Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Review: Legendary - Stephanie Garber

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister's. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval...the games have only just begun.

Caraval Series:
Caraval
Legendary
Finale (2019)

Visit Stephanie Garber's website for more information

Review:
I absolutely loved Caraval, it even made my top YA of the year list, so of course I was ridiculously excited to return to this world. It pains me to say this but unfortunately Legendary just didn't live up to my expectations. Yes we have another game at play but this had none of the magic and sparkle of the first story, instead of being a fast paced story full of unexpected twists this is predictable and actually pretty boring.

There's no denying that Stephanie Garber can write and I did enjoy some elements of this book, particularly the extra world building and the way the fates are woven into the story, but there was definitely something missing. This story is told from Tella's point of view and I just don't find her as easy to relate to as Scarlet, I like that she's more independent and that she's willing to take risks but she's so impulsive that she never thinks things through and it leads her to make stupid mistakes. It was so frustrating to see her keeping so many secrets from Scarlet yet again, you'd think she would have learned better than that after the last time. I also thought the romance between her and Dante was on the flat side.

Jacks could have been an interesting character but he's fairly one dimensional, I didn't have any sense of conflicting emotions in him, pretty much what you saw was what you got where at least with Dante you were kept guessing about his motives. I think my favourite parts were the revelations about Tella and Scarlet's mother, I'm really curious to see how that will play out in the next book and I still really want to see Scarlet get her happily ever after. I'm not as invested in Tella's story but it will be interesting to see how she deals with revelations made at the end of Legendary.

As much as this didn't quite manage to live up to my expectations I do still want to read Finale, I really hope that Stephanie Garber can capture the magic of Caraval and give both of the girls a fitting end to their stories.

Source: Received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Other reviews of this book:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Hardback / Paperback / Kindle:

Monday, 28 May 2018

Review: Burn Bright - Patricia Briggs (or why I'm breaking up with the Mercy Thompson world)

They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.

With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn…

Mercy Thompson Series:
Homecoming (Graphic Novel)
Moon Called
Blood Bound
Iron Kissed
Bone Crossed
Silver Borne
River Marked
Frost Burned
Hopcross Jilly (Graphic Novel)
Night Broken
Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson
Fire Touched
Silence Fallen

Alpha and Omega Series:
(This is a spin off to the Mercy Thompson series)
Alpha and Omega (novella found in the On the Prowl anthology)
Cry Wolf
Hunting Ground
Fair Game
Dead Heat
Burn Bright

Visit Patricia Briggs' website for more information

Review:
I've put off writing this review for weeks because every time I think about this book I get mad all over again. I honestly don't think I've ever been so disappointed in the direction an author has decided to take  a story and while I totally get that it is Patricia Briggs' right to do whatever she chooses with her characters and her world I don't have to continue investing my time and money in her series. I suppose I should probably point out that before Burn Bright I would have considered myself a Mercy Thompson / Alpha & Omega superfan. I reread all of the books and short stories in the MT world at least once a year with a friend and we have spent countless hours sending each other favourite quotes and discussing everything about these characters and this world. The reason I'm so upset and the reason I feel so betrayed by the author is because I feel like I know this series inside out and there was nothing, absolutely not one single hint to make revelations in this book seem even slightly plausible, let alone palatable.

I can't really talk about my biggest issue with this book without giving spoilers so continue reading this review at your own risk, but since I'm reviewing this so long after the release date I expect most fans have either already read this book or at least seen others mention the controversy. The absolutely 100% series ending revelation for me is that Bran has always had romantic feelings for Mercy. This is the man who has raised her since she was eight months old, the man who is the only consistent father figure she's ever really had, the man she turns to for advice and the one she looks up to beyond all others. This is the same man who watched over her while she slept as she recovered from a sexual assault, the man who gave her away at her wedding and made Adam promise to protect her, the man who has ALWAYS, in all circumstances treated her like a daughter.

And now we have Anna and Charles having a casual conversation about how Bran is "funny" about Mercy and Anna even saying she would hate Mercy as much as Leah does if Charles felt the same way about her that Bran does. Anna, who was herself a victim of rape and the worst kinds of treatments at the hands of her previous alpha is now blaming Mercy, who was a CHILD when this was all happening!  I'm sorry but in no circumstances is Mercy to blame no matter what Bran does or doesn't feel for her, Mercy has never led Bran on, she's never had an affair with him or tried to lure him away from Leah and even if she had that doesn't excuse Leah from child abuse. Because lets face it the way Leah treated Mercy, the way Bran has flat out stated in previous books that he couldn't adopt Mercy himself because Leah would have killed her, the way Leah attacked Mercy many times when she was a child and how the entire pack used to go out of their way to keep the two of them apart because they knew what would happen if they didn't. That's all because Leah is an abuser who would have happily KILLED A CHILD because she felt that child was competition for her mate.

I get that Patricia Briggs has written herself into a corner, she's said many times and shown in many ways that Bran is bonded to Leah and I think she's left herself with no option of ending their relationship. That's a bit of a problem when fans have been screaming for years that Leah is an awful, awful character and begging to see Bran get a happily ever after with literally anyone else. Now, in my opinion, a skilled writer would have been able to turn around Bran and Leah's relationship. I've seen other authors do that in the past and I so badly want to see Bran happy that I probably would have forgiven Leah far quicker than she deserved. But I won't forgive Leah because Bran has been turned into someone that I can no longer respect or even like. That just makes me hate both of them, it makes me look at every single interaction between Bran and Mercy throughout the entire fifteen book series and feel physically sick because I can no longer see the loving father figure that has always wanted what is best for Mercy. Now all I can see is the sick pedophile who has been grooming her.

This book contradicts itself in so many different ways when it comes to Leah. First it tries to make us feel sorry for her because her mate is in love with a child. Then Charles talks about how abusive she was to him when they first met too, how horrifically she treated him when he was also just a child who was just desperate for someone to love him, he specifically states that he would have adored her if she'd only been nice to him. So it wasn't just Mercy Leah abused then, this conversation also confirms that it was Charles too. So she's jealous of anyone that Bran gives love to and that shows what a petty and nasty person she is. To be honest you only have to look at the way she treated Anna the first time they met to see Leah's true colours! But then the book backtracks again and tries to show how nice she is because she saves Charles' life, I could have cheered for her at that point but only if we hadn't just been reminded about how awful she's been in the past.

If Patricia Briggs hadn't turned Bran into a pedophile but had instead just had Leah saving Charles in this book I would have stared to warm to her. If she'd then had both Bran and Leah make some big changes over the next few books (because lets face it he's never treated her well really so neither of them are perfect and they're both to blame for their issues!) then I think in time I would have softened to them as a couple and might have been able to want to see them happy together. It could have been so easy, especially since we get a better idea of the fact that Bran does actually love her in this book. Unfortunately for me it's too little too late and the way Bran's character has been totally and utterly destroyed has ended any love I ever had for this series.

The first time I read Burn Bright I was horrified by that conversation but I still had faith in PB and I was convinced that Anna and Charles had misread things and it was all going to be a horrible misunderstanding. I was positive that in the next book this would all be fixed with a few well placed revelations and that I could continue loving this world. I even went back and immediately reread the previous fourteen books specifically looking for signs that Bran felt anything but fatherly towards Mercy. I read fourteen books LOOKING for that and couldn't find a single thing that made me suspect it was true. Not one single word. Everything points to a father daughter relationship, every single interaction between them. Every single conversation with Samuel, Adam, any other character they always refer to Bran as Mercy's father. I actually managed to convince myself I'd read Burn Bright wrong and stressed myself over nothing.

Then unfortunately Patricia Briggs made public comments about it confirming my worst fears were true, Bran does have romantic feelings for the child he raised. Oh, we're supposed to see him as noble because he didn't act on them, and we're supposed to ignore it because apparently Mercy will never know how he feels. But that doesn't sit well with me, especially when she's made it clear that everyone else knows this but Mercy, so not only is Bran lying to her but so is her husband Adam, so is her childhood love Samuel, so is her brother Charles and her sister-in-law Anna and so is the entire Aspen Creek Pack - people she grew up with and was raised by. That breaks my heart for Mercy and it makes me so angry with everyone else that I can't see straight.

So that's the story of how Patricia Briggs destroyed the Mercy Thompson world for me, the series that I have loved for many, many years. The series that has been a huge comfort to me over the years. The series that I'm honestly not sure I'll ever be able to look at in the same way again. I hope that one day, in a few years time, I'll be able to forget that Burn Bright ever existed. And if I ever reach that point then perhaps I'll be able to reread the first 14 books again and remember how much I loved them but I will not be buying any new books in this world, and honestly I'm still more than a little heartbroken about that.

I should also probably link to my friend Ange's review because she goes into even more depth about the major issue I had and several other consistency problems with the story. She also includes quotes both from the book and from Patricia Briggs that further detail things I've mentioned above.

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Paperback / Kindle:

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Review: Aliens Abroad - Gini Koch

With the human population growing and alien refugees pouring in from around the galaxy, Earth is becoming too overcrowded to sustain itself--and the solar system is filling up with the alien overflow. Advanced technology from the Alpha Centauri and Vatusan systems offers one possible solution. It's time to explore new planets and see if any uninhabited ones can be claimed.

The President and First Lady, aka Jeff and Kitty Katt-Martini, aren't supposed to be on this mission, but what looks like a snafu during a political photo op on the newly christened Distant Voyager spaceship turns out to be a call for help from a planet that might be Earth's salvation...or its destruction.

The discovery of a world at the opposite end of the galaxy that seems like it could be a twin to Earth creates the usual issues for Kitty & Company. It also raises questions of Z'porrah and Ancient influence--not to mention cloning, the multiverse, and, scariest of all, whether or not the Black Hole Universe Police are starting to take too much of an interest in this particular universe.

Katherine "Kitty" Katt Series:
Touched by an Alien
Alien Tango
Alien in the Family
Alien Proliferation
Alien Diplomacy
Alien vs. Alien
Alien in the House
Alien Research
Alien Collective
Universal Alien
Alien Separation
Alien in Chief
Camp Alien
Alien Nation
Alien Education
Aliens Abroad
Aliens Like Us (release date to be confirmed)
Alien Galaxy (release date to be confirmed)
Alien Rescue (release date to be confirmed)
Alien Reckoning (release date to be confirmed)

Visit Gini Koch's website for more information

Review:
With more and more alien refugees arriving in our solar system Kitty and her crew have quite a lot of work on their hands keeping the peace and finding everyone suitable homes. That would be more than enough to keep them busy on its own but when they receive a distress call from the other side of the galaxy they suddenly find themselves on an intergalactic mission that could either save the universe, or end it.

There aren't many series that are still going this strong by the time they reach book 16 but Gini Koch never fails me and this book has all her trademark humour, fantastic characters and fast paced action. Not only do we get to spend time with many of our favourite characters (lets face it there are now too many for all of them to have a starring role in every book!) but we get to meet a whole host of new ones who I'm sure we'll be seeing more of in the future. I absolutely love seeing Kitty and Jeff back in the thick of the action again, things slowed down a little for a few books when they were the ambassadors but now they seem to have more freedom to go on adventures again and that's when they're really at their best - when they're coming up with crazy schemes to save the day.

I'm not going to say too much more because fans of this series will already know exactly what to expect from this book. Instead I'll just confirm that you're in for one hell of a treat and let you get on with enjoying the ride!

Source: Received from DAW books in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Paperback / Kindle:

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Review: Unearthed - Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution the planet has been waiting for. The Undying's advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and Gaia, their former home planet, is a treasure trove waiting to be uncovered.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study...as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don't loot everything first. Mia and Jules' different reasons for smuggling themselves onto Gaia put them immediately at odds, but after escaping a dangerous confrontation with other scavvers, they form a fragile alliance.

In order to penetrate the Undying temple and reach the tech and information hidden within, the two must decode the ancient race's secrets and survive their traps. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more their presence in the temple seems to be part of a grand design that could spell the end of the human race...

Unearthed Duology:
Unearthed
Undying

Visit Amie Kaufman's website or Meagan Spooner's website for more information

Review:
As soon as I saw that Unearthed was being pitched as "Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft set in Space" I knew I had to read it, especially since I loved the Starbound trilogy that was also co-authored by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. I have to say I think they were spot on with the Indiana Jones comparison and this was such a fun adventure story.

Set in a not too distant future where humans have wrung pretty much every last resource out of the Earth things aren't looking too great for our survival. Then scientists manage to intercept a message from an extinct alien race, the Undying, which gives us access to technology far beyond our own capabilities, including a way to travel to their distant planet. For scientists and scholars this opens up a unique opportunity to study an alien culture and bring home potentially world changing technology but only if they can get there before scavengers pick the planet clean for profit.

Jules is a scholar with something to prove, his father worked on translating the original alien message and Jules has studied his father's documents tirelessly. He's determined to reach Gaia and search for a missing temple his father told him about. Mia on the other hand is one of the scavengers and she desperately needs to recover enough alien tech to buy her passage on a ship home. The unlikely allies are thrown together after they're set upon by another group of scavvers, they both have very different goals for their time on planet but unless they find a way to work together they might both find they're stuck there permanently.

Unearthed is an action packed story full of booby traps and puzzles just waiting to be solved. Jules and Mia are pretty much opposites in every way but that works in their favour as they both bring different but equally important skills to the table. Jules is a geek who has studied everything about the Undying and who has memorised maps of the planet but it is Mia who has the street smarts and survival skills to get them where they need to be. I enjoyed seeing both of their points of view, they're great characters in their own ways and it was easy to understand their motivations even when you didn't always agree with the choices they had made. I'm not quite sold on the romance yet but it's been pretty slow build so far so there is definitely potential for the next book.

It was a lot of fun seeing them explore the temples and it was so easy to picture what was happening, I actually think this could be turned into a fabulous movie! There were some really unexpected revelations at the end and I'll warn you now that the ending is quite the cliffhanger but I'm totally on board for the sequel and can't wait to see how the story ends.

Source: Received from Turnaround in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Hardback:

Friday, 25 May 2018

Excerpt Reveal: Order of Protection - Lexi Blake


Order of Protection:
A Courting Justice Novel
By Lexi Blake
Coming June 5, 2018


To high-end defense attorney Henry Garrison, Win Hughes is a woman he met during one of the most trying times of his life. She’s soft and warm, and he finds solace in their brief relationship. But Win has a secret. She’s actually Taylor Winston-Hughes—born to one of the wealthiest families in the country, orphaned as a child by a tragic accident. Win moves in the wealthiest circles, but her lavish lifestyle hides her pain.

When her best friend is murdered in the midst of a glittering New York gala, Win’s charged with the crime, and the only person in the world she wants to see is Henry.

Henry is shocked at the true identity of his lover, but he can’t reject the case. This case could take his new firm into the stratosphere. Still, he’s not getting burned by Win again. And yet every turn brings them closer together.

As the case takes a wild turn and Win's entire life is upended, she must look to the people she's closest to in order to find a killer. And Henry must decide between making his case and saving the woman he loves…

Now available for pre-order!


Excerpt from Order of Protection:

If Henry gave her a minute, they would be back to polite. He wouldn’t find out if she could want him in an honest way. “Win, I’m an alcoholic. I’m divorced, and it wasn’t some thoughtful conscious uncoupling. It was nasty and ugly. I’m a lawyer who doesn’t give a shit if his clients are guilty or not as long as they have the money to pay me. I have gotten off people who probably went back out into the world to do terrible things, and I’ll probably do it again because I believe in this system. It’s imperfect, but it’s better than anything else. And I’m too old for you.”

She snorted, an oddly amusing sound. “I’m not some shrinking virgin. I’m twenty-nine, and I’ve been around the block a couple of times and with some men I wish I hadn’t ever gotten into the car with. How old are you? Forty?”

He winced. “Thirty-seven.”

Her lips curled up, and it was worth the blow to his ego. “Well, you don’t look a day over forty, and that’s a pretty nice age for a man. You think you don’t deserve such a young, hot chick?”

Thank god she was teasing him again. He’d hated the way her shoulders had slumped when she’d thought he’d rejected her. But still, he had to be honest. If he was going to do this, she would get the new Henry. “I think I could hurt a woman like you if I’m not careful.”

“Then be careful with me, Henry Garrison,” she said, moving closer to him. “And I’m a big girl. I can make my own decisions and live with them. I would like to spend the night with you. It doesn’t have to last beyond tomorrow. I’m not asking to be your girlfriend. I’m asking you to help me get through the night, to help me get that nightmare out of my head, so I can feel safe for the first time in months. It’s been a long time since I felt safe.”

That he could do. She moved in close, right between his legs, and he reached up and cupped her face, holding her still as he looked into her eyes. So much fucking innocence. He didn’t care what she’d been through. She was way too young for him, but she’d said yes and he wasn’t a saint. Not even close. “Be sure. I might want more than one night. I’m here for a few weeks. I could use this. I could use some time with you.”

It wouldn’t work long-term. When he finished up and got back to the city, he wouldn’t have time to spend with her, and she deserved that. He would be knee-deep in the sewer again. It wasn’t a place he would take her, but he could be what she needed here.

“I could use some time with you,” she replied. “You’re right about a few things. I haven’t ever been around a man like you. The men I’ve been with have been boys who cared more about their images than they did about pleasing me. I think it might be different with you. I know you’re trying to scare me off with all that ‘I screwed up my life’ stuff, but I get that. You can’t make me run, or I would run away from myself. Tell me if you can make me forget about everything except what you’re doing to my body because tonight that’s all I want.”

Oh, he could do that. He might not be able to feed her soul, but he could work her body all fucking night long.


About Lexi Blake:

NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog in the world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn't until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem.

FACEBOOK / TWITTER / WEBSITE / AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Review: Tricks for Free - Seanan McGuire

The seventh book in the funny and fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.

Includes an all-new Aeslin mice novella and a map of Lowryland!

Penance, noun:
1. Punishment for past actions.
2. An attempt to pay for what can't be bought.
3. See also "exile."

Antimony Price is on the run. With the Covenant on her tail and her family still in danger, she needs to get far, far away from anyone who might recognize her--including her own mice. For the first time in a long time, a Price is flying without a safety net. Where do you go when you need to disappear into a crowd without worrying about attracting attention? An amusement park, of course.

Some people would call Lowryland the amusement park. It's one of the largest in Florida, the keystone of the Lowry entertainment empire...but for Annie, it's a place to hide. She's just trying to keep her head down long enough to come up with a plan that will get her home without getting anyone killed. No small order when she's rooming with gorgons and sylphs, trying to placate frustrated ghosts, and rushing to get to work on time.

Then the accidents begin. The discovery of a dead man brings Annie to the attention of the secret cabal of magic users running Lowryland from behind the scenes. They want the fire that sleeps in her fingers. They want her on their side. They want to help her--although their help, like everything else, comes with a price.

No plan. Minimal backup. No way out. Annie's about to get a crash course in the reality behind the pretty facade. If she's lucky, she'll survive the experience.

Incryptid Series:
14 Jonathan Healy & Frances Brown Short Stories (Read for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
3 Alice Healy & Thomas Price Short Stories (Read for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
Discount Armageddon
Midnight Blue-Light Special
4 Antimony Price Short Stories (Read some for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
3 Istas and Ryan Short Stories (Read most for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
Half-Off Ragnarok
1 Sarah Zellaby and Arthur Harrington Short Story (Read for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
5 Verity Price & Dominic De Luca Stories (Read for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
Pocket Apocalypse
Chaos Choreography
1 Elsie Harrington Short Story (Short Story in the Shadowed Souls anthology)
Magic for Nothing
1 Aeslin Mice Short Story (Purchase though Seanan McGuire's Patreon Page)
Tricks for Free
That Ain't Witchcraft (2019)

Ghost Roads Series:
(Stories are set in the Incryptid World)
Sparrow Hill Road
Train Yard Blues (Short Story in the Coins of Chaos anthology)
The Ghosts of Bourbon Street (Crossover Short Story with Verity from the Incryptid series free on Seanan McGuire's website)
Last Call at the Last Chance (Short Story available via Seanan McGuire's Patreon Page)
The Girl in the Green Silk Gown

Visit Seanan McGuire's website for more information

Review:
I love the Incryptid series, the crazy Price family and the huge variety of weird and wonderful creatures (particularly the Aeslin mice!) are just so much fun to read about so of course I was excited to read Tricks for Free even though Antimony is actually my least favourite of the siblings. I enjoyed her first book a lot more than I expected to but unfortunately this one just wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be. Antimony is the youngest of the Price children and she shows a lot of immaturity here, she tends to blame her family a lot and act like she was never loved as much as Verity and Alex but at the same time she complains that they're overprotective of her because she's the youngest. Which one is it Antimony? Either they don't care or they care too much - they can't be both at the same time! I can understand why she has to keep her distance from her family here but I missed them all in this story, Mary pops up a few times but it's just not the same as having all the characters I love around and since she's also separated from the Aeslin mice we don't even have them to lighten the tone a bit.

We do get to see a few of Antimony's old friends from her roller derby days but to be honest I've always found Antimony's endless talk of skating pretty boring in the short stories about her so that didn't really help me much. Seanan McGuire has obviously spent a lot of time and energy creating her own theme park called Lowryland, it's a full scale thing with it's own imaginary characters and lots of fun rides and Antimony is currently hiding out there as one of their newest employees. I appreciate the effort that the author has gone into making somewhere that feels so real but the endless descriptions of the place started to get boring after a while. It's a bit like having a friend come home from Disneyland and then wanting you to sit through a slideshow of the 600 photos they took, the first few are interesting enough but it's not long before your eyes start to glaze over, especially if you know you'll probably never be able to afford to go there yourself! Some things are only THAT interesting if you're actually there at the time and I felt the endless descriptions really slowed down this story.

There wasn't really a huge amount happening in this book and for probably the first two thirds I was pretty bored which is unheard of for this series. Things definitely got more interesting when Sam finally turned up, the last third of the book was far more exciting and it's definitely set things up for the next instalment but I just didn't love Tricks for Free as much as I'd hoped to. I still think Seanan McGuire is an incredible author, this series is usually so much fun to read and I'm also a huge fan of the October Daye books so she remains on my auto-buy list.

Source: Received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Paperback:

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Review: Fighting for Everything - Laura Kaye

Loving her is the biggest fight of his life...

Home from the Marines, Noah Cortez has a secret he doesn’t want his oldest friend, Kristina Moore, to know. It kills him to push her away, especially when he’s noticing just how sexy and confident she’s become in his absence. But, angry and full of fight, he’s not the same man anymore either. Which is why Warrior Fight Club sounds so good.

Kristina loves teaching, but she wants more out of life. She wants Noah—the boy she’s crushed on and waited for. Except Noah is all man now—in ways both oh so good and troubling, too. Still, she wants who he’s become—every war-hardened inch. And when they finally stop fighting their attraction, it’s everything Kristina never dared hope for.

But Noah is secretly spiraling, and when he lashes out, it threatens what he and Kristina have found. The brotherhood of the fight club helps him confront his demons, but only Noah can convince the woman he loves that he’s finally ready to fight for everything.

Warrior Fight Club Series:
Fighting for Everything
Fighting for What's His
Fighting the Fire (October 2018)
Worth Fighting For (March 2019)

Visit Laura Kaye's website for more information

Review:
Until recently Noah was a serving Marine but after losing part of his sigh and hearing in an IED explosion he's now home and trying to find a way to move on with his life. The brain injury he received has left him with constant headaches and he's suffering with not just PTST but also survivors guilt after losing so many of his friends in the war. Basically Noah is in a very bad place, badly depressed and unsure if life is even worth living anymore. Kristina has been Noah's best friend since they were five years old and she hates seeing him so low, all she wants is to find a way to help her friend recover but things are made complicated by the sudden fierce attraction they are both feeling towards each other. Noah is very close to hitting rock bottom but can he pull himself back from the brink in time to build a future with the woman he loves.

Laura Kaye always writes such incredibly intense relationships and this is one of my favourites. I always enjoy the friends to lovers trope and Noah and Kristina have such a fantastic connection, one that goes deep and is far beyond just sexual attraction (although they're definitely not lacking in that department either!). The author tackles a lot of difficult issues in this story but she does it brilliantly and she really brought Noah's character to life. We get to see so many sides to his character, theres the strong and sexy man that Kristina has known all her life but then there is the more vulnerable side to him who is suffering deeply and very close to suicidal.

These topics are handled sensitively and I really appreciated the fact that Kristina wasn't able to magically cure Noah with sex, instead Noah had to find his own path to happiness and we get to see him really working hard towards his recovery. He finds a group of friends through Warrior Fight Club, an MMA fighting group made up of ex service members who are able to understand him in ways that Kristina can't because she doesn't have the same shared experience. Kristina was incredibly supportive but she knew that it was ultimately down to Noah to figure things out. I found it so easy to root for them as a couple and I loved the times they spent together just hanging out as well as in bed, they're actually pretty adorable together!

I really enjoyed the introduction to other members of Warrior Fight Club too so I have very high hopes for this series. I loved that the group doesn't only have male members and there are female fighters too, ones who have also served their country and have their own recovery to make. Laura Kaye is definitely onto another winner with this series and I can't wait to get my hands on the next book!

Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

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Blog Tour: Fighting for Everything - Laura Kaye (Excerpt & Giveaway)


From New York Times bestselling author Laura Kaye, comes the first standalone title in her brand, new Warrior Fight Club series, FIGHTING FOR EVERYTHING. Join the Warrior Fight Club world today!


Loving her is the biggest fight of his life…

Home from the Marines, Noah Cortez has a secret he doesn’t want his oldest friend, Kristina Moore, to know. It kills him to push her away, especially when he’s noticing just how sexy and confident she’s become in his absence. But, angry and full of fight, he’s not the same man anymore either. Which is why Warrior Fight Club sounds so good.

Kristina loves teaching, but she wants more out of life. She wants Noah—the boy she’s crushed on and waited for. Except Noah is all man now—in ways both oh so good and troubling, too. Still, she wants who he’s become—every war-hardened inch. And when they finally stop fighting their attraction, it’s everything Kristina never dared hope for.

But Noah is secretly spiraling, and when he lashes out, it threatens what he and Kristina have found. The brotherhood of the fight club helps him confront his demons, but only Noah can convince the woman he loves that he’s finally ready to fight for everything.


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Excerpt:

“I’m no good right now, Kristina,” Noah said in a low voice.

She shook her head. “That’s not true. You’ve been through something horrible. And you’re still recovering. Still hurting. That’s all understandable—”

“I am fucked in the head. You saw it yourself. Twice,” he said, his voice suddenly loud, bitter. Under her hands, his muscles tensed.

“You are not fucked in the head,” she said, anger and determination gathering deep in her belly. Not anger at Noah, but irrational anger for him. She hated that things had happened to him that left him feeling this way. So out of control, so sad, so unlike himself. “Sure, you have things you’re dealing with. And you will get a handle on them—”

“No,” he said, shaking her off and pacing in the narrow space behind the door. “You don’t understand. I’m…” Noah’s hands squeezed into fists at his sides. “…so goddamned angry. All the time. It feels like I could tear the world to pieces. And I want to.” He whirled on her. “Because the perfection of everything around me makes me feel so much more wrecked inside that I can barely breathe.”

Oh, God.

Tears pricked at the backs of her eyes, but she wouldn’t let them fall. She wouldn’t let herself fall apart. Not now. Not in front of him. Not when Noah needed to lean on her so damn badly. “The world around you is not perfect, Noah. It’s an illusion. And you are not wrecked—”

“I am.” He got right up in her face.

Kristina held her ground. “You’re not—”

“I am!”

“Noah—”

He grabbed her by the arms, not so much that it hurt, but with enough force that it surprised her. “Here’s your proof. I want to fuck you, Kristina. I want to bury myself in you and stay there forever. Just lose myself in you until I don’t know who I am anymore. I’ve been fantasizing about it, dreaming about it, imagining it. Having you is all I can fucking think about. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Noah’s words unleashed a flash fire in Kristina’s blood. Her heart tripped into a sprint. Her breathing shallowed out. Heat roared across her skin. One heartbeat. Two. And Kristina knew what she had to do.

Acting on instinct, she pulled out of Noah’s grip and stepped backward. Away from his confession. Away from him.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway



And don’t miss the second standalone romance in the Warrior Fight Club series coming August 7, 2018, FIGHTING FOR WHAT’S HIS

PRE-ORDER FIGHTING FOR WHAT'S HIS:


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Laura Kaye’s FIGHTING FOR EVERYTHING – Review & Excerpt Tour Schedule:

May 21st
Angie and Jessica's Dreamy Reads – Review & Excerpt
Books and Bubble bath – Review & Excerpt
Catty Jane Book Lovers – Review & Excerpt
Coffee Books Life – Review & Excerpt
I Love HEA Romance Book Blog – Review & Excerpt
Knotty Girl Reviews – Review & Excerpt
Obsessed by books – Review & Excerpt
Read more sleep less – Review & Excerpt
Romance as a first language – Review & Excerpt
The Reading Cafe – Review & Excerpt
May 22nd
RELEASE DAY!!
May 23rd
2 Amys Love Reading – Review & Excerpt
Blogging by Liza – Review & Excerpt
Elenasbookblog – Review & Excerpt
Feeling Fictional – Review & Excerpt
Hot Kindle Reads – Review
Les Chroniques Aléatoires – Review & Excerpt
Melena's Reviews – Review & Excerpt
The Book Disciple – Review & Excerpt
May 24th
Books of My Heart – Review & Excerpt
Cara's Book Boudoir – Review & Excerpt
I Love Romance – Review & Excerpt
Nice Ladies, Naughty Books – Review & Excerpt
Obsessive Reading Disorder – Review & Excerpt
Reads All the Books – Review & Excerpt
Sofia Loves Books – Review
Wickedcoolflight – Review & Excerpt
May 25th
Angel Reads – Review
Bobo's Book Bank – Review & Excerpt
My Favorite Things – Review & Excerpt
NallaReads – Review & Excerpt
Novel Addiction – Review
Relentless Romance – Review & Excerpt
Romancing the Readers – Review & Excerpt
May 26th
AC Book Blog – Review & Excerpt
Fern's Book Blog – Review & Excerpt
KDRBCK – Review & Excerpt
The Staircase Reader – Review & Excerpt
The Book Boyfriend Addict – Review & Excerpt
May 27th
Book Angel Booktopia – Review & Excerpt
Bookishly Yours – Review & Excerpt
Kari Gillespie – Review
Lynn's Romance Enthusiasm – Review & Excerpt
Total Book Addicts – Review & Excerpt
May 28th
Booknerd1107 – Review & Excerpt
Deluged with Books Cafe – Review & Excerpt
JordansBookReviews – Excerpt
Rad Babes Read – Review & Excerpt
Ripe For Reader – Review & Excerpt
Romance Reviews and More – Review & Excerpt
Thoughts of a Blonde – Review & Excerpt
May 29th
Book Freak – Review & Excerpt
My Book Snack – Review & Excerpt
Sip Read Love – Review
The Book Hammock – Review & Excerpt
May 30th
Bookgasms Book Blog – Review & Excerpt
Books 2 Blog – Review & Excerpt
I'm A Sweet And Sassy Book Whore – Review & Excerpt
Jax's Book Magic – Review & Excerpt
Literary Misfit – Review & Excerpt
Somewhere Lost in Books – Review & Excerpt
May 31st
Blissfully Bookish Besties – Review & Excerpt
Book Bitches Blog – Review & Excerpt
Love Notes Book Blog – Review & Excerpt
Spoons, Hooks, and Books – Review & Excerpt
The Book Reading Gals – Review & Excerpt
June 1st
Book Nook Nuts – Excerpt
Books A-Brewin' – Review & Excerpt
Only One More Page – Review & Excerpt
Red Hot + Blue Reads – Review & Excerpt
Renee Entress's Blog – Review & Excerpt
She Hearts Books – Review & Excerpt
Wicked Babes Blog Reviews – Review & Excerpt

About Laura Kaye:

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty books in contemporary and erotic romance and romantic suspense, including the Blasphemy, Hard Ink, and Raven Riders series. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. Laura also writes historical fiction as the NYT bestselling author, Laura Kamoie. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Spotlight Tour: Furyborn - Claire Legrand


Book Info:

Title: Furyborn
Author: Claire Legrand
ISBN: 9781492656623, Hardcover
Release Date: May 22nd, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire


Summary:

The stunningly original, must-read fantasy of 2018 follows two fiercely independent young women, centuries apart, who hold the power to save their world...or doom it.

When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable—until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world—and of each other.




Check out the Furyborn Book Trailers:

Meet the Blood Queen:



and the Sun Queen:



Praise for Furyborn:

“A page-turner. Readers will find the complex and flawed characters immensely relatable. The two narratives are deftly interwoven, and plot twists will keep teens on the edge of their seats.”
School Library Journal, popular pick

“A dark yet rousing adventure story that combines passion and danger at every turn.”
Booklist

“High stakes, epic scope, intense action, and sweeping mythologies.”
Kirkus

“Strikingly vivid prose… the nearly five hundred pages race by in stunning fashion. This is a must-have for fans of Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles (Finnikin of the Rock, or Cashore’s Graceling.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, STARRED Review

“Beautiful, brutal, heart-stopping, and epic, Furyborn is a world to lose yourself in—just bring weapons. It’s dangerous there.”
Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of Strange the Dreamer and the Daughter of Smoke and Bone saga

“Legrand has created magic on every page. Flawed, smart, and fierce heroines kept me dazzled and breathless. Furyborn is explosive and stunning.”
Mary E. Pearson, New York Times bestselling author of The Remnant Chronicles and The Jenna Fox Chronicles

Excerpt from Furyborn:

1
RIELLE
“Lord Commander Dardenne came to me in the middle of the night, his daughter in his arms. They smelled of fire; their clothes were singed. He could hardly speak. I had never seen the man afraid before. He thrust Rielle into my arms and said, ‘Help us. Help her. Don’t let them take her from me.’”
—Testimony of Grand Magister Taliesin Belounnon, on Lady Rielle Dardenne’s involvement in the Boon Chase massacreApril 29, Year 998 of the Second Age
TWO YEARS EARLIER
Rielle Dardenne hurried into Tal’s office and dropped the sparrow’s message onto his desk.
“Princess Runa is dead,” she announced.
She wouldn’t describe her mood as excited exactly, but her own kingdom, Celdaria, and their northeastern neighbor, Borsvall, had lived in a state of tension for so many decades that it was hardly noteworthy when, say, a Celdarian merchant ship sank off Borsvall’s coast or patrols came to blows near the border.
But a murdered Borsvall princess? That was news. And Rielle wanted to dissect every piece of it.
Tal let out a sigh, set down his pen, and dragged his ink-smudged hands through his messy blond hair. The polished golden flame pinned to his lapel winked in the sunlight.
“Perhaps,” Tal suggested, turning a look on Rielle that was not quite disapproval and not quite amusement, “you should consider looking less thrilled about a princess’s murder?”
She slid into the chair across from him. “I’m not happy about it or anything. I’m simply intrigued.” Rielle pulled the slip of paper back across the desk and read over the inked words once more. “So you do think it was assassination? Audric thinks so.”
“Promise me you won’t do anything stupid today, Rielle.”
She smiled sweetly at him. “When have I ever done anything stupid?”
He quirked an eyebrow. “The city guard is on high alert. I want you here, safe in the temple, in case anything happens.” He took the message from her, scanning its contents. “How did you get this, anyway? No, wait. I know. Audric gave it to you.”
Rielle stiffened. “Audric keeps me informed. He’s a good friend. Where’s the harm in that?”
Tal didn’t answer, but he didn’t have to.
“If you have something to say to me,” she snapped, color climbing up her cheeks, “then just say it. Or else let’s begin our lesson.”
Tal watched her a moment longer, then turned to pick up four enormous books sitting on the shelf behind him.
“Here,” he said, ignoring the mutinous expression on her face. “I’ve marked some passages for you to read. Today will be devoted to quiet study. And I’ll test you later, so don’t even think about skimming.”
Rielle narrowed her eyes at the book on the top of the stack. “A Concise History of the Second Age, Volume I: The Aftermath of the Angelic Wars.” She made a face. “This hardly looks concise.”
“It’s all a matter of perspective,” he said, returning to the papers on his desk.
Rielle’s favorite place in Tal’s office was the window seat overlooking the main temple courtyard. It was piled high with scarlet cushions lined in gold piping, and when she sat there, dangling her legs out into the sun, she could almost forget that there was an enormous world beyond the temple and her city—a world she would never see.
She settled by the window, kicked off her boots, hiked up her heavy lace-trimmed skirts, and rested her bare feet on the sill. The spring sunlight washed her legs in warmth, and soon she was thinking of how Audric blossomed on bright, sun-filled days like this one. How his skin seemed to glow and crackle, begging to be touched.
Tal cleared his throat, breaking her focus.
Tal knew her far too well.
She cracked open A Concise History, took one look at the tiny, faded text, and imagined tossing the book out the window and into the temple courtyard, where citizens were filing in for morning prayers—to pray that the riders they had wagered upon in today’s race would win, no doubt. Every temple in the capital would be full of such eager souls, not just there in the Pyre—Tal’s temple, where citizens worshipped Saint Marzana the firebrand—but in the House of Light and the House of Night as well and the Baths and the Firmament, the Forge and the Holdfast. Whispered prayers in all seven temples, to all seven saints and their elements.
Wasted prayers, thought Rielle with a slight, sharp thrill. The other racers will look like children on ponies compared to me.
She flipped through a few pages, biting the inside of her lip until she felt calm enough to speak. “I’ve heard many in the Borsvall court are blaming Celdaria for Runa’s death. We wouldn’t do such a thing, would we?”
Tal’s pen scratched across his paper. “Certainly not.”
“But it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, does it? If King Hallvard’s councils convince him that we killed his daughter, he will declare war at last.”
Tal dropped his pen with a huff of annoyance. “I’m not going to get any work done today, am I?”
Rielle swallowed her grin. If only you knew how true that is, dearest Tal.
“I’m sorry if I have questions about the political climate of our country,” she said. “Does that fall under the category of things we’re not allowed to discuss, lest my poor vulnerable brain shatter from the stress?”
A smile twitched at the corner of Tal’s mouth. “Borsvall might declare war, yes.”
“You don’t seem concerned about this possibility.”
“I find it unlikely. We’ve been on the edge of war with Borsvall for decades, and yet it has never happened. And itwill never happen, because the Borsvall people may be warmongers, but King Hallvard is neither healthy nor stupid. We would flatten his army. He can’t afford a war with anyone, much less with Celdaria.”
“Audric said…” Rielle hesitated. A twist of unease slipped down her throat. “Audric said he thinks Princess Runa’s death, and the slave rebellion in Kirvaya, means it’s time. That the Queens are coming.”
Silence fell over the room like a shroud.
“Audric has always been fascinated with the prophecy,” Tal said, his voice deceptively calm. “He’s been looking for signs of the Queens’ coming for years.”
“He sounds rather convinced this time.”
“A slave rebellion and a dead princess are hardly enough to—”
“But I heard Grand Magister Duval talking about how there have been storms across the ocean in Meridian,” she pressed on, searching his face. “Even as far as Ventera and Astavar. Strange storms, out of season.”
Tal blinked. Ah, thought Rielle. You didn’t know that, did you?
“Storms do occur out of season from time to time,” Tal said. “The empirium works in mysterious ways.”
Rielle curled her fingers in her skirts, taking comfort in the fact that soon she would be in her riding trousers and boots, her collar open to the breeze.
She would be on the starting line.
“The report I read,” she continued, “said that a dust storm in southern Meridian had shut down the entire port of Morsia for days.”
“Audric needs to stop showing you every report that comes across his desk.”
“Audric didn’t show me anything. I found this one myself.”
Tal raised an eyebrow. “You mean you snuck into his office when he wasn’t there and went through his papers.”
Rielle’s cheeks grew hot. “I was looking for a book I’d left behind.”
“Indeed. And what would Audric say if he knew you’d been in his office without his permission?”
“He wouldn’t care. I’m free to come and go as I please.”
Tal closed his eyes. “Lady Rielle, you can’t just visit the crown prince’s private rooms day and night as though it’s nothing. You’re not children anymore. And you are not his fiancée.”
Rielle lost her breath for an instant. “I’m well aware of that.”
Tal waved a hand and rose from his chair, effectively ending all talk of the prophecy and its Queens.
“The city is crowded today—and unpredictable,” he said, walking across the room to pour himself another cup of tea. “Word is spreading about Princess Runa’s death. In such a climate, the empirium can behave in similarly unpredictable ways. Perhaps we should begin a round of prayers to steady our minds. Amid the chaos of the world, the burning flame serves as an anchor, binding us in peace to the empirium and to God.”
Rielle glared at him. “Don’t use your magister voice, Tal. It makes you sound old.”
He sighed, took a sip of his tea. “I am old. And grumpy, thanks to you.”
“Thirty-two is hardly old, especially to already be Grand Magister of the Pyre.” She paused. She would need to proceed carefully. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you were appointed as the next Archon. Surely, with someone as talented as you beside me, I could safely watch the Chase from your box—”
“Don’t try to flatter me, Lady Rielle.” His eyes sparked at her. There was the Tal she liked—the ferocious firebrand, not the pious teacher. “It isn’t safe for you out there right now, not to mention dangerous for everyone else if something set you off and you lost control.”
Rielle slammed shut A Concise History and rose from the window seat. “Damn you, Tal.”
“Not in the temple, please,” Tal admonished over the rim of his cup.
“I’m not a child. Do you really think I don’t know better by now?” Her voice turned mocking. “‘Rielle, let’s say a prayer together to calm you.’ ‘Rielle, let’s sing a song about Saint Katell the Magnificent to take your mind off things.’ ‘No, Rielle, you can’t go to the masque. You might forget yourself. You might have fun, God forbid.’ If Father had his way, I’d stay locked up for the rest of my life with my nose buried in a book or on my knees in prayer, whipping myself every time I had a stray angry thought. Is that the kind of life you would like for me too?”
Tal watched her, unmoved. “If it meant you were safe and that others were safe as well? Yes, I would.”
“Kept under lock and key like some criminal.” A familiar, frustrated feeling rose within her; she pushed it back down with a vengeance. She would not lose control, not today of all days.
“Do you know,” she said, her voice falsely bright, “that when it storms, Father takes me down to the servants’ quarters and gives me dumbwort? It puts me to sleep, and he locks me up and leaves me there.”
After a pause, Tal answered, “Yes.”
“I used to fight him. He would hold me down and slap me, pinch my nose shut until I couldn’t breathe and had to open my mouth. Then he would shove the vial between my lips and make me drink, and I would spit it up, but he would keep forcing me to drink, whispering to me everything I’d ever done wrong, and right in the middle of yelling how much I hated him, I would fall asleep. And when I would wake up, the storm would be over.”
A longer pause. “Yes,” Tal answered softly. “I know.”
“He thinks storms are too provocative for me. They give me ideas, he says.”
Tal cleared his throat. “That was my fault.”
“I know.”
“But the medicine, that was his suggestion.”
She gave him a withering look. “And did you try to talk him out of it?”
He did not answer, and the patience on his face left her seething.
“I don’t fight him anymore,” she said. “I hear a crack of thunder and go below without him even asking me to. How pathetic I’ve become.”
“Rielle…” Tal sighed, shook his head. “Everything I could say to you, I’ve said before.”
She approached him, letting the loneliness she typically hid from him—from everyone—soften her face. Come, good Magister Belounnon. Pity your sweet Rielle. He broke first, looking away from her. Something like sorrow shifted across his face, and his jaw tightened.
Good.
“He’d let me sleep through life if he could,” she said.
“He loves you, Rielle. He worries for you.”
Heat snapped at Rielle’s fingertips, growing along with her anger. With a stubborn stab of fury, she let it come. She knew she shouldn’t, that an outburst would only make it more difficult to sneak away, but suddenly she could not bring herself to care.
He loves you, Rielle.
A father who loved his daughter would not make her his prisoner.
She seized one of the candles from Tal’s desk and watched with grim satisfaction as the wick burst into a spitting, unruly flame. As she stared at it, she imagined her fury as a flooding river, steadily spilling over its banks and feeding the flame in her hands.
The flame grew—the size of a pen, a dagger, a sword. Then every candle followed suit, a forest of fiery blades.
Tal rose from his desk and picked up the handsome polished shield from its stand in the corner of the room. Every elemental who had ever lived—every waterworker and windsinger, every shadowcaster and every firebrand like Tal—had to use a casting, a physical object uniquely forged by their own hands, to access their power. Their singular power, the one element they could control.
But not Rielle.
She needed no casting, and fire was not the only element that obeyed her.
All of them did.
Tal stood behind her, one hand holding his shield, the other hand resting gently on her own. As a child, back when she had still thought she loved Tal, such touches had thrilled her.
Now she seriously considered punching him.
“In the name of Saint Marzana the Brilliant,” Tal murmured, “we offer this prayer to the flames, that the empirium might hear our plea and grant us strength: Fleet-footed fire, blaze not with fury or abandon. Burn steady and true, burn clean and burn bright.”
Rielle bit down on harsh words. How she hated praying. Every familiar word felt like a new bar being added to the cage her father and Tal had crafted for her.
The room began to shake—the inkwell on Tal’s desk, the panes of glass in the open window, Tal’s half-finished cup of tea.
“Rielle?” Tal prompted, shifting his shield. In his body behind her, she felt a rising hot tension as he prepared to douse her fire with his own power. Despite her best efforts, the concern in his voice caused her a twinge of remorse. He meant well, she knew. He wanted, desperately, for her to be happy.
Unlike her father.
So Rielle bowed her head and swallowed her anger. After all, what she was about to do might turn Tal against her forever. She could allow him this small victory.
“Blaze not with fury or abandon,” she repeated, closing her eyes. She imagined setting aside every scrap of emotion, every sound, every thought, until her mind was a vast field of darkness—except for the tiny spot of light that was the flame in her hands.
Then she allowed the darkness to seep across the flame as well and was left alone in the cool, still void of her mind.
The room calmed.
Tal’s hand fell away.
Rielle listened as he returned his shield to its stand. The prayer had scraped her clean, and in the wake of her anger she felt…nothing. A hollow heart and an empty head.
When she opened her eyes, they were dry and tired. She wondered bitterly what it would be like to live without a constant refrain of prayers in her thoughts, warning her against her own feelings.
The temple bells chimed eleven times; Rielle’s pulse jumped. Any moment now, she would hear Ludivine’s signal.
She turned toward the window. No more prayers, no more reading. Every muscle in her body surged with energy. She wanted to ride.
“I’d rather be dead than live as my father’s prisoner,” she said at last, unable to resist that last petulant stab.
“Dead like your mother?”
Rielle froze. When she faced Tal, he did not look away. She had not expected that cruelty. From her father, yes, but never from Tal.
The memory of long-ago flames blazed across her vision.
“Did Father instruct you to bring that up if I got out of hand?” she asked, keeping her voice flat and cool. “What with the Chase and all.”
“Yes,” Tal answered, unflinching.
“Well, I’m happy to tell you I’ve only killed the one time. You needn’t worry yourself.”
After a moment, Tal turned to straighten the books on his desk. “This is as much for your safety as it is for everyone else’s. If the king discovered we’d been hiding the truth of your power all these years…You know what could happen. Especially to your father. And yet he does it because he loves you more than you’ll ever understand.”
Rielle laughed sharply. “That isn’t reason enough to treat me like this. I’ll never forgive him for it. Someday, I’ll stop forgiving you too.”
“I know,” Tal said, and at the sadness in his voice, Rielle nearly took pity on him.
Nearly.
But then a great crash sounded from downstairs, and an unmistakable cry of alarm.
Ludivine.
Tal gave Rielle that familiar look he so often had—when she had, at seven, overflowed their pool at the Baths; when he had found her, at fifteen, the first time she snuck out to Odo’s tavern. That look of What did I do to deserve such trials?
Rielle gazed innocently back at him.
“Stay here,” he ordered. “I mean it, Rielle. I appreciate your frustration—truly, I do—but this is about more than the injustice of you feeling bored.”
Rielle returned to the window seat, hoping her expression appeared suitably abashed.
“I love you, Tal,” she said, and the truth of that was enough to make her hate herself a little.
“I know,” he replied. Then he threw on his magisterial robe and swept out the door.
“Magister, it’s Lady Ludivine,” came a panicked voice from the hallway—one of Tal’s young acolytes. “She’d only just arrived in the chapel, my lord, when she turned pale and collapsed. I don’t know what happened!”
“Summon my healer,” Tal instructed, “and send a message to the queen. She’ll be in her box at the starting line. Tell her that her niece has taken ill and will not be joining her there.”
Once they had gone, Rielle smiled and yanked on her boots.
Stay here?
Not a chance.
She hurried through the sitting room outside Tal’s office and into the temple’s red-veined marble hallways, where embroidered flourishes of shimmering flames lined the plush carpets. The temple entryway, its parquet floor polished to a sheen of gold, was a flurry of activity as worshippers, acolytes, and servants hurried across to the peaked chapel doors.
“It’s Lady Ludivine,” a young acolyte whispered to her companion as Rielle passed. “Apparently she’s taken ill.”
Rielle grinned, imagining everyone fussing over poor Ludivine, tragically lovely and faint on the temple floor. Ludivine would enjoy the attention—and the reminder that she had the entire capital held like a puppet on its master’s strings.
Even so, Rielle would owe her a tremendous favor after this.
Whatever it was, it would be more than worth it.
Ludivine’s horse stood next to her own just outside the temple, held by a young stable hand who seemed on the verge of panic. He recognized Rielle and sagged with relief.
“Pardon me, Lady Rielle, but is Lady Ludivine all right?” he asked.
“Haven’t the faintest,” Rielle replied, swinging up into the saddle. Then she snapped the reins, and her mare bolted down the main road that led from the Pyre into the heart of the city, hooves clattering against the cobblestones. A tumbled array of apartments and temple buildings rose around them—gray stone walls engraved with scenes of the capital city’s creation, rounded roofs of burnished copper, slender columns wrapped in flowering ivy, white fountains crowned with likenesses of the seven saints in prayer. So many visitors had come from all over the world to Âme de la Terre for the Chase that the cool spring air now pressed thick and close. The city smelled of sweat and spices, hot horse and hot coin.
As Rielle tore down the road, the crowd parted in alarm on either side of her, shouting angry curses until they realized who she was and fell silent. She guided her mare through the twisting streets and made for the main city gates, her body pulled tight with nerves.
But she would not give in to her power today.
She would compete in the Boon Chase, as any citizen was free to do, and prove to her father that she could control herself, even when her life was in danger and the eyes of the entire city were upon her.
She would prove to him, and to Tal, that she deserved to live a normal life.


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About the Author:

Claire Legrand is the author of several novels for children and young adults, most notably The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, Some Kind of Happiness, and Winterspell. Claire lives in Princeton, New Jersey. Visit claire-legrand.com.

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Website: http://www.claire-legrand.com/
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