Flawed Fantasy: An Advance Review of The Dragon’s Price by Bethany Wiggins

Title: The Dragon’s Price (Transference #1)
Author: Bethany Wiggins
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:  February 21st, 2017
eBook: 304 Pages
Source: Netgalley

When two warring kingdoms unified against a deadly menace laying waste to both their lands, they had to make a choice: vow to marry their heirs to one another, or forfeit their lives to the dragon.

Centuries later, everyone expects the sheltered princess Sorrowlynn to choose the barbarian prince over the fire-breathing beast—everyone, that is, except Sorrow, who is determined to control her own destiny or die trying.

As she is lowered into the dragon’s chamber, she assumes her life is over until Golmarr, the young prince she just spurned, follows her with the hopes of being her hero and slaying the dragon. But the dragon has a different plan. . . .

If the dragon wins, it will be freed from the spell that has bound it to the cave for centuries. If Sorrow or Golmarr vanquish the dragon, the victor will gain its treasure and escape the cave beneath the mountain. But what exactly is the dragon hiding?

There are no safe havens for Sorrow or Golmarr—not even with each other—and the stakes couldn’t be higher as they risk everything to protect their kingdom.

“I, Princess Sorrowlyn of Faodara, humbly submit to give my life,” I say, my voice strong, “to the fire dragon instead of giving it to the Antharian heir.”

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Dragon’s Price was an impulse request on Netgalley. Cynthia brought it to my attention on a recent podcast and I was in the mood for some generic Fantasy. Plus, who doesn’t love a good dragon story? I didn’t have high expectations going in, and I am glad I didn’t. If I had been really looking forward to this novel, I might have had a much harder time reading it.

I was hoping this book would be a girl power filled fantasy romp. After all, the blurb suggested that instead of pledging herself to an arranged marriage, Sorrowlyn chooses to face a dragon. I also found the idea of a matriarchal society to be promising. Sadly, while the crown passes from mother to daughter, the Queen’s Husband rules in her stead. It was clear quite early on that this novel was not going to appease my appetite for powerful female characters. In fact, she doesn’t even truly choose the dragon. She makes the claim initially, but when Golmarr, the youngest son of the Horse King, steps forward and offers to marry her, she instantly accepts. And, of course, when she is informed that her first choice stands and she is to be fed to the dragon, Golmarr goes into the abyss with her. She is a damsel in distress, after all. Princes can’t resist that.

Don’t worry. She doesn’t remain a damsel forever, but her development is extremely sudden. One moment she is the lonely girl who has sacrificed herself to a dragon and the next she is a warrior. There is a plot line that explains it. So, it isn’t completely out of place. That said, I would have preferred to see it progress slower throughout the novel. As it stands the character’s growth plateau’s less than half way through the book, and since the novel is in first person the characters around her suffer a similar fate.

Golmarr is your average knight in shining armor disguised as a Dothraki. If you are unfamiliar with The Song of Ice and Fire series or Game of Thrones, the Dothraki are known to be fierce warriors who breed strong horses and their men measure their prowess by the length of their hair. All of the above applies to the Antharian Prince. The Dothraki are, however, far more brutal than the Horse Clan featured here. While Golmarr fits the description on the outside, he is your typical fairy tale prince on the inside. He offers to marry a girl he has had two conversations with because he feels sorry for her and then when that falls through and she is lowered into a pit as dragon food, he follows her. Again, out of pity. Oh, and then when they manage to survive the dragon fight, which he was unconscious for a significant part of, he takes all the credit.

Their romance is essentially insta-love. The author attempts to combat this by stating that Golmarr only offers himself as Sorrow’s betrothed because he pities her. It is quite clear that he does not love her.  But, once they are alone with the dragon that is forgotten. He moons over her, she drools over him, and they are committed to each other before they leave the Dragon’s lair. Having known each other for just a few days at this point, the entire relationship feels forced. And since the majority of the novel (including the extremely predictable plot twist at the end) focuses on their love, I found myself losing interest around the halfway mark.

What drove me to finish the novel (aside from the fact that I hate to leave books unfinished) was the interesting concept of the Dragon’s Treasure. Now, we have all heard the stories of dragons and their hoards. In this tale, the treasure passes immediately from the dragon to the person who slayed it. Standard, right? Wrong. Dragons in this world don’t hoard gold and jewels. Their treasure is less tangible and can be anything. I was intrigued by the concept, but the portrayal of the dragons got in the way. I wanted them to be terrifying. Instead they were about as scary as the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk. You know they want to eat you because they told you so a million times… in the cheesiest way possible.

If you are looking for a quick and easy read on a Saturday afternoon and do not mind that the characters aren’t believable or that the dialogue is cringe-worthy, then this might be for you. Unfortunately, it really didn’t do anything for me.

 

- The Butcher (1)

Speakeasies and Sirens: An Advance Review of Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

28818313Title: Iron Cast
Author: Destiny Soria
Genre: Historical Fiction / Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date:  October 11th
Kindle Edition: 384 Pages
Source: Netgalley

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn.

“I’m not a nice person… so the sooner you wrap your head around that, the better. I don’t like people expecting me to be something I’m not.”

I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ada is a songsmith; through her music, she can evoke from the listener the keenest loss or sharpest pain, sending them through their deepest memories in the space of a few bars. Corrine is a wordsmith; with a few lines of poetry, she can create illusions so real, they can fool a bridge full of people and press. In post World War 1 Boston, the threat of Prohibition looms over their heads, and the stage of their adopted home, the Cast Iron Club, like the Grim Reaper’s scythe, promising death to their way of life and income. Already, they and the other club performers are targets of the Hemopath Protection Agency, an agency dedicated to identifying those “afflicted” with hemopathy and removing them from the public sphere, and the more violent Ironmonger, vigilantes who will would rather see all hemopaths dead. To practice their arts is criminal. To not practice, unthinkable. Cast Iron owner Johnny Dervish gave them a safe place to live, and to perform. That he asks them to help supplement the failing club’s income through less legal means is merely the price they pay for safety. When that protection fails, and Johnny is killed, Ada and Corrine are determined to do what they can to save the Cast Iron, themselves, and their friends.

Ironcast is Soria’s debut novel, and what a debut it is! This book reads like classic Urban Fantasy of which I am so fond, evoking the same feel as authors who excelled in the format, such as Emma Bull or Charles de Lint. That said, while Ironcast certainly has the feel of Urban Fantasy, don’t go into it expecting magic, or high fantasy elements, like elves or wizards. This book reads more as historical fiction, with a paranormal/fantasy twist. Hemopaths, like our main characters Ada and Corrine, have a sensitivity to iron. It’s painful for them to hold or touch in the extreme, burning their skin like a brand. The presence of iron around them can cause extreme discomfort, depending on the amount; iron-free buildings, such as the Cast Iron club, are safe spaces for hemopaths, but those places are few and far between. Hemopaths can be thespians, artists, wordsmiths, or songsmiths- performers that can trick the mind, the body, and the heart, and make real the imagined. The use of hemopathic talent is outlawed in Boston, but, just as we see during Prohibition, people will still pay a high price for the forbidden. Soria’s world is rich and developed, and as a fan of this historical era, I can’t quite sing its praises enough.

The main characters of Ada and Corrine are well-developed. Their strong and enduring friendship is very believable, and they really are the driving force for the story. Soria manages to weave their histories and backgrounds into the telling of their present with almost seamless grace. Ada, as a biracial teen in this era, is already a target for prejudice; that she is a hemopath makes her an outcast among outcasts. Corrine comes from high society, a place where she never fit, and is hiding from her family’s eyes and name; if her affliction was known, it would bring ruin upon them. My only real complaint about the two of them is that Corrine’s personality overshadows Ada’s at times, almost, but not quite, to the detriment of their equal importance in the narrative. Otherwise, they are main characters that truly balance each other well. The primary supporting characters, Gabriel, Charlie, and Saint, are equally as developed as

the main, sketched quickly but fully, and our villains, who truly do get very little screen time, still feel real and powerful.

Throughout the narrative, Soria touches on social issues and prejudices that, while certainly period, also parallel modern issues. We see racial tensions, post-war immigration disputes, and the Socialism versus Democracy debate, all tied into the very real human fear of the Strange and Different. We also see a LGBTQ relationship portrayed both as a normal occurrence, and as something to be wary of publicizing. Ironcast tackles these topics in ways that are almost vital to the narrative, little nods here and there that may not seem important at the time, but in the final chapters weave together to lock the answers in place.

Now, all of that said, I did have a couple of issues of note, aside from my previous comment about Corrine overshadowing Ada. Ironcast starts off with a lot of action in the first fifty or so pages, then lags a bit for the next fifty or so. Once I got past that lag, however, I had difficulty putting the book down. I was truly invested in Ada and Corrine’s story. That Soria wove a mystery element into the plot likely helped with that; I do so love a good mystery. I also felt that the last chapter was truly unnecessary. It’s only in that chapter that I was reminded that this is Soria’s debut. The story could have ended with Chapter 22, and I would have been perfectly happy. The last chapter just didn’t mesh with the rest of the narrative; I feel as if it were an add-on because someone felt that we needed a “wrap-up” at the end to make things neat and tidy.

Still, I very much recommend this book. Despite receiving and electronic copy as an ARC, I will be purchasing it when it releases it in October, because I need to be able to see this book on my shelf. Iron Cast is a standalone story; as of this review, there is no indication of additional books to indicate a series. If you’re a fan of the Prohibition era, or subtle urban fantasy, or strong standalone stories, I really do suggest you give Iron Cast a shot when it releases. I sincerely doubt you’ll regret it.

 

cynsig

Mistaken for Fantasy: An Advance Review of The Graces by Laure Eve

28818369 (1)Title: The Graces (The Graces #1)
Author: Laure Eve
Genre: Contemporary / Paranormal
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date:  September 6th, 2016
Kindle Edition: 352 Pages
Source: Netgalley

In The Graces, the first rule of witchcraft states that if you want something badly enough, you can get it . . . no matter who has to pay.

Everyone loves the Graces. Fenrin, Thalia, and Summer Grace are captivating, wealthy, and glamorous. They’ve managed to cast a spell over not just their high school but also their entire town—and they’re rumored to have powerful connections all over the world. If you’re not in love with one of them, you want to be them. Especially River: the loner, new girl at school. She’s different from her peers, who both revere and fear the Grace family. She wants to be a Grace more than anything. And what the Graces don’t know is that River’s presence in town is no accident.

This fabulously addictive fantasy combines sophisticated and haunting prose with a gut-punching twist that readers will be dying to discuss. Perfect for fans of We Were Liars as well as nostalgic classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the 1996 movie The CraftThe Graces marks the beginning of a new wave of teen witches.

“We love just one, but we love them all as well,” he said. “The Graces. We want to be them, and love them, and for them to love us. It’s a curse. Don’t you see? The Grace’s curse.” 

Continue reading “Mistaken for Fantasy: An Advance Review of The Graces by Laure Eve”

Daggers in the Dark: An Advance review of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

26114463Title: Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)
Author: Jay Kristoff
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date:  August 9th, 2016
Kindle Edition: 643 Pages
Source: Netgalley

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

“The books we love, they love us back. And just as we mark our places in the pages, those pages leave their marks on us. I can see it in you, sure as I see it in me. You’re a daughter of words. A girl with a story to tell.”

I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Gory, violent, and visceral, the story of Mia Covere is unapologetically raw. It starts in blood and ends in blood and in between… well, there’s more blood. To avenge her family, the nobleborn Mia pledges herself to the Red Church and the dark Mother Niah. As a trained assassin, Mia gains the skills to touch the untouchable. Touched by Niah herself with a kinship with the dark itself, Mia gains an advantage both rare and terrifying. A feline shade twined to her shadow, Mia hasn’t known true fear in so long she’s forgotten the sensation. Useful, when one wants to squelch worries that could cost one their mark. Not so useful, when the lack of fear makes one arrogant, a lesson Mia learns shortly after beginning education in the arts of death.

Nevernight promised me assassins, an enigmatic anti-heroine, and a rich mythos—all things I tend to be drawn to in my fiction. Technically, it delivers on those promises. Technically. But, the fallen noble-turned-assassin story has been done, with both genders, across various media, many times over. Nevernight needed to present an exceptional take on the trope to make more than a passing impression. Unfortunately, I felt the book failed on that score. While I didn’t dislike the book, I didn’t particularity care for it, either. I’m of the school of thought that indifference is akin to death, and my feelings for Nevernight border entirely too close to indifference.

Continue reading “Daggers in the Dark: An Advance review of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff”

Fantastic Finale: An Advance Review of The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

25944798Title: The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3)
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Genre: Fantasy / Romance
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date:  August 2nd, 2016
Kindle Edition: 688 Pages
Source: Netgalley

Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous – what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.

Bestselling author Mary E. Pearson’s combination of intrigue, suspense, romance and action make this a riveting page turner for teens.

“I have no qualms about cutting out your tongue, Your Eminence. In fact, after all the years I had to endure your condemning lectures, it would give me the greatest pleasure, so I would advise you hold your tongue while you still possess one.”

I received an advance review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The synopsis for this book is short and to the point. It spoils nothing, instead leaving it all to the reader’s imagination. Where is Kaden? What happened to Lia and Rafe? Is the Komizar dead? Don’t worry. I’m not going to answer those questions for you. This review will be as spoiler free as I can manage. After all, I want people to experience this book the same way I did: on the edge of my seat.

Continue reading “Fantastic Finale: An Advance Review of The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson”