Tag Archives: YA Romance

#BOOKREVIEW BY @LRWLEE OF WATER’S WRATH

WatersWrathCoverMy love affair with the Air Awakens series continues with the newly released Water’s Wrath!!!!! SO GOOD!

SUMMARY (from back): Librarian turned sorcerer. Sorcerer turned hero. Hero turned puppet.

The Solaris Empire found victory in the North and, at the cost of her heart and her innocence, Vhalla Yarl has earned her freedom. But the true fight is only beginning as the secret forces that have been lurking in the shadows, tugging at the strings of Vhalla’s fate, finally come to light. Nowhere is safe, and Vhalla must tread carefully or else she’ll fall into the waiting arms of her greatest foe. Or former lover.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Elise Kova does it yet again. If you follow this blog, you’ve seen my reviews of the first three books in the series and they have all been glowing with 5 stars…well deserved 5 stars at that for she never ceases to disappoint.

I love the situation we find Vhalla in at the beginning of Water’s Wrath, having fled the grasp of Aldrick/Emperor Solaris at the end of Earth’s End. She is helping in a bookseller’s shop. While it’s not the library, it’s about the next best thing. So be still my heart. I enjoyed Vhalla’s interaction with Roan, the owner, and how they just seemed to enjoy one another’s company with no expectations attached…something that’s been foreign to Vhalla for too long. She desperately needed the break and it gave her a chance to begin processing events and heal.

This proved the springboard to Vhalla coming in to her own and becoming a stronger woman, comfortable in her own skin and not gaining her identity as a by-product of Aldrick. That was cool to see. And then we also get to experience Aldrick maturing and going through a similar change, on his own. As we experienced with the violent upheaval in their relationship at the end of Earth’s End (I don’t know if I’ll ever get over that:) ) maturing was needed on both their parts.

And then there was a part that… *breathes deeply to hold back tears* it was yet another heart-wrenching story with a character we have all come to know and love. I will not give it away, but suffice it to say, you’ll know when you get there. But because of Aldrick’s and Vhalla’s maturing prior to this, they both endured, certainly hurt, but able to go on.

Elise plotted this book very well, using the crystal axe and people’s motives surrounding it, to move the action forward, which certainly came to a head at the end in a very unexpected way. I won’t say more for I will not ruin the ending, but it set up the final book, Crystal Crowned very well. I can’t wait to see what Kova allows our beloved characters to experience in the end, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that Vhaldrick will live happily ever after…PLEEEEAAASSEEE.

I give The Water’s Wrath 5 Stars!

Buy Water’s Wrath on Amazon

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of The Affiliate

The Affiliate CoverEngaging plot. Complex world. Scintillating romance. This is how I summarize The Affiliate by K. A. Linde.

SUMMARY (From back):  On the day of her Presenting, in front of the entire Byern Court, seventeen-year-old Cyrene Strohm’s lifelong plans come to fruition when she’s chosen for one of the most prestigious positions in her homeland—an Affiliate to the Queen.

Or so she thinks.

When Cyrene receives a mysterious letter and an unreadable book, she finds nothing is as it seems. Thrust into a world of dangerous political intrigue and deadly magic, Cyrene’s position only grows more treacherous when she finds herself drawn to the one man she can never have…

King Edric himself.

Cyrene must decide if love is truly worth the price of freedom.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I’m a sucker for a believable romance and this book definitely had that in spades. But there’s more. Linde introduces us to the complex world of Byren that is filled with numerous factions vying for their own gain and thus not friendly to each other…it’s the stuff great stories are made of, right?

The writing flowed and drew me in to the world. One thing I can’t stand is when I notice the writing, for it detracts from the narrative. This was not at all the case in this book. The prose hid behind the scenes and carried the story along.  I do have one complaint though and it’s purely one of style, but all the description of a new place/person was always in a large paragraph as the author introduced the “thing.” I prefer to have the details spread throughout several paragraphs so I can more easily “see” rather than be “told.” But as I say, that is more  a matter of preference.

The characters were a good mix of the best and worst of Byren and I enjoyed them. We start with the main protagonist, Cyrene who is a young woman whose selection has determined her path in life. Throughout the book we see her grow from a naive girl who has been raised in a privileged household into a young woman who catches the eye of the king, introducing her to a host of challenges I dare say her upbringing never prepared her for. We see her wrestle with inner conflicts about “knowing” the king but at every turn she holds firm to her values and principles. *claps* Good for her! I hate characters who are push-overs!

We also meet Cyrene’s best friend growing up, Rhea, and what a great friend she is. I loved her humility but helpfulness. She’s the best friend everyone wishes they had. And then there’s the bad boy, Ahlvie who flirts with trouble, keeping it as a close friend who definitely pushes the plot forward.

But we also have the folks of royalty before whom Cyrene must adapt in her new role: the king of course who surprises her senseless as she catches his eye. So naive is she that she doesn’t initially understand he views her more favorably than others. But of course the king’s affections can’t be left unchallenged, for that would make for a rather boring narrative. So, Cyrene ends up reporting to the queen… yes, exactly… And said queen is very aware of her husband’s interest in Cyrene. You see the conflict.*Rubs hands together and grins*

As for the plot, the narrative is well-paced with sufficient action and reflection sprinkled throughout. One objection I had to the plot is one of the initial scenes, that of a hazing-like ritual that happened completely unexpectedly and almost seems out of place. I believe I understand why the scene is there, but I would say it was too sudden as to make it seem strange and out of place.

That aside, I thought the author also did a good job planting two central mysteries to keep readers interested: the meaning of the Presenting letter and the book that no one but Cyrene can see writing in. And this is where Linde leaves us at the end of book one, going off to search out the meaning of both. I’ll bite. And now I can’t wait until book two comes out!!

I give this 4.5 stars!

Buy The Affiliate on Amazon

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of Agent of the Crown

AgentoftheCrownWho do I want to be? This is the central question of the well-written Agent of the Crown (The Crown of Tremontane Book 3) by Melissa McShane.

SUMMARY (from back): Telaine North Hunter, Princess of Tremontane, is beautiful, spoiled, flirtatious, and the center of fashionable society throughout Tremontane.

She’s also a spy.

As an agent of the Crown, Telaine uses her high society connections to gather information for her uncle, King Jeffrey. But when an overheard conversation reveals a sinister plot centered on the Baron of Steepridge, Telaine must pose as a common Deviser in the distant frontier town of Longbourne to uncover the truth.

Fresh from her glittering world of the palace, Telaine is completely unprepared for rural life. She must conceal her identity not only from the townspeople, but from the suspicious, corrupt Baron as well. Her only assistance comes from Mistress Weaver, a local woman with an agenda of her own, and Ben, the handsome young blacksmith who reaches out a hand of friendship when others turn away.

As the days pass with no success in sight, Telaine’s pretense becomes real, and her growing attachment to Longbourne and its people comes into conflict with her mission. She can’t keep up the lie forever, but when the truth comes out, will she face it as the Princess—or as an agent of the Crown?

WHAT I THOUGHT: I enjoyed the previous two books in this series. They were thought-filled, inspiring, and romantic  and book three lives up to that same standard. While the cast of characters changes slightly, focusing this time on Telaine North Hunter, niece of King Jeffrey, there were many carryovers from the first two books to keep continuity.

As with the first two books, McShane weaves in a fundamental question we all ask of ourselves, who do I want to be? Telaine is a spy and as such acts in two roles, Princess and Devisor (an inventor of mechanical/repairer of “things”).  And her covers have her confused as to who she really is–a Princess who could not be more superficial or a Devisor who, for the first time in her life, is coming to understand and appreciate the down-to-earth people of Longbourne.

Telaine begins as a pampered young woman of the court who uses people for information. She is sent to the podunk little town of Longbourne where she initially wrestles with being rejected by the townspeople, wanting to fit in so she can accomplish her mission (or so she tells herself)–despite the fact that she knows she will not be in town after her mission ends. She acknowledges this oddity, but as she begins to fit in with the townspeople, she starts to appreciate their down-to-earth-ness, everything she hasn’t been at court. So begins her conflict of wrestling with who she is but more importantly, who she most wants to spend the rest of her life being.

McShane continues to build out the world of Tremontaine and we see more of the little town of Longbourne where Exile of the Crown, the novella bridge between book one and book two in the series takes place. We experience the toughness/closed-ness of the townsfolk but get a much more in-depth look at what binds them together…trust and love, as the book unfolds.

We see another glimpse of Zara North, former queen of Tremontaine, who, because of her magic she cannot die, has taken up residence in Longbourne. “Aunt Weaver” as she is known by Telaine, has settled in to a place that could not be more different than the palace as well. And her love of and loyalty to the townsfolk has her pressing the young spy about her true intentions.

I loved Ben Garrett. What a sweet, but introverted guy. He is a great foil against which Telaine has to finally come to grips with the life she really wants. And when he comes after her, to the palace of all intimidating places, out if his love for her, I was cheering!

Overall, a fitting conclusion to The Crown of Tremontane series. I will definitely be looking for McShane’s next book 🙂

I give this 5 stars!

Buy Agent of the Crown at Amazon

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of Queen of Someday

Queen of SomedayThis series is a fantastical telling of the life of Catherine the Great of Russia.

SUMMARY (from cover): Before she can become the greatest empress in history, fifteen-year-old Sophie will have to survive her social-climbing mother’s quest to put her on the throne of Russia–at any cost.

Imperial Court holds dangers like nothing Sophie has ever faced before. In the heart of St. Petersburg, surviving means navigating the political, romantic, and religious demands of the bitter Empress Elizabeth and her handsome, but sadistic nephew, Peter. Determined to save her impoverished family–and herself–Sophie vows to do whatever is necessary to thrive in her new surroundings. But an attempt on her life and an unexpected attraction threatens to derail her plans.

Alone in a new and dangerous world, learning who to trust and who to charm may mean the difference between becoming queen and being sent home in shame to marry her lecherous uncle. With traitors and murderers lurking around every corner, her very life hangs in the balance. Betrothed to one man but falling in love with another, Sophie will need to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to become the empress she is destined to be.

In a battle for the soul of a nation, will love or destiny reign supreme?

WHAT I THOUGHT: I did not realize this was a historical fantasy loosely based on historical events when I picked it up, but I have to say, Sherry did a great job at bringing to life plausible scenarios about what could have made Catherine the Great the person she became. The author added interactive content throughout the book to give the reader more background of what was happening during that historical period. I’ve never seen that done before but it added an extra dimension to support her speculations and story. Well done. I’ll definitely be reading the next installment.

Get Queen of Someday (Amazon)

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of Queen of Shadows

QueenofShadowsQueen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, Book 4) by Sarah J. Maas

Wow! How’d she do that? These seem the only words befitting this book…It’s that good. A true ride for the emotions…

SUMMARY FROM BACK: Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire-for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

WHAT I THOUGHT: The first three books in the series have been excellent, but in this fourth installment of six, Sarah J. Maas steps up her character-development game for the characters grow and develop throughout the 600+ pages of this adventure in a masterful, believable way. The world-building that existed in the first three books continued and I was blown away as the characters became even more real, grappling with real problems in ways that are so human.

Aelin’s storyline revisits her painful past as she must once more face her master, Abromyn, the king of thieves, who has inflicted so much pain in her life. While I despised him for his cunning and scheming, he stoops to new lows. I have to say though that the very fact that I have such negative emotion for this man, speaks volumes to the artistry with which this character developed. Aelin confronts him once more and comes away stronger for it.

We again see Manon, the Blackbeak witch, whose character is forced to question militant authority and come to terms with the conflict between that and what she believes. While situations differ, her story is so relatable for most readers.

We also see Lysandra and Kaltain reappear, each woman coming to terms with and finally acting out of the inner strength we suspected they held. And a new female is introduced, Elide, who I suspect will be pivotal in the final book.

Love is also a central theme in this book.

Romantic passions ebb and flow between Aelan and Rowan, her fae prince, in such a way that I found myself routing for love to triumph and overwhelm as they resist and struggle at points. Oh, what a great romance continues.

Aelin’s relationships with both Chaol and Dorian change and grow as well, but way beyond passion. I loved how it deepened into strong and enduring friendships – friendships that are ‘to the death.’

One point I thought particularly well written: Love causes Aelin to save the life of a mortal enemy – What? Yes. It was a pivotal plot point and while I would not have thought it possible, it happened in a believable way. Because so many of Aelin’s loved ones have been killed (her family, Sam, Nemeniah) and because she has felt the irreparable pain of those losses, she has come to believe she must spare the life of someone, even an enemy, who is deeply loved by another. We see this when Aelin hears the gut-wrenching cry and sees the pain in the friend of her enemy, and without a second thought, Aelin throws herself in harms way so the friend of her enemy never has to know the pain of losing the one they so deeply love. So moving…

Setup to the next book – I loved the long denouement of this book for I wasn’t ready to be done and Maas didn’t make me. Longer than many, I appreciated the length for it allowed me to recover from so many emotionally charged experiences.The resolution for all the various characters was well done and set up the next book without giving anything away.

Overall, I found myself experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions. I shrieked at a few of the the plot twists, oohed at the play between Aelin and Rowen, and find myself a bit exhausted in the end. Well done!

Get Queen of Shadows (Amazon)

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of The Heart of Betrayal

HeartofBetrayalIf you enjoy books that challenge notions of love, loyalty and truth, and then make you grapple with how to harmonize them, this series, The Remnant Chronicles, is for you! The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson is book two.

SUMMARY FROM BACK: Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape . . . and even less of being together.

Desperate to save her life, Lia’s erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komisar that she has a magical gift, and the Komisar’s interest in Lia is greater than either Kaden or Lia foresaw.

Meanwhile, the foundations of Lia’s deeply-held beliefs are crumbling beneath her. Nothing is straightforward: there’s Rafe, who lied to her, but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom she always believed to be barbarians but whom she now realizes are people who have been terribly brutalized by the kingdoms of Dalbreck and Morrighan. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her very sense of self, Lia will have to make powerful choices that affect her country, her people . . . and her own destiny.

WHAT I THOUGHT: In book two, we see Rafe and Lia’s love deepen as they share in their imprisonment by the Vendans. They have a lot of time to think about their situations and each other. Rafe’s character is deepened considerably in this book and through it we see how much he really loves Lia to the point of sacrificing himself for her.

The author did a great job of world building as the imagery comes to life in a way that brings to story along.

I love how Lia is forced to confront long held, but unexamined beliefs about another culture. She had been taught the Vendans were nothing but low-lifes and assassins, but as she spends time in their prison, she discovers all she believes may not be true. I love how the author plants the idea of examining areas of our own lives, unexamined beliefs that may or may not help us produce the future we seek.

I also enjoyed Pearson’s treatment of Kaden who must find his way between his love for Lia and his loyalty for the Komizar, his boss. It’s an issue we must all face at some point in our lives and the struggle that played out did this conflict justice.

I will definitely be getting the third book in the series when it’s available…not soon enough 🙂

Buy Heart of Betrayal (Book Two) (Amazon)

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of The Kiss of Deception

KissofDeceptionIf you enjoy books that challenge notions of love, loyalty, and truth, and then make you grapple with how to harmonize them, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson is for you!

SUMMARY FROM BACK: In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight–but she doesn’t–and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom–to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive–and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets–even as she finds herself falling in love.

WHAT I THOUGHT: If you’re a hopeless romantic like me who believes one should marry for love and not obligation, this book is definitely for you! Bless her heart, Lia is a princess born into a life of obligation. Rather than settle for the life laid out for her, on her wedding day she disobeys tradition for the sake of finding true love. She disguises herself and becomes a barmaid for a tavern in a town far away from her responsibilities.

Hoping never to be found out, two strangers arrive in the tavern and she waits on both. Little does she know they have both sought her out for reasons of their own. One is the crown prince of the neighboring kingdom she unknowingly was to be wed to. The other is a paid assassin come to eliminate her by a warring kingdom. Needless to say, she falls for both of them forming a love triangle, for neither admit who they truly are. This was a fun read because it kept me guessing the whole time, trying to figure out which character was the assassin and which, the prince. The plot was different than so many for it twisted and turned in unexpected, but engaging and believable ways. Well done!

Buy Kiss of Deception (Book One) (Amazon)

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

 

#BookReview by @LRWLee of Rider of the Crown

RideroftheCrown I have a wonderful book hangover after reading this thought-filled, inspiring, and romantic tale: Rider of the Crown (Crown of Tremontaine Book Two) by Melissa McShane.

SUMMARY (from back): Imogen, warrior of the Kirkellan tribes, has never wanted to be anything else. But when the long war between the Kirkellan and the country of Ruskald ends, the terms of the peace treaty require Imogen to be married to the vicious King of Ruskald for five years. Confined to his freezing city, forbidden to fight, Imogen sees nothing but darkness in her future—until the arrival of Elspeth North, heir to the Crown of Tremontane, brings three countries to the brink of war and sets Imogen free.

Now, sent to be the ambassador of her people to Tremontane, Imogen faces new challenges as she struggles to maintain her warrior’s identity in a world of glittering ballrooms and foreign customs. As a diplomat, Imogen discovers skills she never knew she had—as well as a forbidden attraction to the handsome and charismatic King Jeffrey North. But when war once again threatens not only Tremontane but her own people, Imogen must decide: is she the warrior, the diplomat—or something greater?

WHAT I THOUGHT: Rider of the Crown picks up about twenty years after Servant of the Crown (The Crown of Tremontaine Book One) and includes only cameos of Allison North, the Royal Librarian, that I came to love. I was a bit disappointed initially that this book did not add the next installment of the Royal Librarian’s adventures, but it was nice to see a slice of Tremontaine from other character’s perspectives.

By this time in the story, King Anthony and Allison have had two children, Jeffrey and Elspeth, and Anthony has died, making Jeffrey an unmarried and very eligible King. I won’t go into what all happens for you can read that yourself, but I loved the theme the author weaves throughout the book: who am I really? Am I what I’m good at? Am I what I am passionate about? Am I who I love or who loves me? Something else, or all of the above?

We follow the strong heroine, Imogen, through three phases of her life during which she keeps asking herself this question. The first phase is living as “wife” to an enemy for five years as part of a peace treaty her mother signs as ruler of Kirkellan. She finds herself, a Kirkellan warrior, among the enemy who despise her and her people and she wonders how she will endure for five years in that hostile environment with an arrogant, power-hungry ruler for a husband, temporary though it may be. She grows and learns about herself over a year until the ruler makes a choice that betrays the ethics she believes in and she annuls the peace treaty to stand for what she believes is right.

The second phase of the story, and her life, is as an ambassador of Kirkellan to Tremontaine at the request of her mother. In this foreign nation, she encouters all manner of different cultural norms and must learn how to become an ambassador, moving effectively with norms and practices not her own, all the while holding to who she believes she is, a Kirkellan warrior. She learns and grows through the experience and comes to meet the King who she falls in love with. Nothing like love to tempt one throw away what they care about. But she stays true to herself until…

In part three, Tremontaine finds itself at war with the country who Imogen was initially wed to, and she sheds her ambassador status to retake her Kirkellian warrior heritage to lead her warriors and those of Tremontaine into battle. Clearly a good leader of soldiers, Imogen must, in the end, come to grips with whether pursuing love or the path she had always envisioned, will be her future.

As an author, I appreciate a well-crafted, engaging storyline. And this one lives up to that and adds more by challenging the reader to ask the question of ourselves…Who am I really? I give this book 5 stars.

Get Rider of the Crown (Crown of Tremontaine Book Two) from Amazon

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of Servant of the Crown

ServantoftheCrownIf you loved Seraphina for the fantasy mixed with political intrigue, I recommend Servant of the Crown by Melissa McShane (The Crown of Tremontane Book 1)! While there are no dragons, the mix of a strong heroine, dynamic characters, and excellent writing is sure to satisfy.

SUMMARY from Back: Alison Quinn, Countess of Waxwold, is content with her bookish life—until she’s summoned to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Tremontane’s mother for six months. Even the prospect of access to the Royal Library doesn’t seem enough to make up for her sacrifice, but Alison is prepared to do her service to the Crown. What she’s not prepared for is Prince Anthony North, Queen Zara’s playboy brother, who’s accustomed to getting what he wants—including the Countess of Waxwold.

When the fallout from an unfortunate public encounter throws the two of them together, Alison has no interest in becoming the Prince’s next conquest. But as the weeks pass, Alison discovers there’s more to Anthony than she—or he—realized, and their dislike becomes friendship, and then something more—until disaster drives Alison away, swearing never to return.

Then Alison is summoned by the Queen again, this time to serve as Royal Librarian. A threat to Tremontane’s government, with her treasured Library at stake, draws Alison into the conflict…and into contact with Anthony once more. Can they work together to save the Royal Library and Tremontane? And can she open her heart to love again?

WHAT I THOUGHT: Allison Quinn, Countess of Waxwold, is a smart, savvy business woman, working for her father’s publishing house. When she is summoned to be a lady in waiting for the Dowager (mother of the queen) for six months, loyal citizen that she is, she presents herself for duty. But it doesn’t take long to see her true bookworm-self revealed, for true to form, she insists on seeing the Royal Library and is frustrated by the Librarian who refuses to permit it–heresy!

Men had treated her as an object to possess rather than recognizing who she was so when she encounters the prince, Anthony, an arrogant chovanist, she dresses him down publically leading to all manner of wonderful plot twist.

I so enjoyed her enthusiasm when she is appointed Royal Librarian. Be still my heart (LOL!). But I knew we were in for a treat when by a third of the way through the book, Allison had already fallen in love and betrayal reared its ugly head.

The queen, Zara, daughter of the Dowager and sister of prince Anthony appears as another strong female character with political obstacles she must navigate to retain the power necessary for the crown to effectively manage society. I was impressed that the author fully developed her allowing us to see the complex struggles force and giving in to frustration would thwart.

What a sweet interplay between these three. A masterful job of weaving in so many emotional threads and giving the reader a satisfying conclusion.

The only thing not well developed in my opinion was the healing magic that society apparently shunned. This came more into play with the short story that followed the novel, but that detail was never expanded upon and it appears it becomes a significant plot element, at least going forward.

I recommend the sequel, RIDER OF THE CROWN!

Get Servant of the Crown (at Amazon)

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of The White Rose

TheWhiteRoseSuspense-filled. Unique World. Engaging heroine. If you loved Rosamund Hodge’s Crimson Bound, you’ll love The White Rose (Jewel series Book Two) by Amy Ewing!

SUMMARY (from back): Violet is on the run—away from the Jewel, away from a lifetime of servitude, away from the Duchess of the Lake, who bought her at auction. With Ash and Raven traveling with her, Violet will need all of her powers to get her friends, and herself, out of the Jewel alive.

But no matter how far Violet runs, she can’t escape the rebellion brewing just beneath the Jewel’s glittering surface, and her role in it. Violet must decide if she is strong enough to rise against the Jewel and everything she has ever known.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I thoroughly enjoyed Ewing’s first book, The Jewel, which is why I preordered The White Rose as soon as I finished it. That said, this book lived up to my expectations and then some.

The world of the Jewel expands dramatically in this installment for Violet, Ash and Raven are on the run and must navigate the four rings in order to find safety in the outermost, The Farm. Page-turning suspense built as they continually had to overcome obstacles to a safe passage through each ring. While book one gave a glimpse of the rings, book two gives more depth and richness (or impoverishedness as the case is) of each as Violet and her companions navigate each. We come to appreciate, all the more, the unfairness thrust upon all who exist to serve the needs of The Jewel. We also come to learn that this world is actually an island that has been abused for centuries–we learn it seeks to restore itself to harmony and balance and will assist all who work to that end. How this manifests is a very imaginative take on the world that is well done and believable.

Violet also grows in Book Two. We knew she had strength as a surrogate, but together reader and character begin to understand more about that strength as she attempts numerous quests to save friends, endure the unknown, and even help those she loves realize their deepest needs even when it seems foolhearty. One such example is when Ash must see his little sister who is dying. Ewing stacks the situation with everything you, as the omnicient reader, know is crazy to even attempt the effort, but she uses it to reveal more of both Violet’s and Ash’s characters.

As an author, I always have a character’s name represent their role or give some hint about what we can expect from him/her. Ewing clearly utilizes this tool as we see Lucien live up to his name, which means bright light or leader, as we find he is the leader of the black key resistance that is giving inhabitants of every ring of the Jewel hope for a different future.

The one very minor issue I had was with the character of Garnet, the son of the Duchess of the Lake. Somehow he just always shows up at just the right moment to save the day. The thought kept running through my mind, wouldn’t the Duchess know if he stayed out all night, etc? He seemed too convenient at times. But as I said, that was a very minor issue and based upon Garnet’s minor supporting role for now, it’s not a big deal. I will enjoy seeing how he develops in Book Three.

The book is clearly the middle of a series as throughout, the next installment is set up. We see this as three new surrogates join the cast and questions are planted re: how they will behave relative to the mission–will they help or hinder the cause, Violet’s sister, Hazel, is taken to be a surrogate, and Violet finds her little brother has joined the resistance. It is clear Violent has much to lose and much to gain as we move forward.

I know I’ve discovered a great book when I find myself genuinely worried about what happens to the characters. This was one such book! Well done. I’m giving it 5 stars.

Get The White Rose (at Amazon)

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of Earth’s End

Earths EndThis book touched my emotions in so many ways! Earth’s End by Elise Kova made my emotions soar, just to turn them raw. Rarely have I felt a book so deeply.

SUMMARY (from back): A woman awoken in air, a soldier forged by fire, a weapon risen from blood.

Vhalla Yarl has made it to the warfront in the North. Forged by blood and fire, she has steeled her heart for the final battle of the Solaris Empire’s conquest. The choices before Vhalla are no longer servitude or freedom, they are servitude or death. The stakes have never been higher as the Emperor maintains his iron grip on her fate, holding everything Vhalla still has left to lose in the balance.

WHAT I THOUGHT (WARNING THERE ARE SPOILERS!): Elise Kova is proving to be a master storyteller! I wanted to believe in the fairy tale relationship of Vhalla and Aldrick. I longed to.  At the beginning of the book the narrative picks up resolving the angst left at the end of Fire Falling where we didn’t know if Prince Aldrick perished in his fall or not. I sweated three long months refusing to believe he could have died. And I was right- woohoot!! This discovery shortly into book three eased my heart’s trepidation and I was off on another adventure, happy as a lark.

Vhalla and Aldrick grow much closer and even intimate during the middle of the book, causing my skin to tingle and sending my heart a thumpin’ . I saw the trust they shared and rejoiced for them – could life get any better for the pair??? Yet Kova couldn’t let us live in a fantasy realm, for there is a deeper narrative to be told and she began sprinkling hints that Vhalla was glossing over Aldrick’s faults…starting with his drinking. I will admit I, too, glossed over the prince’s faults in my hunger to view him as Prince Charming.

But even after Vhalla fulfills her vow to the Emperor, gaining the respect of everyone in camp in the process, things come to a head. Oh how I loathed the power-hungry dictator. Very few authors have created villians that get under my skin like this man, but when the emperor asserts himself, we are clear that he controls everything and the lives of everyone within his domain–I cringed. We in America take our freedom SOOO for granted–I was not made to live in subjegation to anyone but the Law, but everyone in the Solaris empire knows a very different truth. Kova did a brilliant job of revealing more of this antagonist throughout the book.

And then the end, the last third of the book, arrived. The first time I read it I kept saying “No! No! This can’t be happening!” I wanted to plug my ears and squeeze my eyes tight and make the upheval stop! I mourned what unfolded and found myself devastated and nearly screaming out in anguish alongside Aldrick.

So I read the book a second time after a day of decompressing…yes it was that good…and found more perspective as I was less emotionally charged. Amidst the chaos, Kova shows us that Vhalla and Aldrick’s relationship is toxic for they are the world of the other and neither has formed a foundation upon which to build something lasting…yet.  Vhalla comes to this realization first and it is only her courage that plunges the pair into a time of learning and personal growth.

This end to the book is very different to the panic from book two. It is a sober recognition that we must each become our own person before we can truly love another. While I resisted “going here,” I’m thrilled Kova is leading the way and I’m anxious to see what the pair learn about themselves in book four.

I gave this 5 stars with no reservations!

Buy Earth’s End on Amazon

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of Fire Falling

FireFalling1 Ooo la la… What can I say to this deeply vulnerable and sweetly romantic second installment in the Air Awakens series, Fire Falling, by Elise Kova.

If you love Sarah J. Maas, you’re sure to enjoy Elise Kova!!

SUMMARY (from book): Soldier… Sorcerer… Savior… Who is Vhalla Yarl?

Vhalla Yarl marches to war as property of the Solaris Empire. The Emperor counts on her to bring victory, the Senate counts on her death, and the only thing Vhalla can count on is the fight of her life. As she grapples with the ghosts of her past, new challenges in the present threaten to shatter the remnants of her fragile sanity. Will she maintain her humanity? Or will she truly become the Empire’s monster?

WHAT I THOUGHT: In this installment, Vhalla leaves the protection of the castle to fulfill the sentence the Senate decreed, for her involvement in the events of the night of wind and fire that threatened the life of Prince Aldrick. She marches to war under the command of the Emperor who plans to exploit her talents to conquer the North. To him, she is a lowly, worthless commoner who has become a distraction to his son and he makes no attempt to hide his feelings.

While most of the book covers the 3 month march north, the author takes what could be a rather boring and monotonous trek and makes it anything but. We see so much more of the deep love Vhalla has for Aldrick, a love she has desperately tried to deny, for she knows acknowledging it would set in motion changes she’s frightened to confront.

For Aldrick’s part, we watch his affections for Vhalla mature and discover he, too, has tried to deny his feelings for not only is a relationship with a commoner taboo for royalty, but he believes his past struggles, murders, and uncertainties make him someone to be shunned rather than loved.

SPOILER: I particularly loved the scene where Aldrick comes to Baldair looking for Vhalla in his brother’s section of the camp. After being apart from Aldrick for a time for her own safety, Vhalla hears Aldrick asking his brother about her. She sneaks out of her tent and in little more than a whisper, calls his name, drawing his attention. The conversation/events that ensue cement for both of them their true and undeniable feelings for each other. Whew… What a beautifully moving scene Kova wove together.

While this is only Kova’s second novel, she touches on vulnerabilities and insecurities we all deal with and feelings and emotions we long for. Seeing the host of passionate fans who have responded to these themes, I know she will do very well as an indie author. Well done. I can’t wait for book three!

I gave this book 5 stars!

You can watch Elise read from Fire Falling on Book Nerd Paradise’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/ptocpKE3VxI

Buy Fire Falling, Book Two in Air Awakens (at Amazon)
Buy Air Awakens, Book One (at Amazon)

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of Air Awakens

AirAwakensAn engaging storyline. A strong heroine. A complicated future.

Air Awakens is the first in the Air Awakens series by Elise Kova.

SUMMARY (from back): A library apprentice, a sorcerer prince, and an unbreakable magic bond… The Solaris Empire is one conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war.

Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all–the Crown Prince Aldrik–she finds herself enticed into his world. Now she must decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined.
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WHAT I THOUGHT: To the commoner, magic is a misunderstood and scary phenomenon. To those gifted with it, it’s a weapon to be wielded. From the four corners of the kingdom, different magical affinities originate: Firebearers from the West, Waterrunners from the South, and Groundbreakers from the North.

But what of the East? For more than a century a societal prejudice has existed against Windwalkers, magicians from the East. For something happened that had the race exterminated. While hints are offered as to why, there’s much more to understand as we meet Vhalla Yarl, a commoner who works in the royal library. Impossibly and unbeknownst to her, she is a Windwalker and her powers are about to be manifest despite her efforts to deny them. Imagine yourself holding to cultural narratives that magic is ‘bad’ just to find it is part of you. But confront it she must.

Aldrick, the eldest Prince of the kingdom (a powerful Firebearer in his own right), deduces her affinity when she saves him from a mortal wound when he is injured in battle–her research produces the cure the Royal healers are unaware of, as well as a magical Bond between them that begins to heat up in a forbidden relationship.

Through Vhalla’s trials, we see her emerge as the strong heroine she is as she grapples with the choice before her to embrace her Affinty and begin a new and unfamiliar future, or have it removed and follow a familiar and comfortable path. As you would imagine, forces are at work to prevent the latter, not the least of which is a trial at the hands of the Senate over her actions that threatened the prince.

All that said, a professional editor should have gotten hold of this work before it hit the shelves. I found numerous missing words, words used incorrectly and the like that a professional set of eyes would have quickly fixed. It just drives me crazy when such a good work is compromised for such a simple thing. As a reader, I don’t want to think about the mechanics. I want to get lost in the story. I would have given this 5 stars but for that, for which I deduct 10% and give this 4.5 stars.

 Despite the poor editing issue, the engaging storyline had me hooked and book two left me begging for more.

Get Air Awakens Book One (at Amazon)

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of The Black Mage Series

TheBlackMageIntrigue. Magic. A Dark Prince.

This is how I summarize a series I did not want to see end… I highly recommend The Dark Mage series by Rachel Carter.

SUMMARY (from back cover): Before the age of seventeen the young men and women of Jerar are given a choice –follow tradition, or pursue a trial year in one of the realm’s three war schools to study as a soldier, knight or mage…

For 15-year-old Ryiah the choice has always been easy. Become a warrior and leave the boring confines of her lowborn life behind. Set to enroll in the School of Knighthood on the eve of her next birthday, plans suddenly shift when her twin brother discovers powers. Hoping that hers will soon follow, she enrolls with Alex at the Academy instead –the realm’s most notorious war school for those with magic.

Yet when she arrives Ry finds herself competing against friend and foe for one of the exalted apprenticeships. Every “first-year” is given a trial year to prove their worth –and no amount of hard work and drive will guarantee them a spot. It seems like everyone is rooting for her to fail –and first and foremost among them Prince Darren, the school prodigy who has done nothing but make life miserable since she arrived.
When an accidental encounter leads Ryiah and Darren to an unlikely friendship she is convinced nothing good will come of it. But the lines become blurred when she begins to improve –and soon she is a key competitor for the faction of Combat… Still, nothing is ever as it seems –and when the world comes crashing down around her, Ry is forced to place faith in the one thing she can believe in –herself. Will it be enough?

WHAT I THOUGHT: You’ll notice I am doing a review of all three books at once. There’s a reason for that, namely, once I got going in the series, I didn’t want to stop to think about the first book, or even the second as I finished it…I wanted to keep reading! I was hooked.

Book One started out a bit slow for my taste, but I kept thinking I’d give it a chance and see where the author took me. Obviously, I was not disappointed. I thought each book built nicely on the next and the storyline compelled me forward.

I loved the protagonist, Ryiah. She began as a regular girl of 15 and through her first year studies at the school, was torn down by a prejudiced instructor as well as her own insecurities as well as second guessing about a certain boy prince. But she grows stronger and in book two, we see her continue to evolve in her magic as well as personally. SPOILER ALERT – I absolutely loved Darren’s marriage proposal at the end of book 2. What a guy! Then in book 3, coming to understand the king, his expectations, and how he raised his sons, Ryiah grows stronger still. I can’t imagine fighting all out against the love of your life, regardless of the circumstance. It truly took a lot of courage on both her and the prince’s part.

That said, I did not appreciate the lack of editing. I found several places where the wrong word was used. I always hate it when that happens for it draws attention to the craft and distracts from the narrative. For this, I always deduct 10% from the rating. That aside, I would recommend this book if you’re looking for a good plot and dynamic characters.

Overall, I give book one 4 stars, books 2 – 4.5 stars and book 3 – 4 stars.

Buy The Black Mage book one (at Amazon)

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of Endure

Endure_Cover Friendship. Conflict. Love’s Triumph. This is how I summarize Endure, book three in the Defy trilogy by Sara B. Larson.

SUMMARY (from back): At last, Alexa and King Damian are engaged to be married. But their lives are far from safe. The kingdom of Antion is under siege, and Rylan is a prisoner of the enemy. Even worse, Alexa remains at the mercy of the evil Dansiian Rafe, who controls her mind and can force Alexa to kill or harm Damian at any moment. Despite this, Alexa is determined to rescue Rylan, which soon leads her far from Damian and deep into enemy territory.

When she arrives, what awaits her is deadlier than anything she could have ever imagined: an army of black sorcerers, and a horrifying plot to destroy the world as Alexa knows it. Will she be able to gather the strength to free herself, protect the love of her life, and save the land? Will there ever be true peace?

Acclaimed author Sara B. Larson has woven a stunning, romantic, and evocative finale to the Defy trilogy, that is sure to leave readers breathless until the very last page.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Wow. A lot happened in this final book of the series. We start at the problem of how to defeat Rafe, an evil sorcerer, who controls Rylan’s mind while holding him prisoner to get to Alexa, and Damian begging Alexa to never leave him again. We end at peace and happily ever after with the world safe from evil and a new dawn for Antion and the neighboring nations.

While I understand why Larson has Damian act as he does at the beginning, it felt like he became juvenile and lacking the dignity his role demands. I hate whiny kings and he became one. Like I said, I understand why and it worked out in the end, but still…

It came as no surprise that Alexa decides, against Damian’s wishes to go rescue Rylan. As a reader I knew the plot would go that way…it was too obvious. So then it became only a question of how the resulting conflict would go down.

I was left wondering, if I had been Damian, how would I have felt when the woman I love goes off and tries to free her friend. I guess that’s what a true friend does…but the author basically trades Eljin’s life for Rylan’s with her struggling for survival.

I thought the wrap up was only “okay”, as we never hear about most of the other characters like Ajax and Lisbet ever again other than brief mentions.

Overall, I like this book was a fitting conclusion to the series, but I liked it less than book two, based upon the seemingly overused plot line and lack of satisfying wrap up. I give this 4 stars.

Buy Endure at Amazon

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of Ignite

Ignite CoverAction. Vulnerability. Suspense. This is how I summarize Ignite (Book 2 in the Defy series) by Sara B. Larson, the sequel to Defy.

SUMMARY (From back): Murder, kidnapping, and forbidden romance abound in this thrilling sequel to Sara B. Larson’s acclaimed YA debut, DEFY.

Alexa continues to harbor a secret love for the newly crowned King Damian, yet she remains by his side as his guard and ever committed to helping him rebuild Antion and reclaim the hope of Antion’s people. However, when a new threat to Damian and his kingdom emerges, and blame is cast on the once friendly nation of Blevon, Alexa knows things are not what they seem. Once again the fate of her country hangs in the balance. Will Alexa be able to protect her king and uncover the true enemy — before it’s too late?

WHAT I THOUGHT: Larson expands what she began in book one in this engaging tale. Prince Damian is as charming and beautiful as ever and the love triangle with Rylan gets no easier for Alexa. She vascilates between the two men she loves, knowing Rylan is the “sensible” choice for her husband for she is “just” a member of the king’s guard without privilege or honor as befitting the queen of a nation. Yet her heart knows better…

Meanwhile, a band of strange sorcerers visits Antion–sorcerers undetectible by Damian–and begin a campaign to overwhelm the monarchy and citizens, with mind control. Larson did a good job of painting a very bleak situation that I couldn’t easily see how it would resolve. And what’s more, she put the characters through their paces and did not make it resolve easily (good job)! I hate books where an author backs the characters into a corner, then makes the conflict resolve so easily as to make it annoying. Larson did not commit that sin 🙂

In fact, I LOVED how the author used the climax of the central conflict to force Alexa to at last confess her deep, deep love of Damian, getting her logic out of the way and laying bare, in a very vulnerable way, her heart for the man. I still remember the scene…Damian asks, “Did you mean what you said?” and Alexa confesses, “Yes.” Oh, be still my heart…

One thing I still don’t understand…why was Alexa chosen? And why does a nation want her so badly that they send a sorcerer to apprehend her? I guess this is to be explored in the next book in the series…hope…hope.

Which brings me to my one complaint. Larson leaves you hanging at the end. So much is left open and while I understand she wants us to buy the next book to see how it all works out, I felt dissatisfied and empty at how she left us after such a gripping rollercoaster ride. Nonetheless, I plan to read the next installment 🙂

Overall, I give Ignite 4.5 stars.

Buy Ignite at Amazon

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.

#BookReview by @LRWLee of Defy

DefyCoverRomance. Mystery. Twists. This is how I summarize Defy by Sara B. Larson.

Summary from back: Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

WHAT I THOUGHT: I will say up front I’m a sucker for a messy love story set against a fantasy world. I enjoy love sprouting in a barren wasteland, or though the cracks in the sidewalk where it’s impossible for it to thrive, but it does–it persists and refuses to give up. You kinda have to be this way to fully enjoy this book because a love triangle is a central theme throughout. If you despise this type of conflict, this book is probably not for you.

The book starts with an intriguing premise–there are breeding houses established by the maniacal king to produce warriors to support his long-term and unending war efforts. They are painted in sufficient depth as to create revulsion and disgust and set up a central part of the conflict, namely that Alexa Holden masquerades as a boy (aided by her twin brother) to avoid said houses and their abuse.

Of course Alexa can’t just be an ordinary “boy”…that would never do in a fantasy story. She discovers she has traces of a gift for sword-fighting passed down from her father who we find out was a sorcerer, in a land where sorcerery is frowned upon and made to be a crime punishable by death.

I liked the setting Larson situated the book in, a jungle, which added creepy crawlies and jaguars that aren’t in most YA fantasy. It was a nice change.

A few issues I had with the plot: We never understand why King Hector, the maniacal monarch, is the way he is. We also don’t understand why he is at war. He trumped up a bogus reason to get the people to fight against a neighboring kingdom, but we never understand why. We also don’t come to understand why certain people are sorcerers. What’s the background narrative about how sorcerers came to be in the land. We also never understand how so many folks knew Alexa was a girl masquerading as a boy. Perhaps that is yet to come in book two, but it’s certainly a question.

One other thing, Larson needs to expand her repetoire of ways to describe a character’s “inscrutible” look. She mixed in a few but way too many “inscrutible”s for my liking.

Overall, I enjoyed the read and give it 4 stars. I’m curious to see what book 2 has in store.

Buy Defy at Amazon

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Review by YA fantasy author L. R. W. Lee
Website: LRWLee.com
Twitter: @lrwlee
FB: LRWLee Author
Blog: blog.LRWLee.com

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the award winning Prequel and Book one in the Andy Smithson coming-of-age epic fantasy series.