A Julia Review: The King and the Criminal (The Heart of All Worlds #2) by Charlotte Ashe

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What happens when the fairytale ends but the journey continues? Book II of the Heart of All Worlds series finds Sehrys and Brieden living peacefully in Khryslee. But when King Firae breaches an ancient, spellbound pact by crossing The Border into Villalu in pursuit of a convicted criminal and is trapped there, Sehrys is forced to ascend the throne in his absence, a role he was once groomed for, but Brieden fears and dreads. Meanwhile, Firae must rely on the very criminal he was after to help him reach home alive—a man his own mother exiled long ago but who awakens something in his heart more potent than his sworn duties as king.

As each man struggles to understand his own destiny, devotion, and legacy, a deeper and more urgent truth confronts them all: Their world is in far greater danger than they realized, and each of them plays an integral part in its fate.

The King and the Criminal by Charlotte Ashe is the second novel in the author’s “The Heart of All Worlds” series. I had previously reviewed the first entry “The Sidhe”, which was a favourite of mine, and I’m happy to say that this one is a more than worthy successor.

While Brieden and Sehrys still play a pivotal role and there is quite a bit of character development for them, we now get to follow the journey of another pair of characters who both have already been introduced in the first book: ruler of one of the Sidhe nations and Sehrys’ former fiancée Firae and Tash, a Sidhe who has been exiled to the human lands for his crimes. But even more so than in the first book the romance part of the story is intricately intertwined with greater narrative of political upheaval and a more imminent threat to the whole of Villalu. The author did a fantastic job in balancing out the change of focus. Not one scene feels superfluous or out of place here.

Tash and Firae are both really interesting and engaging characters and I have greatly enjoyed following the progression of their relationship. I’m especially fond of Tash because unlike Sehrys or Firae he was not naturally gifted with powerful magical abilities or influence but relies mostly on his wits and aptitude for learning to work through a tricky situation. Firae on the other hand is rather impulsive and temperamental. You can see how there is much for them to learn from one another. While theirs is definitely not a love-hate type of relationship, there is quite a bit of wariness (but also mutual sexual attraction) between them at the beginning of their journey. The pacing is really well done and I found it quite believable that these two would eventually develop stronger feelings for each other.

Much to my delight the human twin sisters Cliope and Brissa are getting more attention this time as well as they keep on working towards uniting Villalu under the rule of the latter. And though they seem to be making good progress in that regard, things aren’t as simple as an ancient magic threatens to destroy all of humanity and it is up to a select few to prevent it from happening. The world building is quite detailed and this time we get to see more of what’s going on behind the barrier and learn in greater detail about the culture, society and magic of the Sidhe.

If you’re a fan of Fantasy and are looking for a well-written story with detailed world building and engaging characters, I can only recommend this series and you can be certain that I’ll be eagerly awaiting its continuation.

I simply adore the cover and interior illustrations by Sarah Sanderson. They are so unique and beautiful. I especially like that if you compare the covers of the two books, you can clearly see the difference in the dynamics between the two couples based on their gestures and facial expressions alone.

Sales Links:  Interlude Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 325 pages

Published December 8, 2016

by Interlude Press

ISBN: 978-1-941530-87-0

Edition Language: English

Nikolai Joslin on Inspiration, Writing and Cold Front (The Fires of Destiny #2) (Harmony Ink Guest Post)

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Cold Front (The Fires of Destiny #2) by Nikolai Joslin
H
armony Ink Press
Cover Art by AngstyG

Available for Purchase at 

Harmony Ink Press

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Nikolai Joshlin here today to talk about his latest story, Cold Front and share something about the inspiration behind it and the series.  Welcome, Nikolai!

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Inspiration, Stories and Role Models by Nikolai Joslin

I always loved fantasy and science fiction when I was growing up but it felt like I was sacrificing an important part of myself when I was reading, it pulled me out of the story and I wasn’t able to relate to characters who weren’t like me. It was incredibly hard to be proud of who I was when I never got to see a hero or a ‘Chosen One’ who I could look up to as a role model for this part of my life. So I wrote the first book, Life Beyond the Temple, when I was in high school because I was so frustrated with the lack of LGBT characters in books that also had magic and people saving the world. Casey was someone I wanted to be like, someone who was saving the world and doing amazing things and who was proud of her sexuality and found love in the midst of all that was going on around her. I came up with the idea for these books because I couldn’t find anything around me to read, so I had to write it myself.

 

About Cold Front

Casey Kelley is a mage, and like all mages she grew up in a Temple, a required institution for mages to teach them how to control their power and keep them from harming those in the outside world. In order to prove that she could return to the world she was tasked with defeating a powerful necromancer that sought to end the world as they knew it.

Now, a year later, Casey is living with her fiancée and dog, living the happy, boring life she had been looking forward to all this time. Until an old friend shows up at their door with news of a planned attack on Casey’s old home. The dark elves, after centuries of being forced to live in underground cities and treated like animals, are not only coming back to the surface, they’re starting a war.

It’s up to Casey and her friends to build an army to go against them and save the world again, and it will take more than anything else she’s ever done. Old ghosts come back to haunt her, her enemies have been preparing for years, and maybe hardest of all is getting everyone to cooperate. Even with things looking this bad, Casey knows failure is not an option.

About Nikolai Joslin

Nikolai is a trans man going to school for Baking and Pastry Arts. He decided to write more LGBT fantasy when he was high school and looking for books with characters like himself but couldn’t find anything outside of realistic fiction. He hopes to encourage others to write more stories like this so he has plenty to read. Right now he is living in New York while finishing up his degree and working on the final book for The Fires of Destiny.

Website: www.nikolaijoslin.com

The Fires of Destiny 

A MelanieM Review: Hidden Wings by Ana Raine

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Hidden WingsKanji is the last royal Kuro swan, an ancient race who once served the demonic Sidhee. The Kuro were betrayed and given as slaves to the Dryma fairies. When a Dryma is born, his soul attaches to a tree and to sustain their lives, the Dryma conscript the Kuro to protect their woods. In their servitude, the Kuro are languishing and dying off. Kanji is desperate to reunite his people with their stolen wings, but the task seems impossible.

When Kanji discovers a plan to unite the Sidhee and the Dryma, he tricks the Sidhee prince and attends a masked ball in disguise. There he meets Prince Tristan, who is nothing like the other fairies. Kind and compassionate, Tristan has a plan to free the Dryma from their dependence on the trees—and their need of the Kuro’s protection. It could mean freedom for Kanji’s people, but it might also mean choosing between them and the life of the fairy who is—impossibly—his mate.

When Tristan is wounded in battle and left for dead, his survival depends on the success of his experiments. Can Kanji dare to believe, or must he come to terms with the loss of his mate?

Hidden Wings by Ana Raine caught my attention primarily due to the inclusion of swans in her fantasy story, well that and the fae. I have long admired the species as much for their deadly attack skills as for their elegance and loyalty.  So I had high hopes for seeing such natural history characteristics included as part of the plot and folded into the character of Kanji, the last of the royal Kuro Swans. What I ended up with was a interesting mixture that didn’t always make sense but still managed to be entertaining none the less.

Ana Raine set a huge task for herself with this tale, specifically creating the two species, their individual cultures and collective histories and then bringing them together in the forms of Tristan and Kanji.  I think that in putting her attention towards the Dryma and the Kuro, the characters of Kanji and Tristan came off as pale comparisons.  There is a richness in the mythology that Raine has created that just is so lovely, the dependency on the trees, the need for sacrifice that runs throughout many ancient cultures, and then threading those elements through her story that pulls you in and makes you forget some of the other aspects that might otherwise have you shaking your head.  I’ve seen swans take out foxes and dogs.  Swans are deadly. Where is that here?

Also, for many of you, this is not your happily ever after, nor is it meant to be.  Hidden Wings is part of Dreamspinner Press’  Bittersweet Dreams titles which states in part that “… these stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.”  Note the no traditional happy ending.  So, you wouldn’t go into this book expecting to get one and you don’t.  I didn’t mind that, but I know many readers will.

No, what bothered me was that I thought the characters and their relationship as mates needed more substance, at least as much as their species and cultures got.  Hidden Wings has so much promise, enough that the author could easily pull more stories from without having to establish a base universe once again.

If you are a fan of fantasy, pick it up and decide for yourself.

Cover art by Anne Cain is lovely and works for me

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published January 6th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634767519 (ISBN13: 9781634767514)
Edition Language English

 

 

An Aurora YA Review: Noble Persuasion (The Halvarian Ruin Books #2) by Sara Gaines

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Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Noble Persuasion coverAleana Melora, now a duchess in name only, sought refuge after fleeing the kingdom she once called home. Unwilling to admit defeat, Aleana jumps at the opportunity to learn what is happening in her lands when a mysterious letter arrives summoning her to a nearby fortress.

After discovering she is not the only one who has suffered, Aleana is given the chance to aid her people more than she imagined. But doing so means she must meet the demands of those she would align herself with. This decision has far-reaching consequences for both her people and her relationship with Kahira, the marked criminal who holds Aleana’s affections, as she’s faced with a line she hoped never to cross.

I really enjoyed this book and one of my favorite parts was the world building that was involved. World building isn’t easy, and I think the author did a great job of fitting world building in very naturally with the plot of the book and not just dropping information in the middle. I also really liked the characters, since they seemed to have some flaws that were very realistic to their circumstances, while still managing to be very likable and keeping the reader rooting for them. I was really interested by Aleana’s journey throughout the book and how she really seemed to want to do the right thing.

If there is one thing I could pick out that took me out of the book a little bit is that I found it to be slow in a few places. It wasn’t so much as to prevent me from enjoying the book, but a few times, especially around the very beginning, it did seem like it could have had a faster pace. It really picked up through the middle and the end, though, and I still absolutely enjoyed it. By the time I got to know the characters, within the first two chapters, I was totally along for the ride with them and just waiting to see what happened next.

I would definitely recommend it to fans of fantasy and people who enjoy books that are very character driven. I certainly thought it was a fun read.

The cover artist for this book is Anne Cain. The cover is very simple and very clean, but I still like it a lot. It peaks my interest when I look at it and I think the simple layout actually suits the book very well. It’s a visually appealing cover and I definitely think it would draw a reader’s attention.

Sales Links:  Harmony Ink Press   ♦  All Romance (ARe)  ♦  Amazon Buy it Here

Book Details:

Sequel to Noble Falling
ebook, 200 pages
Published June 18th 2015 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN139781634762397
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.harmonyinkpress.com
seriesThe Halvarian Ruin Books

An Aurora YA Review: Dreams (Dreams of Fire and Gods #1) by James Erich

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Dreams Dreams of Fire and GodsA thousand years ago, two factions of gods, the Stronni and the Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak by warring for the land and the frightened humans who lived there. Then suddenly the Taaweh vanished and the Stronni declared victory.

Now, as tensions escalate between the emperor and his regent, Vek Worlen, the vek’s son, apprentice mage Sael dönz Menaük, finds himself allied with a homeless vagabond named Koreh. Together they flee the capital city and make their way across a hostile wilderness to the vek’s keep, mere steps ahead of the emperor’s assassins.

But Koreh has dreams—dreams of the ancient Taaweh—and he knows the looming war between the emperor and the vek will be nothing compared to the war that is about to begin. The Taaweh are returning, and the war between the gods may destroy the kingdom once and for all.

Admittedly, in this book, there were a few times when I got a little bit lost. This is a problem, rather than with the book, more with how I’m used to reading things. In fact, I loved the challenge of going back and rereading at times and knowing as I read that I should store things away and remember them to enrich the experience. It isn’t, admittedly, something that I’m used to doing, but it certainly didn’t take anything away from the book. In fact, I really enjoyed it.

As with the third book in the series that I’ve already read, the characters and problems were able to be real and easy to relate to while still managing to keep the epic scale of the book and not taking away from the enormity of the characters and plot. I really enjoyed this book, again, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy novels and even those who don’t to at least give it a chance.

It’s just a really fun book to read, and very exciting. It kept me hooked the whole time I was reading it and I never wanted to stop reading a chapter when I had to take a break from reading it.

Cover art by Paul Richmond.  The cover art for this series is really beautiful. It’s simplistic and yet it draws the eye and I would absolutely pick this book up off of a shelf. Because this cover doesn’t have a lot of places or people on it, the photo editing works even better than a drawn cover would have and it’s very nicely done.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback  All Romance (ARe)  Amazon    Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 252 pages
Published December 15th 2012 by Harmony Ink Press
Harmony Ink is a YA Press
ISBN 1623801060 (ISBN13: 9781623801069)
edition languageEnglish
seriesDreams of Fire and Gods #1

Dreams of Fire and Gods series: