooted this hard for a book couple? I’m not sure I have! Kynan and Maren are very worthy of this distinction, and the romantic tension is THICK. I thought Rise of the Fire Queen made for a fantastic conclusion to this duology, and is hands down my favorite of the two books.

My rating:
5/5
Rise of the Fire Queen digital cover
Rise of the Fire Queen digital cover

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

Stolen by the Shadow King review

A Review of Stolen by the Shadow King, by Alisha Klapheke

This book had me majorly rooting for its main characters by the end. Since I haven’t read the Kingdom of Lore series before this, it took me a minute to get used to all the characters and their banter. The pacing was also quick, leaving little time to catch up. But Stolen by the Shadow King is one of those books that gave me faith it was going somewhere good, so I strapped in for the ride to the Underworld.

Stolen by the Shadow King cover
The hardcover version of Stolen by the Shadow King

MC Maren’s ability to speak to spirits is heartwarming (not spooky), and it makes her very easy to like. High Shadow King Kynan is gruff at first but an extremely honorable character–like a romantic version of Ned Stark. He proves to be a character I couldn’t help shipping Maren with.

With a complex battle scene so well-written I had a clear picture of everything, plus real chemistry between characters, this is a fun and highly enjoyable read. By the end, I was so glad book two is out now, because I really needed to know what happened next.

My rating:
4/5

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

The Cracked Slipper review

A review of The Cracked Slipper by Stephanie Alexander

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

When the Prince who swept Cinderella (or in this case, Eleanor) off her feet turns out to be a poor match for her, The Cracked Slipper asks the question, what if the man she should’ve danced with at the ball wasn’t the prince? And what if it was too late by the time she realized it?

Since falling for someone else and acting on it is treasonous, Eleanor tries to ignore her feelings for another fellow at court. With her trusty human-like parrot Chou Chou at her side (all the animals are anthropomorphized, including the delightful unicorns), Eleanor swears she’ll forget her actual Mr. Right and be a good wife to Prince Gregory. If only he was interested in being a good husband to her… Thankfully, Eleanor and Gregory’s relationship didn’t go half as dark as I thought it would from the description, and the potential affair never felt tawdry.

This was a well-written book that engaged me, though the plot relied heavily on the forbidden romance in the middle, even as some pleasantly underhanded schemes were afoot. Only a couple of the sinister plots are fully revealed here, leaving the rest to be discovered later in the series, and I wished I’d gotten at least a few more hints of what was to come.

The Cracked Slipper Cover

Overall, the Cracked Slipper is an interesting read with wonderful world-building (again, the unicorns! And I really should mention the witches, too!), with a heroine I can root for. While I wished Eleanor leaned more on logic than dreams of romance at times, maybe that’s the point: love muddies the waters just as much as the lack of it. And after life with the wicked stepmother, who can blame Cinderella for wanting to be loved?

My rating:
4/5

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

The Last Dragon King cover reveal!

It’s cover reveal time once again!

Both the cover and the description of this book caught my eye. The Last Dragon King: Kings of Avalier Book One, by Leia Stone, is available for preorder from Amazon, but releases September 29, 2022. You can also head over to my Instagram page for details about an Amazon gift card giveaway run by Book of Matches Media (rules in my post–ends September 4th, 2022).

The synopsis:

The Dragon King is looking for a wife. 


This news throws the women in my village into a tizzy. King Valdren will be sending out the royal guard to bring women of childbearing age to his castle in Jade City, but only those who carry enough magic to produce an heir for him.

I’m a watered-down human with a mere ten percent dragon magic lineage. I know I won’t be chosen, but for some reason the magic sniffers command me to present myself to the king as a possible wife.

I’m ready to go to Jade City until my mother tells me a terrifying secret. A secret that could get me killed… by the king himself.

The Last Dragon King cover
The gorgeous cover of The Last Dragon King
The Last Dragon King cover
I wonder what the MC's secret will be?

Up next, a review! See you again tomorrow,

-CKB

Indie Author Spotlight: Tessonja Odette

Indie Author Spotlight: Tessonja Odette

As the author of 16 titles and counting, plus a new series of retellings called Entangled with Fae, Tessonja Odette should be on your radar, especially if you loved books like The Cruel Prince or A Court of Thorns and Roses. I adored her first book in The Fair Isle Trilogy (To Carve a Fae Heart…my review can be found here), so I was thrilled to find out her new series ventures back into Faerwyvae.

From what I’ve read of Odette’s work, I’d describe it as crowd pleasing fantasy with a sharp bite. There is romance to be had and swoony moments, but they are hard-won by the protagonist.

A Taste of Poison cover mockup

Tessonja Odette was on my “author TBR” for a while when, for the second time, a book of hers fell in my lap through a Book of Matches Media tour (there’s one happening right now, in fact, for A Taste of Poisonsee my Instagram for giveaway details for a contest through Book of Matches Media, which ends August 28, 2022 at midnight PST). I clawed my way out from my endless TBR pile to read this one. Once I started To Carve a Fae Heart, I wondered what had taken me so long!

While my summer of ARC reading has prevented me from getting more than a chapter into A Taste of Poison, her latest, you can be sure I’ll be returning to Faerwyvae as quickly as possible.

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

The Fair Isle Trilogy, by Tessonja Odette
The Fair Isle Trilogy, by Tessonja Odette

The Crown Plonked Queen review

A review of The Crown Plonked Queen, by Andrew Einspruch

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

How could such a good-natured, funny series have so much to say about grief and not feel like a curve ball? But that’s exactly what The Crown Plonked Queen does, and it’s a more complete, yet still silly story (thanks to town names like Festering Resentment and Eloise’s ever affable sidekick Jerome de Chipmunk) because of it.

The Crown Plonked Queen cover

As Eloise works to solve a couple big mysteries and figures out how to rule, this always heart-filled series takes on issues like self doubt, grief and responsibility when you just aren’t ready for it. It never covers Eloise’s struggles with humor. That seems like a hard line to walk, but the humor always stands in compliment to the plot, even as it heads in a more serious direction. And who wouldn’t love the magical Sparky?

I do feel a bit grumbly about all the ceremonial scenes, but I flew through the final third of the book, turning pages well into the night. After many chapters of me wanting to yell “Figure it out, Eloise!” as she came so close time and again, The Crown Plonked Queen ends with what I’d call a satisfying cliffhanger. Even so, I’m very glad the next book comes out soon.

My rating:
4.5/5

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

Droplets of Magic review

Droplets of Magic review

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

This interesting contemporary fantasy starts out in Zimbabwe, then moves across Africa with serious Indiana Jones vibes–if all parties were witches and Indy was being hunted for his defective gifts. Though Droplets of Magic was book four in the series, I had no issue reading it first, though it’s not a standalone because of plot points that continue on in the series.

Droplets of Magic book cover

A witch whose gifts have been underestimated, MC Kira has been traveling drought-stricken areas, using her unique ability to bring rain to areas most in need. While on the run from the council that would kill her for her gifts, she uses them for good. That alone is a unique premise, but the journey across the African continent with Kira’s childhood love turned vicious gang boss on her heels is a fantastic adventure unlike anything I’d read before.

I didn’t feel the chemistry between Kira and her attractive would-be rescuer, but a line near the very end won me over. The ensemble cast, introduced later, had a memorable earth witch, who has some fun, creative potions up her sleeve, plus a giant dog familiar to round out the cast. This was an exciting fantasy adventure and a swift, action-packed read.

My rating:
4/5

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