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The Crown’s Fate (The Crown’s Game #2) by Evelyn Skye

“The Game might be over, but their story was not.”

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

The Crown’s Fate is darker, action-packed and thrilling conclusion to Evelyn Skye’s The Crown’s Game fantasy duology.

The story picks up shortly after the the first book, The Crown’s Game ended. Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter under the command of Pasha who is the next Tsarevich following his father’s death. Nikolai is gone, presumably dead after his sacrifice during the Game, saving Vika’s life. Pasha and Vika are torn in Nikolai’s death. Pasha blame himself for forcing the Game to his friends which resulted losing Nikolai. While Vika is incredibly sad. She not only loose Nikolai, she also earned a new prison she didn’t expected. She maybe the Imperial Enchanter, but she doesn’t have the power over her magic. She is bound to serve the Tsar, disobeying his orders means punishment for her.

But Nikolai isn’t really dead, he is just trapped in the dream world – a place he previously created which still holds some of his magic. After the battle with Vika and saving her, Nikolai almost drained his energy and magic, he become a shadow reeling in-between world. In order for Nikolai to go back to the real world, he must pay a dark price – a payment he isn’t willing to make. But what if the choice isn’t for him to make? What hill happen if Nikolai turned against not only to Pasha and Vika but also against himself?

One of the strongest aspects of this series is the Russian settings. Evelyn Skye weaves fantasy and Russian history together, while painting the world in an enticing imagery for readers to get lost into. I was happily lost in Saints Petersberg, following the characters in each corner of the streets of Imperial Russia. Add the political settings, and rich history where the characters are dancing, I feel like I am at the center of a grand show. The Russian elements make the story atmospheric and worth visiting over and over.

“But hadn’t they all changed? Life happened without permission, and it swept everyone along in its violent wake.”

Vika continue to be a strong character in this final instalment. She is still smart, forgiving, and compassionate. When she was commanded to limit the usage of her magic, Vika realized how vulnerable she is without magic, and how she become dependent to her power. Magic maybe part of her, but it is not what she is.

“We are not defined by what we can do, but by what we actually do.”

Pasha who is soon to be a Tsar finally realize the importance of his role. With his parents gone and his best friend not on his side, he now gradually accepting his responsibilities. After the devastating outcome of the game from the previous book, he is now learning from his mistake. He wants to do things right and be a worthy Tsar of Russia.

Nikolai on the other hand, turns to the dark side. A situation he didn’t pick for himself, and no full control over. As he battle his dark side, readers will surely feel for him. Nikolai’s inner battle is sometimes intense. His newly acquired personality painted this last instalment dark, edgy, even at times frustrating. It is no doubt that followers of this series will miss the old Nikolai, and will probably don’t like his newly acquired personality. On my case, I understand why his character need to be tainted. He cannot always be the perfect guy after-all. By throwing Nikolai on the dark side, Evelyn Skye open his character. Readers who love him from the first book will surely find ways to excuse his actions. Like Vika, we all believe that the old Nikolai is still there and we all want to save him.

The only mild complaint is the rush ending. Though the story was tied up pretty neatly, I feel like the conflict was easily resolved. The last battle is action packed and well delivered but I wish there was more. There are still room for more actions, answers and character development. Like more information about Vika’s parents, about Renata’s newly acquired power or even just the tea leaf reading, and Yuliana’s character. Too bad this is the final book already.

Overall, The Crown’s Fate is a fast and enthralling read. A dark and edgy conclusion to Evelyn’s Skye first fantasy duology that will probably leave readers asking for more.

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* This review is based on an advance readers copy I received courtesy of the publisher, HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.

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Avenged (Ruined #2) by Amy Tintera

“Just because you have the title of King doesn’t mean you have any power.”

In the sequel to Ruined, the romance of The Selection and the epic stakes of Red Queen come together in a story of revenge, adventure, and unexpected love.

Emelina Flores has come home to Ruina. After rescuing her sister Olivia from imprisonment in rival kingdom Lera, Em and Olivia together vow to rebuild Ruina to its former glory.

But their fight has only begun. Olivia is determined to destroy everyone who acts against Ruina, but Em isn’t as sure. Ever since Em posed as Prince Casimir’s betrothed in Lera, she’s started to see another side to this war. And now that Cas has taken the throne, Em believes a truce is within reach. But Olivia suspects that Em’s romantic feelings for Cas are just coloring her judgement.

Em is determined to bring peace to her home. But when winning the war could mean betraying her family, Em faces an impossible choice between loyalty and love. Em must stay one step ahead of her enemies—and her blood—before she’s the next victim in this battle for sovereignty.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Avenged is a quick, easy read, and entertaining sequence to Amy Tintera’s young adult fantasy, Ruined.

In this instalment, we are reacquainted with Emelina Flores and her sister Olivia. The two are now ruling side by side as Queens of Ruined. They plan to rebuild Ruina but soon they realized that it will take a while to restore their lands to its former glory. While Casimir, now the new King of Lera, is struggling to maintain his position as the new leader. His cousin, Jovita is a huge threat, and not everyone believe that he is fit to rule.

With the ending of the first book, Ruined, I was actually looking forward for Olivia in this second instalment. She is the big sign that promised great battle and wars. Which makes me excited to read Avenged. Add the title, I’m positive that the book will be an action-pack read even before I start reading. And true to itself, Avenged is packed with battles and war. Olivia is portrayed as menacing, non-empathetic and cold-blooded, which makes her a terrifying villain. But Olivia doesn’t start as the villain in the story. Though readers will see her true side, for Emelina, Olivia is still her younger sister, her family – the very reason Emelina put herself in danger in Ruined.

But inspite of not seeing ahead what Olivia truly is, Emelina is actually smarter in this instalment. Most of her decisions are thoughtful and clever. She don’t make drastic decisions, she ask opinions from others and most importantly she put her people first. She deserves her position as one of the leaders of the Ruined in-spite of her being powerless.

Casimir Gallegos on the other hand started weak. He was poisoned, lost his position as King, and almost give up his entire Kingdom just to be with Emelina. Soon, with the help of Em, he realized what a huge mistake it will be. He then start to claim his throne, and fight for land and his people.

“Maybe ‘coincidence’ is another word for fate.”

Emelina and Casimir are caugth in the middle of political war, revenged, and relationship issues. Which basically makes the plot flowing. With so many things that is happening around these two, there’s no time for boredom. The only mild complaint is that despite of all those things, I still feel like that the story doesn’t contribute much to the whole plot of the series. From book one, we already know that Lera and Ruina are at war with each other, which continue here in this second instalment. It’s a never ending war and revenged that started from earlier generations. It’s like they haven’t learn after losing their parents and many of their people. Though we finally seen the land of warriors, Olso, and get glimpse of how their Kingdom operates, that lasted shortly and cramped near the end.

All in all, Avenged is a heart-pounding, addicting, and light-fasting read. Though it offers little resolutions being the middle book that it is, it is still satisfying and enjoyable overall. Followers of the first book, Ruined will surely relish additional time with Emelina and the rest of the characters, while eagerly waiting for the final instalment.

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* This review is based on an advance readers copy I received courtesy of the publisher, HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.

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Celebrating Debutantes 2016: The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Celebrating Debutantes 2016 Second Wave

I’m so excited for my first feature post for the second wave of Celebrating Debutantes, not only because I have a wonderful author and book to feature but also because I know you will all love today’s stop.

Author Clare Fayers is on the blog today for an interview about her middle-grade fantasy fiction The Voyage to Magical North. This delightful book is a must read for fantasy readers. If you’re looking for fun, adventurous read with magic, monsters, pirates and piraña-like penguins, this book is definitely for you. And the best news, this is only the first installment of a three books series. Yes, that is right, Clare get a three books deal for her debut novel.

Following my interview with Clare is her bio along with places where to find her online. Then there’s also the book description and where to buy copies of The Voyage to Magical North. Trust me, you need to get a copy of this book. And for a chance to own one, check the bottom of the post for the special giveaway. There’s a signed copy that is up for grab and it is open to all. How cool is that? But before that, here’s my interview with Clare first. Enjoy reading!

Author Interview with Clare Fayers

Your debut novel The Voyage to Magical North is just a first book of a series. Congratulations! How thus it feel to have a three-book deal for a first time author like you?

Very exciting and a bit terrifying. On the one hand, a three-book deal meant I could afford to give up work and write full-time, which was amazing. On the other hand, I had an outline for book2 and I was reasonably confident about it, but book 3? No idea at all. I worried for months that the deal would fall through, that my publisher would change their minds and regret ever signing me. But then I got to know my editors (I have one in the US and one in the UK) and saw how much they loved Magical North and my confidence grew.

The best thing of all – I was expecting a quiet launch, but then Waterstones (the major UK bookstore chain) chose The Voyage to Magical North as their children’s book of the month for July. I had a tremendous month visiting stores in the UK for signings and launch events and there were big piratey window displays everywhere. It’s given me a whole new appreciation of book sellers and the fantastic work they do.

Now things are a little quieter, I’m back to working on book 2 and thinking ahead to the third book.

Wow! Congratulations again. I’m sure you had fun at launch events and signing. Meeting your readers and followers.

What led up to The Voyage to Magical North?

I started with the vaguest notion that I wanted to write something fun. It soon became obvious that my ideas of fun – magic, pirates, sword-fights and penguins – were not going to exist together in the real world.

The story really came together, though, with the character of Brine Seaborne. I started to wonder why a twelve-year-old girl would want to go to Magical North – a place so full of magic that if you stand there you can see the whole world. What did she want to see? Once I’d worked that out, the Onion’s quest became her quest to find out who she is and why she was abandoned as a child.

And why middle-grade? Do you think it is easier to write for younger audience than YA and adults?

I don’t think writing for any age group is easy. I didn’t deliberately set out to write for middle-grade; the story and the humour just seemed to fall naturally into that age group. But there is something very appealing about the middle-grade audience. The kids are just growing up and seeing all the possibilities of the world, yet they have very little control over their lives, which is immensely frustrating for them. Many of my characters are driven by the desire to go beyond the rules, to find out what they are capable of doing.

What aspect of storytelling is most challenging for you, and how do you develop your weak areas?

That is such an interesting question! There are so many things I’m still learning. One thing I really had to get to grips with is viewpoint. I tell the story in the third person and switch between my main characters, and it is very easy to slip out of someone’s thoughts and feelings. Thanks to my agent (who is a great editor) I pause every paragraph or two now and ask “and how is x feeling about this?” If I don’t know, then I know I’m slipping out of their head. It sounds like a small thing, but it’s made a great difference to the book, because things tend to get more exciting when you’re really connecting with the characters.

That’s actually a good advice for writers. Thank you for sharing that to us.

Fantasy is such an exciting genre – you can create whole new worlds without much limitations. Do you have any advice for writers when they’re building these worlds? How can you make sure they seem authentic?

You don’t have to think of everything straight away. I started with a basic concept that the world would consist of small islands, most of them ruled individually, and there’d be lots of sea travel, and magic. Other things grew out of that – the different island, how magic works, the way people view magicians. You do need to be consistent, though. If you establish a rule, you can build on it but you can’t overturn it. Consistency gives a real sense of depth as you build up your world, each new idea fitting into what’s already there.

The Voyage to Magical North has a diverse cast of characters. Is it intentional or byproduct of the writing process?

Brine’s nationality is deliberate. She’s trying to find out where she belongs in the world so I wanted her to stand out physically as not belonging. The rest of it is a byproduct of the world, which is composed of vast oceans and scattered islands. It made sense to me that people on the different islands would look different and have different customs and cultures. And the crew of the Onion come from all over the world, so there’s quite a mix.

Without too much spoiler, tell us about the next book of The Voyage to Magical North

Following a clue that Brine might have come from a lost island in the Western Ocean, the Onion sails west and soon the crew are braving giant spiders, man-eating plants and maybe even dinosaurs in the land that Brine forgot.

Thank you so much Claire for stopping by today and for taking the time to answer all my questions above. I’m looking forward to the next adventure of Brine and Peter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author Clare FayersClaire Fayers lives in South Wales with her husband and as many cats as she can get away with. She used to work in a science library, but now writes full-time, which is the best job ever. She likes skiing, kite-flying, playing the cello and dinosaurs.

Find Claire

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


ABOUT THE BOOK

Book Details:


The Voyage to Magical NorthTitle: The Voyage to Magical North
Author: Claire Fayers
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: July 05, 2016
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past–if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she’s spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter.

When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship the Onion. Before you can say “pieces of eight,” they’re up to their necks in the pirates’ quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don’t even think it exists. If Brine is lucky, she may find out who her parents are. And if she’s unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.

Book Links:

Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Giveaway:

What’s up for Grab?

Giveaway The Voyage to Magical North

The Rules:

  • Open to International
  • There will be one (1) winner
  • Winner will be chosen and announced by rafflecopter
  • Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
  • Ends August 27th, 2016
  • Prize will be sent by the author

To enter fill out the rafflecopter form

Good Luck!!!

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each second wave feature post!

CD2016 Second Wave Collage
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The Rose & the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn #2) by Renée Ahdeih

The Rose & the Dagger

“Your future is not set in stone, my dearest star. A coin turns on itself a number of times before it lands.”

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

Book Links: Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads

Personal Thoughts:

The Rose & The Dagger is a wonderful and worthy ending to The Wrath and The Dawn story — a retelling like no other. Worthy of all the praises and adoration.

After getting attached to the characters in the first book, and to the exotic world of The Wrath & The Dawn, I was so excited to get back to this series of Renée Ahdeih. The Rose & The Dagger is one of three books that I’m eagerly anticipating this year. And to say that I am happy to finally get my hands on it is an understatement.

Going back to Khalid and Shazhi’s world remind me just how much I love the first book. Right from the start I get myself immersed with the beauty of Renee’s writing. In many ways Renee is a wonderful writer. Her metaphorical prose and gorgeous passages were always a joy to read. Just like in the first book, The Rose & The Dagger is full of beautiful imagery and words that mean more than they tell. I can always soaked myself anytime in Renée Ahdeih writing.

“The power behind words lies with the person.”

Khalid makes my heart go wild, warmed and even stop in this installment. If you have read my review for the first book The Wrath & The Dawn, you know how much I champion this murderous boy-king. So just imagine how much I love him in here now that he finally show his true side. His feelings and emotions are now unfiltered. The mask he usually wear in front of everyone is rarely seen. All the icy personality he usually project melted. No hints of the murderer that the whole Kingdom of Rey believe that he is, except for times when he think his wife Shahrzad is in danger.

As expected for the Caliph of Khorasan, Khalid is wise beyond his age. With all the lost, deaths and suffering he saw and experienced Khalid now know how to appreciate and value his possessions. Not only his wife but all things he owns. After the dark storm that almost destroyed his land, he personally help in rebuilding Rey without his people knowing. He go beyond the call of duty as the Caliph, providing help by physical labor and other things he can provide without announcing his true identity as their ruler. In loosing almost everything, Khalid learned to appreciate life, to forgive himself and fight for his love — love for his wife, love for his people, and love for his Kingdom. With Shahrzad in his side, Khalid learn how to both fight and surrender, and when to wait and when to act.

“Take help when it is offered, Khalid- jan . True strength isn’t about sovereignty. It’s about knowing when you need help and having the courage to accept it.”

Shahrzad is a strong heroine. She is the true hero in all these. Without her Khalid won’t be the best Caliph of Khorasan will ever be. She is the light behind all the darkness, the shining star in the sea of dark clouds, the heroine who possess not only an immeasurable strength but also an immeasurable heart.

Though the story started with Khalid and Shahrzad far away from each other, these two remain connected in every way. The romance between them is crafted beautifully. I love every part of it. Renée Ahdeih doesn’t need a love triangle to put a tension between these two. And even Khalid and Shahrzad are apart you know that they deeply care for each other. And when they are together, you’ll envy the love they share.

“She saw her sister leap toward the Caliph of Khorasan, trying to push him aside. In the same instant, the caliph grabbed her, wanting to shield her with his body. Two stubborn lovers, protecting each other from the very same threat. Fighting the very same losing battle.”

The secondary characters surprised me in some ways, not just with some revelations and twist that Renée Ahdeih throw in the story but also with how I feel about them. I didn’t expect to changed my opinion of Tariq. From the first book, I honestly didn’t like the guy but in this installment he grew on me, to the point that I wished him happiness. Shahrzad sister, Irsa is also a surprising addition. I’m really glad that Renée’s gave her more part in this final installment. She’s a delight to read just like her sister Shahrzad. Rahim end up a favourite of mine, his loyalty has no bound. A true friend and brother not just to Tariq but to every people he care.

“Sometimes,… the family you choose . . . is stronger than blood.”

Then Despina and Jalal, I did wish that there more of them in this installment but as Khalid said,

“…wishes are for genies and the fools who believe in such things.”

With that, I’m just thankful that I have read part of Despina and Jalal story in The Moth and the Flame: A Wrath & the Dawn Short Story. It’s really a super short story but nonetheless a fun read that provides an extra glimpse to both characters and their relationship.

The magic/fantasy part of the story is a welcome addition. I love every bit of fantasy in this book. Magic carpet, winged serpent, genie, curses and black magic. The child in me rejoice with such things, reminds me of fairy tales I used to love when I was a kid.

On the whole, The Rose & The Dagger is a triumph in many ways. With Renée Ahdeih’s beautiful writing and complex story telling, characters that will surely intrigue and warm your heart, and a world that will makes you want to live inside or get lost into, this book is a perfect ending to an amazing story. Completely engrossing, ravishing, heart-stopping and magical.

I sincerely hope you give this duo-logy a try, because I suspect just about every YA fantasy readers will have the reaction that I have for this series – instant and utter adoration.

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Ruined by Amy Tintera

Ruined

“Make people fear you… Stop worrying about what you don’t have and start focusing on what you do. Make people tremble when they hear your name. Fear is your power.”

Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

Book Links: Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Ruined is a strong start to a new fantasy series by Amy Tintera. It introduces a world where people with especial abilities or power called Ruined are hunted and killed to extinction by neighboring Kingdoms, Lera and Vallos. Emelina Flores is one of the Ruined and she wants revenge.

All Emelina’s loved ones are taken from her – her parents were killed, her sister Olivia was kidnapped and taken as a prisoner, her country is being destroyed, and her people are hunted one by one. She has nothing left but a goal to make her enemies pay. With an elaborate plan of deceit and lies Emelina will do everything to achieve her revenge. Her plan — she will pose as the Prince’s betrothed, while trying to get information about her sister and free her, and then kill the whole Royal family of Lera.

The story is well plotted that ensures readers to keep turning pages after pages. There are more than enough of plot arcs and twists to get lost into. Between waiting for Emelina’s identity to be revealed, her plans of killing the Royal family, her relationship to Cas, saving her sister, helping her people without them knowing, and her alliance to the other Kingdom there’s so many things going on and many are at stakes.

People dies, trust broken, sacrifices are made in this powerful story of revenge.

Amy Tintera introduces Emelina Flores to readers as the cold-blooded heroine. Just few pages from the start readers will find Emelina killing a Princess so she can take the Princess’ place as the Prince’s betrothed. From there Emelina will remove every obstacle on her path to get her revenge and have her sister back. She’s not exactly ruthless but she is non-apologetic. She is very determined and will do anything to survive. For someone who doesn’t have powers like her own people, Emelina is pretty skillful. She does what she can with what she has.

Prince Casimir started as a sheltered and naive Prince. He is unaware of how his father is ruling their Kingdom. But when he met Emelina with her unfiltered opinions and thoughts, Cas then started to see things differently and begin to questioned his father and the way they treat the Ruined.

The ending won’t exactly leave readers hanging over the edge of a steep cliff, but will surely want to know more what’s next to Emelina Flores, her sister Olivia, her people, and her Prince. It actually promise a darker story and leaves a foreboding remarks for readers to eagerly anticipate the next installment.

The only mild complaint with this book is the world building or the lack of it. For fantasy book, I really like when I can easily picture the world or surroundings where the story is set up. I do get that there are four Kingdoms in this book — Ruina, Lera, Vallos and Olso but the relation of these Kingdoms to each other and their actual land positions are pretty vague. Also, the reasons of why Lera and Vallos are targeting Ruina, and the Ruined powers wasn’t explored that much. Let’s just hope that Amy Tintera will tackle all those and more in the next installment.

All in all, Ruined is a fast-paced, thrilling, and riveting story. With lies, secrets, betrayal, murder and well written action scenes this new fantasy series by Amy Tintera will surely keep readers hooked from start to end.

* This review is based on an advance readers copy I received courtesy of the publisher, HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.

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Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

Sword and Verse

“What might happen if writing were a shared endeavor, meant to connect people instead of being hoarded as a tool of power and privilege.”

Raisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.

That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.

Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.

And Raisa is the one holding the key.

Personal Thoughts:

Being a lover of written words Kathy MacMillan’s debut novel instantly piqued my interest from the blurb alone. Imagine a world where literacy are reserved only for the most elite people. Where reading and writing are not easily accessible. I don’t think I want to live in a world like that but a story set in it has its intrigue.

Sword and Verse introduced us to Raisa and her world. Raisa belongs to the lower class of Qilara – a nation where literacy is for the higher class only. When the tutor-in-training to the Royal family is executed for treason, Raisa was chosen as a replacement. Together with Prince Mati, she got the privileged to learn not just to read and write but also know the very highest order of language and the language of the Gods.

But learning how to read and write nor having the chance to spend time with the Prince doesn’t changed her status as a slave. She still belong to the lower class and the Resistance wants her help to get their freedom back. But Raisa’s relationships with the Prince complicate her stance. Between her people and love, which side she will choose?

What I really love about Sword and Verse is the central theme of the book – how important knowledge is or in this case – literacy. For me, knowledge or information is one of the things that should be shared or given freely. No one should hold information in tight fist, especially the knowledge of learning such as reading and writing. Sharing knowledge can accomplish many things and it will benefit a lot more.

As for the the writing, Sword and Verse is a triumph for a debut novel. Kathy MacMillan clearly knows what she is doing in her first book. Her writing style is easily accessible, her characters are realistically drawn, and her world is uniquely setup and vividly sketch.

The mythology before each chapter is very intriguing. It reminds me so much of one of my favorite series The Thief by Megan Whalen-Turner. Though in here, the mythology started as own stories that eventually blended to Raisa and Mati’s world. The way Kathy MacMillan intertwined those two worlds is simply outstanding. She crafted the mythology with enough intrigue and details. At first, it so easy for readers to take the mythology as a different entity, giving only brief anecdotes at the beginning of each chapters, but as the story progress, readers will see how Kathy MacMillan mirrored the story of Gods and Goddess to Raisa and Mati’s world which eventually resulted to a more exciting and thrilling combination.

The intricate writing system is impressive. I’m sure lovers of language/words and writings will surely appreciate this part. The reader in me surely does. The way Kathy MacMillan described the scripts, symbols, languages of the Gods, and the written words in this tale is detailed, making the scenes so vivid. Sometimes I imagined Raisa and Mati in a calligraphy or lettering class doing all the symbols meticulously described by Kathy MacMillan. I almost see the letters and words in my mind like floating symbols.

All in all, Sword and Verse is a gorgeously drawn fantasy that will surely captivate readers from start to end. Kathy MacMillan blends fantasy, mythology, and romance beautifully creating an imaginative, exciting, and satisfying read.

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