Author Archives: Kat Mandu

The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Ascendance Trilogy comes to an end with The Shadow Throne and Jaron’s biggest battles are coming to the frontlines. With war pressing in on him from all sides, he’s got to gather up his allies and defeat his greatest enemies.

shadow-throneTitleThe Shadow Throne
AuthorJennifer A. Nielsen
SeriesThe Ascendance Trilogy, Book 03
Publish Date: Feb 25, 2014
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionWar has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does.

His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighboring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya’s throne?

Rousing and affecting, Jaron’s adventures have thrilled and moved readers in The False Prince and The Runaway King. Journey once again with the Ascendant King of Carthya, as New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen brings his story to a stunning conclusion with The Shadow Throne.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

Though I didn’t particularly like a certain part of this book (which I will detail for you further on), I really loved the majority of it. The action scenes are incredible, the chapter-ending cliffhangers are awesome, and a lot of the characters I’ve grown fond of each get their time in the spotlight.

There’s a lot of pulse-pounding excitement as Jaron goes from leading armies to getting held hostage and fighting his own personal battles. This time, though, he’s got his friends there to help him secure victory. There’s a bit of a happy ending, though as always with a lot of high fantasy tales, it comes at a great cost.

The main issue I had with this one? The romance. Okay, so Amarinda and Jaron don’t quite hit it off and they agree to disagree while remaining friends and allies. Which of course then leaves the Imogen and Jaron spark to reignite again….only *SPOILER ALERT*….

…the author kills Imogen off, giving Jaron’s enemies a reason to taunt and break him because they claim to have responsibility for her death. She’s shot with an arrow in the middle of a battle, pronounced dead by like three different people (one being Mott, and as Jaron believes him, the readers do, too) and then Jaron’s sad and all that. I figured with Imogen’s death, that meant he and Amarinda would settle their differences and get together since they’re already bound by oath anyway.

However, those were my opinions before Amarinda decided to do her own thing and fall in love with Tobias. Which is cool and all because she’s making her own decisions and not going with something she doesn’t want to do for political reasons.

There were quite a few times where I suspected that Imogen might not have been dead. But then I got 2/3 through the book and got used to her not being around.

But then BAM. Suddenly she’s not dead. She’s very alive and being held prisoner and I’m upset. Why? Because I feel like she should have stayed dead. No offense to her, I mean, yay, she’s breathing and what not.

However, I’m upset because I feel like this was a cop out. I’m also very passionate about this point. I feel like she should have stayed dead because, by that point, Jaron was so deep and focused on what he was doing that he’d kinda moved on from her. I feel like Imogen was brought back only to satisfy the romance and I’m very disappointed by that.

badge4v5Then again, some of you readers may like the happy, romantic endings. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the book because I did. This is a wonderful middle-grade trilogy, but it definitely borders young adult with some of its darker, brutal themes. I’m giving it four stars!

Our reviews in this series…

Links will become active as reviews are posted.

Other recommendations…

I’d recommend this to fans of high fantasy everywhere, especially fans of Sara B. Larson, Erika Johansen, and Melina Marchetta.

Wardbreaker by J.A. Cipriano

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, in which we review shorter works such as short stories, novellas, middle-grade books, and graphic novels. All Lillim wants to do is get away for a bit – escape her world where monsters and mayhem reign at every hour. She ends up in sunny Orange County for a little relaxing time and, instead, finds herself facing a group of powerful vampires that the Dioscuri organization she works for has blatantly ignored.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

AuthorJ.A. Cipriano
SeriesLillim Callina, Book 0.5
Publish Date: October 15, 2015
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s DescriptionA city full of vampires. A dark ritual. A runaway determined to stay hidden.

Lillim Callina was still trying to figure out how to live like a normal girl when the vampires attacked. Now, this former demon hunter must decide if staying hidden is more important than saving her new home from the largest vampire infestation she has ever seen.

The only problem is, if she stops the vampires, the people hunting her just may find her, and they aren’t too fond of deserters.

Wardbreaker is the first prequel in The Lillim Callina Chronicles, an urban fantasy series and takes place approximately one year before the first book, Kill it with Magic.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat Mandu says…

As much as I enjoyed this, it’s an awfully long “novella.” It took me almost as much time to read this as it does many YA books. I almost wouldn’t call it a novella, as only novellas vs. novels are determined by the word count. But hey, it was a good story.

Lillim’s a couple years younger in Wardbreaker than when you meet her in Kill It With Magic, the first official Callina novel. It’s her first time in California, but not her first venture to the human world. Things are still a little disorienting for her.

But then Luc shows up, looking for her help with a group of bad guy vampires and Lillim’s suddenly right back at home, facing down a myriad of monsters while wondering why the Dioscuri isn’t doing anything to help the humans who are being preyed upon.

One of the coolest things I like about Lillim’s stories are that the creatures she fights against are always very unique and many – sure, there are vamps and werewolves, but there are also ents (tree men), dragons, and pixies. If you like a variety of supernatural baddies, you’d enjoy this.

It’s a nice lead-up to the series and introduction to both Lillim and Luc. I found it just got lengthy in certain points, even when there’s a lot of action going on. Lillim is a commentator on everything and her internal dialogue only adds to the battle scenes—making them funny, yes, but also like I said, lengthy.

Other recommendations…

Mark E. Cooper, Donna Joy Usher, Inge-Lise Goss

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

In this thrilling sequel to The False Prince, we reunite with Sage, aka “Jaron,” who has finally taken his place as king of Carthya. But war is brewing and his enemies are closer than ever to taking everything he loves away. To save his kingdom, Jaron will have to make tough decisions that will lead him straight to a group of his worst enemies – the pirates.

runaway-kingTitleThe Runaway King
AuthorJennifer A. Nielsen
SeriesThe Ascendance Trilogy, Book 02
Publish Date: March 1, 2013
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionJust weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

The stunning second installment of The Ascendance Trilogy takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with the Runaway King!

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

I really enjoyed this action-packed story. I think the stakes are higher than ever and Jaron is still learning to trust his allies, meaning he often launches himself into dangerous missions without any backup. He’s still the same cocky little shit with a lot of tricks up his sleeve, but now he’s got more than himself to look after. He’s got to protect his kingdom, Carthya.

The characters are more well-rounded in this selection and you learn a lot more about them; Mott, for instance, as well as Imogen and Amarinda. Though Roden’s past is never really detailed, he also returns to the scene and provides a much larger problem for Jaron. Also, there’s a new character called Fink, who’s young and just as mischievous as Jaron, though he proves to be a little more innocent.

This time around, I find the romantic interest, Imogen, to be more critical to the plot and not just a girl thrown into the story for something akin to love. Though they’re never really considered “romantic,” I find her presence and position to the story a lot more functional. That and I think her feisty behavior really throws a kink in Jaron’s plans, because now he’s got to trust her or else lose her.

The author really likes to beat Jaron up, which the author half of me really loves. *rubs fingers together and cackles maniacally* Yes, yes, torture them all. Near the end of the book, Jaron receives an injury that will no doubt impact the last book to come.

All in all, this is my favorite book in the trilogy and I hope you enjoy it!

Our reviews in this series…

Links will become active as reviews are posted.

Other recommendations…

I’d recommend this to fans of high fantasy everywhere, especially fans of Sara B. Larson, Erika Johansen, and Melina Marchetta.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen with Guest Reviewer JJ Sherwood

Hey readers! For those of you who follow and/or participate in our One Book Two read-alongs, we’re finally catching up to some of the reviews in our recent YA High Fantasy spree. First off is The False Prince! But don’t just check out my review – also welcome our guest reviewer, fantasy author J.J. Sherwood, and her opinion of this action-packed teen fantasy!

false-princeTitleThe False Prince
AuthorJennifer A. Nielsen
SeriesAscendance Trilogy, Book 01
Publish Date: April 1, 2012
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: The False Prince is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

In this retelling of the Arabic tale, The False Prince, readers are introduced to the cocky, sarcastic, mischievous, and mysterious Sage. Sage is an orphan who’s captured by a nobleman named Conner and forced into a secret competition between him and four other boys. Tested on their swordsmanship, knowledge, etiquette, and willpower, Sage has to convince Conner that he’s worthy of winning – because the prize is grander than any orphan could dream of. If he wins, he becomes king of Carthya. If he loses, he dies. But Sage quickly learns that all power comes with consequence and he ends up in a battle for his life, manipulated and betrayed by those around him.

Despite these obstacles, Sage proves just how hardcore, intelligent, and tricky he can be as he outsmarts the bad guys and steps out into the light with a new identity – though his new spotlight may earn him even more enemies than before.

I’m actually quite impressed by this story. The writing is very enjoyable, the dialogue a mix of lightheartedness and seriousness, and the world-building the usual high-fantasy style I’ve always cared for. The story moves quickly along and there’s plenty of action and drama to build it to those awesome cliffhangers I adore.

badge5v5But although I really loved Sage and all his trouble-making antics, I wasn’t really attached to any of the other characters much. I suppose Mott was an interesting character, being the only one under Conner’s guard that seemed to truly care for Sage and the others, but I didn’t get to know a lot about him besides the fact that he somehow knew who Sage really was.

Now, let us welcome our special guest reviewer, J.J. Sherwood, who kindly joined me on this part of the read-along. Check out her review below!

jjsherwood100J.J. Sherwood says…

OverallThe False Prince promised so much, being reminiscent of one of my favorite stories of all time (The Prince and the Pauper, by Mark Twain). Political subterfuge, princes in disguise, treason … what was not to love?

Unfortunately, much of it.

Characters: The cast in The False Prince, by and large, were tropey, predictable, and unmemorable. The anticipation and mystery was stripped away by always knowing exactly what any character would do at any given time. I felt that the antagonist in The False Prince was the best written character—you could wholly understand why he was doing what he was doing and the justification of his actions. The strength of his character was greatly lost, however, when it became apparent that his motives were partially backed by the stereotypical desire for power.

Story: Even with tropey characters, a well-executed plot could have absolutely saved the story! Alas, the overall execution of The False Prince was a great disappointment. The writing and pacing in the story were great—no complaints here! But the characters and story were predictable and forced.

Three examples really stood out to me: One of the female characters entered the story by just being “extra noticed” by the main character. There wasn’t really anything exceptional to draw this attention except that the author wanted her to be a primary character. You knew immediately by the writing that “oh, this is a main character.” It was like when you watch cartoons and only the important characters have cool hair.

Second example: When the antagonist had to choose his prince, the choice was down to two people. Objectively, there was a clear choice. One of them possessed, by and large, all of the traits that the antagonist desired, and the other absolutely did not. The final decision was made for wholly TERRIBLE reasons.

badge3v4Third example: Lying narrative. Ouch. This is a biggie to me. Without spoiling anything, let me just say that the author left out an extremely important bit of information that the reader should have wholly been aware of—solely for the purpose of trying to surprise the reader.

Rating: 3/5: I’d go down to 2/5, but I generally expect these problems from YA literature.

About author and guest reviewer J.J. Sherwood

On a cold winter night, wind howling into the desert sky, one ordinary hospital gave witness to a historic event. J.J. Sherwood was born at 2:30 a.m. on December 31st, just barely managing to squeeze in to supplant New Year’s Eve. J.J. has always had a flair for the dramatics.

Sherwood began writing in the womb after a harrowing incident in which Mother Sherwood swallowed a pen–and thus, destiny was born. J.J.’s first work was completed by the age of 5: a riveting tale of a duck attempting to climb into an apartment during the pouring rain. Unfortunately this book is not in print, but it served as the first spark that spurred on a lifetime of creativity.

Much of J.J.’s childhood was spent tearing through the woods, playing out fantasy worlds, and tying Barbie to the roof so that the Power Rangers might rescue her. Middle and high school carried on this roleplaying, while college encompassed creating and refining over 250 characters in the world of Aersadore.

After escaping college, finally armed with the tools of the trade and a lifetime of development, J.J. set to writing what would become the Steps of Power series: it was then that Eraydon slew his first dragon, Jikun battled the warlord Saebellus, and Taranus rebelled against his brother’s throne.

When not orchestrating the lives and deaths of the people of Aersadore, J.J.’s hobbies include drawing, video gaming, wearing a bathrobe, and eating too many baked potatoes. J.J. Sherwood lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with one loving and extremely patient spouse, a bearded dragon, a mule, a horse, and five cats who look far too similar.

Check out her page here:

Our reviews in this series…

Links will become active as reviews are posted.

Other recommendations…

I’d recommend this to fans of high fantasy everywhere, especially fans of Sara B. Larson, Erika Johansen, and Melina Marchetta.

Burn the Night by Jocelynn Drake

Burn The Night marks the final book in the Dark Days series – which means it’s time for the final battle between all supernatural creatures versus the Naturi – fairies who seek to return to earth with an everlasting vengeance.

Burn The NightTitle:  Burn The Night
Author:  Jocelynn Drake
SeriesDark Days Book 06
Publish Date:  June 28, 2011 Harper Voyager
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionThe Great Awakening approaches . . .

After eons in exile, the naturi have broken their chains and now roam the Earth bent on revenge. It is the sworn duty of Mira, the Fire Starter, to protect the nightwalker race—though even she may be powerless to withstand the horrific onslaught. As Mira and her brave lover, the vampire slayer Danaus, stand ready to do battle, thousands of winged shapeshifters darken the skies. The war of ultimate extermination has begun, and the battleground is Mira’s home turf.

The humans don’t yet recognize the doom descending upon them. And the nightwalkers will surely perish unless they unite with outcast naturi who claim to want peace. But these unexpected “allies” are the same demons who have long worked for Mira’s destruction—and in these darkest of days, the lines between friend and foe will blur treacherously before the bloody end of all things.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

** spoiler alert ** I was not expecting the happy ending. This is the first book in the series I haven’t read more than once, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I actually wish I could rate this a 4.5 because I’ve rated all the others five, but there were just…very many things I was still left wondering about.

I loved the different perspectives. For the first time, we get to hear from a Naturi lead and Mira both. Nyx was an interesting character to choose, but she also made the most sense (besides choosing Rowe). Nyx and Mira are kind of mirror characters. Both distinctly feared among their kind, Nyx for being the “Dark One” and Mira for being the Fire-Starter. Both were destined to fight Aurora. I was honestly thinking that Mira would get her shot at the Queen herself, but she gets comeuppance when it comes to finally ridding herself of Nick, her “creator.”

Oh and yes, Naturi sex. I love the romance scenes. They’re so elegant and wonderful to read. Nyx and Rowe had their romantic little scene in the woods and of course, Mira and Danaus wipe the floor with their rough post-battle moment. It’s hard for me to picture Rowe being so romantic after everything I’ve read about him, but hey, even the bad guys get the girl.

Maybe I was hoping that Rowe would still screw everybody over near the end. He’s the lion in the sheep’s pasture and I was waiting for him to snap. I even had my doubts about Nyx. But they were really there to help and help they did, as the evil Naturi reign was forced to a halt and the queen’s reign of terror prevented forever.

Lots of interesting new developments for the last book too, though some of my questions went unanswered and other new plot lines made me wonder if she had other plans for the series. 1) Ryan, a two-sided warlock you meet in the series, becoming a vampire, as an example. 2) I also figured Mira would go to Budapest after the destruction of Savannah to bring things full circle in the investigation of Michael’s death. I was hoping to hear what had really happened to Micheal’s body since it was such a key point in a few of the books. But nothing there. 3) And poor Barrett is left to defend his small pack.

At least some people survived. Jabrari didn’t. Imagine that. Knew she’d kill the Ancient eventually. Mira tends to get her revenge in all meanings of the word, even if it took the whole series for her to do it.

Overall, this is a fantastic series for urban fantasy readers. I loved her writing style, although I noticed the silky descriptions kind of faded after the first few books. I recommend this to fans of sexy vampires, great plotlines, and beautiful writing.

Our reviews in this series…

Links will become active as each review is published.

Other recommendations…

If you like Jocelynn Drake, you might like Jeaniene Frost, Kim Harrison, and Vicki Pettersson (and vice versa).