The Last Magician

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell is a YA fantasy novel with magic, mayhem and more.

In a battle that has gone on for decades, Mageus, those with magical abilities, have had to hide in the shadows or risk being persecuted by the Order, a secret society that wants to exterminate all magic in favor of science. In the hopes of winning this fight, the Order created the Brink, a magical barrier that traps all Mageus on the island of Manhattan. Any who wish to cross the Brink, risk losing their magic or sub-coming to death entirely.

In modern day New York, magic is fading and a teenage girl is the only one who can help strengthen magic and destroy the Brink. Esta is a thief and has been training all her life for this one task, to travel back in time and collect an ancient book of magic before a man, known only as the Magician, destroys it and ruins any chance of saving magic.

But things and people aren’t what they seem and Esta becomes torn between doing what is right and doing what must be done. The past is a dangerous place and Esta must make even more dangerous allies in order for her plans to succeed. Can Esta complete her task? Will she be able to help save magic? And who can she trust when time doesn’t always stand still?

There is something about a ragtag group of misfits I just can’t get enough of. You just gotta love characters on the outskirts of society, who live in the shadows but still have a heart. We get quite a few of those in this book. In fact, I couldn’t help thinking about  Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows a few times when Dolph, Esta and the team were all working together, each with their own motives and secrets.

I wasn’t actually expecting to like this book, but it turned out to be a lot more dynamic then I thought it was going to be. The story is actually pretty straightforward until about 3/4 of the way through and then we learn a whole lot more. At first, I wasn’t sure how this book was going to be anything other than a standalone but the last few chapters gave us a lot of branches to go down for a sequel. I am sort of hoping this one will be a duology though and not a series because I just don’t know if there is enough there to keep it going at the same level.

Overall, this was an entertaining read and I am looking forward to the next one. This one gets a solid 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Advertisements

One Dark Throne

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake is the second book in the Three Dark Crowns series– a YA fantasy series, which is now a 4 book series instead of two.

The ascension year has begun and Katharine, Arsinoe, and Mirabella must fight for the crown. But each of their sisters have their own struggles to face, along with the death that is threatened by each of their hands. Once weak Katharine is now strong and changed since surviving being thrown down a ravine. Arsinoe is still coming to terms with the fact that she is a poisoner and not a naturalist. And Mirabella’s memories of her sister’s haunt her, making her unwilling to kill them.

As the game continues, each sister must look within themselves and figure out what they truly want and to what lengths they are willing to go to get it. But will they do what must be done when poison, bears and lightening threatens? And what if the island itself doesn’t like the decisions they make?

We learned so much more in this book! Reasons I thought Katharine survived the ravine are completely wrong and there is so much more to the island then I originally understood. There are also several characters who do things so out of character that it is a real shock. I want to say that this one is just a bit more dynamic than the first one and thankfully there isn’t as much Jules/Joseph drama.

I have to say I am still rooting for Arsinoe in this one, although both of the other sisters have grown on me at least a little. I hated Mirabella’s character in the first book and I still don’t find her super interesting in this one, but at least I didn’t mind reading her chapters. I do really like Billy as a character and the whole Billy/Arsinoe ship. And even Jules’ plot-line gained a bit more momentum.

Ultimately, I thought Blake really added a lot to the series in this one. I liked the world building in the first one but I think she fleshes it out even more in One Dark Throne. I like where the series is heading and am interested to see how the story plays out. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Mask of Shadows

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller is the first book in a new young adult fantasy series. Sallot Leon is a thief, a street fighter and thirsty for revenge. Sal wants nothing more than to escape and become something… more. When Sal robs a rich, noble woman and learns about a contest to become part of the Left Hand–a group of four prestigious assassins in service to the Queen–Sal know’s that this is a chance for a new life and potentially revenge.

So begins the audition. The auditioners are all given masks and numbers and one goal… to kill the competition. Amidst this game of poison, lies and bloodshed the participants must hone their skills and develop new ones that will serve them in court. But the game soon becomes even more lethal than anyone could have imagined. Rumors fly and Sal must decide if becoming Opal is worth putting aside revenge.

Does Sal have the skills to win this game? And could lies lurking in the shadows change the face of the game forever?

I really wanted to like this one. There is something about a series starting off in a game, a contest, a trial that really intrigues me. Unfortunately, Mask of Shadows did not deliver for me. The contest itself was fine, but I couldn’t get into the rest of the story; the background, history and developing plot that is supposed to propel the series onward… I don’t know didn’t make sense or just didn’t interest me much. It almost felt like the author wanted to incorporate more but was hesitant to do so.

I am also not totally convinced that Miller succeeded in what she wanted to do with our main character Sal. Sal is supposed to be this gender fluid character–in a dress she is a “her,” in pants he should be referred to as “he” and all other times as they or their. We are told this several times. A success in that you don’t actually know what gender Sal is biologically but the character did feel more feminine to me… that could be because I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was female. I also don’t really feel like this should be labeled a LGBT book because gender is not meant to play any role in Sal’s life; we are meant to look at Sal as a person not as feminine or masculine. Anyway, obviously my thoughts are conflicted here as I keep rambling on.

I guess my biggest problem with this book is that it didn’t wow me. It was one I could take or leave. The ending didn’t feel totally believable and my feelings toward it are mostly blasé. This one gets 2 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Crown’s Fate

The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye is the sequel and conclusion to The Crown’s Game. When we left off, Pasha’s coronation as Tsar was only months away, Vika had been named Imperial Enchanter and Nikolai was presumed dead at the conclusion of the game. Barely a week has gone by, magic is growing and Russia is full of unrest.

But all isn’t as it seems. Nikolai is not dead but merely a shadow of himself, caught in a dream and growing darker by the day. Pasha faces doubts of his legitimacy and his fitness to rule. And Vika is finding it difficult to adapt to the loss of freedom that comes with being Imperial Enchanter.

Can Nikolai, Pasha and Vika restore the bond between them that was broken by the crown’s game? Will Russia survive a resurgence of magic and the turmoil it causes? And who will be caught in the crossfires?

Womp, womp. This was an OK sequel. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like it had the same flow and feel of the first book. I like the competition of the game and the tied fates of the competitors in the first book and this felt sort of forced in the second.

There were a lot of allusions to other Russian myths and fairytales, what with the resurgence of magic, and I kept waiting to get a few more glimpse of Baba Yaga or the fish king that was mentioned. These little bites were thrown in and then really only addressed in the end as something the Imperial Enchanter would have to look into. I’ve been so into Russian literature and fantasy lately that it just would have been nice to have more of this.

One of the biggest problems with this book was that the author tried to put in several branches to lead you in the wrong direction, so you wouldn’t expect the end but these weren’t really successful for me. The ending was terribly predictable and tied up a little too neatly if you asked me. The way this book was set up, I just felt that someone shouldn’t have had a happy ending. But a lot of readers like neat little packages and for them this book will be completely satisfying.

The more I am thinking about this one, I think I am giving it 2.5 stars not 3. It was entertaining in that it passed the time but it really wasn’t one of my favorites. Not a bad read but lacking in some areas.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Roar

Roar by Cora Carmack is the first book in a new YA fantasy series called Stormheart.

In this world, magical storms threaten and only those who control them hold any real power. Aurora Pavan is heir to one of the most esteemed Stormling families in the land and will one day take up her mothers mantel as protector and ruler of Pavan. There is only one problem, Aurora has no powers.

For years her family has kept this secret about their barren daughter but Aurora is now eighteen, the rage season is upon them and she is expected to start fighting the storms that threaten her home. In an effort to maintain the throne, Aurora is forced into an arranged marriage to a man whom she loathes. When all seems lost, Aurora stumbles upon a group of hunters and learns that there is another way to fight storms.

Realizing there is another way to retain her crown and still protect her people, Aurora becomes Roar and joins this rag-tag group of hunters in the hopes of finding her own way. But Roar finds more than just magic on this journey–together with a handsome hunter, Roar will find the true power within and forge the bonds she’s secretly longed for all her life. But what will she do when Pavan is threatened? Will she face the life she left behind? Will she find the strength within to do what must be done?

I stumbled across this one as an Audible recommendation and I actually really liked it. This concept that the world is beset by storms that are almost sentient and only a rare few with stormling powers can stop them, was just a unique concept that I hadn’t heard about before.

The world building really shined in this book. It’s been a while since I read a fantasy with a really good foundation and I think Roar achieved that. You can tell that this first book is meant to build a base for the rest of the story. We learn about the world, Aurora, the storms and then we are introduced to the “evil villain” who Aurora will most likely have to face throughout the rest of the series. So things are going to get a whole lot more complicated, I just hope Carmack doesn’t overly complicated things and keeps the same feel as this first book.

There is just something about a group of misfits you just got to love and that’s what the hunters are. I really liked Jinx and Bate and I wished we got more of all of them. Instead the focus is primarily on Roar, Locke and occasionally Duke. I hope we get more of the whole group in the next one.

The only reason this one gets four stars instead of five is because I thought the back and forth between Roar and Locke was a little overdone. I loved the banter and the arguing but there was a little too much we can’t but we want to but he doesn’t she doesn’t, etc. Rolled my eyes a few times. So four stars it is.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Crown’s Game

The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye is the first book in a young adult fantasy series full of magic, Russian royals and more.

Vika Andreyev and Nikolai Karimov are very different people with one extraordinary thing in common… magic. Since they were little Nikolai and Vika have been training for one job, to become the imperial enchanter to the Tsar of Russia. But there can only be one enchanter, so the Tsar enacts The Crown’s Game.

The Crown’s Game is a secret, ancient duel of magical skill, pitting enchanter against enchanter until a winner has been declared. And for the loser? Death. But circumstance and conscience get the best of Vika and Nikolai and neither know if they will be able to finish this brutal game. Who will win and at what cost?

Hmm, I have mixed feelings about this one. Ever since I’ve read The Night Circus, I’ve loved a good magical duel/love story and this definitely was that. Vika and Nikolai are connected in so many ways and yet one of them must die. I just wish I liked the characters more. I wasn’t really impressed by any of our characters. I didn’t find them terribly unique and couldn’t find myself rooting for one over the other. I did warm to all three of our main characters (Pasha, Vika & Nikolai) toward the end, which is why I will have to read the next book in the series. The book did get more interesting in the end.

The game itself didn’t really feel like much of a game to me. There was no real audience, even the Tsar, who is running the game, doesn’t witness any of the magics. I don’t know, it’s a magical duel and the first turn is to paint all of the buildings on a street in St. Petersburg. Really? I just wish there was more magic and more of an actual duel.

Did this book keep me entertained while it lasted? Yes. Would I read it again? Probably not. I am sure there are a ton of people who would really like this book but there are others out there that have pulled me in more.

Not bad but not my favorite. This one gets a grudging three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Our Dark Duet

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab is the sequel to This Savage Song, a YA urban fantasy duology.

After escaping their own personal evils, Kate Harker and August Flynn went their separate ways. Kate, left Verity and joined a group of college rebels called the Warden’s, attempting to keep Prosperity safe from ending up like Verity–awash in monsters. August, has become the leader of the FTA, taking on Leo’s role as warrior and losing much of his humanity in the process. August fights to keep the monsters of Verity out of their side of the city and win the war.

But a new evil that thrives on chaos will bring Kate back to Verity, to August and the monsters waiting both within and without. Can August and Kate overcome their difference, their inner demons, and win the war?

Ultimately, this was a satisfying conclusion to a good duology. I am glad Schwab didn’t pull any punches when she wrote this one. This book is promoted as a dark urban fantasy and I think this definitely gets delivered.

I did really enjoy this world of monsters and mayhem. I love this idea of having to face your own evil; that your acts cause actual repercussions in the form of monsters. The fact that you have to actually fight your inner demons is just awesome.

The ending was the highlight of this book. It was just fantastic, they way Schwab pulls at our emotions and yet it feels so right, like the book couldn’t have ended in any other way.

Schwab did the same thing in this one that she did in the first one… she introduces side characters, really interesting side characters and really doesn’t do anything with them throughout the rest of the book. I loved the Wardens. They seemed like they were a really fun team and would add an interesting dynamic to the story. I kept expecting them to show up and help Kate in Verity, but alas it wasn’t to be. Maybe Schwab will write a novella about them or something. But it was just a disappointment to get so much of them in the first 50 or so pages and nothing else.

There were also things I expected from August. Things I thought were being hinted toward but were also never delivered. Again, maybe Schwab isn’t done with this world but I was left with quite a few questions.

Ultimately a good duology but probably not one I would read again. This one gets three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-