Woodwalker by Emily B. Martin

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“What on earth would I gain from that?” I asked him. “Risk my own neck by violating my banishment just to leave you? The sentence placed on me if I return is execution. If I’m entering the mountains again, I’d damn well better get something out of it.”

Exiled from the Silverwood and the people she loves, Mae has few illusions about ever returning to her home. But when she comes across three out-of-place strangers in her wanderings, she finds herself contemplating the unthinkable: risking death to help a deposed queen regain her throne.

And if anyone can help Mona Alastaire of Lumen Lake, it is a former Woodwalker—a ranger whose very being is intimately tied to the woods they are sworn to protect. Mae was once one of the best, and despite the potential of every tree limb to become the gibbet she’s hanged from, she not only feels a duty to aid Mona and her brothers, but also to walk beneath her beloved trees once more.

A grand quest in the tradition of great epic fantasies, filled with adventure and the sharp wit—and tongue—of a unique hero, Woodwalker is the perfect novel to start your own journey into the realm of magical fiction.

I got this book as part of the Harper Collins Fantasy Quest mystery box I bought at New York Comic Con 2019.

It’s scary and exciting to buy books blindly. The Harper Collins Fantasy Mystery Box is 2 for 2! I really enjoyed this story.

The world building and pacing is very well done. It was easy to get into the world and understand the politics, religions, customs, and history.

Emily B. Martin uses her knowledge as a park ranger well. I am not an outdoors person, but as I stepped into this world I wanted to become a Woodwalker. It was very magical, even though there is no magic/spell casting in the world. It was a very exciting adventure story.

I figured out the twist shortly before it was revealed because I recalled the first chapter.

5 out of 5 Fireflies. 

Favorite Quotes:

Page 124: -don’t do something if you don’t think you can do it well.

Page 139: “Always determine what’s important, and what’s urgent. Prioritize.

Page 217: It’s a cruel thing, time. Some days stretch into a thousand lifetimes, endless in their drudgery. Some flip over as quickly as the turn of a book page. And the some seem to do both at the same time, speeding you along faster than you can blink while still allowing you that slow, simmering dread deep in your stomach.

Page 248: “..the Light is more than just how people revere it. It’s more than a full moon, or a reflection on a waterfall. It exists beyond how we perceive it, and beyond how folk act on it.”

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

I got this ARC from NYCC 2019 when I bought a mystery box from Penguin Random House.

I am very unfamiliar with the Mayan gods, folktales and myths and I feel like I learned a lot from this story (even though Moreno-Garcia said in the glossary that this is a work of fantasy and not anthropological text.)

I loved this story and that it’s a stand alone novel.

I loved the slow burn love story between Casiopea and Hun-Kamé. I loved the final message that love is the strongest magic and it transforms. The ending is perfect. Lessons were learned and characters transformed.

The dynamics between all the characters were well done. The reader roots for Casiopea and has hatred for her cousin Martin, who’s a bully. Yet, Martin is not one dimensional antagonist and you get to see where his jealousy comes from.

The 1920’s imagery (the fashions) was so pretty and it would be great to see this as a miniseries.

The pacing was a little slow about 3/4 of the way through and I did put it down for a few days but that’s a tiny criticism. Otherwise it’s a beautiful, magical, and modern fairytale.

4 out of 5 Jade Necklaces.

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

Set in the magical world of Renthia, The Queen of Blood is Sarah Beth Durst’s ambitious entry into adult epic fantasy. With the danger of Peter Brett’s The Warded Man, heart of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, and lyricism of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, this is the first chapter in a series destined to be a classic.

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .

But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

With the position so precarious, young women are chosen to train as heirs. Daleina, a seemingly quiet academy student, is under no illusions as to her claim to the throne, but simply wants to right the wrongs that have befallen the land. Ven, a disgraced champion, has spent his exile secretly fighting against the growing number of spirit attacks. Joining forces, these daring partners embark on a treacherous quest to find the source of the spirits’ restlessness—a journey that will test their courage and trust, and force them to stand against both enemies and friends to save their land . . . before it’s bathed in blood.

I first received The Queen of Blood (Book One of The Queens of Renthia) as a panel giveaway at Book Con in 2017.

Then at NYCC 2019 I bought a mystery box from Harper Collins. The theme was Fantasy Quest and one of the four books inside was The Queen of Blood.

I took that as a sign that it was time to finally read it and I’m glad that I did.

The world building is well done. So is the character development. What I really liked was the positive female friendships.

There’s action, humor, mystery, and some romance. It was such a relief to read about a romance that is not a triangle and not childish. It also doesn’t focus much on the romance, but just enough so you understand the characters feelings.

This was my favorite quote because it made me laugh:
Page 211: “Even a handfull of gravel is a useful weapon when thrown at the right time. My mother embroidered that on a pillow.”

I liked the message that while Daleina is not a natural talent she works hard, studies hard and pushes through difficulties. She discovered what she was good at and developed that skill.

When I first saw the thickness of the paperback I was a little apprehensive, but the pacing is just right. Durst knows how to balance the action with the quieter moments, and knew when to have the story jump forward in time.

I will finish the trilogy eventually. I’ll either borrow the books from the library (when they open again after this Covid-19 pandemic is gone) or with a B&N coupon.

4 out of 5 Spirits.

Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

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Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle.

But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims.

Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them.

To have a chance at surviving—and at stopping the deadly transformation that’s under way—Sancia will have to marshal unlikely allies, learn to harness the artifact’s power for herself, and undergo her own transformation, one that will turn her into something she could never have imagined.

I picked this up at NYCC when I took the Book Wizard Quiz at the Penguin Random House booth. You were asked a few questions on the tablet and then your answers dictated which book you received. I can’t remember the questions or answers when I got Foundryside, but I would say that the Book Wizard was right! I really enjoyed Foundryside.

At first it took me some time to get used to the terminology, but Robert Jackson Bennett does a good job of explaining scriving. I really liked the imaginative mix of magic with science and what I loved was the mysterious mythology. I can’t wait to see what the next book reveals about the ancient and unknown history of the world Bennett created.

Besides the incredible world building, the fully developed characters really drew me in. They were complex and compelling. I loved the way their relationships developed and I was rooting for the good guys. Some of the characters were so funny. I love Clef’s personality, and I especially loved the conversations he had with Sancia. Another character who made me laugh was the Mountain.

The action is a page turner. Reading those scenes was easy to picture in my head. I can so see this becoming a TV series or movie.

Thank you Book Wizard for giving me a new world that intrigues my imagination. I am anticipating the sequel in 2020.

4 out of 5 Keys.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world–a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood.

Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

I got an ARC at New York Comic Con. On November 6th at The New York Public Library I went to the event: The Starless Sea: Erin Morgenstern with Kelly Braffet. There was also a book signing. If I find some time I will write about that event too.

I bought the hardcover but kept reading the ARC because it was easier to carry and I didn’t want to get the nice signed hardcover dirty.

The Starless Sea was a whirlwind! So much happens and I am still absorbing it all. This story will definitely require a reread at some point. Actually, I plan to listen to the audiobook one day.

At first it seams that the short stories in between the main story are random interludes, but they do connect. There are some things I am still confused about, or maybe they were not answered at all?

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Sisters of the Fire by Kim Wilkins

The battle-scarred warrior princess Bluebell, heir to her father’s throne, is rumoured to be unkillable. So when she learns of a sword wrought specifically to slay her by the fearsome raven king, Hakon, she sets out on a journey to find it before it finds her. The sword is rumoured to be in the possession of one of her four younger sisters. But which one? Scattered as they are across the kingdoms, she sets out on a journey to find them.

Her four sisters all have their own paths to tread, the gifted magician Ash is on a journey to find a dragon that could determine her destiny. The beautiful, unhappy Rose has left her undermagician Aunt and is speeding to the aid of her daughter, Rowan, who has been lost to her. Ivy, sold into marriage for the sake of an alliance, is now set to become the ruling Duchess of Seacaster with the imminent death of her much older and sick husband, and the power-hungry Willow is raising her infant child as a potential trimartyr king and training to be a warrior for the fanatical religious order Maava.

From wild rocky coastline to granite-topped tors, from bustling harbours to echoing ghost towns, from halls of kings to ancient primal woodlands, this story follows five sisters upon whose actions kingdoms will rise and fall.

Synopsis from here.

This is an ARC that I won from a Giveaway that Del Rey was having on Instagram. Thank you again, Del Rey!

I am a little confused though because the book is being released in the U.S. on February 2, 2019 but was released elsewhere in 2016, and some of the reviews on Goodreads are from 2 years ago. So, is this still an ARC?

Whatever it is, I enjoyed this second book in the trilogy. There is some fun action and it’s to the point. The description doesn’t drag on and on. I would say it was more character driven. The characters, especially the sisters are well written and are diverse in their personalities. I certainly have my favorites sisters that I root for and ones that I want to smack across the head. I’ll elaborate more below so beware of spoilers.

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Book review and book signing of Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

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From the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches, a novel about what it takes to become a vampire.

On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future. When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus’s deeply held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood.

Fast-forward to contemporary Paris, where Phoebe Taylor—the young employee at Sotheby’s whom Marcus has fallen for—is about to embark on her own journey to immortality. Though the modernized version of the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable than they were in the eighteenth century. The shadows that Marcus believed he’d escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both—forever.

A passionate love story and a fascinating exploration of the power of tradition and the possibilities not just for change but for revolution, Time’s Convert channels the supernatural world-building and slow-burning romance that made the All Souls Trilogy instant bestsellers to illuminate a new and vital moment in history, and a love affair that will bridge centuries.

On September 24th I went to Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side to hear Deborah talk about Time’s Convert.

The main theme of Time’s Convert centers around parenting. The book is split into three stories: Diana and Matthew with their 18 month old twins, Marcus reminiscing about his early life, and Phoebe’s first 100 days as a vampire.

Phoebe’s chapter titles are numbered to tell how many days old she is as a newborn vampire. New born vampires have a faster development and each day represents a year.

The Bishop-de Clermont family have been through the wringer and need a break. So they get a summer vacation with no dire life or death situations.

Being a historian, Deborah was somehow going to weave history into her book. Diana can’t time walk in this story because she has too many responsibilities being a wife, mom, witch, and a professor with tenure, so Marcus reminisces about his life as a human and as a young vampire.

The story is also about kids rebelling, and Marcus is certainly a rebel having served in the American Revolution and being a fan of Thomas Paine. In contrast, his vampire father, Matthew, is from the Middle Ages, so they sometimes clash. Deborah has fun writing those moments.

Writing a story that took place during the American Revolution allowed Deborah to become a student again because her focus is the 16th century Europe.

Deborah said she wants to write more stories in the All Souls world like this, where it moves forward in time and we get to see how the twins grow but also incorporate elements of history. So it will be an ongoing series, instead of another trilogy where there is a beginning, middle and end.

Deborah writes long hand for her first draft. She writes in loops where she’ll write a scene or maybe just two lines of dialogue, then do some research and go down that route before returning to a scene. She was writing The Serpent’s Mirror about Matthew’s life with the Tudors, but then Matthew “stopped talking” and Marcus wouldn’t stop. And that is how we got this book first. She also is writing a story about Gallowglass.

She read a scene from Chapter 9 where Marcus meets Sarah Bishop during the American Revolution. She chose that scene because it was not considered a spoiler since it is mentioned in ADoW. (I liked that scene very much.)

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Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins

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Five very different sisters team up against their stepbrother to save their kingdom in this Norse-flavored fantasy epic–the start of a new series in the tradition of Naomi Novik, Peter V. Brett, and Robin Hobb.

FIVE ROYAL SISTERS. ONE CROWN.

They are the daughters of a king. Though they share the same royal blood, they could not be more different. Bluebell is a proud warrior, stronger than any man and with an ironclad heart to match. Rose’s heart is all too passionate: She is the queen of a neighboring kingdom, who is risking everything for a forbidden love. The twins: vain Ivy, who lives for admiration, and zealous Willow, who lives for the gods. And Ash, who is discovering a dangerous talent for magic that might be a gift–or a curse.

But when their father is stricken by a mysterious ailment, they must come together on a desperate journey to save him and prevent their treacherous stepbrother from seizing the throne. Their mission: find the powerful witch who can cure the king. But to succeed on their quest, they must overcome their differences, and hope that the secrets they hide from one another and the world are never brought to light. Because if this royal family breaks, it could destroy the kingdom.

I received an ARC of Daughters of the Storm when I purchased After On at NYCC 2017.

Daughters of the Storm is the first book of the Blood and Gold series.

I actually finished the book about a month ago and have not had any time to review it, so this write up will be short.

What I really liked about DotS is that it’s a story about strong, flawed, complex women.
It’s a good story about sisters with their loyalty and their differences with each other.
Each woman has her own strengths and weakness that set up the foundation for character development.

I like the world building. There is the term Space Opera – this is a Medieval Opera, thought set in a fantasy realm with magic.

If I were to give one critique it’s that it drags a bit in some places, but never to the point where I was so bored it felt like a chore to read.

I certainly am interested to read the next book and see where the cliffhangers lead.

4 out of 5 Swords.