Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Bookish Thoughts: A Deal With An Elf King (by Elise Kova) and An Enchantment of Ravens (by Margaret Rogerson)

Two very different fae-based fantasies... One a hit, one a bit of a miss!

A Deal With An Elf King by Elise Kova

The elves come for two things: war and wives. In both cases, they come for death.

Three-thousand years ago, humans were hunted by powerful races with wild magic until the treaty was formed. Now, for centuries, the elves have taken a young woman from Luella's village to be their Human Queen.

To be chosen is seen as a mark of death by the townsfolk. A mark nineteen-year-old Luella is grateful to have escaped as a girl. Instead, she's dedicated her life to studying herbology and becoming the town's only healer.

That is, until the Elf King unexpectedly arrives... for her.

Everything Luella had thought she'd known about her life, and herself, was a lie. Taken to a land filled with wild magic, Luella is forced to be the new queen to a cold yet blisteringly handsome Elf King. Once there, she learns about a dying world that only she can save.

The magical land of Midscape pulls on one corner of her heart, her home and people tug on another... but what will truly break her is a passion she never wanted.

My Thoughts:

Hades and Persephone... Beauty and The Beast. My catnip. My kryptonite. This book has all the elements and gives off all the vibes so, needless to say, I was hooked from the beginning and I freaking loved it. 

I loved the slowish burn of the romance and enjoyed the slow pace of the story - but acknowledge that some may find it irritating. 
The world-building is straightforward and uncomplicated... Especially when compared to Fantasy books in general but I feel like this is a point in its favour as it provides a backdrop for the romance between Luella and Eldas without ever drowning it out. The romance, the relationship between the pair, is front and centre. I'd even argue that this isn't a fantasy book... It's a romance in a fantasy setting and fantasy romance is a very different beast to a fantasy that contains romance... I think if more people went into it knowing that there'd be less complaining on Goodreads... But I digress. 

Neither character - Luella or Eldas - was particularly memorable on their own but I liked them both and I liked them together. I admired Luella's compassion and determination and I admired Elda's kindness even though it had to be tempered by duty to his people.  The secondary characters in the book were window dressing... Pretty underdeveloped and only there to push a plot point forward but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story. 

A Deal With An Elf King is not a perfect read but it ticked so many escapist and happy place boxes for me that it goes onto the keeper and love shelves. It was just what I needed right when I needed it most.

If I'm honest, I'd say that it's the kind of book that people will love or hate... And for me it's love.

Oh! One final point... I'd have been pretty miffed with some elements of the book's ending if I hadn't read the bonus epilogue that you get by signing up for the author's newsletter so that's something to bear in mind... It's something that should 100% be included in the actual freaking book and not as a subscriber grab but oh well. 

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Every enchantment has a price.

With a flick of her paintbrush, Isobel creates stunning portraits for a dangerous set of clients: the fair folk. These immortal creatures cannot bake bread or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and they trade valuable enchantments for Isobel’s paintings. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—Isobel makes a deadly mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes, a weakness that could cost him his throne, and even his life.

Furious, Rook spirits Isobel away to his kingdom to stand trial for her crime. But something is seriously amiss in his world, and they are attacked from every side. With Isobel and Rook depending upon each other for survival, their alliance blossoms into trust, perhaps even love . . . a forbidden emotion that would violate the fair folks’ ruthless laws, rendering both their lives forfeit. What force could Isobel's paintings conjure that is powerful enough to defy the ancient malice of the fairy courts?

Isobel and Rook journey along a knife-edge in a lush world where beauty masks corruption and the cost of survival might be more frightening than death itself.

My Thoughts:
I'd heard so many wonderful things about this book that I couldn't not buy it when I saw it come up on a 99p ebook sale. I was in a fae mood and it would have been rude not to. The cover is cool, the title is awesome and - as I said - people seemed to love it so I was excited... But then, it didn't take me long to realise that my favourite part of this book is likely to forever be the title: An Enchantment of Ravens. 

Now, I realise that sounds quite negative and I don't mean to be! An Enchantment of Ravens isn't a bad book, it's just a very specific kind of book that I think will leave people enchanted or completely underwhelmed and I was in the underwhelmed category. 

It had so much potential but I felt like it just never reached it.
I felt like I was being teased all the way through. Teased by a story that could sweep me away into another place but never did. Teased by a romance that could have been everything but wasn't. Teased by an opportunity that just never manifests. 

The world building is pretty cool, with an interesting take on the fae, but it leaves more unexplained than shared. The characters... Well, you barely scrape the surface of them. The pacing is weird, sometimes it's super slow and other times super fast. The romance has so much potential but left me feeling unsatisfied just like the ending which leaves too much hanging!

Rogerson is clearly a gifted writer able to evoke beautiful images and feelings with her words but the whole book felt like an unfulfilled promise and so it frustrated me more than it delighted me... but, just to be an awkward contraction, I enjoyed it just the same and read it cover to cover over a 24hr period.

I just don't know what to tell you... Except that I'd definitely read a sequel if there was to ever be one. Especially if that sequel tied off all the loose ends and fulfilled the promise that this book made but never quite delivered. 

Monday, 28 June 2021

Bookish Thoughts: To Kill A Fae, To Kill A King and To Kill The Dead by CS Wilde (Hollowcliff Detectives books 1-3)

The Hollowcliffe Detectives series is classed as Urban Fantasy but it is set in a fictitious world quite unlike our own so it's heavy on the fantasy and light on magical realism. 
This isn't a problem for me but it may be for others who want the things that go bump in the night to be mingling with a facsimile of the world as we know it. 

The series has a range of beasties with the major players being Fae, Sirens, Lycans, Witches and Vampires. Humans exist but are not the focus of the series.

The world-building is pretty light but the author gives you enough throughout the course of the books to satisfy. It's safe to say though that the series is very character-driven and if you don't care about Mera or Bast, you'll probably struggle.

The books build on each other so this is definitely a series you need to read from the beginning (and in order) otherwise there is no point.

Book One: To Kill A Fae

Fae enjoy playing dangerous games.

In detective Mera Maurea’s experience, three things motivated a murder: secrets, convenience, or passion. But none of the three can explain why the Summer King is dead.

With a tight deadline hanging over her head, Mera has to figure out who’s the culprit before the frail balance that holds the nation of Tagrad together crumbles into dust.
To aid her—or turn her life into a living hell, hard to tell which—is her fae partner Sebastian Dhay, a snarky detective with a penchant for the illegal. He’s a volatile wild card who will do anything to solve the murder, even if it means his doom.
The clock is ticking. And Mera is hiding a deadly secret of her own.

My Thoughts: 
Book one sets the scene and introduces you to Bast and Mera when they are forced to work together (at the expense of Mera's long-term police partner Julian) to solve a human/Fae murder. 

I liked that Mera was a Waterbreaker/Siren as I haven't read too many books featuring Sirens as a lead character. Her powers were interesting, she was a strong woman who got the job done and was fierce without being an annoyance. Her childhood was brutal and it was easy to see how it shaped the woman she grew to be. 

I loved Sebastian's character. In a word, he was yummy! I adored his sarcastic self and how he gelled with Mera despite her reservations. The slow-burning romance between the two was delicious! Definitely more than meets the eye with this guy and this pairing... Although, I really hope there isn't a love-triangle looming on the horizon with Mera, Bast and Julian. That would get on my nerves.

The pace of the story was good and I didn't guess the outcome of the case so that was a win!

All in all, definitely worth a read if you like UF/F reads and are looking for something new.

Book Two: To Kill A King by CS Wilde

The Night King is dead, and his killer is on the loose.
When Mera Maurea goes to Lunor Insul to investigate the Night King’s murder, she knows bringing her partner Sebastian Dhay is a mistake, mostly because he’s the victim’s freaking son.

Things would be a lot easier if Bast’s relationship with his four brothers wasn’t so… explosive. As the culprit keeps attacking the Night Court, Mera and Bast will have to catch him before all remaining Dhays are dead.

Everything is connected, and solving this case might just bring Mera closer to Poseidon.

My Thoughts:
Book two picks up not long after the end of the first book in the series. Mera and Bast are now officially permanent partners - in the detective sense - and have become poster-children for interborough/species collaboration.

Being the dream-team, it shouldn't be a surprise that they're asked to work a case involving the death of the Night King but, given that the King was Sebastian's father, it is.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The Night Kingdom's island of Lunar Insul was fascinating. Bast's family dynamic was gripping. From liked brothers to hated brothers and everything in between... It kept you on your toes and kept you guessing as Bast and Mera worked to solve the mystery of his father's death! We learned so much about his history and what made him walk away and become a cop... It was awesome. We also learned more about Mera and "the plot thickens" regarding her history and the Waterbreakers. 

The romance between Mera and Bast heats up and starts to take on a "fated mates" vibe which I'm not at all opposed to but I did find it weird how Julian (her former cop-partner and object of romantic interest) disappeared off the face of the earth in this book...

Book two as a whole was a faster-paced, more emotional, and interesting read than book one. I inhaled it in under a day and was constantly curious about what came next. It left me super excited for book three!

Book Three: To Kill the Dead by CS Wilde

All terrible things come in two.

Mera never imagined she would have to face a necromancer without Bast, her fae partner, but the Captain decided to separate them on a whim - or so she thinks.

Running against the clock to avoid an outbreak that could destroy the human borough, Mera is forced to work with Julian Smith, the man she used to love before the Night Prince came waltzing in her life.

Not good. Not good at all.

Meanwhile, Bast chases Poseidon with the help of his brothers, knowing it’s the only way to ensure Mera's safety. He’ll do anything to save her, even if it means his doom.

The dead are rising. And Poseidon is coming.

My Thoughts:
Book three is the busiest book of the series, so far! A mission to hunt the "big bad" Posideon separates Bast and Mera and sees Mera pairing back up with her former partner (Julian) to solve a case involving a necromancer. 

Separating Bast and Mera gave the book a different vibe from the others in the series and in bringing Julian back into the picture loose threads are resolved but not without some irritating (and completely unnecessary) relationship drama! Despite my irritation with the drama, it acted as the catalyst for Mera and Bast to sort themselves out and seals the deal on them as an official couple so I tolerated it with only minor outbursts. 

The story is another fast-paced one filled with death, chaos and major peril... There are huge reveals which will lead to an explosive series finale. I don't want to say more or I'll definitely spoil things for those intending to read but I'd guessed who the necromancer was before the "big reveal", I just didn't understand "how" it could be that person but it all made sense in the end!

A personal highlight of the story for me was how the events of book two had altered Bast's relationship with his brothers and how they really came through for him here...

All in all, I'm really looking forward to the conclusion of this series! So many questions. So many ways it could all go! 

A final point - I'm grumpy as fuck that I didn't know it wasn't a complete series going into it, and that I'd have a 9-12 month wait on the fourth and final book, but I'm sure it will be worth the wait!
(And since it's taken me so long to write this review, I only have a couple of months to wait now...)

*All books read in ebook format via Kindle Unlimited*

Friday, 4 June 2021

Bookish Thoughts! Hellbound Guilds and Other Misdirections by Annette Marie and Rob Jacobsen

*Spoiler-free review!*

PS - The Guild Codex Warped series (actually, all of them...) are available in Kindle Unlimited!

Agent Kit Morris. Has a nice ring, doesn't it?

It's a big step up from "wanted criminal" or "that weird con-artist guy with weirder psychic powers"—both of which recently applied to me. But my promotion to MagiPol agent comes with a few drawbacks.

First, supremely talented and effortlessly gorgeous Agent Lienna Shen won't agree to a dinner date with me. Second, my new assignment has pitted me against a guild with very bad taste in pets. Third, those pets are demons, and those demons want to kill me.

My psychic magic is great for conning people. It doesn't do jack shit against hellish orcs. If I screw this up, my dinner date will be with a demon—and I'll be the dinner. Even better, I kind of suspect this supposedly straightforward assignment is actually the tip of an unholy iceberg of power-hungry malefactors bent on destroying all law and order in the city.

I should probably mention that last part to my boss.

It feels like it's been forever since I was last immersed in the Guild Codex world and it has! 8 months! 8 long painful months since the final Demonized book released and 10 whole months since Kit had his debut solo outing in Warping Minds and Other Misdemeanours... AND IT WAS WORTH EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF WAITING! Annette Marie and Rob Jacobsen have written another winner.

Hellbound Guilds and Other Misdirections is a fast-paced, action-packed, adventure full of magic, mischief and chaos.
It sees Kit and Lienna plunged into a demon-tastic mystery and the outcome of it will determine the trajectory of Lienna's career...

I'm going to be honest, while I liked Lienna well enough in book one, I felt like I knew nothing about her. Hellbound Guilds - and Kit - start to peel back a few of those layers and it was very much appreciated. We get a bit more of her background and some clues as to what makes her tick but there is still a long way to go on the 'getting to know Agent Shen' front but I am here for it... The magical prodigy needs Kit in her life. They balance each other.

Kit... Well, he rocks as a character! He's so likeable and engaging. He has a refreshing way of viewing situations and people and I'm not exaggerating when I say that he brightened my day while reading. I was laughing out loud, smiling and feeling happy.

The combination of Kit and Lienna being goofy and badass in equal measures... It just works. Seeing another side of the MPD enriches the GC world.

The pacing, the writing, the world-building... Are all superb.

I cannot wait to see what comes next!

You do not have to have read the other Guild Codex series (Spellbound and Demonized) to read Kit's series, Warped. 
I'd strongly recommend that you read book one: Warping Minds and Other Misdemeanours.

The series interweaves with the other two (and it looks like it does so with the upcoming Unveiled series too). So, if you have read the others (and you should, you really should) you will get cameos from known characters, your brain will be whirling with how the events in this book are linked to the "big bad" of Spellbound and Demonized (because they are connected) and you'll also start piecing together how certain characters know each other and speculating on how all the events tie together...  It sounds exhausting BUT IT'S NOT! It's worth it. Every single book is different, every character their unique selves... If you love UF with heart and plenty of humour, you've gotta give them a try! 
The series stand alone but are better together. 
(And you'll want to read the others after reading one anyway... Just pick a series to start on and it'll all make sense... I promise! (But start at book one of whatever series you choose.)


Shameless plug!
Check out an interview I did with one of the authors - Rob Jacobsen - back when book one released...