I had picked up A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess after seeing it recommended by several YA authors on Twitter. I really enjoyed it and made sure I picked up the sequel. It was just as enjoyable as the first one.
In the first book we meet Henrietta and Rook. They are best friends having grown up at an orphan school in miserable conditions. This universe that Henrietta and Rook live in has monsters, glorious monsters and human monsters. Rook is "unclean" because he has scars from surviving a brush with one of the Seven Ancients. He has to fight to keep the darkness or evil from taking him over.
Henrietta is identified as the chosen one who will defeat the Ancients and save England. There are so many questions about whether Henrietta is indeed the one, who her parents were and what type of magic she turny wields.
In this second book, we find out the truth about so many things, not only Henrietta but what truly allowed the Ancients to enter their reality. The boys she trained with are also learning new truths and what their place is in helping defeat the Ancients.
What I really enjoyed about this book is the revelations were a total surprise. I did not see them coming. They did make sense though. It is hard to praise this book without giving examples that would be spoilers. So let me say as soon as I finished the book last night, I was ready to start the next one. Unfortunately it wasn't ready for me. I have pre-ordered the next book and am looking forward to going to the universe where the Ancients rage and Henrietta fights to save humanity.
I loved The Queen of Ieflaria. I devoured it, staying awake way past midnight to finish reading it. This book has so many wonderful things: strong female protagonist, dragons, a unicorn, battles, palace intrigue, and a romance between the two main characters who are pansexual.
Princess Esofi of Rhodia has been betrothed to the heir of Ieflaria since she was three years old. Her education has been focused on being the best queen possible to what will be her new homeland. Over the years she has gotten to know her future husband, Crown Prince Albion, through letters. After she begins the months long journey to her new home and marriage, she receives the news that the Crown Prince has died in an accident.
Esofi arrives in Ieflaria and is faced with a choice: marry the new heir, marry another in the line of succession or go back home. Esofi chooses to marry the new heir, Crown Princess Adale. Adale never expected to rule. She has not been educated to rule but she does know how to drink, hunt and start a really good bar fight. Yet she is such a wonderful match for Esofi.
From the first introduction to Adale, I fell hard for her. I wanted her to marry Esofi and not let one of her cousins take her place. Adale was strong, vulnerable, prickly and caring. She is such a wonderful character. Esofi carries a touch of superiority because of her education. She needs to learn about her new home from the bottom up. Meanwhile others at court plot to remove Adale from the crown and marry Esofi to someone else.
This world that Effie Calvin created is so unique. Gender is not a barrier to anything, whether it be a crown or a marriage. Under the right conditions and with a little magic help, individuals can transform to the opposite sex long enough to insure a child is conceived. This world also has dragons. Big, fire breathing dragons who do more than just eat sheep. The descriptions of everything from the architecture to the clothing is amazing. The reader learns so much about the world by the author's wonderful flowing descriptions.
I absolutely loved The Queen of Ieflaria and am eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series. This book does have a logical ending so readers are not left hanging but instead are left wanting more. ARC courtesy Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins was a very interesting read. King Athelrick is in a coma. His daughters, the eldest who is his heir, are not with him. They do not know of his illness. His wife, Gudrun, sends word to her son Wylm, the King's stepson, but not to the King's daughters. No matter her reasoning, it looks very bad. It looks as though she plans for her son to step in and rule for the King.
The King's heir, Bluebell, is a fantastic character. Her name does not reflect her character. Bluebell is a warrior, respected by her troops, feared by her enemies. When she hears of her father's illness and her stepmother's actions, she imagines the worst. She sets off home, pausing only to notify her sisters. Rose, married to an allied King but loving one of her father's retainers, Ash studying to be a Counselor but already having the gift of sight, and the twins Ivy and Willow.
The story has wonderful intrigue. I was not sure if the King was really sick or cursed. And if cursed, who was responsible. As Bluebell tries to save not only her father but the kingdom and her family, the action moves fast. This is the first book in a series and I am looking forward to the next one.