I'm going to be completely honest with you here, I was interested in 'By Blood and Magic (The Dragon Portal Book 2)' by Jamie A. Waters when I read the summary, but it was the cover that kept recurring in my thoughts before I started it.
It's crazy.. but it reminded me so much of World of Warcraft's Jaina Proudmoore look from the most recent game expansion, that even though I'm not a huge fan of the character, I was constantly thinking about this title. There's something to be said for familiarity.. I suppose.. and it really is a gorgeous cover.
All that aside, I found myself surprised by exactly how much I loved the story.
"What's your plan, little one?"
"To bring the memory of life to a place of death."
Sabine is the main character, a fae on the run trying to stay ahead of those who would see her dead, and trying to help protect the world she lives in by sealing a dangerous dragon portal. As she flees across the ocean, the ship is viciously attacked and her companion and several crew members are taken hostage. To save them, she forges a pact bound by blood and magic, and the bulk of the story is about the journey she must take to uphold that agreement.
The ship's captain is a.. wow.. steamy, self-sacrificing dragon shifter.. named Malek.. who I can't get enough of (though her companions aren't entiredly trusting of him). His best friend is also captured with the crew, which sets him up to accompany her and the rest of her group in a bid to free the others.
"I don't know what he needs or what we can do for him. Do you think he's hurt?"
"Well, if we can't figure it out, I could always use a pair of dragonskin boots..."
There's a great deal of traveling throughout the adventure and along the way they meet some other interesting characters. Sabine is a really sweet, kind natured woman who seems to constantly be adding to her own worries, by trying to look out for others. And Malek is a great match for that. He's powerful, if a bit possessive (but really, he makes that work) and at times he's stubborn, but so is she.
Truthfully, they both seem to have more inner conflict than conflict between each other and it's kind of a nice change. At times, he's a little too easy going.. too perfect. He's the most rational male on the planet and she's every bit his equal in that regard as well. If it weren't for all the chaos going on around them, they might also be the most boring couple ever to exist. But there's plenty of drama to keep things spicy and their chemistry is undeniable from the get-go.
"In a word, she was exquisite. And he was well and truly screwed."
I really enjoyed the author's perspective on Faerie and those connected with it. This is also one of the few times I've seen a story with so many wide ranging fantasy races that felt natural. It didn't feel like they were just fodder being paraded out in front of the reader to add words to the page. They were important parts of the people of this world and they each had their roles to play.
My favorite supporting character had to be Blossom. She's this adorable pixie that's part of Sabine's traveling group and if I'm being honest, she reminded me of a less thirsty version of Lehabah from Crescent City. She's super cute, feisty as can be, and very funny.. one hilarious little drama queen. She's also capable of much greater things than pixies typically are in most fantasy stories I've read.
"Blossom's eyes widened, and she shoved the entire piece of cake in her mouth. Her cheeks bulged as she chewed. She held out her hand in a silent gesture for more.."
"I suppose there's no use in telling you to pace yourself..."
"Blossom shook her head and held out both hands, her eyes pleading..."
In fact, the dialogue is definitely punctuated with humor and it doesn't feel overdone at all. There were several times I caught myself laughing aloud.. or smiling in response to something that amused me.
If you're looking for a very solid new series to add to your TBR, this is the one. There's a ton of backstory referenced in this one about her family and her role within the Fae, and something called the Wild Hunt.. which of course made me think of Witcher as well. I'm absolutely going back to get book one, as I'm curious to see if the two are both derived from the folklore of ancient Northern and Central Europe. Plus.. book three is already on the way and I want to be ready!
Baptism of Fire
There was no way to know for sure how long I’d been out. It could have been moments. Maybe two minutes or five. I blinked slowly, staring up at the gaping hole we’d dropped through that was now barely visible through the layer of blackening smoke, afraid to move as my body regained consciousness. Everything hurt. That was the first thing I felt—the pain of bruised, strained muscles, the agony that had traveled up my left side.
The next thing was the heat. The upstairs hallway looked unrecognizable now, a narrow passage engulfed in fast-moving smoke and an inferno that blazed up the walls with an overpowering intensity that shouldn’t have been possible. I’d sweated through my clothes, the fabric drenched, my skin and hair dripping with salty perspiration. My helmet had rolled away somewhere during the collision with the floor, and I knocked into Moretti’s with my elbow once I finally decided that lying there waiting for the house to come down on top of us wasn’t that great for self-preservation.
Over the steady whoosh of the flames demolishing the rooms around us, I heard the melodic chirp of his PASS alarm. A noise I dreaded hearing, a source of nightmares.
And it got me moving.
I sat up and almost regretted it, black spots dancing across my vision as a blinding, gnawing pain spiked through my side. Like it had torn its way in deep, shredding muscle and tissue and causing serious damage. With a shaking hand, I dragged my gloved fingers over my turnout coat to find some kind of debris—I had no damn idea what it was, and at this point I didn’t want to know—sticking out of my left side. I lifted my glove to my sightline to see it smeared with dark crimson.
The gasping whine that echoed in my mask didn’t sound like me at all.
Moretti’s alarm brought me back to my senses. No time.
My pain didn’t matter, not now. I had to work through it.
Groaning, I stayed low to the floor, crawling on all fours to where Moretti lay sprawled and motionless. Every movement pierced the jagged wound in my side, made the heat and the sweat and misery worse. I leaned over him, relieved when I saw the rise and fall of his chest. The orange glow from the fire highlighted the edges of his dark hair, traced the swell of his cheekbones with deep shadows. In the light, I noticed the bright red trickling down one side of his face from somewhere under his hairline.
I tapped his cheek with an open palm. “Moretti,” I called. “Hey, Moretti…come on, open your eyes. Anthony, I need you to wake up.”
“Phoenix!” That was Ramos, her distant shout crackling over our radios. “Moretti! This place is starting to come down!” Well, shit, I hadn’t noticed.
“You have to evacuate now,” Patterson ordered.
“I can’t,” I snapped. “Moretti’s down. He’s…he’s down, but breathing.”
“The stairs are blocked,” Ramos yelled back. “We’re working on it, hang in there.”
Blocked with what? Nothing about this fire made any sense, so why would it start now?
I didn’t know how badly Moretti was hurt, which made me hesitant to move him. But if we didn’t get out of this hallway—no matter how quickly the rest of our team might’ve been working—then we weren’t going to get out of here at all. On my knees, I grabbed the straps of his SCBA and started dragging him around the minefield of burning debris toward the stairs. I grit my teeth against the pain until my jaw ached, exhaling sharply through my nose as I pulled him along with me.
It wouldn’t have been this unbearable if I hadn’t been fucking impaled. Sweat dripped down my forehead into my eyes and I tried to blink it away. With blood loss and the temperature in the hallway, the edges of my vision had turned hazy.
“It’s all right, Anthony,” I said as if he could hear me. “Stay with me.”
The heat flared, a sudden, familiar torrent of hot air passing over us, stoking the same dread I’d felt earlier. A silhouette emerged from the thick smoke and sauntered through the flames, not at all concerned about the heat or the danger of blistering skin and third-degree burns. I peered at the shadow that definitely hadn’t been there seconds before, watching them take shape, the details becoming clearer. A man stood on the opposite end of the hallway dressed in all black, white-gold reflecting off his sleek leather jacket. An arrogant, knowing grin curved his lips into a sneer. He was young. Dangerous.
He’d been with us in the attic.
I didn’t know how, but he’d started this fire.
Priestess of Storms & Stone
It was never a good sign to be drinking bourbon at ten in the morning, but after the week I’d had, I figured I was due. Self-medicating with alcohol wouldn’t take the sting out of my grief, in fact, it was likely to make it worse. But I’d needed a teensy little breather from my housemates after the last truth bomb had been dropped, and wrapping my head around my new knowledge required booze.
I could feel Della’s eyes on me, her acute vampire gaze boring a hole in the side of my face. She wanted an answer to her question, and she likely wasn’t going to leave me alone until I gave her one.
When are we leaving?
That question echoed against the walls of my brain with enough force to give me a headache. Melody was alive. She was alive, and my sister was dead.
But that didn’t make a lick of sense. Melody died right in front of me. I watched Aurelia send her soul on in a way only a phoenix could do. I watched her body burn in the flames of a funeral pyre. I needed answers before I could answer Della’s question.
Because I wouldn’t be leaving to hunt her down unless I was sure this wasn’t some kind of trick. I’d been tricked too many times in the last week, and I wasn’t falling for another one.
“Melody is dead, Della,” I whispered before taking another sip of bourbon, refusing to face my bodyguard. If I looked at her, I’d see either pity or censure, and I couldn’t deal with either.
“Then why is her son gone?” Della pointed out a big hole in the “Melody’s dead” argument.
Shit, fuck, and damn. I made a promise to Melody to keep her son safe. If it wasn’t Melody who had her son—and I highly doubted it was—then I’d have to go get him.
But hadn’t I earned a break? Hadn’t I earned the right to let someone else take up the slack?
You made a promise. You swore. You can’t turn away just because you’re hurt.
Those words cut through my thoughts sharp enough to bring tears to my eyes. I did. I made a promise to make sure her son was safe. And I’d keep it. Maybe it would make my soul burn just a little less. Maybe if I did this one thing, losing Maria wouldn’t hurt so bad.
Yeah, I doubted it.
I sniffed back the sting of tears, tossed back the rest of the bourbon, and managed to set the glass down without smashing it. I’d been on a smashing kick for the last little bit, and my living room had borne the brunt of it. At the time, I’d wanted to destroy everything Maria had ever touched. If I could just break it, burn it, wreck it, then it would have been like she wasn’t stamped all over every molecule of my house.
Wasn’t that stupid?
Like I wouldn’t see her every time I closed my eyes.
“Okay, I’ll give you that,” I muttered, finally answering Della’s question. “But I can’t just bust down the door to Faerie and find her. If it is her. We need way more to go on than a note and a can-do attitude.”
I peered down at myself. I had on black shorts and a black tank top. It was good enough for summer in Denver. All I needed was some flip-flops. Had I brushed my teeth today? Shrug. Was I wearing a bra? My tank had a shelf bra in it. It would just have to do. Plus, Barrett wouldn’t give two shits about what I was wearing. I located my flip-flops in their spot by the door, shuffled my feet into them, and raised my hand to snap my fingers.
But Della pounced on my hand before I could complete the task.
“What?” My whole body was on red alert, my eyes searching my demolished living room and relatively untouched kitchen.
“You can’t go out like that,” Della whispered furiously, her face a picture of panic.
Frowning, I looked back down at myself. Yep, all my parts were covered.
“It’s summer. Shorts and a tank aren’t going to turn any heads no matter how much ink is on display.”
A dawning realization lit up Della’s face before she winced. “You haven’t checked a mirror since you got back, have you?”
"On the night of the thousandth year.. before the dragon stars fade from the skies and concede the heavens to the red bird of autumn, the Harbinger of Change can be called upon by one whose heart is pure."
'Night of the Dragon,' the third and final book in the 'Shadow of the Fox' trilogy by Julie Kagawa, centers around a group of companions that are determined to stop the Master of Demons from using an artifact called the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers.
The Dragon's Prayer, is a ritual that can be used once every 1,000 years to summon the god called the Great Kami Dragon, who will grant the summoner one wish. If they should fail on their quest to stop the Master.. Genno.. from using the scroll, the empire will fall to chaos.
This was my first Kagawa read, so I didn't really know what to expect from her. I knew she seemed to have a pretty big following and certainly the concept of the story sounded interesting.
Unfortunately, unpopular opinion time, I just wasn't impressed. You're going to find this is a mostly positive review, even though she didn't rock my world. Don't get me wrong, she's a very solid writer. She understands the acts and how to move the story along. She understands the importance of relationships and various types of intimacy. The quality is there, the story just lacks the factors that could make it stand out and become something exceptional. In fact, there are a ton of things she's actually great at.
"Fighting hordes of the dead seems a fun way to spend an evening. Unless we vote to stay here and make sure all the sake doesn't go to waste...? No? Fine, blood mages it is."
Her battle scenes were very visual, without being so blown out that you couldn't focus on anyone. She did touch on different parts of the fights, but she lingered long enough with each group to give the reader a good understanding of what was happening, what the characters were feeling, and enough play-by-play to let you 'see' what occurs, before moving on.
Telling the story from multiple view points, she does a fine job of transitioning between them, though they did lack those distinctive voices that make this approach work to it's best. Other than who they were talking to and/or about, they mostly sounded the same.
Character wise, the group is likeable. Yumeko, the kitsune shifter and main character, is sweet and determined. She does suffer from a little of that 'can figure out how to do just about anything in a couple of seconds' syndrome, but we're going to chalk that up to her unique heritage.
"The Dragon is almost risen, and all the world trembles with the end of another age. But whether the Wish brings ruin or fortune is yet to be decided."
She's accompanied by Kage Tatsumi, a shadow clan shinobi, who is stuck sharing his body with the First Oni, Hakaimono. Now, the demon General is actually my favorite character in the book. Don't ask me why. He's the Beast, I suppose. He's the most powerful, most dangerous oni in the demon army, he's a bit brooding, he's always a bit disgusted with everyone, but he's still the one for me.
There are others, of course.. Reika the shrine maiden and Chu the komainu guardian, Daisuke the noble warrior prince, Okame the ronin, and a host of smaller characters that still play pivotal roles. Daisuke and Okame, especially.. have a rather soft, beautiful relationship for a pair of warriors.. and I absolutely loved that. Yet.. all these things aside, the characters still felt like we were really only seeing the surface layers of who they might have been.
"Baka noble. Why do you always have to fling yourself at the biggest thing on the battlefield?"
As I read the book, I constantly felt as if it was really just very average. Most of it seems to rely heavily on the hope that readers will just be fascinated with the idea of the mythological Japanese characters to begin with. There's no impression of the author reaching to be creative with them at all, but rather to keep things "interesting," she would just throw in another creature and then do pretty much nothing to expand on the existing mythos surrounding them.
Instead of foreshadowing, she outright telegraphs what's ahead and honestly, the story just feels like she combined a lot of existing cliches from long standing Asian stories and put them forth like they were unique in some way, without putting in the work to make them that way. And frankly, I didn't feel any investment or interest until I was over 60% through the novel.
I love seeing diverse content published and on a personal level, I obviously love seeing content that relates to my own heritage, being consumed. But this felt like a mediocre effort. Like.. hoping the majority of the audience just wouldn't be that familiar with the other media much of it seems to be drawn from. I did like that she's not afraid to let go of a character. Almost any character. But that would be more effective if she didn't display the urge to find a way to make things okay afterward.
Aside from all that, objectively.. if I'd been less familiar with the subject matter, I might have been bowled over a bit more. Plus, like I said, she's a good writer. I just don't think she's a very creative one. I do, however.. think people are going to love the book.
Clyde pointed forward, brushing the unruly hair he inherited from me from his forehead. “What’s that?”
My heart sped up. “What’s what?”
“Those wavy things in the air.”
I exhaled loudly, tension I hadn’t even realized I was carrying relaxing from my shoulders. “Damn.” “Damn?” he and Macy parroted at the same time.
“Yeah, damn. You had me freaking out there. Those waves distorting the air are magic. If Clyde can see them, we’re in the clear.”
“How come I can’t see them?” Macy asked.
“You must just not be looking right,” I said, though I didn’t know how exactly she could be looking wrong. The barrier was ahead of us, in plain sight. Anyone with magic should be able to see it. Even those with weak magic could find the town limits well enough to enter.
“I must not be looking right,” Macy repeated, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Right there.” I pointed ahead just as Clyde had. “It’s like heat waves coming off the pavement.” “Only they go all the way up to the sky,” Clyde added, and a bit more tension oozed from me.
Macy shook her head. “I don’t see anything. Seriously.”
“That’s …not possible,” I said.
She crossed her arms and turned the full brunt of her sass toward me: “I’m telling you, there’s nothing there. You think I’m lying or something?”
“Of course not. There’s no reason to lie. Actually, there’s never reason to lie to your mother.” I arched my brow at them in my I’m-dead-serious look.
Clyde chuckled. Super encouraging.
“I don’t know what to tell you, Ma,” Macy said. “I don’t see anything but more pot-holey road.” Clenching my fingers around the steering wheel, I debated what to do. I couldn’t call my family. There were no cell phones or landlines in the entire town, a fact I’d purposefully omitted in my brief rundown to my kids of what was to become their new home. They would’ve fought me to leave even harder if they’d realized their beloved iPhones were about to be rendered useless.
The barrier dome that protected Gales Haven from discovery behaved as a gigantic Faraday cage. No electromagnetic pulses got in, and none got out. The concentration of magic in the community interfered with connections to the outside world. Every time landlines had been attempted, the result was the same: crackle.
My options were twofold: I could drive through and hope like hell the protective barrier didn’t zap my daughter. Or I could turn around and abandon all hope that Macy would get the help she needed, guidance she could only get from my family.
I’d never heard of someone with magic not seeing the barrier’s signature shimmer. I had no idea what it meant.
“When your magic erupts like it’s been doing,” I asked Macy, “what does it feel like?” “Like I stuck my entire hand in an electric socket and shocked the shi—”
I gave her my mom glare.
“Like I get a monster shock every time,” she finished.
Nodding, I nibbled at my lip. “Okay. Good,” I said, mostly to myself.
“What’s good?” Macy asked.
“If your magic’s too weak, the barrier won’t let you through. I assume it also won’t let you see it. But if it’s shocking you like that, you’ve got enough. For sure.”
“What about me?” Clyde asked. “Do I have enough?”
“If you can see the barrier, we’re good.” I nodded to convince myself that everything would be smooth sailing from here on out, and kept right on nodding to myself when I didn’t fully believe it. Nothing had been particularly easy in my life.
Didn’t mean I didn’t kick ass and take names. I did—all day long.
I’ve got this.
I eased the car back onto the road and crawled toward the shimmer, throwing constant glances at Macy. With her big brown eyes and long, dark straight hair, she didn’t look much like me.
Maybe twenty feet from the barrier, I asked, “Still nothing?”
“Nope,” she answered, popping the p.
“I can’t believe you can’t see it,” Clyde said. “I can see it tons.”
“It’s not like that makes you better than me,” Macy retorted right away.
He hmmphed, and Macy swiveled in her seat. She gasped. “I see it! When I turned my head, I saw it out of the corner of my eye,”
“Good enough for me.” I exhaled loudly and pressed down on the accelerator.
I might have left Gales Haven under less than auspicious circumstances, but nineteen years had passed since then. Long enough to discover that in this world—magic or not—we make our own luck.
I had no desire to be some shrinking violet. Or the meek wife Devin had expected and tried his darnedest to mold me into.
I was returning to town on my own terms—sort of. And not a single woman in my family had ever done anything meekly—or quietly.
I gunned the engine, and yelling out “Towanda,”I crossed the shimmering barrier.
“Anything you can give me for this headache?” Paul clenched his teeth, hoping to reduce the lightning bolts behind his eyes. He tried to remember how delicious it felt to be pain-free.
“We’ll get you something.” Dr. Shapiro turned to his nurse. “I’m ordering a mild sedative for Paul so we can remove the shrapnel. When we’re done, find him a spot in the ward and—”
Paul interrupted. “I have a friend who was wounded. I think he was on the chopper with me. Do you know if Sam Sutton is here?” He looked at the doctor for reassurance.
Dr. Shapiro knew who Paul was talking about. He laid a hand on Paul’s arm. “He just got out of surgery. I’ll see if I can get him a bed next to you once the anesthesia has worn off.”
“Will he be okay?”
“Yes, we treated his hand.” That’s all Doctor Shapiro would share with Paul. He stood up and moved to the next patient in line. Paul struggled to prop himself against the wall, comforted only by a small pillow for his head and a thin blanket to minimize the shaking he couldn’t repress. He surveyed the scene that unfolded before him and waited for Sam to join him. The room was filled with muffled groans from dozens of young men, many in critical condition with life-threatening injuries, mutilated limbs, and grotesque facial wounds that replaced the once handsome, strong, vigorous appearance of youth. Some
screamed in agony as young nurses did their best to scrub lacerations and change dressings, while others lay silent with nothing more than a vacant, faraway look.
Paul watched a trim and confident nurse, her chestnut hair securely pulled away from her face in a tight bun that showed off her high cheek bones and almond-shaped eyes—rich, like the color of chocolate. She wrapped the final piece of clean gauze around the head of a distressed young soldier and whispered something in his ear. Whatever she had said appeared to relieve his agitation as a slight smile crossed his face and he surrendered his broken body to sleep.
The nurse walked over to Paul, pulled up a chair, and introduced herself. “Hello. My name’s Diane. Feeling okay? Any pain? It’s almost time for another dose of medication.” Amidst all the suffering, she smiled and waited for Paul’s response.
“Hey, hi, I mean hello, Diane. My name’s Paul. Waiting for my friend, Sam Sutton. Doc said they would bring him out soon. Ya know if his hand’s okay?” He hoped Diane might have more information about Sam’s condition, but she politely excused herself as she rushed to meet two medics entering with Sam, still groggy from surgery. They inched closer to Paul and the empty cot next to his. Diane’s gentle hand guided the corpsmen as they lifted Sam from the stretcher to make his transition to his bed as comfortable as possible.
Paul gasped aloud. He couldn’t help it. There was no way to silence the sound that rose from his throat when he saw his friend beside him, his right hand thick with bandages, wrapped as if to protect something that was no longer there. Paul slowly brought his hands to his face and felt the layers of soft bandages, only his eyes, nose, and mouth exposed. His head pulsated and his face felt tight and swollen. With crystal clarity, his mind flashed back to the instant when his life, when Sam’s life, were forever changed. His body tensed with the memory—the sounds, the heat, the explosions, the cries for help, and the smell of death all around them. He choked back tears and resolved to remain stoic and grateful that his wounds would soon be invisible. Unlike Sam, he had escaped a lifetime of disfigurement and the constant reminder of his brush with death.
Diane hovered over Sam as he stirred. She had played this part too many times the last nine months, soothing traumatized young men, convincing them that everything
would be just fine, even though it was not always the truth. She knew he would need a voice of reassurance when he realized where he was and the severity of his injuries. Sam’s eyelids fluttered. He tried to focus on his surroundings and take in the foul odor and musty smell of the tent, lined from one end to the other with broken bodies. The stench of disinfectant, humidity, and soiled linens stuck to the canvas walls of the makeshift hospital like glue, and he swallowed hard to prevent the nausea from taking hold of his body. Sam rolled his head to one side and looked at Paul, who appeared composed, determined, and calm.
“You made it, buddy. We made it,” whispered Paul.
Since this is the dullest title I've read all year, I'm not going to waste a lot of time on it. Not yours and not mine.
I mean, there's nothing technically wrong with this book, I don't hate it. It's just so boring I didn't want to read it. It took me 3 days to force myself through the first 20%.
Everything is instant.. she gets kidnapped.. but she's hot for him. That can work.. if there's a connection.. but there's nothing. There's no depth to any of the characters, their backstories, or the main plot. It's like someone sat down and wrong a long synopsis.
If you don't care about any of those things, then maybe this book is for you. It wasn't for me.
Honestly, the best thing about this book is the cover. So, just enjoy that.. and avoid the text inside. It's really for the best.
"You look like mayhem and magic all rolled into one--which has been your aesthetic since the dawn of the wiggle dress."
I've been wanting to explore the 'Rogue Ethereal' series by Annie Anderson for some time. So, when I got the chance to read her upcoming release-- 'Priestess of Storms & Stone (Rogue Ethereal Book 5),' I jumped at it.
As I haven't read the previous books in the series, even with research.. I won't go back and talk about the origins of any of these characters. However, the lead-- Max, is incredibly likeable. She's funny, she's got a smart mouth I can completely relate to, and she often seems to subscribe to the 'throw punches first, ask questions later' belief system.. which I..
..well, I plead the fifth on that one.
This book finds Max on the trail of a newly turned succubus, making her way through the realm of Faerie, along with her entourage of guardians, friends, and family members. As is to be expected, not everyone's a friend. There are those who want her dead and those who want to use her to their own ends, but she's made a promise and intends to keep it. She's loyal and seemingly made of determination.
"The rational part of me knew I sounded co-dependent as f*ck. The irrational part of my brain told the rational one to go f*ck itself."
It's a well-structured novel with a lot of page-turning action. I feel like it's a bit of a guilty pleasure read because the author just seems to draw in as many tropes as possible and run with them. Long lost relative? Got it. Buried psychological trauma? Got it. Fated mates and tragic origins and characters who are not what they believe themselves to be? Got all those things too.
That's a pattern throughout the book actually.. the author loves to compile and collect. There's are multiple worlds of creatures at play, from fawns and dryads.. to demons and angels.. to wraiths and shifters.. even a kitsune.
Action scenes read the same way. They tumble constantly from one situation to the next, always potentially in some new and even greater danger. Even down time is used efficiently to further story or build relationships.. or develop characters.
"I leave you alone for five bloody minutes and you've gone and caused the apocalypse.."
I'm not complaining. It's a really fun book. Annie definitely knows how to manage all those spinning plates with ease and none of them ever hit the floor unless she wants them to do so.
Sure, there are a few things that I'm not typically a fan of.
There's always an easy answer to pretty much every situation. Max instinctively knows how to solve them or who to ask or exactly what to say or do to keep moving forward. Everyone in the group is perfectly reasonable once they understand why someone acts in a certain way. Her demon boyfriend is a perfect mixture of loving protectiveness and supportiveness for her independence. And there's always a convenient, easy way to deliver/receive information.
The difference is.. with this book.. I just didn't care. I was having such a good time, she made it all work. And I applaud her for that.
"You humans always miss the most important details," he said. It's not your fault of course.
Where to begin.. about this lovely story.
'Half a Soul' is book one in the 'Regency Faerie Tale' series by Olivia Atwater, a historical fantasy about a young woman who has been cursed with the loss of intense feelings like fear, embarrassment, and happiness. Along with that, she's also lost the ability in most cases to read the room, so to speak. Her actions are rarely based on societal expectations, though she can manage to behave in what is considered an appropriate manner much of the time.. it's through practice and memorized responses. Not instinct.
"Indeed, you should address me as Your Lordship or Lord Hollowvale, for I am the marquess of that realm. You can tell that I am important, for I am wearing many expensive jackets."
While the loss of some feelings like great joy and excitement.. would certainly be kind of sad having experienced them, her reactions are just rather muted. And arguably, lacking any real fear of speaking her mind, makes the main character.. Dora, much stronger than many. In fact, she's logical and wickedly clever. A force to be reckoned with at times.
Those who know me well would likely realize quite quickly that I love this character, as well as exactly why. As a woman who isn't particularly emotional in most scenarios, though I am quite adept at reading the room, I rarely let it influence my own behaviors. I know when it's prudent of course.. professionally for example.. but occasionally I still don't care enough to offer false niceties. I say what I mean.
"If we are being politely dishonest with one another, then you may assure the Lord Sorcier that I am charmed to meet him too."
So, to come across a character like Dora, was incredibly refreshing. I find her extremely likeable and funny. Her humor is usually biting and sometimes a bit dark. She can stand up for herself and others, but doesn't have to do so in some contrived way to show us she's strong. She simply, doesn't really mind making the hard choices.. because for her, they mostly come easily.
Along the way, of course, she meets the Lord Sorcier of England, Lord Elias Wilder. A handsome young man who is quite likely her equal, both in oddness and directness, yet without her affliction. He's a magician who.. and I love the Wonderland reference.. is said to "regularly perform three impossible things before breakfast."
"Pleasant-mannered people are simply the worst sort of people. Decent people become properly angry when presented with miserable injustice, but pleasant-mannered people never do."
There are plenty of other great characters too, Albert.. Elias' friend, Vanessa.. Dora's incredibly loyal.. if somewhat pampered cousin, and the mysterious Lord Hollowvale.. who is quite the alluring fiend.
Atwater does a beautiful job of creating a pair of sibling worlds, where the parallels are visible, but the differences extreme. Sometimes brutal. And often strange, but in a fantastic way.
Admittedly, I have always wanted to read a good historical fiction novel. I know many who love the genre and I hate missing out on something, but in my case.. the overdone use of the period's language always loses me. I just can't handle all the proper b.s. I understand that it was often how things were in certain social circles, but it's not for me. The entire population of those countries didn't speak in the same tones. There have always been variances between the people, either by class or by region.. or something else.
"There is such a thing as evil in this world..."
"It does not help to look away from it. It does not even help, necessarily, to look at it..."
"But sometimes, when you cannot force the world to come to its senses, you must settle only for wiping away some of the small evils in front of you."
Some of the characters here speak in the formal tongue of Regency England, but others don't. There's plenty of varied British dialect to go around. Honestly, my favorite moments of dialogue were usually between Dora and Elias. They held a sense of familiar, relatable banter that I see amongst my own social circles and I loved them.
If you're looking for a traditional Austen title here, this isn't it. 'Half a Soul' is billed as 'Pride and Prejudice' meets 'Howl's Moving Castle'.. and to a degree, I can see that. But to assume that's all it is would be doing it a tremendous disservice.
Do yourself a favor, add 'Half a Soul' to your list of must read books. Olivia Atwater is a sleeping giant of fantasy fiction.
By Blood and Magic
Sabine scanned the sea, but she couldn’t see any sign of the missing crew. If the Merfolk were already taking prisoners, they were running out of time. A few more hits like the last one, and the ship would capsize.
“If you have any suggestions, Sabine, now is the time. Otherwise, I agree with Bane. I’ll destroy every last one of these Merfolk for harming those under my protection.”
Without waiting for a response, Malek leaned over the railing toward the lower deck and called out more orders to ready the catapults. Sabine swallowed and tried to bury the sick fear threatening to overwhelm her. Esmelle wouldn’t even have been on this ship if it weren’t for her. The thought of losing one of her closest friends was unfathomable.
Sabine’s hands tightened on the railing as she stared at the angry sea. “They’ll keep Esme and the rest of the hostages alive until they manage to capsize the ship. Those who aren’t enslaved are usually fed to their underwater pets. If they take all of us down below, we’ll lose any negotiating power we might have while still under the sky.”
“I’ve heard the stories,” Bane admitted, caging her with his arms. She leaned back against his heated skin, thankful for the warmth he offered against the chill from the elements. Bane might have difficulties tapping into softer emotions, but he’d made it no secret he admired and respected the spunky witch who was now an unwilling hostage.
“They aren’t just stories,” she said as a daring plan began to form in her mind.
Bane squeezed her midsection and murmured, “You are my priority, Sabine. If we must lose Esme, she will be mourned, but we cannot allow you to fall. We need to get you and this ship out of here.”
Sabine turned and glared up at him. “We won’t be mourning anyone. I will get them back—all of them. And you’re going to help me do it.”