Kingsbane: A Review

*Kingsbane is the second book in Legrand’s Empirium trilogy and picks up shortly after the events of the first book. To avoid spoilers and confusion, start at the beginning with Furyborn (and check out my review here).*

“I am like no one but myself.”

Kingsbane by Claire LegrandRielle Dardenne thought being anointed Sun Queen would be the end of her problems and the start of a bright future. Instead, with the Gate meant to keep angels out of Avitas failing, Rielle has to use her new command of the Empirium to repair it. But even her powers are limited and time is short to allow her to collect the castings of the saints to help focus her efforts.

Hemmed in by her responsibilities and authority figures who fear her, Rielle finds she is not immune to the angel Corien’s alluring talk of freedom and unbound power. Rielle chose to tie herself to Audric and Celdaria but she is no longer sure love is enough to determine her path.

Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora has been named Sun Queen but lacks the power to back up her new title. Unsure how to channel or control the Empirium, pressure is mounting for Eliana to demonstrate her strength and fulfill the prophecy saving humanity from the oppressive angels.

Haunted by her mother’s legacy, desperate to save the people she cares about, Eliana will have to embrace her strengths and her weaknesses to become the queen Avitas needs.

Two prophesied saviors, two sides in a brutal battle for humanity, two women forced to choose how far they are willing to go for power and protection in Kingsbane (2019) by Claire Legrand.

Kingsbane is the second book in Legrand’s Empirium trilogy and picks up shortly after the events of the first book. To avoid spoilers and confusion, start at the beginning with Furyborn (and check out my review here).

If the first book in this trilogy was all about identity, Kingsbane is about choice as both Rielle and Eliana have to determine their loyalties in their coming battles and fully commit to them.

Legrand takes all of the intrigue, drama, and action from the beginning of this trilogy and multiplies it tenfold with bigger risks, more dangerous consequences, and more adventure for all of the characters. Readers also see more of the world of Avitas in both ages as Rielle and Eliana travel beyond their respective realms to learn more of what it means (and what it requires) to be Sun Queen.

Multiple narrators expand the story and its numerous subplots although the focus remains squarely on Rielle and Eliana as both women continue to operate in moral grey areas while trying to understand what it means to be a savior and a hero in worlds that seem more comfortable fearing and subjugating them.

Kingsbane is a sexier, darker, and even more intricately plotted installment building toward inevitable betrayals and challenges for both Rielle and Eliana. A must read for fans of the trilogy.

Possible Pairings: Frostblood by Elly Blake, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen, Angel Mage by Garth Nix, Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Realm of Ruins by Hannah West, The Girl King by Mimi Yu

Angel Mage: A Review

“They had been drawn into the affairs of the great and could not easily escape.”

Angel Mage by Garth NixLiliath has spent more than a century hiding, asleep, hoping to regroup after the Fall of Ystara before she tries to reunite with her lover, Ystara’s archangel Palleniel. Rallying Ystara’s descendants around her, Liliath prepares to use her formidable angelic magic to be with Palleniel at long last.

But she will need more than Ystarans who have long been shunned by the angels–unable to benefit from even the most basic angelic magic without fear of being killed by the Ash Blood plague or transformed into beastlings–to complete her plan.

In nearby Sarance, four young people are the last pieces she needs: Simeon’s dreams of becoming a doctor are sidetracked when a scientific procedure goes horribly wrong; Henri, an opportunist to his core, thinks his luck may have changed when he receives a new position; Agnez has earned her way into the musketeers as a cadet; and Dorotea’s hopes to be left alone to study icon-making and angelic magic are dashed when her singular skill draws unwanted attention.

The four are immediately drawn to each other even as happenstance and greater forces conspire to bring them together. Although they start as Liliath’s pawns, these four unlikely friends may also be the only ones who can stop her in Angel Mage (2019) by Garth Nix.

Nix’s newest standalone fantasy showcases a true ensemble cast with shifting close third person perspective in each chapter following the four friends and, notably, the story’s antagonist Liliath.

Despite the magical additions, Angel Mage is uncannily timely as the characters explore themes of tolerance and discrimination in a world with a refugee crisis of its own. Inventive magic and an inclusive society give this story a setting with refreshingly modern sensibilities. This story is also notably free of all but the barest hints of romance. Instead, the growing friendship and trust between Simeon, Henri, Agnez, and Dorotea takes center stage as the four friends work together to understand the conspiracy into which they have been drawn and how best to use their distinct skills to try to stop it.

Angel Mage is an homage to friendship, magic, and The Three Musketeers–elements which blend surprisingly well in this fast-paced adventure. While Simeon, Henri, Agnez, and Dorotea’s journey reaches a logical and earned conclusion, fans can only hope Nix will return to this world again one day.

Possible Pairings: Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima, The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco, Furyborn by Claire Legrand, The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson, There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool, Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration at BookExpo 2019*

Furyborn: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“You’re just my kind of dangerous.”

cover art for Furyborn by Claire LegrandOnly two people are meant to have power over all seven kinds of elemental magic–a prophesied pair of queens. The Sun Queen will bring light and salvation. The Blood Queen will summon an age of ruin and destruction.

Rielle Dardenne should not be able to wield all of the elements. Her uncontrolled magic has already cost Rielle dearly. She isn’t eager to lose more. Terrified she may be marked as the Blood Queen, she hides her power from everyone.

When her best friend Audric, the crown prince, is attacked by assassins Rielle has no choice but to intervene. The kingdom believes Rielle to be one of the queens in the prophecy. But which one? To prove her loyalty and that she is the Sun Queen, Rielle agrees to demonstrate her control and her power by completing seven trials where failure will mean death.

One thousand years later, Queen Rielle is remembered as little more than a legend–a story from when magic and angels were thought to be real. Eliana Ferracora doesn’t have time for stories. Not when it takes all of her energy to keep herself and her family alive.

Eliana isn’t proud to be a collaborator with the invading forces of the Undying Empire. But she doesn’t have time for pride or regret or pity. Not when her work as a bounty hunter is the only thing keeping her mother and her brother Remy safe. Until her mother disappears.

To save her, Eliana will have to form a tenuous alliance with a mysterious man called the Wolf and embark on a dangerous mission traveling across her country to distant shores and the center of a conspiracy closer to Eliana than she can imagine.

Two queens with the power to save their world or destroy it. Two young women pushed to desperate lengths for what they love. One war that has spanned millennia and demands that both Rielle and Eliana choose a side in Furyborn (2018) by Claire Legrand.

Furyborn is the dynamic start to Legrand’s Empirium trilogy. This high fantasy novel alternates chapters between Rielle and Eliana bringing both characters closer to dangerous realizations about their world and their own roles in it. Legrand expertly manages both story lines maintaining tension throughout even in the midst of a surfeit of fight scenes.

High action and lush writing create an evocative and sensuous setting with intricate world building. The dual narrative structure makes for a fascinating setup as readers are positioned with more knowledge than almost all of the characters except, perhaps, for Eliana’s perceptive younger brother Remy and my precious Simon.

Legrand’s characters are fully realized, complex, and often flawed. Rielle’s calculated self-preservation and Eliana’s ruthless protection of her family prove that there are no easy choices for these characters who exist in a world where good and evil often walk hand in hand.

Furyborn is a taut, dramatic story filled with action, adventure, and some hints of romance. This masterful series starter is utterly engrossing and sure to leave readers eager for the installment. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Frostblood by Elly Blake, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen, Angel Mage by Garth Nix, Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Realm of Ruins by Hannah West, The Girl King by Mimi Yu

Be sure to check back tomorrow to read my exclusive interview with Claire about Furyborn too!

Follower Love Giveaway Hop[CLOSED]

This year I’m participating in the Follower Love Giveaway Hop hosted by Kathy (I Am A Reader, Not a Writer). You can view all of the other blogs participating in the hop here.

**THIS GIVEAWAY IS OPEN TO US READERS ONLY **

I’m giving away a SIGNED copy of Angel Burn by L. A. Weatherly. I don’t know anything about the book except that I got it at BEA and the cover is pretty.

TO ENTER: Leave a comment below (with a valid email in the email form field) telling me why you’re excited to read this book.

There are no extra entries for this giveaway but if you wanted to follow the blog, subscribe, or just tweet/post about the giveaway that would be awesome!

This giveaway will run until February 14, 2012 when a winner will be selected via random number generator.

 

If I do not hear from the winner by February 15, 2012 I will have to pick a new winner.

UPDATE: Congrats to the winner: Emily L!

Clockwork Prince: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra ClareOnly in London a short time, Tessa Gray’s world has already been turned upside by her brother’s betrayal and the discovery of her own strange ability. With the help of her unlikely Shadowhunter friends, Tessa has managed to make some order from the chaos of lies and mystery that surrounds her.

That order proves tenuous when rival Shadowhunters seek to displace Charlotte and her husband as heads of the London Institute. With Charlotte’s position in doubt, so too is Tessa’s place in the only home she has known since leaving New York City. If Charlotte can find the Magister, the villain cloaked in secrecy who wants to use Tessa’s powers in his mission to destroy all Shadowhunters, her position will be secured. But what if she can’t?

As Tessa helps in the search for the Magister, her future place in London is not the only dilemma presented to her. Why is Jessamine sneaking off so often? What madness leads Will to move so violently between passion and cruelty? Why does her heart still ache so much just to see him? And what of Jem, Tessa’s quiet, steadfast companion in all of this chaos?

With so many secrets, it is unclear which truths should be told and which should remain hidden in Clockwork Prince (2011) by Cassandra Clare.

Clockwork Prince is the second book in Clare’s Infernal Devices series, preceded by Clockwork Angel. This trilogy is a companion to Clare’s Mortal Instruments series which begins with City of Bones.

It’s hard to review books that are part of a series because, particularly in the case of this book, you cannot read just one book. Things are even more complicated when the series ties back to a completely different, longer, series.

That said, if the idea of a quasi-steampunk Victorian London where the descendants of angels fight monsters (even while befriending one of those “monsters” who happens to be a warlock) this is the series for you. But don’t start here. Go read Clockwork Angel first then come back to read this review.

Clockwork Prince is simultaneously compelling and painfully frustrating. Many questions from the first book (particularly about Will’s . . . affliction) are answered. Some of the answers are satisfying and add to the story. Some of them add to the general annoyance I had while reading the book.

Neither being or knowing the author, I’m not really qualified to say what each character would or would not do. BUT, for this one reader, it felt a lot like every single character walked through the book doing the wrong things. Worse, they seemed to be doing them for all the wrong reasons. Will all be resolved to my satisfaction in book three? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Finding the answer to that question (aside from my genuine fondness for these characters and this series) is enough to guarantee I will eagerly await the release of Clockwork Princess in 2013.

Clare’s writing remains top-notch here. While the larger plot does take a back seat to character development, Clockwork Prince sets readers up for what is sure to be a stunning conclusion to a clever trilogy.

Possible Pairings: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Sabriel by Garth Nix,  Snowfall by K. M. Peyton, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Daughter of Smoke and Bone: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorBlack hand-prints are appearing on doors all over the world, burned there as if by magic by strange soldiers with winged shadows.

In a dark shop that exists outside the realm of conventional doors, a Devil’s supply of teeth is growing dangerously low.

And on the streets of Prague an art student named Karou is about to learn the real cost of a wish and all of the secrets of her murky past–more, perhaps, than she wants to know in Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011) by Laini Taylor.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first book in a trilogy (which is lucky since the book actually ends with “to be continued”). It also has a pretty website with information about the book, the characters and the world.

Broken into four parts, this book has an interesting structure. Each section begins with a short phrase that almost tells readers what to expect even if what follows is never exactly what was expected. For instance, the book begins with “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love, it did not end well.” Yet the story still entices and much remains to be revealed before the novel is over.

The world Taylor creates in Daughter of Smoke and Bone is stunning in both its scope and its execution. In addition to evoking Karou’s mystical life in Prague complete with a church that serves goulash on coffin tables, Taylor weaves an intricate story of angels and devils replete with history, myths and one very bloody war.

Taylor artfully tells at least three stories in this one book as the focus shifts between angels and devils, Karou’s present, and the near past. Though names and details come very fast in the beginning the density of the story eventually lessens as events resolve themselves into one clear, related narrative. At least until the shocking conclusion that leaves things up in the air in a very literal sense until the next book is available.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a delightfully original addition to the ever-growing world of literature about angels (and devils) and a fine example of what the landscape of a fantasy should look like. A must read for fans of urban fantasy and high fantasy alike.

Possible Pairings: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, The Beautiful and the Cursed by Paige Morgan, A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

Exclusive Bonus Content: I read this book back to back with another fantasy. Usually that’s not a problem for me except that this other fantasy was The Girl of Fire and Thorns which, you will agree, has a very similar title. So now I have to really think before saying either title lest I conflate the two.

City of Fallen Angels: A (Rapid Fire) Review

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare (2011)

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra ClareThis book is the fourth in Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. The remaining books will be released alternating with Clare’s next two books for the Infernal Devices series. (She is writing them at the same time so the books end up referring to each other.)

When I first heard about Clare’s plans to extend the series I have to admit I was a bit worried. City of Glass tied everything up quite nicely and I was uncertain about continuing the story of those characters–what more was there to say?

On the one hand Clare brings in several new characters into this story (she also expands the roles of some peripheral characters from the first cycle of Mortal Instruments books). On the other hand, the plot felt familiar in spite of a new villain and sinister happenings in New York City. Clary and Jace still can’t be together, Simon is still having trouble with the ladies, Isabelle is still inscrutable when it comes to her heart, Alec and Magnus are still having their own problems, and yes the Seelie Queen is still asking obnoxious questions and causing trouble.

These familiar threads combined with a large amount of summary in the beginning of the story made City of Fallen Angels drag in the beginning. Being a New York Times bestseller, I can see how Clare would want to make the series accessible to new readers or readers who finished the first cycle a while ago. On the other hand, this is the first book in the series and at times it felt like every key plot point from earlier books was rehashed here (and that’s a lot of old plot points). Possibly for this reason the story didn’t really feel like it picked up until page 200 or so (a little less than halfway into the story).

I enjoy Clare’s writing and love the world and characters she created in her first trilogy. This start to a second trilogy didn’t grab me the way those books did. It often felt more like a setup for a story to be found in books 5 and 6 rather than a story unto itself. That said, I remain a fan of Clare’s anxiously awaiting Clockwork Prince and, later, know I will pick up the next Mortal Instruments books when they are released.