Fantasy

Shadow Study (Soulfinders #1) by Maria V. Snyder

16130758I love Maria V. Snyder’s books. She always has just the right amount of romance, action, and mystery to make me happy. My all time favorite book of hers is Poison Study, and so I was excited to see she was starting a new series with Yelena and Valek, the main characters of her Study books. This Soulfinders series can be read without reading anything else from her, but I would read the Study series first just because I think you get a better grip on who the main characters are if you start from the beginning.

For those not familiar with these characters, Yelena is an official liaison between two territories, Ixia, a land where magic is banned and Sitia a land full of magicians and magic. She is also a Soulfinder, a person who finds lost souls and guides them to wherever they are to spend eternity. The problem arises when it appears that Yelena’s magic is gone completely, and the whole book we are trying to find out what has happened, who is trying to kill her, and also what the Commander in Ixia is up to. There is also a side story about illegal goods being shipped and who and how they are getting across that we have to figure out.  Along the way we get to meet some new characters and have some laughs when we get to read from Janco’s point of view. The thing about Maria V. Snyder’s books are that she really has a knack for making her side characters so interesting and loveable and so it’s nice to read about new characters that you know are going to be so awesome in the future.

I have to say that I was a bit disappointed because I was excited about reading more about Yelena and Valek, but yet again they seem to be apart for most of the book. Yes, they are really cool characters but I think they are better when they are together, and sadly this doesn’t happen. I was glad we got three different point of views, but when I started reading it, all I really cared about was Yelenas. Valek’s chapters had a lot of flash backs and they ended up being a bit boring for me. I have read though, that some people really liked reading about his past and how he became an assassin so I guess it’s just a matter of preference. Plus I have to say that Valek’s loyalty to the commander has always bothered me, and I dislike reading about it.

I’m not saying not to read or to give up on this series, I’m just saying this book felt like a set up for the next books (even though it had a tidy conclusion) and perhaps in the coming ones Yelena and Valek will be together.

So the bottom line is that if you are familiar with her Study series you will be happy to see the characters you love again, but it’s really just a book you read to get to the next one. For those who are new to anything Maria V. Snyder has written, then I would say start with Poison Study first, even though technically you don’t have to. Shadow Study will be released February 24th.

Also Shadow Study is out in audiobook over at Audible. I highly recommend giving it a listen. Gabra Zackman has been the narrator throughout the series and has consistently done a good job. Here’s a small clip to listen to…

Picture3

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Details, Please (Publisher’s description)
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

So what?
I believe this is Clarke’s debut novel, and it makes me want to read more pirate books. Yes, please! Ananna of Tanarau wants to learn navigation, a ship of her own, her own armada and maybe become the richest woman in the world. Really, is that too much to ask? For an ambitious girl, Ananna wants to do so at her own pace and is not one of those cringe worthy characters who steps on everyone to get her way. She knows her worth, she isn’t superficial, and she can take care of herself (plus she has a cool pirate tattoo)…However, don’t ask me how to pronounce her name, I have no clue.

Naji on the other hand, for being an assassin has a bit of a complex. Don’t get me wrong, he is a pretty awesome character and is ultra-cool, but Ananna came across as the more reliable of the two. Both of them went through different places out of their comfort zone whether it be the desert, the ocean or some scary island both adapting well to whatever the venue. They had a mission to accomplish, and it was a joy to go along with them.

As far as assassin books go it’s much better than some of the most recent ones (Throne of Glass, I’m looking at you) and if you liked the Rain Benares Series by Lisa Shearin which is neither about pirates or assassins (but has both) you would really like The Assassin’s Curse.

So what do you get when you have a pirate and an assassin? Awesomeness.

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Details, Please (Publisher’s description)

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

So what?

High Fantasy! I went on this kick last year trying to find recent YA, high fantasy books, and it was much harder than I thought. Sometimes with that genre I feel the book can drag on and on, but I didn’t feel that way with this book. Also as a plus there wasn’t an abundance of fight scenes or dream sequences that I usually associate with them. It is also neat that Seraphina is a musician and assistant to the court composer.

As for the world building there are a lot of customs and philosophers that are mentioned that just add to the book. It’s pretty cool when people ask who your psalter saint is, but what would you do if your psalter saint was a heretic? Another thing about this book is that it would be best if you kept a dictionary near you while reading. Can you tell me what ‘perspicacity’ means? I didn’t know and had to look it up, among other words…but that’s good, right?

If you are a fan of the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey you might like Seraphina. It mostly reminded me of the same spirit as Dragonsong and Dragonsinger though. So check it out on July 10th.

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Chalice by Robin McKinley

I’ve read her Damar books, Beauty, Sunshine and now finally Chalice. I realize now I’m a Robin McKinley fan. Her writing is so beautiful I just want to read her books out loud and pretend I have an audiobook voice.

Details, Please (Publisher’s description)
As the newly appointed Chalice, Mirasol is the most important member of the Master’s Circle. It is her duty to bind the Circle, the land and its people together with their new Master. But the new Master of Willowlands is a Priest of Fire, only drawn back into the human world by the sudden death of his brother. No one knows if it is even possible for him to live amongst his people. Mirasol wants the Master to have his chance, but her only training is as a beekeeper. How can she help settle their demesne during these troubled times and bind it to a Priest of Fire, the touch of whose hand can burn human flesh to the bone?

So what?
It’s almost like a fairy tale and so warm and sweet. It made me crave honey and I don’t even like honey. The characters in this book seem real, and it is easy to identify with their problems. Mirasol as a heroine is now in my top five. I admired her a lot. She feels inadequate as the new Chalice, and reading what previous Chalices have done only helps so much in her case, as there has never been a honey Chalice and a Fire Master before. So she is adding to the rule books really. She has so much courage and even though she feels like a failure at times, she never lets it show. Basically she went from being a beekeeper to the second most important person in the land.

The Master is an interesting character trying to remember what it’s like to be human again, and trying not to burn what he should help cultivate, and exhausted by the effort. He is isolated during festive events because everyone is afraid of getting burned. It sucks to be a nice guy in a fire body. The Master and Marisol are both duty bound and love the land, and it’s sweet how much they are willing to do to protect it, and how they learn to work together.

There were some parts that jumped backward in narrative and then forward again and I was a bit confused, but it was all written so beautifully I didn’t mind too much. I wish there was a sequel, but I doubt there will be. Also, anyone heard “Latika’s Theme” from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack? It reminds me a lot of Marisol. If you’re a fan of Diana Wynne Jones, or Juliet Marillier then I think you’d really like this book. Even if you’re not, it’s a great read.

Excerpt:

There were several ritual ways a Chalice could hold her cup; she chose the one—only practical on the slender, stemmed Chalice vessels—that allowed her to weave the fingers of her two hands together around it while her crossed thumbs held the other side:connection, joining, linkage. She tried several phrases from the incantation book she had left behind, but none of them suited her; none of them felt right, none of them settled to the work before her. She felt the earthlines listening—listening but waiting. Waiting to hear the thing that would reassure them, that would knit them together, that would call them home.She reached the end of the crack and paused. It had, she noticed with some small relief, stopped growing. But when she turned and looked back along the length of it, it seemed leagues long; the two big work-horses as small as mice in the distance; the heavy ropes hanging off their harness and disappearing into the crack were barely visible threads.

“Please,” she said clearly, aloud, as if she spoke to a person. “Please be as you were. I will try to help you.” She hesitated, and pulled out the handflower honey and added a little more to the mixture in her cup. The water was faintly gold against the silver cup; the small stones in the bottom shone like gems. She did not want gold and silver and gems; she wanted ordinary things, commonplace things. Trees and birdsong and sunlight, and unfractured earth. “Let the earth knit together again, like—like darning a sock. Here are the threads to mend you with.” And she threw a few drops from her cup into the trench. She saw them twinkle in the air as if they were tiny filaments; the pit was quite shallow here, and she could see tiny spots of darkness where they landed. Her fingers were sticky with honey. Absentmindedly she put one in her mouth; the taste of the herbs was clear and sharp, but the honey’s complex sweetness seemed to carry mysteries.

There was a sudden sharp new tremor under her feet. Her heart leaped into her throat and she froze.

The jolt loosened the dirt on the sides of the trench, and it pattered down. Quite a lot of it pattered down, till the trench was barely a trench at all, little more than a slight hollow.

“Here are the threads to mend you with,” she said again, having no better spell or command to offer, and she tossed more drops from her cup into the wound in the earth.

The trench began to fill up.

She walked slowly back toward the deep end, murmuring to the earth and the earthlines, tossing sweet mysterious drops into the shadows of the ravine. The earth under her feet still shook, but the shaking now seemed more like that of something shaking itself back together again after a shock or an unbalancing blow: like the turning sock in the hands of the darner.

The crevasse was disappearing.

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Details, Please (Publisher Description)

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life….

So What?
Maria V. Snyder is an author that no matter what she writes, I’ll read. I love her stories that much. Poison Study is still my favorite, but Touch of Power her ninth book comes closest in the overall feel of Poison Study. Avry is a tough, smart heroine and is just so cool. I mean every time she decides to heal someone it’s like a mini sacrifice that takes courage…and to do that for people you don’t even know is amazing. Plus she doesn’t let people order her around when it comes to healing.

One thing I really like about Ms. Snyder’s writing is that she is able to make even her secondary characters so lovable and almost as important at the main characters. The band of rogues in this book are so likable, and their eventual camaraderie with Avry is sweet. Most of the story takes place with them traveling through the forest, but it doesn’t drag. The pacing is just right. The romance doesn’t really kick in till the end, but the characters are just so interesting I don’t even mind.

The main villain, Tohon is someone you kind of want to feel sorry for until you realize he is just plain psycho. He acts like a deranged kid who just wants to win a popularity contest….or in this case gain all fifteen realms for himself.

If you like fantasy, cool magic, a weird healing system, giant plants that eat people, zombies, knife throwing and juggling then yeah, you might like this book 🙂

And Flea, I still have hope….

Excerpt:

“No. You’re worth more alive than dead.” He paused, knowing he had said the wrong thing. “I meant, I need you to heal someone for me. Once he’s better, you can go back into hiding or do whatever you’d like.” Although muffled, raised voices and the sounds of a commotion reached us. Kerrick glanced to his left. “But if you don’t come right now, there won’t be another chance.” He held out his hand.

I hesitated. Trust a complete stranger or remain in jail and be executed in the morning? If he was sincere, Kerrick’s offer meant I would have my life back. My life on the run. Not appealing, but that survival instinct, which had spurred me on these past three years, once again flared to life. What if he was lying? I’d deal with it later. Right now, it didn’t matter; living suddenly took precedence over dying.

I grabbed his hand. Warm calloused fingers surrounded mine. He tugged me down the corridor. I hadn’t been paying close attention when I had arrived, but I knew this way led to more cells. There was one door into the jail. And loud noises emanated from that direction. Fear twisted. Crazy how a few hours ago I hadn’t cared if I lived or died, but now a desperate need to live consumed me.

Warped by Maurissa Guibord

Details, Please
Having haggled with an older lady at an auction, Tessa now finds herself the proud owner of a couple of boxes of old books and an extra crate that contains a unicorn tapestry. After hanging it in her room she starts having odd dreams and memories of a unicorn hunt from a whole different time period. The Norns, who spin threads of Fate, are especially ticked off having suspected Tessa of stealing seven threads from them. Tessa doesn’t remember this, and what happens when she does pull a thread from the tapestry? Better yet, why is there a sixteenth century nobleman in her room?

So What?
Usually I would stay away from books with time travel and unicorns, but I think this book is creative and likable. It didn’t quite live up to all the hype surrounding it, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I didn’t find it corny at all. The whole unicorn idea was believable, and I mean there are such things as unicorn tapestries anyway.

Also, the time travel was handled in a simplistic way and not at all confusing. Although, there were times where something was mentioned and I thought it would be important and then it wasn’t mentioned again… other than that, it’s a neat read. It’s lite fantasy and reminded me of a Disney Channel movie. So if Disney Channel movies appeal to you and you like the idea of unicorns and dragons, and a girl who lives above a bookstore give it a try on a gray day. Plus it’s a standalone.

Excerpt:

Up close, the tapestry’s deep, jeweled colors made kaleidoscope whorls of crimson and gold and emerald-green, while in the center, the unicorn, woven in milky white, blazed like a pool of moonlight against the dark.

“Gorgeous,” Tessa whispered.

It looked so real. The unicorn, with a long spiraled horn jutting from its tangled mane, was depicted rearing up on its hind legs as its front hooves raked the air. A violent, yet majestic strength was captured in the arched lines of its neck and the muscular shadows of its shoulders.

The unicorn was in a grassy clearing, hemmed in by denser forest. In the background a castle sat atop a distant hill, with turrets outlined against a brilliant blue sky. The scene, Tessa thought, was like something from a fairy tale. But definitely one of the darker ones. And probably not one with a happy ending. For she noticed that a dark cut was stitched on the unicorn’s cheek, and from it flowed two crimson drops of blood. The unicorn’s large golden brown eyes seemed to glitter. Tessa squinted. She felt strange, breathless.

She reached out and brushed her fingers over the tapestry. The threads were warm and soft, almost velvety beneath her touch. Then it happened.

A tingling sensation ran up her arm, quick and warm and so lightning fast Tessa didn’t have time to snatch her hand back. Suddenly everything was gone. The tapestry, the car, even the ground was gone.

It was as if a black fog had swept her up and was carrying her far away. She was drenched in darkness, blinded. But she could hear something. In the black fog, a voice spoke. Words swirled around her.

Through warp and weft, I bind thee. 

Probability Angels by Joseph Devon

This is my last entry for the R.I.P challenge.  I wasn’t able to do as much as I planned with school being so hectic but I really enjoyed participating and can’t wait to do this again.

Details, Please

The premise of Probability Angels sort of reminded me of City of Angels where there are angels walking around everywhere. You know, the scene where all the angels are in black trench coats at the beach at sunrise? That’s how I imagine these characters, except more mischievous and not in a good way really. I can’t say I warmed up to them immediately because they were tough to like. They definitely didn’t become probability angels because of their sainthood. However they did make an important selfless decision to become what they are. Matthew Huntington is still considered a noob in the angel world doing minor mischief like making foreigners fight over directions and encouraging a heart-broken man to go after his just married love. You know, that sort of thing.

We soon find that Matthew has to make an important decision to either shadow the life of a loved one and eventually fade, or move on to the next step and become a tester, a tester being someone who pushes a person to their moral breaking point. Which isn’t fun at all, but challenges reveal the man and eventually sharpen them. However if he chooses this route he is told what will happen once the tether snaps,

“You will know for certain that you are entirely alone on this earth, and that you are loved by no one. You will be cast adrift with no compass and no oar. Your brain will expand in ways you never thought possible, but your heart will remain frozen in the same place forever containing nothing but the memories of your two choices.”

Pretty harsh, right? Well he becomes a tester and meets some others like him Kyo, Mary, and Bartleby along with their trainer and strongest of them all Epp (Epictetus). Of course it’s at this point where they meet with some trouble. Hey even probability angels need some opposition as well. Another type of undead trouble is waiting for them.

Overall

My review really doesn’t go into the complexities of the book,but I will say things get pretty interesting. Most importantly for those of you who like zombies you might like this book. There’s an army of zombies. If you like to read about a group of paranormal misfits sort of like Dead Like Me, then you might like this. It took me a while to get into this book, but it was an interesting premise and pretty creative. The second book called Persistent Illusions came out this year as well. It’s getting pretty good reviews, so read this one first if you can.