To Kill a Shadow
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 2023
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy / Fantasy Horror / Fantasy Romance
Britannia meets The Mist―with a touch of Evil Dead―in this illusory fantasy horror about a kingdom left to darkness…
Jude Maddox knows nothing of love or even light. He knows only his grim duty as the Hand of Death, to lead the Knights of the Eternal Star into a land filled with nightmares and certain demise. It’s only when he sees her―a young woman with wild, amber eyes who’s as fierce, defiant, and swift as the shadow beasts themselves―that he feels the warmth of life in his blood…
The other Knights may fear their lethal commander, with his hard, merciless demeanor. Outcast Kiara Frey sees only a leader, a man who knows how to survive. Someone like her. But wanting him is as treacherous as the shadows themselves…and just as seductive.
With a kingdom on the verge of collapse, the Knights must now venture into the darkest heart of the land and uncover the secrets of the misted shadows, where evil will prey upon their minds and feast on their flesh.
It will betray their senses.
It will surpass their nightmares.
Most of them will die.
But they have no other choice. Because the only way to fight the darkness…is to become it.
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'To Kill a Shadow' by Katherine Quinn is a split POV tale that follows the mingled paths of a Knight Commander named Jude Maddox and Kiara Frey, a young woman from a poor village, whose decision to protect her brother lands her in conscription.
Jude, also known as the Hand of Death, is a brutally scarred warrior who is said to belong to the King. Marked inside and out, he's suffered greatly at the hands of those who should have loved him.. as much or more than he has from the enemies he has encountered. He's considered cold, hard, and unreachable, considering himself as much monster as the beasts he has felled.
Kiara is an outcast in her village. Her connection with anyone left beyond her younger brother, is tenuous at best. Defiant, she's quick to anger and quick to fight, relishing the adrenaline of the challenge.. and that's exactly what puts her in peril.
Though there is an overarching plot and clearly intentions for more in a series, I felt most of the book centered on the characters themselves. Quinn seemed to focus largely on the development of Jude and Kiara.. both as individuals.. and on the story growing between them.
Pacing was moderate.. seemingly to allow time for things to expand between not only the main characters, but the cast of supporting characters as well. As is often the case, for me.. that meant it dragged just a little. Not enough that I ever wanted to stop reading, just enough that it felt like it took me a bit longer to read than it needed to. That's just my personal preference though and in no way does it reflect on the quality of the writing.
That being said, I did feel there were moments the writing felt a little clumsy, but they were mostly brief and really subject to the same things 90% of modern authors seem to struggle with. Transitional moments in relationships and natural dialogue have got to be two of the most common I see. While these emotional transitions were a little off-balance, the dialogue here is largely pretty good.
My only complaint is probably the actual statement that Kiara 'isn't like others.' I mean, we get it. We get tired of it.. but we get it. You don't have to say it. Again, that's personal taste. On that note, Quinn does have a habit of repeating things she doesn't want the reader to miss, which irks me because I pay attention. However, seeing as most readers seem to lose the plot easily, I can understand her choice to do so.
Quinn did do a fantastic job on settings, in my opinion. From the grittiness of the small village, to the opulent, oppressive nature of the Knights home.. and later.. within the mist.. where all manner of vile and carnivorous thing might dwell, her descriptions are visually lush.
I really loved Jude though and Kiara is a pretty good co-lead. I found her to be kind and funny.. and she managed not to annoy me.. which is really what I ask most in a 'strong, female character' design. I do hope Quinn continues the story as I am hooked enough that I want to see what Jude has planned.. and there's a villain I'm waiting to find out about in-depth.
While I will happily recommend a read, there is a fair bit of violence and gore, and some subjects certain readers might find uncomfortable.. as it is a horror fantasy.
The Witchwood Knot
Victorian Faerie Tales #1
Publisher: Starwatch Press
Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 2023
Genre: Historical Fantasy / Gothic Romance
The faeries of Witchwood Manor have stolen its young lord. His governess intends to steal him back.
Victorian governess Winifred Hall knows a con when she sees one. When her bratty young charge transforms overnight into a perfectly behaved block of wood, she soon realises that the real boy has been abducted by the Fair Folk. Unfortunately, the lord of Witchwood Manor is the only man in England who doesn’t believe in faeries—which leaves Winnie in the unenviable position of rescuing the young lord-to-be all by herself.
Witchwood Manor is bigger than its inhabitants realise, however, and full of otherworldly dangers. As Winnie delves deeper into the other side of the house, she enlists the aid of its dark and dubious faerie butler, Mr Quincy, who hides several awful secrets behind his charming smile. Winnie hopes to make her way to the centre of the Witchwood Knot through wit and cleverness… but when all of her usual tricks fail, who will she dare to trust?
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Certainly as many of you know, Olivia Atwater is one of my favorite modern day authors. So, of course I jumped at the opportunity to advance read her upcoming release, 'The Witchwood Knot.'
Taking place in the same world I've come to know and adore.. as the Regency Faerie Tales, Olivia has lead us on a new journey in this.. her Victorian Faerie Tales series. This one's just a little bit darker, with a lovely gothic fantasy setting full of both wonder and chills. Even the cover has a beautiful papercraft feel to the art style that really gives off delicate, antique vibes.
Our main character, Victorian governess Winifred Hall, is charming and relatable. One of the things I love about Olivia's characters is they always feel very natural.. from their flaws to their quirks. There's no over-the-top attempt to make them stand out, they simply do because they come across like very real people.
Winnie doesn't even particularly like children.. or people.. for that matter and she has good reasons for the way she feels. Her backstory is richly textured. She's kind, though not falsely friendly. She's warm with those who have earned her love and trust.
Another of my favorite things about Olivia's writing.. is every character in the book always has a fully-fleshed out personality and story of their own. We may get more or less of it based on their role in the story, but make no mistake.. they are each individuals with a very specific part of the tale to tell.
The character development is as lush as the story itself.
Mr. Quincy, who is an absolute delight in all of his persnickety interactions.. and the clear frontrunner for my favorite in the book, despite my fondness for Winnie. Robert is at first, rather decidedly obnoxious, but as I came to understand his situation.. I liked him very much too. There are plenty of other great characters too.. and the villains are indeed dark-natured, just in a palatable way. For the most part.
As Olivia's writing has such a whimsical ambience, she did surprise me a little with a very morbid reveal about two-thirds or so of the way through. She handles it with her usual grace and eloquence, but I was a bit stunned at the horror of what I came to realize.. and I loved that. In fact, I'm still talking about that one incident in the book, around home.
All in all, it was another wonderful story. She just never fails me as an author. I always know I can count on her for a new tale I'm going to obsess over. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy, romance, historical fiction, or just all around great storytelling. I can see a potential trigger or two here for some people, so if you have any of those.. just dm me and ask.. or do your research first.
Now I need a signed copy.. and hopefully a pretty special edition down the road. *cough* Kickstarter *cough* Fairyloot *cough*.. someone help me before I choke here..
Continue below to read the book synopsis and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'SINNER'S ISLE' blog tour brought to you by TBR & BEYOND TOURS, JOY REVOLUTION / RANDOM HOUSE CHILDREN'S, and ANGELA MONTOYA!
Publisher: Joy Revolution / Random House Children's
Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 2023
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
The fiery tale of a powerful witch who will do anything to escape the remote island she’s being held captive on, including blackmail an infamous, charming pirate who washes up on shore, from debut author Angela Montoya.
Rosalinda is trapped on Sinner’s Isle under the watchful eye of a power-hungry headmistress. And thanks to her vicious phantoms, Rosa is the most favored at this year’s Offering, where Majestics’ powers will be on full display so the wealthy may choose one to serve them for life.
For years, she has been kept under the watchful, calculating eye of Doña Lucia. Now eighteen, Rosa will be the prized commodity at this year’s Offering, a fiesta for the wealthy to engage in drink, damsels, and debauchery. That is why she must flee—before someone forces the vicious phantoms within her to destroy everything she touches.
Handsome, swashbuckling Mariano has long sailed the high seas as the Prince of Pirates. Then the king’s fleet attacks his father’s infamous ship, leaving him marooned on Sinner’s Isle with only an enchanted chain meant to lead him to his heart’s desire. Instead, he falls into the hands of a brazen (although) bewitching headache—Rosa.
Together they must outwit each other and their enemies before the Offering ends and it’s too late to escape the perils of Sinner’s Isle.
About the Author:
Angela Montoya lives in Northern California with her family. She is the granddaughter of the celebrated activist and poet laureate Jose Montoya.
When she isn’t with her partner, two children, goats, chickens, and dogs, you can find Angela co-hosting the podcast, Of the Publishing Persuasion. Sinner’s Isle was her debut novel.
Nectar of the Wicked
Deadly Divine Duet #1
Pub Date: July 12th, 2023
Genre: Fantasy Romance, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
There is no escaping the middle lands, the gloomy buffer between the human kingdom and the faerie realms. When my guardian is killed by the Wild Hunt after waiting twenty years to trade me for her human daughter, I’m left with no choice but to try.
To find those who discarded me at birth, I must sneak into Faerie.
But my deceased guardian left more than scars upon my heart. Debts are owed to the madam at the Lair of Lust, and I’m forced to repay them.
My first client is a faerie king who offers to give me everything I’ve always wanted. The king will take me to Faerie if I make a blood vow to marry him. A collection of sweltering meetings fool me into believing his reasons for choosing me to be his queen—a changeling without so much as a name.
For upon my arrival in his kingdom, I receive the answers I’ve craved and the truth behind his motives.
My wonder and infatuation for the king and his wintry realm are snuffed by hatred and fear. Though loathing him is futile when venomous words and spiteful games only prove to excite him. Once again, I’m trapped. This time, with an enemy I cannot hide from. One with enough heat in his eyes to melt my resolve, and enough power at his frosted fingertips to accomplish his sinister goals.
To survive all I’ve discovered, not only will I need to unearth King Florian’s dead heart—I will need to guard my own before he tricks it, too.
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I honestly do not know where to begin with this book, but to say that I loved it. 'Nectar of the Wicked' by Ella Fields is both shockingly dark at times.. and a delicious romp at others.
This author is one to watch. She's adept at layers. Layers of emotion.. layers of deceit.. layers of conflict.. both internal and external.
While the main character is terribly naive throughout the story, she's depicted in a way that it makes sense. Rather than feeling she's just making dumb decisions and being annoyed by her.. I found myself genuinely sympathizing with her. Hurting for her in ways I did not expect.
Her betrothed.. the wicked fae.. is the darkest shade of morally grey. He's also probably the most seductive, domineering male character I've read in years. Even when he's being an outright beast, it's no wonder she struggles to defy him properly.
The story is heavily plot driven with plenty of context as to how and why everyone has found themselves at the point they're at in the tale. There is deep character development.. relationship development.. and not a moment of downtime. I did not want to stop reading this book, even when I had things I needed to do.
Not only does the author write great story, she also writes elaborate steamy scenes. Nothing is awkward in the dynamic between her characters that isn't plainly meant to be. It doesn't matter if the scene is days long or just a few minutes in story time, it never becomes boring. There is passion and connection.. for better or worse. There is visceral spice and moments of something suspiciously close to tenderness. Even her dialogue is great and that's probably the thing I complain about the most in modern writing.
One of my favorite things about Fields, is she's not afraid to go hard. There were times, one in particular, where I thought someone would be spared something terrible.. and they absolutely were not. In fact, the scene was detailed with exquisite slowness. I was both horrified and completely absorbed. I cannot say it enough.. I love an author who does not hold back.
That being said, you might want to check trigger warnings before picking this up if you are sensitive to violence, consent issues, etc.
Personally, I cannot wait for book two. There is a bit of a cliffhanger, but it's at a reasonable point and I went right to Amazon to order my copy. If you like steamy fantasy, intense enemies to lovers tropes, and twisty storytelling.. give this one a try. You will not be disappointed.