Tag Archives: romantic fantasy

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Book Review: Soul Mage, by Lisa Blackwood

I picked up a freebie copy of Lisa Blackwood‘s Soul Mage from Amazon.

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A stoic warrior-maiden and a villainous priest-king make the most unlikely alliance in the history of the five kingdoms.

When a rescue attempt to save a clutch of dragon eggs from the soul mages goes terribly wrong, Warrior-Priestess Verdria of High Rock finds herself on the wrong side of a portal, deep in enemy territory.

She soon learns she’s in the heart of the soul mage’s empire and when Honryn, the future priest-king of the mages, takes a liking to Verdria and saves her life, she’s pretty sure she’s facing down a ‘fate worse than death’ scenario.

Just when she thinks things can’t get any worse, Priest-King Honryn introduces her to the Royal Court of the Soul Mages, the most morally corrupt and bloodthirsty court in existence.

Life is cheap.

Souls are currency.

And Verdria has caught the fancy of the young priest-king, and while he doesn’t want to steal her soul, he’s set on winning her heart.

And she’s equally set on having his heart, after she’s carved it out of his chest.

But when she discovers Honryn’s most monstrous secret, a secret he’s even hiding from his fellow soul mages, she’s moved to pity and offers to aid him.

my review

Meh, this was a fine, if shallow, read. As is so often the case with books that are both part of one series and the start of a spin-off (this is book 4 of the Huntress vs. Huntsman and book 1 of the Soul Mage Saga), the book stands alone plot-wise but is largely without any world-building or description. A person really isn’t meant to read it as a book 1, apparently. Those who have read the previous series are meant to understand that the established world is shifting to focus on side characters, but all else is the same.

Add to this lack of robustness in the world a plot that barely progresses (the whole book is about three days), a narrative that dedicates significantly more time to what characters are wearing than…well, just about anything else, and ends on a cliffhanger at precisely the moment anything big finally actually happens, and what you have is a fairly flat read. It’s not that it’s bad. I think I’d continue the series if I found it free. But it’s also not particularly engaging. I wouldn’t, for example, pay for more.

But the mechanical writing is fine. The whole thing reads easily enough. I liked the characters and that the heroine is sort of a muscly butch, but the hero is still hella attracted to her. The book is also very sweet, which I know some like. (The snippets I saw on TikTok made me think it would be dark. So, I was a bit let down by the cotton candy, personally.) But still…it was just kinda meh.

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Book Review: Soul Mage by Lisa Blackwood

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Book Review: The Serpent and the Wings of Night, by Carissa Broadbent

Carissa Broadbent‘s The Serpent and the Wings of Night was on Sadie’s Spotlight’s Instagram page a few months back. I was given a copy of the book for participating in the book tour.

The Serpent and the Wings of Night cover

For humans and vampires, the rules of survival are the same: never trust, never yield, and always – always – guard your heart.

The adopted human daughter of the Nightborn vampire king, Oraya carved her place in a world designed to kill her. Her only chance to become something more than prey is entering the Kejari: a legendary tournament held by the goddess of death herself.

But winning won’t be easy amongst the most vicious warriors from all three vampire houses. To survive, Oraya is forced to make an alliance with a mysterious rival.

Everything about Raihn is dangerous. He is a ruthless vampire, an efficient killer, an enemy to her father’s crown… and her greatest competition. Yet, what terrifies Oraya most of all is that she finds herself oddly drawn to him.

But there’s no room for compassion in the Kejari. War for the House of Night brews, shattering everything that Oraya thought she knew about her home. And Raihn may understand her more than anyone – but their blossoming attraction could be her downfall, in a kingdom where nothing is more deadly than love.

my review

I quite enjoyed this. I don’t think there’s anything particularly new or discursive in the plot. It never really departs from the expected. But the writing/editing is good, and I had fun with it.

I liked both main characters. There was humor, grit, an interesting world and politics (even if it focused pretty narrowly within it). There are platonic cross-gender friendships and exploration of characters who are both loved/loving and monstrous. Plus, I was so invested in Ibrihim (a side character). I cannot tell you!

I’ll be looking forward to book two. In fact, had I realized it’s due out next month, I probably would have held off on reading this one so that I could read them together.

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The Storied Blog: Review The Serpent and the Wings of Night

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Book Review: The Heretic Royal, by G.A. Aiken

It’s been two and a half years since I read the first two books in The Scarred Earth Saga. You can go here to read the reviews. While all of the series’ details weren’t immediately available in my mind, I did remember that I’d really enjoyed The Blacksmith Queen and The Princess Knight, which made winning a copy of The Heretic Royal through Goodreads especially exciting.

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Gods save the queen!

Ainsley Farmerson has always planned to break free of the family business—and the family drama. But what was once farming, smithworking, and bickering over the dinner table has turned into open warfare between sisters. Sides have been taken, lives are on the line, and Ainsley has no doubt which sister must be queen. She’ll do whatever is necessary to take down the soulless Beatrix. Even if that means joining forces with angry battle nuns, irritating monks, and overbearing centaurs.

Gruffyn of the Torn Moon Clan has no time for human beings. And yet . . . there is something about the uncontrollable princess that he can’t ignore. Maybe it’s the way her eldest sisters underestimate her. Or her bravery facing down dragons and mad queens from distant lands. Whatever the reason, Gruff is willing to fight by this human’s side. Not only for the entertainment value, but because she’s right. Beatrix must never be queen. So whatever he has to do, whoever he has to destroy, Gruff will battle beside Ainsley. Fast. Hard. And with absolutely no mercy . . .

my review

I don’t use star-rating here on the blog. But I often do when I cross-post to Goodreads. When I look at this series, I see that I gave The Blacksmith Queen a 5* rating, The Princess Knight a 4* rating, and I’ll give The Heretic Royal a 3* rating. I loved book one, but have liked each subsequent book less and less. The reason was especially apparent here in The Heretic Royal.

These books are fun. The characters are zany. The world is full of fantasy creatures. The writing is sharp and witty. But the series has also always been chaotic. That’s part of the fun. But as the series progresses, the balance between utter chaos and substantive plot is faltering. Here in this third book, there is almost no plot progression at all. Aiken leans very heavily on the chaotic good of the characters and brings in a whole host of new crazy characters. And here is where my main problem arises.

All these characters? They’re the characters from her Dragon Kin series. So, here, three books into a series, we suddenly have a series mash-up. These new characters from an old series took up most of this book, and, as a result, the characters from this series were cast in shadow. We the heretic royalgot little more than surface interactions with any of them.

That’s without even considering how it felt to come to this book as someone who has not read Dragon Kin (which I think is 9 books and several novellas long), didn’t know or care about the characters, and didn’t know to expect this sudden influx of new, unrelated characters.

To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I still like the author and am hoping the series balances out because I want to reclaim that feeling from book one.

Other Reviews:

REVIEW: The Heretic Royal by G. A. Aiken

Review: The Heretic Royal by G.A. Aiken