The Witch King, Nancy Holland

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

““Were the poets of your people among those who used to be slaves?”
“Most.” She ducked her head. “And a slave will tell the stories his master wants to hear.””

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions included in this review are my own and are in no way affected by the exchange.

I haven’t read the previous installments in the series but I wanted to try this book, based on the synopsis and the cover. And well, who doesn’t want a fantasy book with a good story and a splendid world.

That’s what I hoped and that’s what I got. I was thrown into the world that has already existed for 2 books and it was rich, exciting and entertaining. There were old stories, that must’ve happened in the previous books, but I didn’t need any background for the characters to stay on track throughout the story.

Even if there were a few very predictable and expected turns, there was enough of the adventure and action to keep me hooked to the story till the last page.

The characters were interesting. Some were more attractive than others. I didn’t like Kyr as much as I liked Ciel. She was stubborn and full of wisdom, even for a slave that was treated badly all her life. She was spirited and guided me through the whole story.

Yes, sometimes the dialogs were too long. And yes, there were passages without any actual action. But I think it all was a part of a good story.

I also think that for the 3rd installment in a series, there were not a lot of characters involved. For a fantasy novel that is not in the YA genre, there were not as many things happening that there should be. But it was a romance after all and it was a good one. A better one than most of the books in this category usually come to be.

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Venom, Adrienne Woods

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“I guess even in a world of magic we are all slaves to cell phone towers.”

I guess you could guess the quality of the book only by the quote I chose for it. But here it goes.

This is a very short book, a novelette so the review is gonna be shorter than usual.

I searched for the definition of a novelette and, for my information and of all of you: Novelette is a short novel, typically one that is light and romantic or sentimental in character.

It was light but it was not romantic or sentimental.

I was at around 50 % when I asked myself the following question, “What does this book add to the story?”. And the answer was that it didn’t add anything new at all.

The only thing that was of any interest is the part where Blake and Elena have their first almost kiss. But even though to write 100 pages for it, it seemed a little bit too much.

There is no story, it is boring and too long for nothing. So if you wonder if you can skip it and go on with the rest of the series, then the answer is a clear “Yes, you can”. It is better to skip it than to force yourself to read it.

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Dawn of Dreams, Bronwyn Leroux

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Jaden stumbled, dimly aware that although he had never heard the sound before, it was as if he had spent his entire life waiting to hear it. Fear snaked down his spine.”

I got a copy of this book from netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

Dawn of Dreams is the book that hits you on the first page and takes you on an adventure until the last page is turned. Except for the fact that you need to survive entire paragraphs of needless actions and descriptions.

Yes, the opening was exciting. But when I was at around 1/3rd of the book, there was still nothing new that happened, except for an apparition of a strange monster and a medallion, which I must say was a wrapped in a tedious description itself. But it was only half of the book when the first really intriguing thing happens. There is just too much description in this book and a useless one at that.

We get to know what the protagonists do at all the times and with too much unnecessary detail, we get to see characters that appear for a chapter and we never see them again. It might be needed to construct a world, but it is tiresome if it lasts for the whole book.

The same goes for the protagonists themselves. They are deep, well-developed characters, but with too much detail given about them, their each and every thought, each and every action. And at the same time, they are too perfect. Kind, pretty and popular, with no defect to them that would make us easy to associate with them.

All in all, underneath this too detailed world, there is an outstanding plot, with a unique adventure and, of course, a unique monster. One that is scary and awful and makes for a perfect antagonist, even though it might not be the evilest creature in the series. A few hints are dropped but only the next books will tell.

This book could be shorter, by half, but, even though, it ends with a cliff-hanger with enough of intrigue to start the next one as soon as finishing the previous one.

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Frostbite, Adrienne Woods

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“I’d paralyzed their lives, their futures. I was like ice, like frost freezing their hopes and dreams. I was the living embodiment of frostbite.”

The third book in the series and Woods still manages to make a good hook with her story. It is well thought even though it is darker than the previous two. The death of Lucian, the grief suffered by Elena, the ever-growing dark side of Blake and the appearance of Cara were interesting twists, even if sometimes hated by me and probably other fans of the series.

Adrienne Woods kept her well-thought world and stories, full of suspense. Finally, we had some answers to the questions we had since Firebolt and they were good, even though they were a bit too predictable. But that seems to be the problem throughout the series.

I had one problem with the new character Cara and it was what is it with all the ‘honey’s and ‘sweet bun’s. I understand the love she felt for Elena but it was just a tad too exaggerated to be normal and believable.

The low didn’t come in the second book as it is usually the case but in the third one, as the repetition of phrases or parts of the dialog appear more than in the 2nd book where this problem has started. Grinding my teeth, I flipped the pages, skipping paragraphs to get fast to the more interesting parts.

But the main reason this book got two-star rating instead of the three-star one I gave to Firebolt and Thunderlight is that some of the paragraphs held no connection to each other, mostly by the end of the book. I felt as if A.Woods wanted to be done with it as fast as she could.

I needed to re-read some pages to be sure I didn’t miss anything when a problem appeared out of the thin air or some characters reacted in the way they were not supposed to. The book in itself was far too long and tedious compared to the other books in the series and in an urgent need of an editor.

I do love the story and the characters but I hope that the writing gets better in the next parts of the story as this one was a bit hard to get through.

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Thunderlight, Adrienne Woods

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“‘Hope doesn’t exist.’
‘It does. It comes to us in all sorts of forms. You just have to keep your eyes open to it.’”

I jumped from Firebolt to Thunderlight in less than a few hours, jumping from one book to the next one.

I am still not a huge fan of this type of 1st person type of narration. All that you must know, could think by yourselves and should imagine in your head is laid down on the page in a very detailed description. Nothing is left to your imagination but laid out in front of you on a silver platter.

It is, by far, not the only problem. The repetition looms over and creeps on the pages of this book. Elena’s feelings or same dialogs appear several times in different chapters, described in the same way, making you ask yourself if maybe you opened the book on the wrong page.

Elena’s and Lucian’s couple looks too cheesy and her relationship with his parents, that changes after they saw her, is far from believable. As well as the way Becky’s and Sammy’s parents seem to treat Elena. The characters are not developed and have no chemistry to them and it gets boring to hear them worry about the same things they did in the last book.

Elena seems to be the most lovable person of all Paegeia and the most important people are interested in her, from Blake to Lucian and Paul, the wyvern. She must be the center of it all.

The only exception to this routine seems to be Paul… This character was incredible. He changes from page to page, enveloped in mystery. Throughout the whole book, you don’t know what would you find in the end, him being good or him being bad. And A.Woods manages to surprise with this far from a happy ending in this new book.

Blake… We all know that by the end he will be good and he will be with Elena so no matter how dark, bad and wicked A.Woods is trying to make him, it is obvious that by the end of Starlight they will be together and deeply in love.

The world is richer and deeper and this installment, adding layers to the world we already know. It is one of the only things that makes these books so good and easy to read from cover to cover in one day.

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Firebolt, Adrienne Woods

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“You make your own future.”

I have mixed feelings about this one and here is why.

Adrienne Woods takes us deep into a well thought fantasy world from the first pages of the book. The immersion comes fast and hits hard. We don’t know who Elena is before we are thrown into a magical world of dragons and their riders. The book is set somewhere in between the medieval fantasy (dragons and magic) and urban fantasy (Paegeia is even more advanced than the world outside its borders).

The change comes fast and maybe too fast. I would’ve liked to see for myself how Elena suffered her father’s constant paranoia rather than being told about it. I think this was the problem throughout all book. Most of the time Woods told what happened and how Elena felt afterward instead of showing through the actions of the protagonists and their friends.

The characters don’t develop throughout the book, they rest as shallow as they were in the beginning. Craving for the most fashionable outfits and the perfect boyfriends and then jumping on an incredible adventure when a real threat arises even though they all might die.

I understand that as a character Woods wanted to show overwhelmed Elena when she arrived at Paegeia but even though her reaction to the death of her father seems dull. She is over it in about one chapter and is deep in a relationship with a prince of Paegeia by the next one.

The romance and all the relationships are far too easy and far from normal. The first girls Elena meets are instantly her friends and the first boy she sees is her perfect boyfriend. Well, technically the second one, but I have no doubt the first one will be hers too. Take that for a fairy tale.

The book is just too predictable about it. And not only the relationships, the adventures too. I didn’t feel surprised at any turn in the story and wasn’t relieved when the perfect happy ending arrived (almost perfect).

All in all, for a fantasy, even though it is a YA one, the world was well thought and well structured. The school for dragons reminded me of Harry Potter, but there is no way to escape it. After the success of the Harry Potter series, anyone confronted with the words magical and school will think about Hogwarts. But the first book in the Dragonian series stood apart and had its own background and conflicts.

But before I put this book to rest on one of my shelves, I want to take a moment and talk about editing. There were far too many grammatical errors and adverbs for a novel that is published, even if independently. “Show, don’t tell”, a lesson that was missed by Adrienne Woods.

This was a good enough read that I am already busy reading the next one.

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Flamecaster, Cinda Williams Chima

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“We don’t protect them because they’re weak. We protect them because they are strong, and strong people make enemies.”

This was one of the books that I got to pass the time while I was on my 20-day trip. I rarely read so many books, so fast and one after another. I read fast, but normally I don’t have enough time for it.

I have not read Seven Realm series and maybe I missed something, I think all the fans of C. W. Chima will tell me that of course, I did. But I came in green and I found it as a good start for the YA series Shattered Realms, even though it is clearly meant to be a part of a larger story.

Flamecaster… I still don’t understand why this was the name of this book… Well, technically one of the main characters was called this way and C. W. Chima tells us why, but I didn’t feel like it was enough. The explanation certainly didn’t satisfy me.

There is a lot of work done on character development. They all have their problems, their stakes in the conflict and its resolution. They all have a different point of view which is understandable since they all have a different background. We can easily relate to all of the characters in the book.

I liked the writing, it was sharp, concise, showing enough of the world to leave the rest to my imagination. The characters were attractive, keeping me turning the pages to figure out what is going to happen to them, to discover who they are.

But what I don’t like about some books is when there is a need to show a scene or a few from the point of view of a secondary character to avoid any future plot-holes. Such is the case for the part of the book narrated from Destin and Lila. I think the author easily switched from one character to another, showing the world through their eyes, each with his or her own view. But the constant change in the narrator kept me wondering who were the real protagonists of the book.

And the same went for the story arc. I understand that this is a part of a series, but even though I had trouble figuring out the conflict for a long time. I mean, yes, it is kind of obvious, but with so many different protagonists I had too many doubts. I still don’t understand the reason for the presence of the St Malthus Priests in the book, except to cause tension in the moments when it is much needed. I guess the explanation will follow in the next books in the series, but for me, it will rest a mystery.

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The Master Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Decide where you want your life to go before you set it rolling.”

As with The Glass Magician, I didn’t even have half-a-day between finishing one book and starting the other. And I was disappointed.

From the first pages I felt less enthralled. The story was not as attractive to me. From the synopsis I had read before starting it, I hoped for me. Ceony seemed rather stupid in this book and Emery mostly absent.

I would rather understand a bad second book and a good third one. That’s usually the case when there is a trilogy. The transition tends to worsen in the middle of the series and pick up again in the ending. This series did the opposite.

That is not to say I didn’t like the ending. One of the things that is most important to me in a series is how the author will finish it. I love open endings, even though they leave me with an aching heart and I love the happy endings, even though not everyone gets one. And Charlie N. Holmberg found that perfect balance for a good one.

I just hoped for more of Ceony and Emery during the book and I found their relationship absent during all of it. The romance that made me smile and hope during The Glass Magician, was no longer there.

New characters appeared. The encounter with Pritt, the boy and now the man who hated Emery for his bullying and I guess other differences, was welcome. I absolutely loved that he was there because I wondered about his life as a magician from the moment he was mentioned in the first book, but he wasn’t developed until the last book. Bannet, another student from her past also was there to make for a richer world. But the characters were shallow and with no backstory.

The tension I felt during the first two installments were absent from this book. Ceony did things not to protect someone or in a sense of urgency, but because… Well, I don’t think I can answer that. I found her boring, annoying and not easy to relate to.

Even though that the enemy is even more evil than Grath, the antagonist from the second installment of the series, the only conflict that seemed to flow through the book was ‘Will Ceony and Emery finally be together or not?’

The book was addictive, showing excellent writing that Charlie N. Holmberg is good at, but at the same time frustrating as nothing of interest was happening and no tension was present. This was a good read for the most part of it. It gave a nice final touch to the series even if not the best one.

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The Glass Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“But a man doesn’t have to have dark magic to do dark things.”

I jumped from The Paper Magician right onto The Glass Magician. I was biased starting this book because I was already in love with the two characters. But I guess this is a show of good writing, when you just can’t stop yourself from jumping from one page to the other, from one book to the other.

Nevertheless, I didn’t come with high hopes. How many times did you love a book so much that you go for the next one in the series and it just dull and the writing is not as good? Well, this was not the case. If something I found this book with a more gripping story and full of interesting twists that were not there in The Paper Magician.

Needless to say that the scenery was less confusing, but that is not such a hard thing to do when you switch from memories, hopes and fears to the real world, with persecutions, fights and murder. The unique world created by Charlie N. Holmberg keeps surprising with the focus on the glass magic in this new installment of the series.

Some new characters and more presence from the old ones were also a welcome sight. It made the world richer and more welcoming. But there was no story to them. They are there to fill the gaps with no background nor future for them in the series.

On the other hand, the antagonist was more profound with a reason to pursue Ceony, with a rich past and a deep personality, contrary to the one in The Paper Magician. Grath is a powerful enemy, he is respected and feared.

And the love story… Don’t start me on that. I love a good old love story. The more I read, I find fewer and fewer passages that clutch my heart and make me smile like a school-girl but this one certainly did the trick. Yes, it might be wrong, they are a magician and an apprentice, almost 10 years the difference… But was it good? YES!

But, and there is always a but, when there are only 4 stars and not 5. I don’t like a switch from one character to another for the sake of avoiding plot-holes. I think there are other ways of showing a scene that happened without changing the protagonist of the book. I respect Holmberg’s decision, but for me, you either write all the book from one character or all of the book is switching between the two. To find a chapter written from Emery’s point of view was a surprise and for me not a welcome one. I would rather hear it told from his lips when Ceony wakes up in the hospital than to see the scene through his eyes.

And well, we’ll see where this young and smart apprentice will take us in the next book.

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The Paper Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“But she still had time. Surely she still had time. Stories like this one weren’t meant to end badly.”

I went into the book waiting to be disappointed, waiting for the magic of a good story to fade. But it didn’t.

The reviews and the ratings were not ravishing and this book migrated between my shelves of to-read and not to-read for some time. I had doubts, but the synopsis and the cover were so promising. I hoped that my judgment of the book by its cover (even though no one should ever do it, but we all do it anyway) would not fail me and it didn’t.

Yes, it had flaws. Yes, sometimes the details were too brisk. Yes, the story was sometimes confusing.

But I loved it. The Paper Magician surprised me with a new kind of story, taken out of the typical perimeter set for the YA novels, bound to be about romance, strong almost omnipotent protagonist and the events swirling all around her. Instead, the book has a unique world constructed around magicians bound to the elements. Ceony has hers chosen for her and it is paper. For the next few years she will spend her time as an apprentice with a paper magician named Emery Thane. What a useless material paper must be, you may say. But no, as Charlie N. Holmberg shows us it is not exactly the case. With its own limits, paper can save Emery and that is what Ceony is determined to do.

The main romance line is foreseeable after about 30% of the book, but it is lacking. There were some hints dropped here and there and the vision at the end of the book promises a good deal, but there is no actual romance in this book, nothing that would make your heart swell with emotion.

Even though the scenery is ever changing, the descriptions give enough detail to immerse you in the world lived by Ceony even if it is hidden in another man’s heart.

As many reviews had said there is a bit of a discrepancy with the setting. The book is set somewhere between the Victorian era and the modern times, but Ceony speaks as if she was living in the present days with expressions that weren’t present in those times. It didn’t bother me, but if you love your historical-fiction right to the tiniest facts, than this will be a constant annoyance for you.

The protagonist herself was a rich character, with her own troubles, mistakes, guilt and hidden powers that surprised me and made Ceony all the more likable and strong. She has her own kind of humor and ways of saying things that make her stand out as a strong protagonist. Contrary to her, the antagonist in lacking in compelling traits. It seems as if the Excisioner only does things because she wants to, there is no plan, only determination to give revenge.

But in some ways the story was more about Thane than about Ceony. Holmberg revealed more secrets about the magician than about his apprentice and it was told in an unusual way, through the memories, hopes and fears, rather than through dialogs and monotonous recollections.

I had some questions through the book, for some things I consider almost plot-holes. But it didn’t bother me for too long for the narrative was light and addictive.

The next two books will tell if the whole series is worth reading or not.

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