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:

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

Want more fairytale retellings?

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

Enchanting Fate review

Throne of Sand review

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:

To learn more about this author, visit

For the Wolf review

For readers who like their fairy tale retellings a little darker, For the Wolf should be high on your TBR list. Keep reading my For the Wolf review to find out why!

For the Wolf
As a second daughter in her country’s royal family, Redarys was born a sacrifice to the Wilderwood. Despite her twin’s best efforts, Red wants to accept her fate. A piece of the Wilderwood’s magic is in her already, and Red is sick of holding it back.
With themes of fanaticism and false religion (as well as a surprisingly large subplot of delightful romance), the power of nature, described here as neither good nor bad, squares off against dark, evil magic in For the Wolf. As Red’s twin tries to save her, profound grief becomes an obsession until twin is (unwittingly) pitted against twin.
For the Wolf book cover

The writing is equal parts plot and character driven and is dense with descriptive detail. It took a little getting used to for me, but there were many great lines and I appreciated that it delved into grief, actually making it a cornerstone of the plot. One caveat: this book is not for those squeamish about blood.

My favorite part of For the Wolf was the romance. The Wolf in question, Eamon, is almost literally set up with Red by the Wilderwood. Though they are essentially fated mates, the development of their relationship is gradual and sweet. Book two has very much earned its place on my own tbr.

My rating:

To learn more about this author, visit

A Promise of Thorns review

This series began with An Enchantment of Thorns, and it immediately felt like the Beauty and the Beast retelling I didn’t know I needed. Now, sadly, it’s time to bid these characters (but not their world) farewell with an A Promise of Thorns review.

A Promise of Thorns review graphic
(Note: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.)
I just love this series. This final installment of Aster and Thorne’s story returns to the forest, where both characters are most at home–and perhaps the writers, too. Rookwood and Vince’s descriptions are crystal clear in both the grand spaces of the Forest Court and the overgrown corners of a garden. This time, they also flex their skills with the opulent Metal Court, the creepy Shadow Court, a forge-working black dragon and some creepy sea fae.
As you can see, this is the quest-iest of the three books. While An Enchantment of Thorns focuses on curse-breaking and A Trial of Thorns on magical trials, Aster sets out to prove her claim to the Alder Throne in A Promise of Thorns with a series of tasks. Meanwhile, her rival, Faolan, becomes the frustratingly clever villain we always knew he could be after underestimating her too many times. 
A Promise of Thorns cover
After a somewhat slower start, A Promise of Thorns becomes an action-packed battle of wits between Faolan and Aster. He may not know all the tricks Aster has up her sleeve (she’s an enchantress, after all), but nearly every advantage is his.
It’s a good thing Aster has a few marvelous friends on her side. The supporting characters offer a lot of nuance and fun–and so do the delightful villains. It was often hard to find a natural spot for a bookmark. As a fantasy reader, there are few things worse than having to stop for dinner when the MC is about to meet a dragon.
Most of the breathing space in the story is offered by the romance between Aster and Thorne. I had a barely contained squeal or two and a generous helping of mentally shouting at them to just talk to each other (for Pete’s sake!), which may be the highest compliment. I was also glad that Aster’s familial love (and her love for her perfect friend Mosswhistle) were included in the story. They’re so often Aster’s greatest vulnerability and motivation, and add tension throughout the series. The payoff is spectacular.
It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to these characters, but what a fabulous send-off.
My rating:

To learn more about these authors, visit and

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: Ariadne (Saint)

Ariadne, by Jennifer Saint, Review Graphic

Oh, Ariadne. Not quite the hero you were advertised to be, and not forgettable, either. This story is uneven but has the ability to truly move the reader.

That’s because Ariadne the book contains beautiful, emotional prose and some aggravating plot points. This female-centered retelling of the Theseus and the Minotaur Greek myth was not what I expected. If you are also expecting a feminist retelling (as I did from the first few chapters), there are hints of that—often whole segments of it—but Ariadne and her sister Phaedra, two powerless princesses of Crete, never become the heroes of their own tale. This is a retelling sparing of no one, with the unforgiving nature of ancient Greece’s views on women (and perhaps on all women in general) on full display.

Ariadne ultimately portrays a woman who’s content with being a wife and mother—something not often featured in fantasy novels or myth retellings. As a child, she tries to see the human side of her half-bull brother, who becomes an infamous monster, caring for him as her mother did and illustrating her tender nature; yet she’s also willing to help Theseus kill Asterion to save herself. Though she debates about doing it, she acts swiftly when it’s asked of her.

Abandoned on Naxos and fearing both her father and the backlash of her betrayal, Ariadne commits to a life as Bacchus’s “priestess,” securing a safe place for herself. She later shares her home isle of Naxos with women escaping their lot in life, who live in peace on Bacchus’s isle.

Her sister Phaedra, on the other hand, becomes a true stateswoman (by convincing the men of Athens that she’s only sitting in for her husband, Theseus, who’s always off doing “heroic” deeds). She suffers from postpartum depression, which is written with convincing and sensitive detail.

However, Phaedra’s conclusion that she can’t really form an attachment to her sons because they resemble their father waters this down: her depression becomes a product of her hatred for her husband. Her political future goes down the drain when she insists on caring for her firstborn herself, so she can hide that she doesn’t love her baby. This, in turn, isolates her and makes her despair all the more. She’s stretched thin and becomes emotionally brittle, no longer the strong-willed and level-headed girl who wanted to save the tributes from Athens.

The men of the book are greedy, self-centered and often cruel, though nobody’s hands stay clean in the story (then again, it is a Greek myth). I kept rooting for Ariadne to be her own person for longer than a couple chapters, but alas, the origin story was against her. (For a different take, I highly recommend The King Must Die, by Mary Renault.) It can be jarring, though, comparing Ariadne’s moment of action to the rest of the book. By the time she chooses to act again, she’s clearly out of practice.

I wanted more from this book, but at the same time, I’m glad I read it. That’s because of the beautiful writing. The early chapters read like a crash-course in mythology, which can be slow at times, but enforces the message that women always pay the price for men’s deeds or other women’s jealousy. While that may be important to read—and again, Jennifer Saint’s writing!—it can also be trying.

To learn more about this author, visit

Review: The Chosen and the Beautiful (Vo)

A Review of The Chosen and the Beautiful, by Nghi Vo

In The Chosen and the Beautiful, the author of The Empress of Salt and Fortune loosely retells Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby through the eyes of a very different Jordan. This Jordan, who is identified in the book blurb as queer (though she never labels herself), was adopted by the religious but not exactly well-meaning Bakers of Louisville from Tonkin (Vietnam). The opening scene, in which Jordan and Daisy literally float around the latter’s mansion on a hot summer day, positions The Chosen and the Beautiful on a creative, magical path that kept me turning pages.

Jordan occupies a ritzy and often lonesome world shaped by magic, parties, demons and xenophobia. Add to this her mysterious ability to make cut paper come to life and The Chosen and the Beautiful becomes a completely unique book. Change the names and places, and it would be one.

“There are women who will forgive a great deal for a moment of kindness from a handsome man, but Daisy and the other older girls who had taken me under their wings had taught me not to be one of them.”

–Jordan in The Chosen and the Beautiful

In Vo’s world of dark magic and recreational demon’s blood, the relationship between Daisy and Jordan is as complex as Jordan’s relationship with her country. Daisy leans on Jordan for unending support, often at great cost. Jordan, with the blasé attitude that helps her survive in a strict home and a city with few people who look like her, goes along with what Daisy wants, and often seeks out her companionship. Her involvement with Daisy’s tangled affairs becomes inevitable.

Certain scenes from The Great Gatsby are dropped into The Chosen and the Beautiful with faithfulness. Other intrusions by Gatsby, who may have sold his soul to attain wealth instead of becoming a bootlegger, take on a shape unique to the book.

Vo’s Gatsby himself is queer (again, no labels in the actual text), and something of a cad despite his love for Daisy; when Jordan meets him a magically hidden club where members of the LGBTQ community can be themselves, she isn’t shy about pointing out Gatsby’s recent encounter with a “rent boy” in crude terms. He sets his sights on Nick, too, putting him at instant odds with Jordan.

Gatsby’s other relationships and liaisons make his declaration of love for Daisy feel forced, but also color it as the obsession Fitzgerald may have intended it as (the original Gatsby has a naive quality, despite being a World War I veteran and a bootlegger, and though he never appears ruthless like Vo’s Gatsby, his innocence and belief in true love is more of a wish to turn back time than a reality). The scene where Gatsby knocks over the clock is even included in Vo’s version, though how he gets to Nick’s house is far messier and more awkward.

Needless to say, Nick’s character is also different. His relationship with Jordan is closer—Vo’s Jordan is also less detached, and less on a society pedestal, than Fitzgerald’s Jordan, making the attachment natural—though it’s no secret that Nick sees other people when he’s not with her. She does, too, but has far more feelings about his lack of devotion that he does, hinting at her vulnerability even as she claims she doesn’t care. I thought the eventual big reveal about Nick’s personality and nature effective and moving. Coupled with Jordan’s reaction, it made the book for me.

Vo also delves into other long-standing societal problems (namely xenophobia and racism), leaving immigrant Jordan, who is essentially a Dreamer, in a bad and unexpected position. Her interactions with other Vietnamese paper magicians are uncomfortable and leave her feeling like an outsider in two different cultures. Jordan also admits to avoiding Chinatown and other people who look like her, preferring to be a novelty on her own while fearing how white Americans, many of whom are hoping to expel foreigners with a pending bill, would view her in a cluster of Asian immigrants.

Jordan is really the best part of The Chosen and the Beautiful—and to be honest, I think she deserved her own story without Gatsby butting in, a tale inspired by The Great Gatsby rather than a retelling. By The Chosen and the Beautiful‘s poignant end, I wish there had been more Jordan, and maybe no Gatsby at all.

To learn more about this author, visit