Book Review: Ash Princess, Ash Princess Trilogy #1

Book Review

Ash Princess, Book 1 of the Ash Princess Trilogy

By: Laura Sebastian

4 Stars

Fantasy, YA

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.

For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.

If you hate cliches and classic stories retold with varying names and places, you probably won’t care to read this. But if a classic story with classic characters are something you love, as I do, than this is a book to curl up with over a long weekend.

A princess enslaved by the people who conquered her land fighting to save her crown and her people. What’s not to love about that? Especially when Laura Sebastian delivers with a rich world and a multitude of lovable characters. Every decision Theo was forced to make ripped at my heart. Such a perfect blend of wants versus needs, self-indulgence versus self-sacrifice; the things one must sacrifice to put the needs of an entire people over the needs of one, and the things we have to tell ourselves in order to do so.

While the bulk of the story reminded me of Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series, The Ash Princess is not set in a fairy land. Already getting into book 2, I find there is a rich, eclectic world surrounding Theo’s land. I can’t wait to read more. I can’t wait to see if the Ash Princess can discover her true strength, take back her land, and find her happily ever after.

Happy Reading 🙂

Book Review: Axiom’s End, Noumena #1

Book Review

Axiom’s End, Noumena #1

By: Lindsay Ellis

3.5 Stars

Science Fiction, Conspiracy, Aliens, Alternate History

The alternate history first contact adventure Axiom’s End is an extraordinary debut from Hugo finalist and video essayist Lindsay Ellis.

Truth is a human right.

It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades.

Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.

I don’t read much political conspiracy, or alternate history, or alien contact stories. Axiom’s End, by Lindsay Ellis, was fun. I think I liked it because of the alternate history angle. Chapters prefaced with news and blog articles about government secrecy, about how “truth is a human right,” using fictitious events blended with actual history (if I recall correctly, I believe the book takes place circa 2007). When Cora gets caught in the middle of one conspiracy, the story carries into a deeper encounter than I expected based of the blurb.

While the overall story kept me reading, there were plenty of times I was annoyed/frustrated enough with the main character to wonder if it was worth finishing. My thought that she was the archetype of “average” kept me in it. Whenever I rolled my eyes or exclaimed some frustration over a decision or action, I remembered this point.

The caricature of one of the government agents is enough for an eye roll as well, but again, not enough for a deal breaker. I get why people hate this book and I get why people love this book. I fell more in the middle.

I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

Happy Readng 🙂

Book Review: Shadow of the Exile, The Infernal Guardian #1

Book Review

Shadow of the Exile, The Infernal Guardian #1

By: Mitchell Hogan

4 stars

Fantasy, Adventure

Outcast and exiled, the demon Tarrik Nal-Valim has long been forgotten by the world of humans. At least, so he thinks.

But when he is summoned as a last resort by a desperate sorcerer, it seems as though his past has caught up with him. The sorcerer is Serenity “Ren” Branwen, the daughter of Tarrik’s former master—and friend. Though she seems cold, driven, and ruthless, Tarrik can tell that Ren has her back against a wall, and he is compelled by ferocious powers to obey her.

As their world sinks into a terrifying maelstrom of murder, intrigue, and insurrection, Tarrik is forced to serve Ren’s arcane designs—plans that, if they were to succeed, would resurrect unimaginable power and could destroy Tarrik’s entire race.

But as events unfurl, the lines between demon and master become blurred, and Tarrik realizes that Ren is not what she seems. To prevent utter devastation, Tarrik may have to surrender what he values most: a chance at redemption and an end to his exile.

Shadow of the Exile, by Mitchel Hogan was a solid read. My first read of Mr. Hogan’s, this book brought a unique world with a unique take on demons, demon summoning, and the sorcerers brave enough to call on them. The story read more adventure than fantasy, which I liked. From start to finish, a steady pace of action and intrigue and an ending I did not expect.

Book two of The Infernal Guardian is already cued up on my Kindle.

Happy Reading 🙂

Book Review: The Rage of Dragons, The Burning, Book 1

Book Review

The Rage of Dragons

By: Evan Winter

5 Stars

Fantasy, Military

The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable war for almost two hundred years. The lucky ones are born gifted. One in every two thousand women has the power to call down dragons. One in every hundred men is able to magically transform himself into a bigger, stronger, faster killing machine.

Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war.

Young, gift-less Tau knows all this, but he has a plan of escape. He’s going to get himself injured, get out early, and settle down to marriage, children, and land. Only, he doesn’t get the chance.

Those closest to him are brutally murdered, and his grief swiftly turns to anger. Fixated on revenge, Tau dedicates himself to an unthinkable path. He’ll become the greatest swordsman to ever live, a man willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill the three who betrayed him.

This book truly had it all. A well-created world with well-crafted characters that had me laughing and crying and wailing and cheering. The perfect anti-hero we can’t help but love. A blend of tragedy and fortune, camaraderie, and villainy. As Blood Song made me love stories of sword brothers, Winter gives us another group to laugh and cry with. All with a pinch of magic that elevates military strategy to another level.

Rooting for the underdog is our favorite thing, and this book is chock full of that. The most savage thing I’ve ever read a character decide happens in this book, and from that moment on I could not put it down. While there were plenty of times I was wishing I could step in and intercede some rash decision, it never reached a point that turned the story. What a fine line that is. Can any of us truly describe it? I imagine it’s different for all of us. Why else would someone rate this book 1 star while I give it 5? 🙂 Whatever that line, Mr. Winter tread it perfectly and I can’t wait to re-read this book.

Buried beneath a suberbly crafted story is a great commentary on social structure and how those structures are an injustice to every citizen involved. How we too easily believe the lies of a majority, and most especially, believe the violent strength that maintains such structure. While the fight against systemic injustice is hard, while the decision to do evil for the sake of some greater good is easy, neither should be how we decide. History should be known, so we all understand where we come from and that no matter our gifts, we all have equal value in the whole.

Happy Reading 🙂