Book Review: Cold Iron by Miles Cameron

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

Cold Iron by Miles Cameron

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of Masters & Mages

Publisher: Orbit (October 23, 2018)

Length: 640 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I’ve always felt like I missed out on something big when it comes to Miles Cameron, not having read his Traitor Son Cycle. And while that series is still on the to-read list, when I found out about Cold Iron, the first book his new series called Master and Mages, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to finally experience this author’s work for myself and see what the fuss is all about.

As such, I had no idea what to expect when I started this book. I was a little surprised to find strong throwback vibes to the classic fantasy stories in which the humble farmboy leaves the sheltered confines of his remote village to go to school and explore the world, only to stumble upon a greater destiny than he ever imagined for himself. At least, this was the novel’s early direction. Readers follow Aranthur, a young mage from the rural outskirts who has been living in the big city to study the magical arts at the prestigious academy. We first meet him on the road as he travels home to spend the holidays with his family, but then our protagonist gets himself mixed up in a violent conflict at a local inn, which ends up with him killing someone in self-defense.

This watershed moment leads Aranthur down a new path to a world full of unexpected and exciting opportunities—the chance to master his skills with the blade and to rub elbows with the city’s most elite. But as the political landscape becomes ever more unstable, Aranthur begins to question his role in all of it, wondering why this life of blood, death, and cold iron is the one fate has chosen for him, and thinking maybe there is still a way to change and protect the people he cares about.

As I said, Cold Iron contains strong allusions to classic and popular fantasy tropes, a no doubt intentional decision by the author, who has made some clear attempts to revitalize how we view the genre. Remarkably, there is a decent amount of freshness in a novel like this, even with all the well-worn ideas, in part because Cameron never takes them to the point where they feel superficial or misused. He also includes themes that contemporary readers can relate to, while being careful not to cross the line into overtly discussing current issues.

Aranthur was also a likeable guy. Like most coming-of-age tales about idealistic and easily impassioned young men, his story was full of surprises. In many ways, his character calls to mind Kvothe from Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, another novel that has often been described as rooted in the classical fantasy tradition but with updated twists for a modern readership. Both protagonists start from humble beginnings to wind up the central figure in a conflict much bigger than they are, in a position to affect great change with their decisions. Both spend a good chunk of time in a university setting, learning new things and making new friends. Both seem to constantly moan about being broke. Bottom line, there are enough parallels between the two that make me think if you enjoyed one, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy the other.

On the flip side, these kinds of stories also tend to have slow buildups and Cold Iron is no exception, especially since it contains so much complex political intrigue. I won’t deny there were parts that had me wishing I could skim, even knowing full well that the narrative is setting up the world and slowly introducing all the key players. As a result, there is a lot of initial wandering and the accompanying stop-and-go pacing. There were several scenes which made me and stop and ask myself, what’s the point? And yet, while not every moment is filled with riveting action or excitement, every new experience Aranthur has, every new encounter with a character or every new relationship he cultivates is another step towards revealing Cameron’s grand plot.

To put it simply, Cold Iron is a good start. The biggest challenge in writing the first book of an epic fantasy series is always the balancing act between the elements of world-building and the overall plot. You want to give enough attention to the former because it is the basis upon which your entire series will be built, but at the same time you don’t want to smother the latter because the main character and his story still needs to be compelling enough to hold the reader’s interest. On the whole, I believe Miles Cameron accomplished this goal. The pacing is shaky in places, it’s true—but I also think he’s also established a solid foundation for the next novel, which should flow more smoothly as a result. But perhaps the biggest proof of this opening novel’s success lies in the fact I’m intrigued by Aranthur and I feel invested in the outcome of his story. Needless to say, I’ll be continuing with the sequel.

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YA Weekend: The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

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

The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (January 22, 2019)

Length: 288 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

You’d think the snakes on the cover would have clued me in, but the truth is, I didn’t find out that The Cold is in Her Bones was supposed to be inspired by the myth of Medusa until the day I started it. And in some ways, I wish I had remained blissfully unaware. For you see, knowing leads to expectations—expectations that weren’t quite met. It wasn’t the story or the characters that put me off, exactly; it was the fact that this book was trying to be more than it was.

Our protagonist is Milla, who has spent her entire life on her family’s farm, never once setting foot off the property. Her whole world consists of only the five people she has ever known: her mother Gitta, her father Jakob, her older brother Niklas, and an elderly couple her parents had hired to help on the farm, Stig and Trude. To say she was an overprotected and sheltered child is an understatement, but there is a reason why Milla has been forbidden to ever travel to the village or come in contact with other people—especially with other young women. It is a dark secret her parents have kept from her since the day she was born, though Milla has always suspected something was amiss by the disappointed looks Jakob gives her, or the fear in Gitta’s eyes whenever they settle upon her only daughter.

Then one day, everything changes when it is announced that the farm will be getting a new visitor. Niklas will soon come of marrying age, and it is everyone’s hope that he and Stig and Trude’s granddaughter will hit it off. And so arrives Iris, a beautiful and vivacious girl from the village. But instead of feeling resentful towards the newcomer—who is sophisticated and worldly—our protagonist finds herself completely awed by Iris, happy that she finally has a friend.

But then Iris begins to change. She confesses something that Milla has long feared to be the case: that their village is cursed, and that the demons her parents have always warned her about are real. And now, whatever that has been possessing the village’s young women at random has gotten its hooks in Iris too. Devastated as she is, however, Milla becomes too distracted to confront an even greater and more alarming problem—that she herself is beginning to change. First, there came the voices, and then, the tiny emerald-green snake that had mysteriously sprouted from her head…

If you think this synopsis sounds awesome, that’s because it is. But man, the execution was kind of a mess. For one thing, it is hard not to feel like I’ve been oversold a bill of goods, because aside from the allusions cast by the snakes in Milla’s hair, there really isn’t much else to do with Medusa, which was disappointing considering how the story of Perseus slaying the Gorgon is one of my favorite tales from classical Greek mythology. In truth, there really isn’t much to set this novel apart from a host of other YA fiction claiming to be about female friendships and selling a message of young women standing up against society’s expectations. While it’s great that we have stories like this, I can’t pretend this one is in any way a standout among a sea of similarly themed books.

One reason for this is Milla, who, as a protagonist, was kind of bland. It’s also one thing to have a completely naïve main character (because given Milla’s upbringing in this case, the characterization fits), but simply quite another to portray her as being so stupid as to ignore all evidence in front of her that taking certain actions would be a bad idea. As a reader, few things are more frustrating than watching a character run headlong into a disaster of her own making, not to mention how Milla appeared to lack conviction in anything, constantly doubting herself and changing her opinions on a dime.

It also didn’t help that I found the writing to be overly simplistic, a style which sometimes works well for fairy tale retellings but doesn’t always lend itself to in-depth character development or world-building. All the relationships depicted were flat, from Milla’s supposed close bond with her brother to the much-vaunted friendship between her and Iris, which really didn’t feel all that special, no matter how many times the writing tried awkwardly to shove it in my face. Perhaps if the book had been longer, these relationships could have been better explored, but I just didn’t feel there was enough time for the author to accomplish everything she wanted.

So all in all, I thought this was okay—nothing to write home about, but certainly enjoyable enough and satisfying in that it provided a decent few hours of entertainment. I might even have appreciated it more had my expectations for the book not been so high right before I started, so provided that you approach this with a realistic mindset, this could turn out to be a good read.

Friday Face-Off: Tudor Period

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:

“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king”
a cover of a novel set in the TUDOR PERIOD

Mogsy’s Pick:

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

For this week’s topic, I turned straight to Philippa Gregory, a historical fiction writer probably best known for her Tudor-related novels. The White Queen was quite an interesting book, but that’s probably not too surprising, given its subject matter, the War of the Roses. The story follows Elizabeth Woodville, who was married to King Edward IV from 1464 until his death in 1483. She was also the mother of the two “Princes in the Tower”, Edward V and Richard, who were 12 and 9 years old respectively when they disappeared after being locked up in the Tower of London by their uncle.

Now it’s time to look at the covers. Many of the ones I dug up were boring and repeated a lot of the same themes and imagery, so I decided to only feature the more interesting and noteworthy editions.

From left to right:
Touchstone (2009) – Simon & Schuster (2009) – Simon & Schuster Limited Edition (2009)

  

Simon & Schuster UK (2009) – Pocket Star (2010) – Touchstone Paperback (2013)

  

Serbian Edition (2010) – Danish Edition (2009) – German Edition (2011)

  

Italian Edition (2011) – Indonesian Edition (2011) – Swedish Edition (2011)

  

Czech Edition (2010) – Spanish Edition (2011) – Turkish Edition (2010)

  

Lithuanian Edition (2009) – Latvian Edition (2011) – Hungarian Edition (2010)

  

Winner:

Today’s post is cover heaven if you like pretty dresses, and admittedly I’m quite attracted to the Danish and Indonesian editions because of that. However, this week I’m going to break with my usual preference for “people covers” and choose the Simon & Schuster limited edition as my favorite. With the many different versions here featuring the character’s awkward expressions and poses, I just feel like the simpler the better in this particular case

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

Book Review: The Winter Road by Adrian Selby

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

The Winter Road by Adrian Selby

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Orbit (November 13, 2018)

Length: 496 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I feel like 2018 was the year of second chances. When I finished The Winter Road, I had a hard time believing this was by the same author as Snakewood, a debut that…well, I thought was okay, but didn’t exactly love. But whether it was the change in protagonist or Adrian Selby has just seriously upped his game (to be honest, it’s probably both), this book worked much better for me than his first one.

The Winter Road actually takes place in the same world as Snakewood, but you don’t need to have read the former as a prerequisite to jump right in. Granted, some prior knowledge of the unique magic system might be helpful, but it is not required, since Selby does an exemplary job easing new readers into this strange new world of fight brews and weird chemistry without being unpleasantly forceful with all the details. Much of the story takes place in a region known as the Circle, aptly named because it is miles of sprawling forest and wilderness, inhabited by various warring clans arranged in a roughly circular pattern around a central area known as the Almet. No one has ever tried to unite the clans before, but that isn’t stopping Teyr Amondsen, a retired mercenary who is determined to lead a merchant caravan through treacherous territory she used to call home, forging a trade road which she believes will benefit all those who live in the Circle.

However, not everyone shares Teyr’s grand vision. An ambitious warlord named Khiese has risen to power, and he’s not interested in unification as much as he is in subjugation, ordering his army to use brutal force against anyone who doesn’t capitulate to his rule. To build her road, Teyr and her caravan which includes her family and friends will need to cross a key area of the Almet, which Khiese has claimed for himself. As their two groups clash, Teyr is not about to back down in the face of Khiese’s threats, causing the warlord to become even more violent and bloodthirsty in his attacks.

For me, the highlight of this book was Teyr Amondsen. Leaving aside the fact she’s awesome and one tough cookie, Adrian Selby also did an incredible job of writing her character. Looking back at my review of Snakewood, one of my biggest criticisms was the huge number of characters and the need for frequent switches between points-of-view, which caused no small amount of confusion and pacing issues. In contrast though, The Winter Road was handled much more smoothly, in large part because we got to concentrate mostly on Teyr’s journey and development. She’s also got an amazing voice, which probably isn’t too surprising, since from reading Snakewood, I gathered that being able to create an authentic, “in-character” persona is one of Selby’s strongest talents.

Not only did we get an interesting protagonist in Teyr, we also got an in-depth exploration of who she really is. I liked that her character was a study of dualities: a former mercenary, her body having been ravaged and ruined by effects of the fight brews, she is resilient, strong and tenacious, and yet she also has a soft and caring side that comes through when she is with her lover Aude and their son. I think that’s why this book got me so hard in the feels. Because things don’t really go well for Teyr. Some truly horrible, gut-wrenching things happen to her and her family. And seeing such a courageous, strong-willed and strong-minded individual brought so low, only to watch her get up again and refuse to be cowed, it was an emotional roller coaster that was rough and difficult—but oh so worth it. By the time I was through to the epilogue, after reading about the aftermath through a series of letters from Teyr to Aude, I’m not ashamed to admit I was practically in tears.

I also loved that this book took place in the same world as Snakewood, as it meant bringing back some of my favorite world-building elements, like the concept of “paying the color”—a euphemism used to describe the terrible physiological costs of using brews. These alchemical mixtures can enhance the user’s abilities, but the powerful effects they grant are fleeting, and like a drug, coming off the high can also give you one hell of a crash. Brew-using mercs like Teyr must live with the consequences of their choices for the rest of their lives, an aspect that adds another layer of complexity to her character.

There were, of course, a few hitches. For the most part, Selby has improved on his storytelling by keeping things simple and streamlining the process, though his handling of the dual timeline was still on the shaky side, and once or twice, I lost track of when we were supposed to be. The nonlinear narrative could also explain why I felt the main story took a little too long to get off the ground, but that’s the extent of my complaints.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Winter Road. When I think about how I feel about this book versus how I felt about Snakewood, the difference is like night and day. One big reason for this is the uniqueness of Teyr Amondsen and her strength of personality. Because she was such an interesting protagonist, Adrian Selby was also able to inject a lot of emotional depth and nuance into her story, and the attention to her character development was bar none my favorite aspect of this novel. Teyr’s incredible saga about conquering the wilderness and taking on impossible odds in the face of a merciless enemy is the perfect canvas to create this grimdark fantasy masterpiece, and I loved every moment of it.

Waiting on Wednesday 01/09/19

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

Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan (November 26, 2019 by Orbit)

We’re barely into the second week of 2019 and already I’m lusting after a book that’s not due out until the end of the year, but that’s just how it goes. McClellan will be wrapping up his second trilogy set in the Powder Mage universe (wow, how time flies) and I can’t wait to see how things will play out. I love everything this guy writes.

“War ignites when magic and gunpowder combine in the final book in acclaimed author Brian McClellan’s epic fantasy series Gods of Blood and Powder.

The Dynize have unlocked the Landfall Godstone, and Michel Bravis is tasked with returning to Greenfire Depths to do whatever he can to prevent them from using its power; from sewing dissention among the enemy ranks to rallying the Palo population.

Ben Styke’s invasion of Dynize is curtailed when a storm scatters his fleet. Coming ashore with just twenty lancers, he is forced to rely on brains rather than brawn – gaining new allies in a strange land on the cusp of its own internal violence.

Bereft of her sorcery and physically and emotionally broken, Lady Vlora Flint now marches on Landfall at the head of an Adran army seeking vengeance against those who have conspired against her. While allied politicians seek to undo her from within, she faces insurmountable odds and Dynize’s greatest general.”

Most Anticipated Releases of 2019: January to March

Happy 2019! As we get ready to begin another year, it’s time to look ahead to the Science Fiction and Fantasy reads I’m most excited about. Not only is it fun to organize my reading and to make lists, they also have the added benefit of focusing my attention to the highly anticipated releases that I’d like to check out. This year, I’m trying something a little different by posting a list every quarter to make the TBR seem more manageable. There’s already an impressive tower of books on my to-read pile, and while I’m under no illusions that I’ll be able to read them all, hopefully I can get to most of them (and also put some new books on people’s radars)!

What are your most anticipated releases for the first quarter of 2019?

January

   

   

  

January 8 – The Wicked King by Holly Black, The Lost Puzzler by Eyal Kless, The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden, Lipstick Voodoo by Kristi Charish

January 22 – The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan, The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty, Vultures by Chuck Wendig, Ship of Smoke and Steel by Django Wexler, A Labyrinth of Scions and Sorcery by Curtis Craddock

January 29 – King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, The Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky

February

   

   

   

February 5 – The Hiding Place by C.J. Tudor, The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons, The Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong, Murder Theory by Andrew Mayne, Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik,

February 12 – Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto, The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross, The Triumphant by Lesley Livingston

February 19 – Gates of Stone by Angus Macallan

February 26 – Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte, The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

March

   

   

March 5 – Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston, Wild Country by Anne Bishop, Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy,

March 12 – Titanshade by Dan Stout, The Rosewater Insurrection by Tade Thompson, The True Queen by Zen Cho

March 19 – The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst, Moon Rising by Ian McDonald

March 26 – Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey

Book Review: Darksoul by Anna Stephens

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

Darksoul by Anna Stephens

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of The Godblind Trilogy

Publisher: Talos (January 2, 2019)

Length: 401 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

So, Anna Stephen’s debut Godblind was a book I had mixed feelings about. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be continuing with the series, but when the publisher unexpectedly sent me the sequel Darksoul, I decided to go for it. After all, despite my issues with the first book, I also felt it was solidly written and the trilogy showed immense potential to develop into something more. I didn’t want to write it off completely.

And well, now that I’ve come out on the other side of this book, I’m really I glad I didn’t. I enjoyed Darksoul much more than I expected, and not only because it improved upon many of the weaknesses I found with its predecessor. I also felt more invested in the story this time around, which might seem a little strange, considering how most of it takes place during a siege—and a long and drawn-out one at that. But perhaps it was because we got to concentrate all the action in one place that we were also able to better explore the intricacies of the characters’ lives. In the middle of this intense conflict, the real human emotions finally emerged, and thus these new developments enabled us to truly grasp just how much everyone has at stake.

The story catches us up with many of the characters from Godblind—or at least the ones that have managed to survive the bloodbath that was the first book. Now the capital of Rilpor is surrounded on all sides by the invading army of Mireces. Spurred on by the Dark Lady, whose boundless influence now lies unchecked thanks to the shattered veil that used to keep the enemy’s bloodthirsty Red Gods at bay, the Mireces forces have already killed most of the Wolves along with many of Rilpor’s soldiers. Rillirin is on the run, heartsick at what has become of her lover Dom, whose seer abilities had made him vulnerable to the corrupting powers of the Red Gods. Now he stands by the Dark Lady, his will broken and completely under her control. Meanwhile, Commander Durdil orders the city to keep fighting, and a captain named Crys also falls into an unexpected role as fate apparently has bigger plans for him.

Like the first book, Darksoul is extremely heavy on the brutality and gore, even by the grimmest of grimdark standards. But unlike the first book, the violence seemed less gratuitous somehow, and less tacked on. This was just one of the many improvements over Godblind. Part of this is due to the deeper characterizations I mentioned before. In this area, the sequel surpassed the original by leaps and bounds. Because the scope of the plot is much smaller this time, focused around the siege, all the different character perspectives were also less spread out. This made for a more streamlined narrative, with fewer POVs and less frequent transitions between them. I think this was why I felt more engaged with the characters this time, as I found their voices also more memorable and their plot arcs more interesting to read about.

Darksoul was also much better paced, and I was impressed at the way Stephens kept up momentum and interest, despite the limitations of a siege story. Covering it across multiple fronts, she managed to convey the full horror of the situation, as well as the desperation and despair. The twists and turns in the plot had more impact because I cared more about what happened, whereas I didn’t feel the same with Godblind because in a way that book felt like it was more shock factor than substance. In contrast, Darksoul was better at bringing out the emotion that I expect from a good story, and it was also an overall more immersive experience.

Bottom line, I was really glad I decided to give this series another chance. While I had my issues with Godblind, I felt Anna Stephens delivered a rock-solid sequel in Darksoul, fixing a lot of the flaws from the first book. She also appears to have learned from some of the missteps she made in her debut, and as a reader, nothing makes me more excited than to watch an author’s skills develop over time. I look forward to what the conclusion of this trilogy will bring.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Godblind (Book 1)

YA Weekend Audio: The Wicked King by Holly Black

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

The Wicked King by Holly Black

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Book 2 of The Folk of the Air

Publisher: Hachette Audio (January 8, 2019)

Length: 10 hrs and 21 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Caitlin Kelly

Last year I read Holly Black for the very first time with The Cruel Prince and discovered why she is so beloved among YA fiction fans. I also understand now why so many call her the Queen of Fae. I was aware she made her name with stories set in Faerie, writing about the Fae folk—who tend not to be very nice people in her depictions. Her portrayals of Faerie are also dark places filled with treacherous politics, where one wrong move can end you. In this sense, her new series is so far living up to all the standards she’s already established, and I was really pleased that The Wicked King was in every way as good as its predecessor.

As always, my reviews are spoiler-free, though it would be impossible not to talk about this book without referring to some of the people and events from the previous one, so I highly recommend finishing The Cruel Prince first before proceeding. It has been about five months since we last saw Jude Duarte, who managed to pull off the greatest coup in the history of Faerie by putting Carden on the throne, making him High King. However, his path to ascendancy also came with a catch: he has to obey every order Jude gives him. Only by secretly controlling Cardan is she able to keep her younger brother Oak safe.

But of course, no one enjoys being under someone else’s thumb, least of all Cardan, who uses all his Fae trickery to try and thwart Jude’s commands, attempting to weaken her position any chance he gets. Yet at the same time, their attraction to each other cannot be denied. Now they must put aside their hostilities, at least for a time, until they can uncover the identity of a traitor who has been revealed to be close to Jude, working with the court’s enemies to bring down everything she holds dear. Already, the Queen of the Undersea is eying the change in succession as an opportunity to break the longstanding treaty between their two peoples, using her daughter in a plot to steal the throne.

Pretty much the entire story revolves around the various characters scheming, trying to get the upper hand. Everyone wants power, even if they say they don’t. You can never trust what anyone says, or take their words at face value; Fae are experts at double-speak and bending truth, even if they can’t tell an outright lie. This is what I love about Holly Black’s faeries: they’re nasty, manipulative, and absolutely merciless. If you enjoy reading about royal court intrigue and power plays, then this is the series for you. There are no clear lines between the sides, which makes it extremely difficult to tell an enemy from an ally.

Speaking of which, nothing illustrates this better than the complicated relationship between Jude and Cardan. There’s undeniable chemistry between these two, even though the romance plot itself is understated compared to everything else happening around them. In fact, what we get is more of a game than an actual romance; the story does a good job feeding into the electrifying tensions between our two main characters, teasing the reader’s interest and curiosity to keep reading to find out just what the hell is going on.

Jude herself is a force to be reckoned with. For someone hiding so many secrets and juggling so many plots, not to mention whose loyalties are pulled in so many directions, she sure conducts herself with excellent poise and careful control, even though she is up against some of the Fae realm’s best manipulators. She’s also not too proud to admit she’s gotten a taste for power while ruling on behalf of Cardan, though she is also willing to make sacrifices for the sake of her family—whether their goals are aligned with hers or not. She has become a different person than she was in the first book—stronger, shrewder, and more ambitious—but loyalty still means a lot to her, and that’s why I still hold her in high regard.

And by the way, Holly Black may be the Queen of Fae, but now I know she’s also the queen of torturous endings. If you thought the ending to The Cruel Prince was a bombshell, wait until you finish The Wicked King. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable sequel. Full of twists and turns, The Wicked King is a wild ride from start to finish. Everything that Jude goes through in this one—her first experience with real power, the huge leaps she makes in her relationship with Cardan, and her realization that she likes it all—has major implications on the growth of her character and the future of this series, considering how this book ended. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Audibook Comments: Holly Black truly hit the jackpot when it comes to the narrator for the audiobooks of her Folk of the Air series. Caitlin Kelly’s narration meshes with the book’s writing style perfectly, and her voice is also a good match for Jude. Overall, Ms. Kelly delivered an impressive performance and the audio version of The Wicked King was another quality listen, just like the first book.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Cruel Prince (Book 1)

Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every other weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I round up what I’ve read since the last update and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.

black line

Happy new year, everyone! This is going to be a light roundup due to the holidays, but on the bright side, this was the first time in years that we didn’t have to travel anywhere so I managed to get a lot of reading done during our staycation. I’ll have a lot of review writing to catch up on, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting back into the rhythm of things.

Received for Review

My thanks to the publishers and authors for the following review copies received, and be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages for more details and full descriptions!

Last month from the kind folks at Berkley, I received an ARC of The War Within by Stephen R. Donaldson. I didn’t even know that he’ll have a new book out, but a little bit of digging showed this will be the sequel to Seventh Decimate, which–oops!–I still need to catch up on.

Also thanks to Simon Pulse for a finished copy of Slayer by Kiersten White! This is one I’m hoping to read for January.

With thanks also to Tor for a finished copy of Terran Tomorrow by Nancy Kress, the third and final book in the Yesterday’s Kin trilogy. Looks like I still have to read book two before I can get to this one, but I was planning on it anyway, since I enjoyed the first one.

And from the amazing team at Subterranean Press, I received this incredible haul of ARCs: Death & Honey by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson and Chuck Wendig is a collection containing three novellas, one by each of the authors. These stories also feature their characters from their respective series: Atticus and Oberon, Rhett Walker, and Miriam Black. At Home in the Dark edited by Lawrence Block is an anthology collecting a number of dark speculative fiction stories written by genre favorites including Joe Hill, Joe R. Lansdale, and Joyce Carol Oates. Then there’s Cruel Fate by Kelley Armstrong, which looks to be the follow up to Rough Justice. Both are part of the author’s Cainsville world, which I’ve not had the chance to check out yet, but I’d love to read these two books at some point.

And a belated thanks to Wunderkind PR and Top Shelf Productions for The Jekyll Island Chronicles Vol. 1: A Machine Age War and Vol. 2: A Devil’s Reach by Steve Nedvidek, Ed Crowell, Jack Lowe, and Moses Nester. These beautiful graphic novels came to me in early December, but I haven’t had time to take a look yet. I’m going to try to get to them because I want to read more comics/graphic novels this year, and these stories exploring an alternate history between the two World Wars look to be an interesting place to start.

Finally, from Tor comes this trio of paperbacks, The Magic of Recluce, The Towers of the Sunset, and The Magic Engineer by L.E. Modesitt Jr, the first three books in his Saga of Recluce. I’ve never read the series, but I guess it’s getting reissued because these look to be brand new covers, and they are gorgeous. My thanks to the publisher for this amazing surprise.

  

 

On to the digital haul, I made some Netgalley requests before the holidays and a couple came in this week. As an extra bonus, I was even auto-approved by Random House Children’s when I got the email granting me access to Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim, a Chinese-inspired YA fantasy that has been compared to Mulan. I also grabbed Inspection by Josh Malerman, with thanks to Del Rey. And try as I might, I could not resist the call of Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan, so big thanks to Wednesday Books for approving my request.

Just a couple of new audiobooks in the haul this week. From Listening Library, I received an audio review copy of Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee. I wasn’t crazy about the author’s adult sci-fi series and never made it past Ninefox Gambit, but I was intrigued by this Middle Grade space-opera-and-fantasy mix featuring mythological fox spirits as well as space pirates and gamblers. And from Penguin Audio, I snagged a listening copy of The Au Pair by Emma Rous, the first of many mystery-thrillers I’m looking forward to this year.

Reviews

Here’s a quick summary of reviews posted since my last update. Yes, I actually managed a few between all the year-end lists!

King of the Road by R.S. Belcher (5 of 5 stars)
The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden (4 of 5 stars)
The Outsider by Stephen King (4 of 5 stars)
City of Broken Magic by Mirah Bolender (2.5 of 5 stars)
Limetown created by Zack Akers & Skip Bronkie with Cote Smith (2 of 5 stars)

Roundup Highlights:

What I’ve Read Since the Last Update

Here’s what I’ve managed to “unstack” from the TBR since the last update. December was my catch-up month and I was able to finish a few more 2018 books before the end of the year, and even got a jump on several 2019 releases. A ton of reviews on the way!

    

   

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Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read! Let me know what you plan on checking out. Until next time, see you next Roundup!:)

Friday Face-Off: Fresh

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:

“New beginnings for a New Year”
a cover that is FRESH

Mogsy’s Pick:

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

The book I’ve chosen this week is Flame in the Mist, a young adult fantasy inspired by Japanese mythology and history. Its protagonist Mariko is the daughter of a samurai, fated to be a bartered off in a political marriage to the son of the emperor’s favorite consort. On the way to the imperial city, however, her wagon train is attacked by a notorious gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, and only by sheer luck does Mariko manage to escape the bloody massacre. With everyone thinking she is dead, for the first time in her life, Mariko can finally take control of her own destiny. Donning the disguise of a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan to find out who hired the bandits to try and kill her.

So what is fresh? Surely, a phoenix (or a peacock on fire, whatever!) as a symbol of rebirth and renewal would serve well for today’s theme of new beginnings. And if nothing else, lots of fresh flowers should suffice. Regrettably, I didn’t end up enjoying this book as much as some of its covers. A couple of which I think are actually quite pretty.

From left to right:
G.P. Putnam’s Sons (2017) – Hodder (2018)
German Edition (2018) – Portuguese Edition (2018)

 

 

Winner:

Here’s how I would rank these covers, in order from favorite to least favorite: German edition, G.P. Putnam’s Sons edition, Hodder edition, and finally the Portuguese edition.

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