Book Review: The Philosopher’s War by Tom Miller

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Philosopher’s War by Tom Miller

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of The Philosophers

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 16, 2019)

Length: 416 pages

Author Information: Website

Tom Miller’s debut The Philosopher’s Flight was one of the best gems I found in 2018 and in my opinion it’s still tragically under-rated and under-read. Somehow it flew under a lot of radars, but after the brilliance that was this sequel, you can bet I’ll be jumping up and down, telling everyone about this series every chance I get. My God, this book! I can’t remember the last time I read something that affected my emotions so strongly and unraveled them to such a deep level. Needless to say, not only did The Philosopher’s War live up to every expectation set by the first book, it surpassed them in many ways as well. It’s now at the top for my favorite novel of the year.

But because having a good understanding of the main character’s background and being familiar with the world-building is so important, I definitely wouldn’t advise tackling this book without having read the previous one first. To recap, the series takes place during World War I, following protagonist Robert Weekes AKA Robert Canderelli, the first man to be allowed to join the US Sigilry Corps’s Rescue and Evacuation service, an all-women elite team of flying medics. In this world, there exists a magic system termed “philosophy”, which gifted individuals use with sigil drawing to perform all kinds of amazing feats like teleportation, flight, and crafting a myriad of incredible objects from smoke. For reasons unknown, however, women tend to have a much stronger affinity for philosophy, beating out their male counterparts by far. Not surprisingly, this means philosophical fields are dominated by women, and in the face of this bizarre twist on gender roles, men like Robert had to work twice as hard to prove himself and fight the discrimination against him in order to pursue his dreams of flying for R&E.

Now he is about to meet an even greater challenge, as he prepares to be shipped off to France to help in the Great War. Because its effects would be so powerful and devastating, use of philosophy in war is strictly regulated by international conventions. No army is allowed to use it in the field, except in disaster relief and in rescuing and evacuating the wounded, which suits Robert just fine. Ever since he was a child, he has always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his heroines to become a Sigilwoman, serving his country and saving lives. But once in the Corps, all his romantic notions of heroism and bravery are dispelled as Robert finds himself in way over his head, surrounded by the danger, chaos, and death on the front lines. The only comfort he finds is in the rare messages he is able to receive from his girlfriend, the legendary transporter Danielle Hardin, or in the company of his sister flyers, who support him as much as they rag on him. However, as the weeks wear on and the Germans become more desperate, fears arise that the enemy will break with international law by using sigilry and smokecarving to develop a deadly chemical weapon. Fortunately, Robert’s commander, the unflappable General Blandings has a plan in place, and she’s hoping to recruit him for a key role in her group of spies, rebels, and misfits.

Much like its predecessor, few things in The Philospher’s War will unfold the way you’d expect. For the most part too, it takes on a completely different tone than the first book and focuses on a new conflict. Still, there are some familiar themes, mostly surrounding Robert’s struggles of trying to prove he can do the job just as well as any woman, though very quickly he realizes that things on the front lines are very different than they were at Radcliffe College. For one thing, the women of Second Division could care less about his pride or private hang ups, as long as they can count on him when it really matters. Because no matter what, you always stand with the women next to you.

And this is why I loved this book. It’s a fascinating mix of history and fantasy, but it reads like WWI fiction. The narrative style reminds me very much of the epicness of the WWII drama Band of Brothers, except with all female characters, but told from the perspective of a man, who is also “one of the girls.” Again, the situation makes for interesting dynamics. Robert’s history books are filled with stories of female heroes and their achievements, but despite having almost all the philosophical power in their world, women still have to fight for their place in a society where men have a lot of authority. Still, within the female spheres of influence, it’s as cutthroat as it can get with ruthless politics and powerplays. Robert is caught in the middle, a symbol of change for some women who see his acceptance into R&E as a step in the right direction, while others would like nothing more than to see him fail as proof that “men just can’t cut it.”

But away from the politicians and generals, down in the lower ranks with Robert and his friends, it’s an easy camaraderie between the women from all walks of life and their fierce loyalty to each other. My hat’s off to Tom Miller for writing the most awesome, realistic and genuine group of women I’ve had the pleasure to read about. They were all written so well, and I loved every one of them: Lt. Drale, Andrada, Punnett, Kiyo, Millen, and all the other women of Second Division. I laughed along with their jokes and antics, commiserated with them over defeats and challenges. It wasn’t difficult to sympathize with Robert’s dilemma, as he gradually grew in solidarity with his sisters in the Corps while feeling more and more unanchored from his life from before. And then, there were the deaths. Obviously, death is a huge theme of this book, being a war story and all, and R&E suffers a lot of casualties while trying to fly the injured out of warzones. Still, I just didn’t expect to hurt so much over the loss of some of these key characters. It was like having my guts ripped out, and yes, there were plenty of tears involved as well.

All told, I loved loved loved The Philosopher’s War. Although the story may take some time to get started, once it does, it becomes this formidable and emotionally powerful novel that will grip your attention and plunge itself into your heart. It’s one of the most poignant and harrowing books I’ve ever read, vividly evoking the terror and tragedies of battle but also the unshakeable bonds that are forged in times of hardship. War is hell for everyone involved, including the rescuers who ferry the gravely wounded men from the frontlines, even though the work is dangerous and fine brave women are being lost every step of the way. But they fly in spite of that, because lives need saving. As the reader, you get to experience those extraordinary friendships that form between Robert and his squad mates, as well as the crushing loss when the war claims them. But amidst the battles and bloodshed, there is also plenty of action, adventure, and even some humor. And of course, the world-building and the magic of philosophy was crazy unique and fantastic. As I’d hoped, this sequel has managed to reach new heights and has even surpassed the original, and I am just absolutely in awe. Whether you’re a war fiction buff, a lover of history, or a sci-fi and fantasy fan, there’s something for everyone, and I can’t recommend this series enough.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Philosopher’s Flight (Book 1)

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Audiobook Review: The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction, Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Hachette Audio (July 23, 2019)

Length: 12 hrs and 47 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Megan Tusing

For years there has been a moratorium on manned space flight, and Sally Jensen can’t help but feel she’s responsible, after a decision of hers led to the death of crew mate on her last mission. It didn’t matter that her quick thinking also saved lives, the space programs of the world decided that it was too great a risk. But now, a mysterious object has been sighted entering our solar system, slowing makings its way towards Earth. No one knows what it is or what it wants, but everyone wants to find out whether it will be a threat to the planet. Scrambling to put together a team to investigate, NASA seeks out the now retired Jensen because no other astronaut has the wealth of knowledge and experience that she does.

But NASA isn’t the only ones interested in what might be humanity’s first alien contact. KSpace, a private sector aerospace company, also wants in on the action. This means that Jensen only has mere months to get ready for the mission of a lifetime, making the most out of her limited resources and an inexperienced crew that she hardly knows. Everyone has also heard about the ignominious way her career ended, so she’s determined to prove herself and not let any harm come to her people. Unfortunately for her though, the aliens didn’t get the memo. Immediately upon reaching the mysterious object, Jensen and her team realize just how unprepared they all were to handle what they find inside.

For readers who love movies like Alien or The Thing, The Last Astronaut will likely scratch a particular itch. David Wellington is also a well-known horror writer, so it’s not surprising that after a while the story takes a sudden and drastic turn down this path. If you’re seeking a more traditional tale of alien first contact, this book might not be for you, but on the other hand, readers looking for a skin-crawling, claustrophobic and eerie journey through some psychologically dark and disturbing places will probably want to check this one out. Stepping into unknown territory, the characters will encounter sights both strange and nightmarish, some of which have clear signs of influence from sci-fi horror cinema.

I also enjoyed the way this story was structured, with Wellington going for a rather cheeky approach to its presentation. Namely, he has injected himself into the book, playing the role of dutiful chronicler writing about Jensen’s mission as if it has actually happened, hence why we sometimes get the occasional “interruption” from a few of the characters themselves, wishing to expand upon something in the writing or to clarify a point. It was a little distracting at first (especially when you’re doing this book in audio) and admittedly I think these brief snippets took a bit away from the horror tone and atmosphere. However, after a while I grew used to them, and even started to appreciate the levity they added.

For all the efforts put into developing this story and the characters though, ultimately this was a pretty superficial novel. That said, I wouldn’t say I was too disappointed, considering how everything I got out of it was in line with my expectations. Still, I wouldn’t have minded seeing more character development, getting more a feeling that their lives and motivations mattered. Like a TV movie, The Last Astronaut delivered the entertainment and thrills, which was great because it was what I wanted, but there was also potential for it to be so much more.

Bottom line, I think The Last Astronaut just missed its mark to be truly great, but it was still a very compulsive read which employed some unique narrative devices and interesting ideas. The overall atmosphere was delicious, and I found parts of quite immersive and at times downright terrifying. Nothing too earthshattering, but it’s a good choice if you’re lookina sci-fi novel with a strong undercurrent of macabre horror.

Audiobook Comments: Smoothly narrated by Megan Tusing, the audiobook of The Last Astronaut was pretty awesome to listen to, especially with all the creative sound effects. At times, some of these were a little intrusive, breaking my concentration, but in general they made for an immersive audio experience.

Book Review: Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (July 30th, 2019)

Length: 304 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

In Shari Lapena I’ve found a new mystery-thriller author to watch, first thanks to An Unwanted Guest and now Someone We Know, another wildly entertaining can’t-put-down novel offering a classic who-dunnit plot with a modern twist. This time, we’re transported to a quiet suburban neighborhood in upstate New York, where life is about to become a lot more interesting for its residents.

It all began with a missing person report filed by Robert Pierce, whose wife Amanda had not returned from a purported trip out of town with a friend. At first, believing Amanda to have left her husband, the police were not too concerned. But then came the call about her car found submerged in the shallows of a lake, and stuffed in the trunk was Amanda’s badly beaten body.

Meanwhile, Olivia Sharpe is reeling along with the rest of her neighbors at the news about the murder, but she is also distracted with some big problems of her own. She has just found out that her teenage son Raleigh has been breaking into other people’s homes, hacking into their computers. Raleigh on his part swears that he has never taken anything and that no one has ever suspected he was there, but nevertheless, Olivia is consumed with guilt, leading her to write anonymous letters of apologies to the owners of the houses her son had broken into. To her horror, one of them is Robert Pierce, whose place is now crawling with police dusting for fingerprints in the investigation of Amanda’s murder. What they find is shocking—it appears there’s a lot more going on in this sleepy little town than anyone realized.

What an insanely addictive book this was, packed with all kinds of delicious mysteries and suspense. Lapena knows just how to get under your skin, making you dwell upon the kinds of secrets your neighbors might be hiding. She’s also an expert at unraveling your nerves, at knowing just what buttons to push to make you squirm. I mean, who wouldn’t be disturbed at the idea of a stranger in your house while you were away, snooping at all the personal information on your computer? Even when the home invader is a guileless and confused teenager like Raleigh, who can say what he was really up to and what kinds of things he’s seen? And no surprise, that ends up being an important aspect of this book.

But what attracted me most to Someone We Know was the murder mystery premise, which, like in An Unwanted Guest, was almost a throwback to the Golden Age detective classics. But unlike those stories, the investigators are not the central characters. We’re given a glimpse into the progress of the case though the eyes of a police detective, but he only plays a small part in this narrative which is predominantly about the various residents in the neighborhood. There are lots of characters to keep track of, but they’re all very fascinating and easy to remember in no small part due to the respective scandals and dirty laundry they’re all trying to hide. Like a juicy soap opera with all its tangled relationships and shocking secrets, the drama in this book was like crack.

And man, how the plot ended up jerking me around—but in a good way. You’ll think you’ve figured something out, only to have something happen to make you reconsider all your assumptions. Then almost right away, something else will happen to bring you right back to your original theory, but now, of course, you’ll be seconding guessing everything. And on and on it went, with the story hurling its twists at me left and right. The main mystery, of course, was who killed Amanda. But there are lots of other threads playing out along side it as well, making you wonder how they all tie together. As always, you can never truly take a character by their word or infer too much about their actions. That’s a lesson I learned with the last novel I read by the author.

All told, Someone We Know was everything I wanted in a mystery: delightful unexpected twists, plot developments and clues that kept me guessing, and plenty of suspects who all had their individual secrets and motives. I also enjoyed the classic feel and structure of the story along with its quick pacing and unpredictability. In short, I would highly recommend this one to fans of the genre.

2019 Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag/Mid-Year Roundup

I’m not really in the habit of doing book tags (too many reviews to write, too little time!) but for this one I decided to make an exception. For one thing, I think it serve as a great jumping off point for a mid-year roundup post, featuring some pretty interesting categories that are fun to think about. Also, normally I would be scheduling a Bookshelf Roundup for today, but seeing as I’m still on vacation (I’m drafting this in advance), it wouldn’t be possible to do my usual “Stacking the Shelves/Recent Reads” summary and I figured this would be the perfect alternative.

So here we go!

Best Books I’ve Read So Far

Although it feels like I’ve been much pickier this year, I still have quite a few 5 star books. So I figured I would spread the love a little, and pick a favorite from each genre: The Wolf in the Whale (Fantasy), The Poison Thread (Horror), Three Laws Lethal (Science Fiction).

Best Sequels I’ve Read So Far

Some say it’s rare for a sequel to live up to or even outperform the original, but here are a few books that beat those odds.

New Releases I Haven’t Read (But Want To)

Um, yikes. We’d be here forever if I listed all the new books I want to read but haven’t gotten to yet, so let’s just pull my top three from the past month or so.

Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of the Year

Easy. I’ve known these were my top three since the beginning of the year.

Biggest Disappointments

These books I had high hopes for, but ultimately they did not live up to the hype or my expectations.

Biggest Surprises

It takes a lot to surprise me, but whenever I come across a book I enjoy in a strange genre or one that traditionally doesn’t work for me, that’ll do it.

Favorite New Authors

I’ve been reading a lot more thriller, mystery and suspense this year, so it’s not surprising that I’m adding a bunch of new authors to my auto-buy list.

Favorite Characters

Since I don’t do fictional crushes, I’ve changed these next two questions to favorite characters/least favorite characters. Favorite new characters: Aubrey Finch from Wherever She Goes by Kelley Armstrong, Nick Hayes from One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence, and Aunt Charlotte from The Witch’s Kind by Louisa Morgan.

Least Favorite Characters

Least favorite new characters: Red from The Girl in Red by Christina Henry, Rone from Smoke & Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg, and the entire Quinlan family in The Homecoming by Andrew Pyper.

Books That Made Me Cry

 

I rarely cry when it comes to books, but so far a few this year have touched me or at least managed to make me tear up.

Books That Made Me Happy

 

These books have either made me laugh, cheered me up, or filled me with a sense of pleasure and warmth.

Best Tie-Ins

This category is originally “Best Book To Film Adaptation”, but I’m modifying it somewhat to suit my reading habits. Time to admit I don’t get to watch TV or go to the movies as much as I would like to these days…but I do read a crap ton of media tie-ins.

Favorite Post

I mostly only write reviews on this blog, peppering it with a few memes and update posts on occasion. I did however have a lot of fun putting together some advice for new audiobook listeners in this Top Ten Tuesday post: Top Ten Tuesday: Thinking of Trying Audiobooks? Ten Tips for New Listeners. Hope it was helpful!

Prettiest Books I Received This Year

I make no apologies for being a complete cover whore, and I’m not gonna lie, I tend to be drawn to colorful, artistically detailed and aesthetically striking covers that are original and distinct.

Books I Need to Read By the End of the Year

Um, a lot! But will you look at that, I just so happened put together a handy list in my 2019 Rewind Challenge post last week! Check it out to see all the books I’m planning on reading and reviewing before the year ends!

Friday Face-Off: White Noise

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

“You can’t choose between life and death when we’re dealing with what is in between.”
a cover featuring WHITE NOISE

Mogsy’s Pick:

Dreamfall by Amy Plum

So I couldn’t really find a cover among the books I’ve read that features a grainy or static effect for this week’s theme, but I did come across one that looked somewhat digitally distorted. Close enough! Dreamfall follows a group of teenagers who are signed up for an experimental study to help treat their individual sleep disorders. However, the equipment hooked up to the teens ends up malfunctioning during the trial and the seven of them seemingly fall into comas. In reality though, they’re all dreaming, trapped inside a nightmare together. Worse, they’re being hunted by their deepest fears come to life, and in this dream, you’ll never wake up if you die.

Let’s take a look at the covers:

HarperTeen (2017)

Turkish Edition (2017)

Hungarian Edition (2018)

 

Winner:

So I didn’t exactly love this book which might be biasing me against these covers, because I’m not really crazy about any of them. If I had to choose my favorite, however, I have to say I’m a bit intrigued by the HarperTeen edition because of the whole watery, melting effect giving it a weird Salvador Dali kind of vibe to it.

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

Book Review: Salvation Day by Kali Wallace

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Salvation Day by Kali Wallace

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Berkley (July 9, 2019)

Length: 320 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

After reading the description for Salvation Day, I thought I had a good idea of what I was in for: a futuristic sci-fi horror, with an outbreak scenario, maybe even possibly some crossover into zombie territory. I think I was picturing something like Dead Space in my mind. Well, what the book actually turned out to be was something quite different, though the story still ended up being a thrilling and cinematic experience.

Around a decade ago, the space exploration vessel House of Wisdom became abandoned after a deadly infectious virus was released on board, killing everyone on the ship. The sole survivor was a boy, Jaswinder Bhattacharya, the son of a very prominent family in the political and scientific community. Subsequently adopted by his aunt, Jas spent the next ten years pretending he could not remember what happened on the House of Wisdom and has tried to keep a low profile ever since. Meanwhile, the spaceship, which has become massive tomb, is left drifting in space guarded by drone missiles that would destroy anything that dared approach.

Now older, Jas is about to embark on his first journey back into space since the incident, along with a small group of his friends and fellow students. But unbeknownst to him, he is the key to a plan hatched up by a cult who want to use his genetic signature to bypass the security measures guarding House of Wisdom, which they mean to transform into a new home for their people. Zahra is one of the members of this cult, acting upon the orders of their leader Adam. She and her team were supposed to hijack Jas’ shuttle and kidnap the young man, forcing him to help them access the ship. No one was supposed to get hurt, or at least that was Zahra’s original understanding. But not long after they took over of the shuttle, everything started going wrong. Not surprisingly, when they reach the House of Wisdom, they also find bodies. However, what Zahra finds disturbing is not the presence of the dead, but the way that they died, which does not appear consistent with what was reported by the government. She and her team had been inoculated against the virus that supposedly killed everyone, but the threat they are faced with is something else entirely.

The story is told via two main perspectives—Zahra and Jas. Kali Wallace does a fantastic job balancing their POVs, giving readers enough background into her characters’ lives so we can sympathize with them and understand what drives them. Despite them being very different and having conflicting motives, I felt connected to both protagonists. It’s hard to say whose chapters I enjoyed following more, as I thought their lives were equally fascinating to read about. And once Zahra and Jas realized that they would be better off working together to survive, that’s when the character development and relationship dynamics grew even more intriguing.

As I said before, the way the story is presented is also very cinematic, and there were certain scenes that made me feel like I was watching a movie. Periodically, bits and pieces of conversation and reports from the House of Wisdom passengers’ last moments are also injected into the narrative, heightening the tensions and spooky atmosphere aboard the derelict ship. In addition, the world-building helps set Salvation Day apart from other sci-fi offerings that feature similar themes. The politics of this world are complex, involving a complete restructuring of the society following an apocalyptic event. Spawned in the aftermath of the collapse are a number of different government factions, resistance organizations, displaced refugees and other outsider groups like cults and extremist movements. All these opposing forces have created uncertain conditions and unique challenges in people’s lives.

Then there are the more pressing, immediate threats facing our characters once they make it aboard the House of Wisdom. Hidden agendas, betrayals, and secrets help keep the plot engaging, as if the dangers around them and the possibility of being infected with a deadly parasite weren’t enough. I honestly didn’t expect much from this book beyond the virus angle, but as the story gradually expanded in scope, I was drawn into a plot that was way more nuanced than I had originally thought, and I ended up being quite satisfied with the crux and conclusion.

At the end of the day, I would recommend Salvation Day if you enjoy sci-fi thrillers with a touch of horror, and I thought Kali Wallace did an especially good job at the creating an atmosphere of suspense and claustrophobia! Glad I took the chance on this one.

Waiting on Wednesday 07/17/19

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Violet by Scott Thomas (October 15, 2019 by Inkshares)

You might recall how much I enjoyed Scott Thomas’ horror novel Kill Creek which was about four horror writers who agree to take part in a publicity stunt by spending a night at a haunted house. I have been waiting for news of next project since, and last week I finally got my answer when a mysterious package arrived from Inkshares and inside was Violet. Needless to say, I wasted no time in looking it up, and it sounds amazing!

“For many children, the summer of 1988 was filled with sunshine and laughter. But for ten-year-old Kris Barlow, it was her chance to say goodbye to her dying mother.

Three decades later, loss returns—her husband killed in a car accident. And so, Kris goes home to the place where she first knew pain—to that summer house overlooking the crystal waters of Lost Lake. It’s there that Kris and her eight-year-old daughter will make a stand against grief.

But a shadow has fallen over the quiet lake town of Pacington, Kansas. Beneath its surface, an evil has grown—and inside that home where Kris Barlow last saw her mother, an old friend awaits her return.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Auto-Buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, a weekly meme that now resides at That Artsy Reader Girl. The meme first came about because of a love of lists. Who doesn’t love lists? The original creators also wanted their lists to be shared with fellow book lovers and to ask that we in turn share ours with them and connect with other book bloggers. To learn more about participating, stop by their page dedicated to it and dive in!

This week’s topic: Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors

This week’s topic is all about my auto-buy authors. Not surprisingly, some of my favorite authors are on here, but this list isn’t static. Some names have dropped off while others have been added over the years as my tastes have changed or I discover new books.

Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson’s been on my must-buy list for years, and I don’t just stop at reading his books, I collect them too – special editions, signed editions, anything I can get my hands on. The man is a writing machine too, so it feels like there’s always something on the horizon to look forward to.

Jacqueline Carey

I read Kushiel’s Dart for the first time when I was in college, and from then on I was hooked! I’ve read every novel Carey has written since, including her urban fantasy.

Juliet Marillier

Marillier is an author who’s a somewhat new discovery for me, so I’m still gradually working through her back list. But every time I find out about a new book of hers, it goes immediately on the list.

Jim Butcher

Butcher’s been pretty quiet lately while The Dresden Files series is still stalled and we’re waiting on news about his next Cinder Spires book. The fact that he’s remained on my auto-buy list despite that tells you just how much I love his work, and my interest hasn’t cooled even a little bit.

Ben Aaronovitch

I know I really shouldn’t count series, but whatever. I just love Rivers of London, okay?

Sarah Pinborough

Sarah Pinborough has always been awesome in my books, but I feel like she’s really hit her stride with her last few novels delivering punchy, enthralling reads each time. That kind of reliability is always key to an author earning a spot on my must-buy list.

RJ Barker

Speaking of which, RJ Barker is another relative newcomer to this list, but when you pull off a phenomenal series like The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, you’re damn right I’m going to sit up and pay attention to everything you write from now on.

Mark Lawrence

I have followed and enjoyed Mark Lawrence’s work since the beginning, I have read all his novels, and I’m not about to stop now.

Sebastien de Castell

I was already a big fan of Sebastien de Castell after the Greatcoats series. After checking out his Spellslinger series, that just sealed the deal.

Kelley Armstrong

Granted, I’m still relatively new to Kelley Armstrong’s work (she’s written a lot books and I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface) but I’m 100% sold on her thrillers and at this point I’m also completely open to trying everything else she writes!

Book Review: Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of Crown of Shards

Publisher: Harper Voyager (July 2, 2019)

Length: 448 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Last year’s Kill the Queen was my first book I ever read by Jennifer Estep and it had me hooked! I was pleased to be back into this world with Protect the Prince and was looking forward to seeing where she will take the characters and story next. If you haven’t caught up to this point yet, be aware as this review may contain spoilers for the first book.

Last time we saw Everleigh “Evie” Blair, she had just saved the kingdom from a usurper and now finds herself ruling as Bellona’s new queen. But even though she was never meant for the role, Evie isn’t stupid; she has spent her whole life in the halls of the palace, watching and learning the ways of the royal court even as the other nobles went about their lives ignoring her. Now they want her off the throne, but so far Evie has succeeded in holding her own.

But apparently Evie has underestimated how badly her enemies want her gone, even going as far as to send an assassin after her. Still, Evie will not be cowed. Despite the increased threat levels, she decides to go ahead with a scheduled diplomatic visit to the neighboring kingdom of Andvari, with whom she hopes to secure a new alliance. But the Andvarian king, still angry and demanding retribution for what happened during the Seven Spire massacre, is a tough nut to crack.

Then there’s the situation with Lucas Sullivan. The sexual tension is thicker than ever between them, but they’re unable to act upon it. In spite of everything, he is still a bastard prince, and now that Evie is queen, she will be expected to marry someone approved by the nobility and produce an heir—and that someone is definitely not Sullivan. Evie is forced to make some tough decisions, going against her true desires. Initially concerned about how much romance would feature in this sequel, I was actually relieved to find that it is well balanced with the rest of the story. What I enjoyed most about Kill the Queen was the its crossover appeal, hitting that sweet spot between romance and epic fantasy, and Protect the Prince continues this trend.

And yes, while I missed some of the gladiator action from the first book, I think the courtly intrigues and the developing political conflicts in and around Bellona made up for some of the slower pacing. There’s less intensity in the plot, but there’s still a lot going on—poor Evie can’t seem to stay out of trouble, but it’s not always her fault. Between working on figuring out who wants to kill her and trying not to start a diplomatic incident with Andvari, she’s got her work cut out for her. With all these different threads, Protect the Prince still managed to move at a fast clip and ended up being a highly entertaining read.

Then there’s the magic! I wanted more detail about the magic system in the first book (which was somewhat light on the world-building) and I got my wish here. We get a closer look at Evie’s particular powers, and I love how she uses them to her advantage against her enemies and the smug nobility who think they can pull the wool over her eyes.

Speaking of Evie, I’m also enjoying her character development. She’s strong, independent, and prefers to solve her own problems even if it means turning down help freely given, or it could get her killed. As a protagonist, she’s very likeable and her charisma helps carry the story. I like that she’s no pushover and can stand up for herself even against pretty much the entire court. She has a long memory and remembers who was kind to her, who was cruel, and what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are—all very good things to know, now that she’s queen.

The series so far is still littered with all kinds of fantasy tropes, but surprisingly, I don’t have a problem with it. The truth is, it gives these books a certain kind of charm, and I love being able to kick back with something light and fun. I also have a feeling Estep is working on the bigger picture, building towards something even better. I look forward to reading the next book.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Kill the Queen (Book 1)

2019 Rewind Challenge

I saw this challenge created by Tammy at Books, Bones and Buffy the other day, and as someone who is perpetually  finding amazing books to read and trying to make a better effort at catching up on releases, I knew I had to get in on this. Basically, the 2019 Rewind Challenge involves tackling the books you might have missed out on when they first came out, but that you are still determined and desperate to read, and the goal is to read them by the end of the year.

You can choose as many books as you’d like, but I’ve decided not to go nuts and try for six – one for each month until the end of the year isn’t too unreasonable, is it? Completely doable!

 

I literally have dozens of books I need/want/have to read, but these are some that are high on my priority list that I really should have gotten to a while ago. A few of these also have sequels coming out this summer, and of course that has lit a fire under me. As well, my NetGalley TBR is starting to get out of hand and I want to knock a couple off that pile to bring my stats back up a bit.

But wait! I also want to add a second part to this challenge as motivation to help me read some early 2019 books released in the first three months of the year that I’m still very passionate about, but for whatever reason I just haven’t gotten to them yet. I’m already planning to read these, but tying them to this challenge will be a good reminder not to neglect them and also to push me to get them read and reviewed before December 31, 2019.

I’m pretty confident I can do this, and I’ve already packed a few of these books to go on vacation with me this week because I’m excited to get started right away. What are your thoughts on mid-year challenges, and could your TBR benefit from some type of “Rewind” challenge?