Book Review: Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz

Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz

Genre: Young adult, contemporary fantasy

Publishing Info: October 2020 by Page Street Kids

Pages: 368

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner—the only player without a dragon steed—is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.

But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire—a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form—the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport.

Blazewrath Games is a creative and fun entry into the YA landscape, integrating fantasy elements into our contemporary world in a way that felt believable and magical. As much as I love high fantasy, there is something unique about the way contemporary fantasy makes magic feel closer, more real. The world Amparo Ortiz has created feels like a completely plausible alternative version of our own world. One where there are dragons, tournaments, and magic wand shops. Something about it just captured my imagination and that tingly magical feeling that you only get from some books.

We’re introduced to Lana, who dreams of playing in the Blazewrath World Cup for Puerto Rico. Lana is a very relatable character – she has dreams, is driven and has a strong belief in doing what is right. Amparo Ortiz also explores what it means to belong and Lana’s relationship with Puerto Rico after moving to the US as a child, and how that affects her identity and her place amongst the Puerto Rico team. A lot of readers will really connect to Lana’s internal struggles and appreciate seeing this represented on the page.

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February 2022 Wrap Up

My February Wrap Up is coming a bit later than planned as the last few weeks have been very busy. We’ve now moved into our new home! It’s been hectic but I’m so happy we’re finally here. There’s still a lot of unpacking and sorting out to do. I am missing blogging so hope to be back more regularly once things have settled down! Unsurprisingly, I haven’t had much time for reading or writing this month, but I have read a couple of great books.

Gods & Monsters by Shelby Mahurin (audiobook) ⭐⭐⭐ – The finale of the Serpent & Dove series brought the story to a good conclusion, but was weakened by the planned duology being drawn out into a trilogy. The plot of Gods & Monsters was too similar to Blood & Honey, and it felt repetitive. Having said that, I still love this series and the characters, and would recommend it to those who enjoy more character-focused fantasy romance.

Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz ⭐⭐⭐.5 – Competition plotlines are one of my favourite tropes, so combine that with dragons (another of my favourite fantasy elements) and there was no way I wasn’t going to pick this one up. It was a quick, fun YA fantasy read and I loved the integration of the magical elements into the contemporary world.

My Fairyloot edition of The Righteous by Renée Ahdieh finally arrived. The Beautiful was a surprise favourite for me so I want to catch up on the rest of the series.

My most anticipated release of the year – One For All by Lillie Lainoff – also arrived recently and I felt so emotional holding this book in my hands. I can’t wait to read it and share my review. Disability representation is so important and seeing the love this book has received has warmed my heart.

What books have you enjoyed this month? Chat with me in the comments!

Book Review: A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

Book cover for A Vow So Bold and Deadly

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: January 2021 by Bloomsbury YA

Pages: 424

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Grey has been revealed as the rightful prince of Emberfall. But the kingdom is crumbling fast, torn between his claim and that of the reigning Prince Rhen and Princess Harper. Newly crowned as Queen of the enemy kingdom Syhl Shallow, Lia Mara struggles to rule with a gentler hand than her mother. But as Grey moves closer to claiming the crown of Emberfall, both Harper and Lia Mara are forced to question where they stand – and how far they can follow the dictates of their hearts.

Brigid Kemmerer’s heart-pounding saga comes to a thrilling climax, as two kingdoms come closer and closer to conflict – and an old enemy resurfaces who could destroy them all.

A Vow So Bold and Deadly is the final book in Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreakers trilogy. Having loved the first book, and felt a little disappointed by the second, I had mixed feelings going into the final instalment. However, because I loved A Curse So Dark and Lonely, I was still excited to dive in and see how the trilogy would end.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken just didn’t hit the same note for me as A Curse So Dark and Lonely, and I think some of that is because Harper has such a tiny part in the second book. In the final book, however, we get POV chapters from all four main characters – Harper, Rhen, Grey and Lia Mara – and I think this contributed to me enjoying this book a lot more, as Harper was my favourite character in the first book and part of what made me fall in love with it.

With four POV characters to follow, there was a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time, but I felt this was handled well and I did like getting POVs for all the main characters.

This book was a quick read for me, but I have felt throughout the series that the plot is quite simple. There aren’t many subplots or twists and turns, in the sense that it’s quite a straightforward plot. Which isn’t necessarily bad, I just felt that, after I finished this book, in some ways not much had happened, and some things were a bit predictable.

Although I did enjoy this book more than A Heart So Fierce and Broken, I just didn’t love it as much as A Curse So Dark and Lonely, which is definitely my favourite book in the series. Some things still seemed unresolved in this book and I wonder whether it’s been left open for a sequel or spin-off. Some elements and characters’ stories just didn’t feel finished. I would still recommend this series though and I’m excited to read Brigid Kemmerer’s next fantasy release.  

Book Review: The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni (eARC)

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: eARC from Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 416

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Kiva Meridan is a survivor. For ten years, she has worked as the healer in the notorious death prison, Zalindov, making herself indispensable. Kept afloat by messages of hope from her family, Kiva has one goal and one goal only: stay alive.

Then one day the infamous Rebel Queen arrives at the prison on death’s door and Kiva receives a new message: Don’t let her die. We are coming.

The queen is sentenced to the Trial by Ordeal: a series of elemental challenges against the torments of air, fire, water, and earth, assigned to only the most dangerous of criminals. Aware the sickly queen has little chance of making it through the Trials alive, Kiva volunteers to take her place. If she succeeds, both she and the queen will be granted their freedom.

But no one has ever survived.

And with an incurable plague sweeping Zalindov, a mysterious new inmate fighting for Kiva’s heart, and a prison rebellion brewing, Kiva can’t escape the terrible feeling that her trials have only just begun.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Prison Healer is the first book by Lynette Noni I’ve read and I was excited to dive into this intriguing sounding novel. The description and concept of a story set entirely in a prison caught my attention, so I was very happy to be approved for an eARC and get the opportunity to read The Prison Healer early. Unfortunately, the opening chapters didn’t capture my attention and I almost DNFed quite early on. I kept on reading and the last quarter or so of the book had me much more riveted, so I was glad I didn’t give up on it. Until that twist on the final page, which left me feeling incredibly exasperated. More on that later.

The beginning of this review will be spoiler-free, with a section at the end containing major spoilers so I can properly explain why this twist ending was so frustrating. I’ll clearly signpost when the spoilers start so you can avoid them if you wish to.

The idea of a book set entirely in a deadly prison is very intriguing. Setting is really important in books located in entirely one location like this, the setting has to be considered as another character. Unfortunately, the setting didn’t have any personality. I wanted to be completely immersed in this dark and dangerous place, but I didn’t feel anything. There was no atmosphere or tension. We’re told people hardly ever leave this prison alive, that Kiva is unique for having managed to survive ten years. Almost everything we know about the prison we’re told, not shown. Because there was no atmosphere, it felt flat. In the latter half we did get to see the darker side to the prison, but for most of the book I didn’t feel afraid for the main character, I didn’t feel the tension that should come from a deadly prison setting.

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Book Review: Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance  

Publishing Info: September 2020, Harper Teen

Pages: 528

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

After narrowly escaping death at the hands of the Dames Blanches, Lou, Reid, Coco, and Ansel are on the run from coven, kingdom, and church—fugitives with nowhere to hide.

To elude the scores of witches and throngs of chasseurs at their heels, Lou and Reid need allies. Strong ones. But protection comes at a price, and the group is forced to embark on separate quests to build their forces. As Lou and Reid try to close the widening rift between them, the dastardly Morgane baits them in a lethal game of cat and mouse that threatens to destroy something worth more than any coven.

Serpent & Dove was a surprise read for me last year. There was so much hype around it that I was curious to read it and ended up loving it more than I expected. The sequel, Blood & Honey, has not been received quite so well, so I was a little cautious going into reading it as I didn’t want to set my expectations too high and be disappointed. 

It took me a while to orientate myself at the beginning of the book, and I had to search for a recap online in the end because there were some important points from the end of Serpent & Dove which I just couldn’t remember. So I would definitely recommend rereading Serpent & Dove or looking for a recap if it’s been a while since you read the first book.

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Book Review: Shielded by KayLynn Flanders

Shielded by KayLynn Flanders

Genre: Young adult, fantasy

Publishing Info: July 2020 by Delacorte Press (Fairyloot edition)

Pages: 424

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s–her brother’s–magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong–the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.

Shielded wasn’t on my radar but it came in the Fairyloot July box so I decided to give it a go. My initial impressions weren’t so good, but this one grew on me as I read. The opening chapters felt very introductory and it took too long for the story to get going.

The section in the Wild dragged on and at times it read like a list of Jenna’s actions, just her doing one thing and then another and another. Since she spent so long in the Wild, I was expecting something that happened in that part to become significant later, but there wasn’t a meaningful connection to anything else, so this part of the book needn’t have taken so long. Besides being referred to as a dangerous place in between the two kingdoms, the Wild isn’t referred to much in the rest of the book.  

I didn’t enjoy the writing style. It could be a bit clunky, and I times I even felt confused. There were bits of dialogue or description which I had to read a few times to understand what the author meant, and sometimes I still didn’t understand. Between some of the chapters there were short one or two page snippets showing what the villains of the story were up to. They were written in a very vague way, perhaps to provoke intrigue in the reader, but I just felt confused. Speaking of the villains, they were quite one-dimensional and I didn’t really get much grasp of their motivations.  

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Book Review: Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: June 2020 by Page Street Kids (Fairyloot edition)

Pages: 385

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training, she plans on challenging her rival for the position of the queen’s next royal spy, but she’s forced to abandon her plan when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

With her mysterious ability uncovered, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King—the only person powerful enough to control the haunted Dead Wood that separates the kingdoms and, ultimately, enforces peace. But the Spider King’s hold of the Dead Wood is weakening, and he needs Sirscha to use her newly awakened powers to obliterate the bloodthirsty forest. As war looms on the horizon, it’s up to Sirscha to learn what she can do and who she can trust before time runs out.

Forest of Souls is a fast-paced fantasy novel with an Asian-inspired setting and I absolutely loved it. I’ve read a lot of character-driven YA fantasy recently so I enjoyed reading something that was more plot-driven and a bit faster paced. The Dead Wood is so spooky! Some of the scenes were really atmospheric and creepy! The way the trees partly come to life and grab at the characters as they’re trying to get through the forest was really gripping. The world is painted really vividly and I loved learning about the various peoples, their cultures, history and magic, as I read.

There was no romance in this book and I have to say I was really happy about that. Every YA book seems to be either romance-heavy or at least have a main romantic subplot. So it was refreshing to read a fantasy novel that didn’t focus on romance or try and shoehorn a romance in.

Theyen was hands down the best character. He’s so full of sass and has some amazing lines. He really brought the scenes he was in to life. However, most of the supporting characters just didn’t seem very complex. By the end of the book we know hardly anything about them as the focus is so much on Sirscha. While I appreciated the book focused on her personal journey, I would have liked to have known the other characters more. Even though this book is clearly plot-driven, it would have benefited from the supporting characters having more depth. Having said that, I did love all the characters and can’t wait to see them again in the sequel.

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Fairyloot June 2020 Unboxing

June is my birthday month so I was excited to get this box since it was due to come around my birthday. Unfortunately, it was delayed a couple of weeks due to the coronavirus so it didn’t come until about mid-July.

Fairyloot is a UK-based YA fantasy subscription box. If you subscribe, you get a box a month which includes a hardback book and 5-6 exclusive goodies around a theme.

The theme for this box was ‘A Different Kind of Magic’ and they revealed it would be a two-book box which is always awesome!

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Book Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Mass

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: September 2014 by Bloomsbury

Pages: 562

Star Rating: 4.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Consumed by guilt and rage, Celaena can’t bring herself to spill blood for the King of Adarlan. She must fight back…

The Immortal Queen will help her destroy the king – for a price. But as Celaena battles with her darkest memories and her heart breaks for a love that could never last, can she fulfil the bargain and head the almighty court of Terrasen? And who will stand with her?

Heir of Fire is the third book in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series and so far it’s been getting better and better with each book. Sarah J. Maas introduces us to new locations and new characters in Heir of Fire which helped keep the story fresh. While the first two books were focused on Rifthold, Heir of Fire is split between three locations and storylines – Celaena in Wendlyn, Chaol and Dorian in Rifthold, and Manon in the Ferian Gap.

Celaena’s story and character development had me gripped the most. Celaena is broken and grieving after the events of Crown of Midnight and she grows a lot in this book. Celaena learns to use her magic and it is not easy. I appreciated that she didn’t get a grip of her magic instantaneously. It took time for her to learn to control her power. I’m not always keen on training sequences as they can be a bit samey and boring, but I didn’t find that at all in this book. Rowan is an interesting addition to the cast. He and Celaena don’t get on at first but their friendship grows as they realise they have more in common than they thought. I didn’t find the sections with Chaol and Dorian as entertaining. Although these parts were necessary for the plot, in places I just wasn’t that gripped by their storyline. Though I did like the introduction of Aedion Ashryver.

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Book Review: Burn by Patrick Ness

Burn by Patrick Ness

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: June 2020 by Walker Books  

Pages: 384

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1956 Sarah Dewhurst’s father shocks her by hiring a dragon to work the farm. The dragon is a smaller blue rather than the traditional larger reds, though even the reds are now scarce. When the blue dragon, Kazimir, unexpectedly saves Sarah and her friend Jason Inagawa from the attentions of the racist police deputy, Kelby, everything changes. Sarah is part of a prophecy and she must escape the clutches of Malcolm, an assassin from a Believer Cell, the dragon-worshiping cult. When Sarah, Malcolm, and Kazimir eventually converge, they are thrown into another universe, where dragons seem never to have existed. Can they save this world and the one they left?

Patrick Ness’s latest book, Burn, took me on a journey I was not expecting. This is my second Patrick Ness book and I can’t quite put my finger on how to describe his work. He has a unique style and his books always seem unpredictable. Although they do sometimes use tropes (e.g. a prophecy in this book) they seem different to most YA books. This time, he’s taken dragons and put them in 1950s America. That concept alone had me desperate to read it.

Burn imagines a world where dragons are real and are a normal part of life. There has been a truce of sorts between humans and dragons, meaning dragons mostly stick to their own areas. There is a lot going on in this book. We have dragons, the Cold War, FBI agents, a cult and a prophecy. And it works. Patrick Ness has created a world where dragons wandering round rural America seemed totally normal. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot as I think this is one of those books where it’s best going into it not knowing much. At the midpoint it went in a direction I wasn’t expecting and kept me on my toes. There were so many twists and I loved that I never knew what was going to happen next.                                                                                   

There were a lot of characters packed into a short book, so we don’t get to know them in that much depth. But I felt I knew enough about them to be invested in their stories. Kazimir was my absolute favourite character. Patrick Ness does such an amazing job of showing his personality through his body language and facial expressions. Plus, he has some of the best lines. Although this is mostly a serious save the world kind of book, there are also some lines that had me chuckling.

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