Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Image result for sherwood by meagan spoonerRobin of Locksley is dead and Maid Marian doesn’t know how to continue but the people need a savior. Guy of Gisbourne wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as the Lord of Locksley and Marian’s fiance but he is the horrible right-hand man of the Sherriff of Nottingham. 

Marian never meant to take Robin’s place, to tread in his footsteps but with a sweep of her green cloak and the flash of her sword she becomes her own hero. The hero that fills the storybooks of old: Robin Hood. 

This book was a new and interesting take on the tale of Robin Hood and his band of merry men. I was drawn immediately into this story but argued with myself over putting the book down without finishing it. The basis for this solely was that the characters were too similar to a favorite book series of mine. This series, Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen had characters whose names were the same as they were in Sherwood despite differing roles. I could have looked beyond most of them except for the villain of the tales, Gisbourne. In Scarlet he was a vile man who I abhorred and yet in Sherwood he was an intriguing man struggling to find justice in an unjust world. I just could not compromise these two images of the character in my mind while reading Sherwood making me irrationally angry about where Gisbourne ended up in the tale. Overall it degraded my enjoyment of the story since I was struggling with previous conceptions of what the characters should or should not be. Despite all this internal struggle I still loved the story for Spooner brought to life the struggles of a girl dealing with grief and the need to create a better world for those less fortunate.

Image result for lucifer gifThe characters are what created the tale for we all know the setting of Robin Hood and the world-building is practically set in stone. The main character, Marian was a noblewoman who could fight and shoot better than almost anybody including Robin. After Robin’s death, she sees a need in her world that she decides to fill by becoming the masked legend of Robin Hood. We see her struggle to decide what is right and what her path and purpose should be. Her anguish and yet internal strength called to the reader and I deeply felt her emotions and admired the raw determination of character it took to do what she did.

The other characters added to the tale in wondrous ways especially Gisbourne. As I have discussed I had issues with his character and yet it was still phenomenal to see him finally break loose of the bonds of society all for the woman he loves. In bringing up love I must complain a little bit about the building of the romance. It just abruptly happened and I felt like there was no lead up to Gisbourne being in love with Marian. They spent three-fourths of the story being enemies and yet they are desperately in love by the end. Definitely not the most developed part of this story. However, this can be overlooked for the special wonder of the tale as a whole.

Image result for read it gifI would recommend reading the story. Don’t read it though if you still have another retelling of Robin Hood in your head because it will mess with you. But overall this was a phenomenal read that lives up to Spooner’s adept storytelling of bringing old characters and stories to life in a different and unique manner.

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

Image result for sea witch by sarah henningEveryone knows what happens in the end. True love and a kiss but before that, there were three friends. One feared, one royal, and one already dead.

Evie has been reviled since the death of her best friend, Anna. But when a girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend survived. Maybe her magic isn’t useless after all. As the girls catch the eyes of two handsome princes Evie believes that maybe a happily ever after is possible.

But Evie’s friend has secrets of her own and she can’t stay on land without Evie’s help. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain and the gravity of hidden secrets.

Recently backstories for the villains of popular fairy tales have surfaced and Sea Witch was a prime example of this and it was wonderfully done. The tale explores the backstory of the Sea Witch in the little mermaid. Sweeping its way through the mind it brought to life a girl whose ultimate sacrifice led to her becoming a famed monster. I could not put this book down as the story leaped before my eyes.

Image result for lucifer gif"The characters of the tale were vivid, to say the least. Evie, the central character is a witch who hides her powers from everyone. She is friends with a prince and she is reviled for this along with her being the survivor of a tragedy in which her friend lost her life. The strength of her character showed for she moved beyond the pain of the past and was willing to do anything for a friend. She denied the truth in some areas of her life and by the end we empathize with the sea witch and we feel the pain of being a lonely oddity. It was heartrending to watch her on her journey and the ending of the book left me sorrowful and unable to ever read the little mermaid without feeling for the sea witch.

The other characters added to the tale in their own unique ways creating a wonderful revenge basis for the story. The particular villain for this tale sought revenge for a life unlived and chances lost due to the people closest to her. I will be honest in the fact that I always suspected her character of evil despite the facade she put up for most of the book. However, I did not truly understand the depth or reasoning behind her acts until it was all explained during the grand climax. The two princes created a contrast that had me loving Nik and hating Iker. I adored Nik for his sweetness and obvious jealousy over Evie while I abhorred Iker knowing Evie was just a passing fancy, one in many.

Image result for sherlock gif love it"I loved how the author truly built a world for the tale of the little mermaid. We see little of the sea but we grow to understand the kingdom and their worship of the sea. In a world built for nobles, a poor witch rises and eventually becomes one of the most feared villains of all time.

I would highly recommend this book. I have read some backstories for the villains of fairy tales but I would have to say that this is one of my favorites. All lovers of the little mermaid should read this and examine the backstory of a woman who lost much and gained little despite the power she holds.

Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell

Moira Alexander is fascinated by the deadly sirens in the waters surrounding her home. She plays her violin for them dancing on the edge of thrilling danger for a single note from a siren can send her to a watery grave.

But when a boy is murdered and the sirens are blamed Moira sets out to find the true killer for she knows deep down a human was responsible for the death. Certain that sirens were framed for the death she enlists the help of an old friend rekindling a friendship that died in secrets years ago. As the townspeople decry the sirens and prepare to hunt them down Moira must race against time to find the true murderer and reveal that monsters lie in wait on land not just in the sea. 

Songs from the Deep was an interesting murder mystery novel that told the compelling story of a girl attempting to prove that monsters lurk beyond the sea. Its premise was fascinating but at times the story was boring and the author did not take a chance at compelling plot points. It was tough to get into the story and continue it and the characters were not well developed. They were more etchings of an idea with moments of growth and insight that shone through on occasion. Having said this I liked the idea of the book and it was good enough to finish but I would not prioritize this book before other novels.

Related imageThe world-building was a good idea in theory with an island of tough people used to the dangers of sirens constantly lurking beneath the waves. However, it was not well written. I could not figure out what time period the author was trying to emulate. At first, the world seemed set in a time where they did not have well-developed technology and the people were just trying to live but as the story went on the time period changed with the introduction of telephones. It was just blatantly confusing. The author furthermore did not take chances to expand on the sirens and the constant balancing scale between the islanders and the sirens. The places within the story seemed to just be there though I did enjoy the few moments the author expanded on the history and the feeling of the inhospitable land. The world-building could have been ultimately better.

The world-building was mediocre and the characters were only slightly better. They had the opportunity to grow and sometimes they did but oftentimes they just remained the same. Moira, the main character was intriguing but her character growth was stunted throughout the book. Furthermore, I could not stand the predictable romance which seemed so last minute. The characters were just there but I did like Moria’s voice. It was one of the only redeeming factors in any of the cast.

Related imageAnd I could not stand the progression of the book. It was questions after questions with no answers or leads. It was boring because the suspects never made sense and the evidence Moira had to go off of was minimal. When the murderer was finally revealed it all seemed so mundane and somewhat predictable but then again we never even had any true suspects or well-thought-out characters to suspect. The villain of the tale seemed cobbled together which was not fun to read and it lessened my enjoyment of the tale even more.

This story is not worth reading in the end. It was hard to get through and boring filled with questions and unsatisfactory answers that did not develop the tale.  I would have to give this book 2.5 stars and I usually love everything I read so this is very disappointing.

The Red Labyrinth by Meredith Tate

Image result for red labyrinthThe labyrinth was built to protect but living in its shadow Zadie Kalver feels anything but safe. The maze is enchanted and filled with deathtraps, illusions, and magic. A killer called Dex stalks its corridors and Zadie stays far from it.

But when Zadie’s best friend vanishes into the labyrinth-and everyone mysteriously forgets he exists- completing the maze becomes her only hope of saving him. She brides Dex, to guide her through the maze on a terrifying journey that will change everything she thought she knew about her world.

Navigating a deadly garden, a lethal blood-filled hourglass, and other traps-with an untrustworthy murderer for her guide-Zadie’s one wrong step from certain death. But with time running out before her friend (and secret crush) is lost forever, Zadie must reach the exit and find him. If Dex and the labyrinth don’t kill her first.  I recieved this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own.  This book was published June 4, 2019. 

Image result for i loved the idea gifAs soon as I read the synopsis for The Red labyrinth I knew I had to read it and this book went well above and beyond my expectations. I was intrigued by the short overview of the book and it sounded similar to the Maze Runner series so I decided to read it. And it was worth staying up late up for even if I had to force my eyes to stay open. The idea behind the tale was fascinating and the characters were gritty and real, while the author stunned me with her ability to grow her characters in such a heartfelt way.

The world-building was so unique. I loved the idea of a slightly advanced civilization with people whose skills ranged into the abnormal. Add to that a deadly maze with a killer loose in it and you have a stunning tale on your hands. I particularly adored the maze and the challenges the author placed within that maze. Some of them were heart-wrenching and most of the obstacles sounded like horrible ways to die. Not to mention they were individually unique and I have rarely read trials similar to the ones placed in this book. It added a remarkable background for the masterpiece of characters.

Image result for marvelous gifThe characters were marvelous. At first, I honestly hated the main character, Zadie who was constantly complaining about being normal. She drove me up the wall with her inability to rescue or defend herself. However, as the book went on I fell for her character. She began to see that to be brave or strong she need only rely on herself. That she can conquer the past to find a future and that she doesn’t need special abilities for she is already special individually.

It was a stunning masterpiece of young adult literature and I would recommend it to all lovers of action-packed and unique stories.

Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

Image result for phoenix unboundEvery year each town and village are required to send a girl to the Empire’s capital to be burned alive.  One small village has sent the same girl for five years.  Gilene protects all the village girls with only the magic she possesses.  But the costs to her may be less than worth it?

However, it all changes this year, the year, that Azarion, a gladiator sets out to blackmail the woman who keeps returning each year to burn.  He is set on escaping from slavery and unknown to Gilene returning to his clan in order to reclaim his birthright. 

To protect her family and village, she will risk everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more.  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Pheonix Unbound was published September 25, 2018. 

Phoenix Unbound was an intriguingly dark tale.  Its characters were filled with feeling, fervency, and bravery while the unique and tyrannical world they lived in attempted to force them into submission.  I adored this book due to the intricate characters, and the world the author created despite the dark subject matter discussed.

The characters created this tale with their unwillingness to bend to the evil that subjugates them and the bravery they demonstrate to move beyond their past into a better future.  Gilene is a fire witch willing to sacrifice herself for her village over and over again.  Her sense of duty constantly warred with the need to be something more than just a sacrifice, a girl forever scarred and used until she dies young.  The things she went through for her village were horrific but her spirit never died.  She bravely fought to build a better world for others and herself.  One could not help but love her character simply due to the very human emotions and struggles that she faced and conquered.

Image result for phenomenal gifAnd her counterpart in Phoenix Unbound was just as stunning.  Azarion, a gladiator is intent upon regaining his place and his home after ten long years of killing and abuse suffered from the Empress.  At first he was a gruff and unbending character but as the story went on we began to see his true self as a caring and steadfast individual.  I loved his character for he perfectly offset Gilene and he continued living and fighting even during the most painful moments of his life.  In the end I adored all of the characters especially the main two.

However, these characters would not be complete without the world building which shaped them.  The world they lived in was cruel and brutal.  Under the thumb of two cruel and insatiable rulers everyone suffers and Gilene and Azarion suffered more than most.  I adored the idea of fire magic which was explored in this book along with spooks and haunts.  It was unique and definitely worth the read.

I would recommend reading it for the world building was absolutely fascinating and the characters were well written.  I cannot wait to read Dragon Unleashed by Grace Draven which comes out in June of 2020 and is the second book in this series.

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Image result for Spin the DawnMaia dreams of more than just becoming a wife and mother. She wishes to become a tailor but as a girl that is impossible. However, her chance comes when her ill father is summoned to court and she takes his place dressed as a boy.  However, she must vie with twelve other tailors for a job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And the final challenge is beyond imagining. She must sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own.  Spin the Dawn was published on July 9, 2019.

I cannot fully express how stunning this book was. It took me on a unique and wild adventure that left my heart in shreds and a desperate longing for the next book in the series. The world-building and especially the characters wrapped around one another to create a tale that one cannot soon forget.

The world-building was a stunning creation based on Chinese culture and the Silk road. However, the magical path that the author took created more than just a country unique in its culture. She created a world overflowing with magic, demons, and legends. I have heard of tales of the essence of the sun, moon, and stars being woven into dresses and the author’s take on this was phenomenal.

Image result for loved it gifAnd yes the world-building was gorgeous but the characters were even better. The main character, Maia was a riot of emotions that were easy to connect to and I was immediately engaged. She wanted so much in a world that offered her so little and in the journey this book shows her exploration of her desires and needs. She finds that she can be so much more. And that ending… I loved it. It was poignant. Sad yet hopeful. Promising the beginning instead of the ending. She was willing to sacrifice so much for the happiness of the people she loves and as a reader, we know that this is only the beginning of her tale.

The other side characters were phenomenal and perfectly complemented Maia.  Edan the love interest was an intriguing man who was unwilling to let go of his secrets but would do anything for her. And the other minor side characters added their little personalities to the story assisting in creating this wonderful tale.

Spin the Dawn is a must-read with its gorgeous writing and cover. However, we must wait until 2020 before this story continues in the sequel. Read the book. You won’t regret it.

Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan

Image result for tiger queen annie sullivanIn the Kingdom of Achra, a princess has to fight for the right to rule and Princess Kateri has more riding on the line than just the throne.  She must fulfill a promise to protect her people from the drought and windstorms that ravage them.  The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raid the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

When Kateri’s final opponent is announced she knows she is doomed and in desperation she seeks out the one person she never thought to side with.  What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review and all opinions are my own.  Tiger Queen is set to release on September 10, 2019.

I don’t know what to say after reading this story besides wow.  This tale was based upon the short story of A Lady, or the Tiger and I feel that Annie Sullivan has done the story justice by creating a world in which a princess learns that life is meant to be filled with family, love, and the strength that comes from the spirit as well as the body.

First, I have to exclaim about how stunning the world building was.  Sullivan brought to life a kingdom in the desert barely surviving a drought.  She builds upon the strength of nature and emphasizes the fact that humans cannot bend the forces of nature to their will.  The creatures and twisting sand dunes seemed to howl and spin before my eyes and the writing created vivid imagery that pulled me into the story.

And if I thought the creation of the world was phenomenal the characters were even more so.  Princess Kateri is a girl who is focused upon making her father proud and becoming the queen he wants her to be.  But when she is forced to seek the help of her enemy she comes to realize that her world is not what she thought it was.  Kateri grows into someone who realizes the power of family and who recognizes her people and sees them as more than mere pawns.  Through mental and physical challenges she grows and prevails beginning as an arrogant royal who knows little of the sufferings of the daily people into someone who fights for her people and understands their daily struggles.  As a reader, it was wonderful to watch the main character become better and wiser.

Image result for great support gifThe side characters added to the tale especially Cion who assisted in the growth of Kateri.  He made her see the shades of gray in between the black and white way she viewed the world.   He challenged and supported her but was a strong character without Kateri.  The other side characters added dimensions to the tale creating strong villains and heroes alike.  As the story continued Sullivan expanded the growth of the supporting characters for in the beginning it was minimal and I was slightly upset by the lack of growth.  However, it was made up for later in the tale when the author truly began expanding her characters.  In the end, I loved all the wonderful people that inhabited the world created in Tiger Queen.

This tale is phenomenal and I would definitely recommend it.  The author lives up to her first book by continuing the creation of wonderful stories based upon previous works.