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.

 

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Conquering Dracula: A Discussion of And I Darken by Kiersten White

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And our third podcast is up! Isn’t that exciting? Tune in for our discussion of And I Darken by Kiersten White, where we gush about Vampires, Anti-Heroines, and Vlad the Impaler. What could be more fun than that?

WARNING: This is not a spoiler free review. If you haven’t read the book or hate spoilers you should check back with us once you have read And I Darken.

Thank you so much for tuning in! Remember that we would love to hear your opinions on And I Darken, so you should share them below in the comments! We love hearing what you thought! Even if you disagree.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the books mentioned in this episode!

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Missed Opportunities: A Review of Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman

29962851Title: Empire of Dust (Blood of Gods and Royals #2)
Author: Eleanor Herman
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 28th, 2016
Kindle Edition: 432 Pages
Source: Netgalley

In Macedon, war rises like smoke, forbidden romance blooms and ancient magic tempered with rage threatens to turn an empire to dust.

After winning his first battle, Prince Alexander fights to become the ruler his kingdom demands — but the line between leader and tyrant blurs with each new threat.

Meanwhile, Hephaestion, cast aside by Alexander for killing the wrong man, must conceal the devastating secret of a divine prophecy from Katerina even as the two of them are thrust together on a dangerous mission to Egypt.

The warrior, Jacob, determined to forget his first love, vows to eradicate the ancient Blood Magics and believes that royal prisoner Cynane holds the key to Macedon’s undoing.

And in chains, the Persian princess Zofia still longs to find the Spirit Eaters, but first must grapple with the secrets of her handsome — and deadly — captor.

New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman entwines the real scandals of ancient history with epic fantasy in the second book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

“We are not Persians, Alexander, too cowed by the whip of the Great King to utter a word or think a single thought he might disapprove of. You would grow to despise your own people if they were like that. When you possess power over those whose lives, whose minds, you do not value, all you will have… is an empire of dust.”

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

I did not write a review of Legacy of Kings. It was such a letdown that I could not articulate my exact feelings on the book. Looking back, it was shock. I was baffled at how disappointed I was. Was it possible for a book about a legendary conqueror to be so very boring? While waiting for Empire of Dust, I convinced myself the first book was just the intro. I couldn’t pass any judgement until I had read the sequel. So, when I saw it pop up on Netgalley, I couldn’t resist. It had to be better, right? Actually, yes. It is better. Sadly, it was not better by much.

Continue reading “Missed Opportunities: A Review of Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman”

A Horse by Any Other Name: A Discussion of My Lady Jane

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And we have another podcast under our belt! Tune in and listen to us rant about Historical Fiction, Horses, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.

WARNING: This is not a spoiler free review. If you haven’t read the book or hate spoilers you should check back with us once you have read My Lady Jane.

Don’t forget to let us know how you feel about My Lady Jane! We’d love to hear your opinions, even if you don’t agree with us! Especially if you don’t agree with us! Let us know what you thought in the comments!

Oh and don’t forget to check out the other books mentioned in our podcast!

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Stacking the Shelves: June 11th

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Stacking the shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews in which we talk about the books we’ve acquired (bought, received for review, borrowed from the library, etc.). Here’s what I’ve acquired in the past week:

Lets start with books I bought:

ladyjaneTitle: My Lady Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016

I am a sucker for Tudor Era Historical Fiction, and I have always found Lady Jane Grey fascinating. So, when I heard that this trio of ladies had written a humorous Alternate History about Lady Jane Grey, I was sold. I preordered it and it arrived right on time. I have also convinced Cynthia to give this one a chance. So, we will be talking about it on the next episode of Shelfie! That gives me two weeks to read it. I can manage that, right?

lotus2Title: Lotus and Thorn
Author: Sarah Wilson Etienne
Genre: Sci-fi / Dystopian
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016

Here is another June 7th release that excited us. We won’t be featuring it on our podcast until late in July. But, I am sure it will be an awesome read. There does seem to be some confusion about whether or not this is a Fantasy novel. Reviewers have noted that is is more sci-fi than fantasy, so if you do decide to pick it up (or tune into our discussion), remember that it’s Science Fiction. 😀 Nothing wrong with that, right?

StarQueenTitle: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: April 26th, 2016

I have been staring at The Star-Touched Queen since it came out. Every time I went into the book store I would pick it up, flip through it, and put it back. Until last weekend, when I finally took it home with me. The Reviews are a little polarizing. Some people love it where other hate it. Sarah J Maas is quoted on the cover. She calls it “dazzling”. I think that is what finally convinced me to buy it. I trust Ms. Maas. So, I’m am sure it’s fabulous!

Continue reading “Stacking the Shelves: June 11th”

Waiting on Wednesday: And I Darken by Kiersten White

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Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

darkenTitle: And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1)
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: June 28th, 2016

From Goodreads:

NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL.

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.

 

Why we are waiting:

Almost all of the reviews I have read for this book are glowing. It takes the Young Adult Princess story and turns it into something dark and brutal. Who wouldn’t be interested in that?

Then I heard that the main character is based on Vlad the Impaler. So now we have a historical retelling, AND she’s a badass? Yep, I am on board 100%.

I would be willing to bet that Cynthia and I both have this one in our hands on release day and finished not long after. Especially since we will be discussing it during our first July podcast. So, don’t forget to tune in and listen to us rave about this dark beauty!

 

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