Flamecaster – Shattered Realms #1 – Cinda Williams Chima

I learned of this series on Facebook from one of two authors who care about what their readers are reading and care to promote other authors by asking what everyone is reading and loving this week. It’s one of the places I get ideas of what to read next. It was either posted by one of Larissa Ione’s or Nalini Singh’s followers.

I’m glad I picked this book. I have been dabbling in the Fantasy genre lately and have been really enjoying it. I think this book is Young Adult also…at least, I assume it is because of the ages of most of the leading characters…but I’m always amazed at what can be included in the Young Adult genre. It seems to allow all the blood and gore possible, references to rape and molestation and even have limited sex scenes. I think the only thing that can’t be included is erotic scenes.

This book is written in the points of view of four different characters but two are the main protagonists, Adrien and Jenna.

Adrian sul’Han, also known as Ash, is the son of the Grey Wolf line. His mother is the queen of Fells and he is a powerful healer. His older sister was the heir to the throne until she was ambushed at the border by their enemy, the King of Arden’s soldiers. Even though he is the next oldest, his youngest sister will be groomed for the throne now because only females can hold the throne.

When his father was assassinated in front of him, Ash ran off to healing school under a different name since he was thought to have been killed too. In the summers, he posed as a ferrier and traveled around assassinating key figures in Arden’s army.

After an attack on his life by crazy priests of the major religion of Arden who think mages and healers are evil, Ash decides to travel to Ardenscourt and somehow kill the king himself.

Jenna was working in the mines just outside the city of Delphi when King Gerard of Arden came to the mines on some kind of promotional tour. When one of the minors threw horse dung at the king, he reached down and snapped the neck of little Maggi, an eight-year-old orphan girl who was forced to work the mines by the king’s soldiers. Then he killed her best friend Riley.

Since that day, Jenna has been working with a secret group called the patriots to sabotage the Arden army.

Jenna is unique. She has a magemark on the back of her neck yet she isn’t a mage and mages don’t have magemarks. She has never met anyone else with the mark.

Ash and Jenna’s lives become intertwined later in the book but it would spoil some things so I won’t go into it.

This book was a winner. I loved it and have already started the second book. I looked up the author and discovered she has two other series related to this series so this might be a spinoff but I’m not sure if the books share characters or not. I might read them later.

A Court of Wing and Ruin – A Court of Thorns and Roses #3 – Sarah J. Maas

I always forget how much I enjoy this series until I start reading it again. It’s not that it’s forgettable, it’s just that it isn’t my usual genre so it gets lost in the shuffle. If that makes any sense.

I wasn’t digging the lead character, Feyre, in the beginning of this book. She was out for revenge on Tamlin, the High Lord of the Spring Court, because she thinks he was responsible for her sisters being captured and put into the Cauldron by the King of Hybern. And he was responsible to a point but only because he loved her and thought she loved him back. He believed she’d been kidnapped by Rhysand, the High Lord of Night Court who everyone thinks is cruel and evil thanks to the image that Rhysand himself has put out to the world to protect his people. Tamlin had no clue Feyre had fallen in love with Rhys nor did he know that Rhys was the exact opposite of what he portrays. Feyre had only sent him a short message telling him she was okay and not to look for her but anyone who loves someone would not give up in them just based on a short note that she could have been forced to write.

Tamlin did make some mistakes but her revenge was petty and stupid in my eyes.

My opinion of her improved over the rest of the book but I have never really connected to Feyre. She is not the reason I like this series. It is the story line and the other characters like Rhysand, Cassian, Mor, Lucien and especially Azriel. I even like Tamlin, probably more than Feyre.

In this book, all the courts are gearing up for war with the King of Hybern who apparently has no real name or if he does, it was never mentioned in the book. His power, along with the Cauldron is unparalleled so it will take a miracle to beat him. Some of the courts may side with Hybern so Feyre is trying to convince them otherwise.

This book delves in deeper to some of the character’s personalities and backgrounds. There are  some developing romances too.

This is definitely a series that I recommend for fantasy and paranormal romance readers.

Crooked Kingdom – Six of Crows #2 – Leigh Bardugo

This book was packed full of action just like the first book but this book let us get to know the characters a little better. It tells how each of Kaz’s crew members ended up joining his gang which I’m not really going to get into here.

Hopefully, no one will try to read the second book without reading the first book because the following will spoil the ending of the first book.

At the end of the last book, Kaz and crew had just pulled off the impossible job but were double-crossed by Jan Van Eck, a member of the Merchant Council who run Ketterdam. He had promised them thirty million kruge (dollars) if they handed over the scientist who was responsible for inventing jurda parem, a drug that gives a certain race of people, Grisha, who wield magic super powers but has devastating side effects for the Grisha who ingest it. One dose will addict the Grisha and it is almost impossible to kick the habit. Two doses and the Grisha will never beat the addiction and they’ll do anything to get another dose so their masters can ask them to do anything and they will do it. So far, jurda parem is not something that is widely known and there is only a small amount available since the scientist has kept his formula a secret.

Luckily, Kaz had the foresight to know that Van Eck might try to betray the deal so he hid the real scientist when he met him to get the money. Van Eck kidnapped one of Kaz’s crew members, one that Kaz has a soft spot for, and told Kaz that he had a week to hand over the scientist or he would start torturing Inej.

Van Eck is rich and powerful. He had originally told them that the entire Merchant Council wanted the scientist to keep him safe and out of the hands of anyone with nefarious inclinations but he lied. The Merchant Council had no idea about jurda parem or the deal he made with Kaz…and Jan Van Eck was just the kind of evil person who should never have the formula for jurda parem. Kaz can’t go to the Merchant Council without proof or without Van Eck killing Inej.

I love how Kaz schemes and how he does things that seem unimportant at the time but then we find out later that is was something ingenious. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked way against him this time so I was not sure if things would end up good or bad.

I think this was the conclusion to the story. The author has written a trilogy called The Grisha Trilogy that sounds interesting. I might have to read it.

Six of Crows – Six of Crows #1 – Leigh Bardugo

I was hooked from the first paragraph. It took a little while to get to understand the terms and expressions of the world this was set in but once I caught on, I flew through this book.

All of the main characters are teenagers around the age of seventeen but none of them had the mind sets of regular teenagers, probably because they all had grown up in a harsh world and had to fight just to survive.

It starts out with the POV of a kid named Joost who has recently become a city guard. He thought it would be exciting but he has mainly just been guarding one wealthy merchant’s estate because there was a recent assassination of the Trade Ambassador so the Merchant Council, the people who run the city, thought the wealthy merchants needed extra protection. The one good thing about it is that he gets to see the girl he likes on his rounds. She is an indentured servant and a Grisha. Grishas are magic wielders and it seems that all Grisha are indentured servants unless they somehow hide who and what they are from others. In this world, slavery is supposedly illegal but indentured servants are not but everyone knows that the Grisha never volunteered to be indentured servants.

Joost is called to the boat house to help guard an experiment that the merchant is testing. The girl Joost likes is sitting in a room with a young boy from the streets. She’s a healer so a man who was with the merchant cut the boy, she healed it. Then they gave her a drug called Jurda Parem. The Grisha instantly changed from being a sweet and scared girl to looking cold and evil. The merchant told the man to cut off the boy’s thumb but the Grisha commanded the merchant to come into the room. She was controlling his mind, something that no Grisha should ever be able to do. When the guards tried to save the merchant, she commanded everyone to wait. The entire room stopped in their tracks. Joost’s mind went from free will to blissful and only wanting to do what the Grisha ordered.

Kaz is the leader of a gang called the Dregs in a city of Ketterdam in a country called Kerch. His neighborhood is called the Barrel which sounds like a dangerous place to live. He’s clever and is always five steps ahead of any rivals. When he is caught off his guard by what seems to be a ghost who can walk through walls, he is more than surprised. No one gets the upper hand on Kaz. He wakes up chained to a chair in an opulent office. He recognized his captor as Councilman Van Eck.

Van Eck offers Kaz a deal he can’t refuse. He offers him thirty million kruges, their monetary unit, for a seemingly impossible mission. Van Eck tells him about the new drug called Jurda Parem that a scientist named Bo Yul-Bayur has invented that can turn Grisha into mighty magic yielders who can do unimaginable feats like walk through walls and control minds. Some can even fly. He tells him that the Merchant Council is worried about this drug getting into the wrong hands because it could change the whole world. Whoever controls the Grishas controls can control the world. Jurda Parem is highly addictive to the Grisha. The first dose addicts them and they’ll do anything to get another dose but it also kills the Grisha after a short period of using the drug. Van Eck showed him the scene where the other merchant had conducted his experiment. It had been six days since the event and there were guards standing with blank stares, some had dropped to the floor and died. Joost was one of them. The merchant had died a gruesome death and the Grisha had escaped out to sea but because she needed the drug, she had tried to come back to shore but had drowned.

Bo Yul-Bayur is currently in Fjerda, a far-off land, at the Ice Court which is said to be impenetrable. Kaz selects five people to go with him on the mission. He has to break one of them out of a prison and then he discovers that Van Eck had hired another team for the same mission, a rival gang. He’s putting his life on the line for this job which could change his life but he knows the odds are against him.

It has been a long time since I have been wowed by a new author and series so I was impressed with this book. It kept me on my toes wondering what Kaz was going to do next and getting to know his crew members was fascinating too.

I immediately bought the next book in the series. I’m not sure how many books will be in the series so I am not sure if the second book will be the conclusion or if it will be a trilogy. I vote for a really long series!

Born of Vengeance – The League #10 – Sherrilyn Kenyon

I had a feeling when I read the last book of this series that this book would be about Bastien Cabarro and I was right.

Bastien was the youngest child of three of the emperor of the Kirovarian empire. Since he was not expected ever rule, he had a reputation of being a spoiled womanizer.

Ember had just caught her boyfriend in bed with her youngest sister Alura so she lit her boyfriend’s fighter craft on fire. As punishment, she had to take on Bastien as a wingman. She had never met him but had heard about him and after just breaking up with a player, she was not looking forward to having to work with him.

When she went to go meet him, their station was bombed and her sister Alura was caught underneath a bunch of rubble. Bastien saved Alura and was hurt in the rescue but he managed to ask Ember out on a date anyway. At the hospital, with her other sisters and her parents Alura told her parents that she was going to marry him because she liked that he was a prince. Alura has a nasty habit of sleeping with her sister’s boyfriends and it pisses Ember off so she tells her that she has already accepted a date with Bastien even though she hadn’t.

A year later, Ember and Bastien were still dating. His family hated that she was a pleb and not of royal blood. His father met with her one day and told her that Bastien was planning on asking her to marry him but he would rather see Bastien dead than married to her. Just after the meeting, Bastien had called her in the middle of a battle in his fighter craft. This was not unusual but the timing seemed odd since she had just left his father who had threatened to have him killed if he married her. She decided to break it off with him rather than see him die. She had him moved out of her unit and into his sister’s unit.

Bastien had no idea what had happened. Not only had Ember turned down his proposal, leaving him on bended knee in a restaurant, she also had moved him to his sister’s unit where she knew he hated it. His sister treated him like a moron and was always berating him. Ember had told him she needed time to figure things out yet she wouldn’t even return his calls.

A month or so later, Alura asked him out to dinner so he called Ember to ask permission. He thought she would yell at him and tell him he couldn’t which would prove to him that she still cared about him but instead she told him she didn’t care who he went out with or slept with. He went out with Alura but ended up taking her home and dropping her off at her apartment before the date ended because she annoyed him so much that he couldn’t stand being around her. When Ember found out that he had actually gone on the date, she walked up to him and kneed him in the crotch.

That night, he went out to a bar and got drunk. He woke up in bed naked next to Alura. He couldn’t remember anything though. Five weeks later, Alura announced she was pregnant in front of a dinner party where his parents and other important people of society were attending. The only thing he could do to prevent a giant scandal was tell everyone that he was going to marry her.

Alura, of course, was not pregnant. She was just a scheming bitch. She was actually scheming with Bastien’s uncle Barnabas who wanted the throne for himself.

Bastien married Alura which broke my heart because there are slight hints about Ember thinking that she will never tell him her secret now and her getting sick which makes me believe she is pregnant. Alura faked a miscarriage later.

Bastien and Alura’s marriage was not a happy one. He tried to avoid her as much as possible so he stayed with his parents at the castle a lot. One night, he was in the shower and heard a noise. When he went to check it out, he found his entire family slaughtered. The League, the police force for the whole galaxy, showed up and he was arrested and convicted for murdering his family. Alura went around to media outlets and lied about how horrible Bastien was and she testified against him at the trial.

Bastien was sentenced to death but a letter arrived just in time from the Emperor of the Triosan, his Uncle Aro, asking for leniency. The Overseer or magistrate said she wouldn’t sentence him to death but would make him a Ravin and if he survived fifteen years, she would set him free. Ravins rarely live past six weeks. They are implanted with a tracking device and used as practice prey for The League. They hunt them down and assassinate them. So, the Overseer basically handed him a death sentence anyway. He promised her that he would survive and come back for the real killer’s head.

Barnabas took over the throne and declared Ember’s family traitors except for Alura who made statements against them to save her own skin. Ember and her family went into hiding.

Throughout the book, we read about events that we already saw through the eyes of other characters in previous books and since I had read those stories, I knew that Bastien had made it for at least a little while.

My heart ached for both Bastien and Ember for the things they endured.

This series has become very complex so there are a lot of characters and events that I have forgotten some of it so I got a little lost but I enjoyed the cameos from the various characters who we have come to love in the series. I have no clue who the next book will be about but I really want The League and their allies to be destroyed.

 

Empire of Storms – Throne of Glass #5 – Sarah J. Maas

It’s been a little while since I have read the last Throne of Glass book so I had to get reacquainted with the story and characters while I was reading it. I was a little confused at first because it started out with Queen Elena Havilliard nee Galathynius and her husband Galan in a battle against Erawan, the evil dark lord from another realm, that they could not win. He was slaughtering them. I was confused because the title of the chapter was called “Nightfall” so I was not aware that this was actually the prologue until I realized this was a flashback from a long time ago. Elena has an idea to save her people but the prologue cuts off and Chapter One begins.

The series follows a young woman named Aelin Galathynius who started out in life as the heir to her kingdom, Terrasen. Unbeknownst to Aelin, there is a prophesy that says she will somehow save the world but before anyone can tell her this, her family was slaughtered by evil forces when she was just a girl and she barely got away by running and falling into a river. She was found by the King of the Assassin’s Guild, Arobyn Hamel, and trained as an assassin under an assumed identity. Apparently, in this world, assassins are acceptable.

When Terrasen fell, so did magic and all Fae and magic wielders were either hunted down and killed or they left the continent which was now being ruled by the King of Adarlan.

Somehow Aelin ends up being captured and sent to work in the Salt Mines of Endovier where most prisoners die within a few months. I can’t for the life of me remember how she ended up there. She gets a break when the King of Adarlan’s son, Dorian Havilliard, decides to choose her as his father’s champion in some sick competition similar to the gladiator games in Rome.

She ends up winning but learns of a sinister plot while she is there. I’m not going to go into details because that would take forever. I will just give a short recap. The King of Adarlan is controlled by demon from another realm named Erawan. The King of Adarlan was responsible for the loss of magic throughout the continent. He had erected three towers around the lands that controlled which Aelin eventually destroyed along with the King of Adarlan but Erawan had been busy in the last ten years by experimenting on people and animals, putting stones called Wyrdstones in them and creating monstrous creatures to fight against the Fae and anyone who might go against him. He also aligned himself with the three clans of Ironteeth Witches who ride on flying wyverns.

Aelin finds out that the only way to get rid of Erawan who there are three pieces of stone called Wyrdkeys that somehow can be used to open portals called Wyrdgates to banish Erawan where he can be killed. Aelin has now been traveling all over the country, trying to find these Wyrdkeys before Erawan can kill her.

In this book, she is traveling with the few people she can trust to Terrasen. She has her cousin, Aedion, who used to be the general of a large army called the Bane for the King of Adarlan. The Bane is still loyal to him although, so far in this book, I have yet to see the Bane anywhere near Aedion or Aelin. She also has Rowan traveling with her. Rowan is not quite her lover yet but is definitely the one she loves and may even be her mate being that she is half Fae and he is full Fae. Rowan is one of the most powerful Fae alive. He may even be the most powerful Fae alive. He can turn into a hawk whenever he chooses and he has his magical gift. Lysandra and Evangeline finish out the group. Lysandra is a shapeshifter who was used by Arobyn who made her be a prostitute to get information from people he did business with and from his enemies. Evangeline is a girl who Lysandra took under her wing.

Aedion, who had grown up in Terrasen, sets up a meeting between Aelin and one of the lords of Terrasen, Lord Darrow, to get a feel for how Aelin will be accepted back in her kingdom. It doesn’t go well, mostly because Darrow likes acting as an unnamed king in her absence, but he his excuse is that she is too young and has no allies. He suggests that she should get married to a king or nobleman from another territory to get allies. He tells her that until she comes up with allies or a large army behind her, she will not be welcomed in Terrasen so she sets off to find some allies.

Aelin has another enemy besides Erawan. The Queen of the Fae in another continent across the sea is no fan of Aelin. She met Queen Maeve when she went across the ocean on a mission. Maeve is a cruel queen who rules by intimidation. She has her own agenda and wants the Wyrdkeys too but not to banish Erawan but to wield them and use their dark power. A world ruled by Maeve would be just as bad as a world ruled by Erawan.

Aelin and her friends have learned that Maeve has now set sail towards Erilea, Aelin’s continent.

At one point in this book, I became a little frustrated. Aelin and her friends had been traveling from one place to another. You know how it goes. They go one place and face a threat just to discover they have to go to another place and face another threat. I was starting to think the whole book was just an action adventure with no point just to extend the series; what I like to call filler. But I was pleasantly surprised by the end results…maybe not pleasantly because some things weren’t so great but, at least,

 

The Thought Readers – Mind Dimensions #1 – Dima Zales

This is the 14th book in Paranormal 13. Apparently, there are 14 books instead of 13 like the title suggests.

At first, after reading the first few pages of this book, I thought, “This guy is way too narcissistic for me,” because of the way the author made the main character so cocky. There is a part where he gets detained by two casino employees. They start reading from a file they had compiled about him and start reading off all of his accomplishments. One of the casino thugs reads, “Darren Wang Goldberg, graduated Harvard with an MBA and law degree at eighteen. Near perfect SAT, LSAT, GMAT, GRE, scores. CFA, CPA, plus a bunch more acronyms.” I was just thinking that this author went WAY too overboard on trying to make this guy too cool and impressive. But then the author goes on to explain that he got those basically by cheating which peeked my interest.

Darren discovered when he was about nine or ten years old that he could go into something that he calls “The Quiet” where time basically stops and everything stops moving. He can step out of his body and do all kinds of things like in the casino where he goes into the Quiet and looks at all the players’ cards and the tops cards in the dealer’s deck. He can move things around but when he goes back into himself, everything is back where it was when he started.

As far as he knows, he is the only one who can do this until a woman sits down at the poker table and when he goes into the Quiet, she’s doing the same thing. She looks at him and then runs. He was detained by the casino thugs so she got away but the thugs have a file on her too so he looks at it and vows to find her.

I knew without looking that a man wrote the book. There are differences in the way women and men write…well, most of the time…J.R. Ward writes like a man but besides her, I can usually tell the difference between men and woman’s writing. One difference is that women tend to be overly moral. Their heroes and heroines have strict moral and ethical boundaries. Their heroines are virtuous and rarely slutty yet the men are sometimes he-sluts. They don’t usually cheat, steal or take advantage of people. Men, on the other hand, stretch the moral boundaries of their characters. Darren’s character had no problem cheating, stealing and getting paid for doing nothing.

I laughed a lot while reading this book. The author, Dima Zales (one of those names that could be female or could be male), had a great sense of humor. I could tell the author is highly intelligent and maybe even a bit of a nerd just by his humor. I have a few nerds and computer geek friends and know that they notice hilarious things about people that average people don’t see and when they point it out, it cracks me up. This author did that.

So, Darren works at a hedge fund company in New York. I was unclear about what his title was or what he actually did for the company but it sounded like his boss thinks he is some sort of profiler or mentalist who reads the body language and other clues of people. His boss calls him into his office and asks him to “do what you do” and interview the CTO of some company to find out what their big announcement that they are going to announce in a few weeks will be. If they can find out what it will be, they will have an advantage over others in the financial market.

Darren uses his gift and freezes time or whatever it is he does. The author goes into great detail explaining it later but my eyes glazed over and I skipped a bunch of it. Anyway, he freezes time and rifles through the CTO’s desk and finds the information. He then notices things that a mentalist would notice like how the CTO was looking down while he was talking which meant he was lying and how there were two books without dust on them on the bookshelf about the subject of what the company was working on. After getting the information, Darren writes up an email to his boss and sets it to go out on Friday to make it look like he had been working on it all week since his boss will never know because he works from home a lot. He then decides to take the rest of the week off. Do you see what I mean about his sketchy ethics?

He has his computer hacker friend help him find, Mira, the woman from the casino and he goes to her apartment in Brooklyn. She’s not home but her brother is. He answers the door with a gun pointed at Darren.

Darren learns that Mira and her brother can both do what he does but they call themselves “Readers”. Readers have enemies called “Pushers”. Mira’s brother, Eugene, teaches Darren how to “Read”. When he is in the Quiet, if he touches a person, but it can’t be another Reader, he can read their mind. Depending on how strong a Reader is, they can read back for an hour, day or longer. Darren seems to be able to go back many years which astounds Eugene.

Pushers can push people to do things they don’t want to do like kill other people. Mira and Eugene seem to think all Pushers are evil.

Mira gets kidnapped by some thugs and Pushers are behind it. Now, Darren has to help rescue her using his gift.

I liked Darren’s character and I enjoyed the book. I did get a little lost when Eugene went into detail of how their gift worked but it was only a few paragraphs that I skipped over. Maybe one day, I will read the rest of the books in the series.