Warrior of Blade and Dusk review

A review of Warrior of Blade and Dusk

(The Zheninghai Chronicles #2)

Other books in this series:
Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses (#0)
Guardian of Talons and Snares (#1)

romantic fantasy, Eastern-inspired fantasy, clean romantic fantasy

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

If your favorite parts of Guardian of Talons and Snares were the pursuit on the road and the developing, complicated romance between Aranya and Kai, you will love book two, Warrior of Blade and Dusk, as much as I did.

This was such a fun, exciting and satisfying conclusion. Truly action-packed, it takes the best parts of book one and amplifies them. Kai, for one, has softened a lot, without losing too much of his sparky edge. (Though we do see him requesting snuggles!)

The romance also kicks into high gear on this one. Araya also stays her plucky self, but continues to strengthen mentally. I love that an action and romance-forward story focuses so much on its character’s psychological development.

Though the series continues with the story of Princess Meiling, there were some scenes suggesting interesting storylines to come. I’m really looking forward to it!

My rating:
5/5

Wish Marked review

A review of Wish Marked, by Lissa Bolts

(Stones & Curses #1)

Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure

slow-burn romance, portal realms, fae, jinn and other fantasy creatures

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

This book was a slam dunk for me! A smart-mouthed, resilient narrator, a magic underworld with dashes of both romantic fantasy and portal fantasy, AND a canine sidekick? Yes, please! I absolutely loved Wish Marked.

Fans of W.R. Gingell’s The City Between series (see my review of Between Jobs) will enjoy this one. Parts of it also reminded me of Ashley Shuttleworth’s A Dark and Hollow Star, plus Holly Black’s The Book of Night (though despite its stakes, Wish Marked manages to be less grim and gritty). This is a smart urban fantasy with interesting, hidden realms and a unique take on jinn and their magic.

One thing to consider: there is one heck of a cliffhanger at the end (the fun kind, though, that teases what the rest of the series will bring). I was thoroughly entertained by this read and have already preordered book two.

My rating:
5/5
Wish Marked cover

The Cursebound Thief review

A Review of The Cursebound Thief by Megan O'Russell

(The Fracture Pact #1)

Contemporary Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure

fantasy heist, vampires, fantasy creatures, multi-POV

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

The Cursebound Thief is advertised as a good pick for Six of Crows fans (you can read about my Kaz Brekker obsession here) and it very much delivered for me! This book is all about suspense and the characters’ personalities. Just watch out for that darn cliffhanger that spoils some of the fun!

Full of snappy banter and extraordinarily well-balanced scenes with several speakers, this magical heist tale is set in the real world in modern times. Though I didn’t have a good sense of some of the characters’ personalities at first, overall they were distinctive and each character had their own way of interacting with the others. The perspectives were also balanced enough that I felt like I got to know everybody, though some secrets still lurked under the surface.

The stakes in The Cursebound Thief (mend the Fracture that seemingly destroyed magic) are set early, and the elaborate plot and road trip had me hooked. I only wish it had ended in a different place, though I guessed the cliffhanger was coming. This was a fun read with a complex world and lovable cast.

Now where is that book two?!

My rating:
4.5/5
The Cursebound Thief Mockup with autumn decorations

Of Roses and Rituals review

A review of Of Roses and Rituals, by S.L. Prater

Steamy fantasy romance, fantasy retelling; October 24, 2022

Note: I received a copy and this is an honest, voluntary review. This book is for mature readers, with steamy open door romance, and also deals with grief/the death of a child and a fiancé)

I thought this Beauty and the Beast retelling was incredibly well-plotted and an enjoyable read. While it is very (very!) spicy and steamy, author S.L. Prater took the time to show her characters connecting intellectually and emotionally instead of just relying on the fated mates trope. Of Roses and Rituals also has some fun horror elements and surprising depths.

Both Fiona and her love interest, Elias, are dealing with grief. Elias has had time to acknowledge and cope with his, while Fiona has tamped hers down. The treatment of grief here is honest and thoughtful.

Of Roses and Rituals Mockup with fall decor

Of Roses and Rituals also touches on body image, with the message that everyone deserves to be loved and feel attractive. It’s an extreme case, of course (a curse has changed Elias’s body to that of satyr-like beast), but I thought it worked and deepened the characters’ connection. The action parts were also smoothly worked into the plot and pleasantly spooky.

This was a very well-rounded steamy romance and a great addition to the Kriegspiel world.

My rating:
4.5/5

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

Married by War review

A review of Married by War, by Sarah K.L. Wilson

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

What a beautifully written story, and the darkest in the series so far. Full of grim depictions of war and its effects on those fighting it, Married by War has its Goose Girl moments in the plot and no shortage of heartbreaking scenes. But dog lovers should be careful! My heart still aches when I think back on certain scenes.

The cover of Married by War, surrounded by fall leaves and lights

There were so many wonderfully written lines in the book that I highlighted, most of them full of the heartache of its characters. The romance is born of genuine shared kindness and humanity amidst a lot of darkness, and I very much rooted for the two narrators.

I think it’s not a spoiler at this point to say these are all HEAs in the series, and this one is incredibly hard-won. My heart still aches a little after this one, but it was also so gorgeous, like finding a bit of goodness after wading through dark times.

My rating:
5/5

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

Guardian of Talons and Snares

A review of Guardian 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, Guardian 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.

Married by Wind review

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

Married by Wind is my definition of cozy fantasy. With a unique take on the tale of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp and djinn, the story is pleasantly familiar as we see two characters on a romantic collision course undertake a dangerous journey through the desert.

I was so pleased to see this series start out with a second chance love story. This made the characters’ feelings very believable despite the brevity of the story; they had three months together to develop feelings before the story even began! Note that the marriage is more of necessity due to circumstances, rather than an arranged one, and you shouldn’t expect the spice you may be familiar with in Angela J. Ford’s other romantic tales.

Married by Wind cover

Another caveat: If you’re expecting fae from this story (as I was, based on the series title), you’ll only encounter any in a roundabout way. Instead, Married by Wind focuses on deities, sacred places and a cursed lamp. I did wish Vinn’s character, who has a long backstory that’s mostly just alluded to, was more fleshed out, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

My rating:
4/5

To learn more about this series, visit arrangedmarriagesofthefae.com.

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