I’m starting to really love science-fantasy books, and the first book in the “Eden East Series” helped build that love and appreciation even more. This is the story of Eden, a young woman with elemental magic, whose purpose is to bring Balance to the world, namely Earth. Her people do this by Binding themselves (think soulmates) and together, finding ways to bring peace and harmony to others. It’s a cute premise to be honest, and I loved how different families became essentially city states for each type of magic. There are Sirens who control emotion, Elementals who are pretty self-explanatory, Sorcerers who have legit wands that they use a-la Harry Potter style, Dryads who are healers (obviously), and Shifters who can—you guessed it—change into different animals. It’s honestly a really fun world and Black makes wonderful characters and has the building blocks for a really amazing YA series, but I wanted more.
I’ve been astounded lately with the talent of the fantasy indie writer community, and the latest book on that list is a truly epic and wonderfully crafted grimdark fantasy, “Kings of Paradise”. This book is so massive and complex, it’s hard to summarize, but suffice it to say, this is mainly the story of Kale and Ruka (but kind of Dala, too), two young men from countries that don’t seem connected to one another at all. Ruka hails from a cold place with a rich lore and mythos that feels very Norse—except that women are in charge over, well, pretty much everything and this causes no end of pain for Ruka. And Kale comes from an island nation that feels very French Polynesian with it’s culture and way of life. I loved that contrast! I loved how both these young men start off as bullied and tormented souls trying to find their peaceful place in the world, and then having that shattered and then burned for good measure. This is a cruel, cruel world and Nell never once shies away from that, something I greatly enjoyed. In fact, there’s only one thing about this book that keeps me from giving it all the stars.
Many of us have wondered what comes after we die, and that is precisely what Chartier attempts to imagine with “Afterdeath”. This is the story of twin sisters Chloe and Olivia who—outside of having a ridiculously sad backstory—decide to go on a road trip to reconnect with one another after being separated for awhile in the foster care system. Along the way, tragedy strikes again, and the sisters find themselves, well, dead. From there, you’d think they’d immediately either freak out and try to figure out what happened and what to do—and they do for maybe a page before deciding to just wander aimlessly for a bit—or they’d try to return to the land of the living—which they don’t even figure out is a thing until about 200 pages into this 324-page book. It took awhile to get into the story, and there are certain sections and characters where the authors creativity and voice truly shine, but, personally, this was a hard book for me to get through.
“A Dark Inheritance” is a modern vampire story, so you kind of already know what to expect. A woman with a rare blood type catches the attention of several vampires and is kidnapped once she reaches 40, ripped away from her life and her family, and told she can never return to them. Unlike most vampire stories, Tina did not want the attentions of Kalmar, or The Count. She didn’t even know vampires existed and now… well, now she can’t leave his castle and her daughter thinks she’s dead. No matter what Tina does, she can’t seem to escape Kalmar and even the few times she kind of manages it, she finds out that life is exceedingly more dangerous outside his castle walls than within. There were parts of this story that I absolutely loved, and parts that still leave me feeling uncertain, but all in all, I thought “A Dark Inheritance” was a nice twist on a creature type that has been done to death—ha.
This unique and quick fantasy feels like you’re reading a modern day folktale set in the Pacific Northwest. The gods—Old Man Above and First Female—are observing humankind in the forests of Cascadia and have noticed that there seems to be something wrong with them. Humans aren’t acting the way they should, they are being cruel and violent to other humans and animals. Thinking that they somehow got their creation songs wrong, First Female creates a spirit—also named Cascadia—to investigate, and gifted with a flying bear from Old Man Above as well as invisibility and ironic t-shirts she can’t read, sends her to the woods to find out if humankind can be saved. Cascadia is plain though, having no concept of emotion and not being weathered by any kind of life experience, she’s just… unremarkable and therefore ill-equipped to answer the question that First Female has sent her to get an answer for. To help Cascadia, they give her a few tutors in the form of goddesses that teach Cascadia the ways of lust, justice/anger, and hope along with a few men of legend to teach her how to use certain weapons and defend herself. Along with her human familiar Shaylee—a logger with one very clever horse named Blue—Cascadia starts her mission to find out what’s wrong with the entire human race based on just the ill-doings of a few groups in the forest.
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