Category Archives: High Fantasy

Villainous by Kristen Brand

Black Valentine and White Knight are back in the sequel to Hero Status! After the events of the first book, Dave (White Knight) is dealing with the repercussions of his actions. If she wants to keep him out of jail, Valentina has to play nice with the feds and track down some nasty narcotics.

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

Title: Villainous
Author: Kristen Brand
Series: White Knight/Black Valentine Book 2
Publish Date: September 28, 2015
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Received for review from author

Publisher’s Description: Valentina Belmonte isn’t evil anymore—honest. She’s hung up her supervillain costume, retired to Florida with her family, and hasn’t committed a crime in years. (Well, not a felony. What’s a misdemeanor here and there if you don’t get caught?) This time, she’s not the one in trouble with the law—her goody-two-shoes, former superhero of a husband is.

He saved her life two months ago but committed a spectacular amount of assault and property damage along the way. The feds plan to press charges…unless Val does something for them in exchange. Apparently, an old friend of hers is importing a deadly drug that gives people temporary psychic powers. The feds want to send in Val with a wire to get evidence to bring him down. Sounds simple enough, but things turn deadly fast, and Val finds herself up against another supervillain—one who can out-play her at her own game.

Val’s worried she’s gone soft since retirement, but if she doesn’t get the feds the evidence they need, her husband will end up rotting in one of the most hellish prisons in the country…


Kat Mandu says…

This series is super full of action and I love it! It blends a lot of genres. It’s not just cool villain versus superhero fight scenes, it’s also got a touch of romance, mystery, and humor. Plus the characters are relatable to real life despite its fantasy appeal.

Valentina is sexy and hardcore and ready to take on anything if it means getting her husband a get out of jail free card. She makes a deal to track down a shipment of a drug called “psyche” and its seller, but discovers her own sister and her twisted arch-nemesis, Dr. Sweet, may be behind its trafficking. As she tracks down clues and skirts dangers thrown at her at every corner, she’s gotta use her telepathic abilities and sheer force of will (which is a lot, for the record) to save the day.

This series is growing to be one of my favorites in the superhero genre. It’s the little tidbits of information about the characters, plus the awesome flashback scenes, that really make it for me. Valentina and Dave are awesome on their own, but even cooler together. I’m very eager to see where the next book, Almost Invincible, whisks me off to on their adventures.

But don’t just stop there – check out Hero Status and her episodic online, all of which you can find on her home site. https://kristenbrand.com/web-fiction/ – I really recommend this fun, crime-fighting (or in some cases, crime-loving) series.

Other recommendations…

…you might try other badass superhero books from Lexi Dunne, Jennifer Estep, and Bethany Frenette.

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

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.

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

In a high fantasy world based on the Seasons, Meira, a young refugee from the Winter kingdom, is thirsty to prove just how worthy she is. But taking on the big bad guys means she’ll have to step up her game – but as she ventures through a series of political mind games, can her heart handle all the secrets she learns along the way?

TitleSnow Like Ashes
AuthorSara Raasch
SeriesSnow Like Ashes, Book 01
Publish Date: October 14, 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionSixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. The Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been searching for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild their kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of half of the ancient locket that can restore their magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics, and to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Luna Lovebooks says…

Dislikes: I figured I’d switch it up and get my dislikes out of the way, considering there are few of them. First of all, this is not a terribly original plot. Strong heroine, royal politics, magic, stolen kingdom, and of course, a love triangle. All elements that are normally used in books of this genre. However, it seems to work. While it doesn’t make this novel particularly standout, it doesn’t take away from a good read. Secondly, this book can get a touch info-dumpy at points. Lastly, there is a love triangle! Which leads me to my…

Likes: While Meria is a strong female lead, fighting for her kingdom and refusing to back down, she is also flawed and complex. She tugs at your heartstrings. She is likable. But she isn’t the only one. Even the side characters are complex and well-developed—even the two love interests. They are both so likable and for different reasons. I just couldn’t choose who to root for. The world is another well-developed wonder. This is a seriously complex world with eight kingdoms that have their own customs and people. This information is woven into the plot fairly well for the most part, but as I stated, it can be a bit of an info dump at points.

Despite not being an entirely fresh take on the YA fantasy genre, this book has amazing character and world development that makes it a worthwhile read. I give it 4 snowflakes.

Kat Mandu says…

Meira is feisty and fierce, and the fact that she uses a chakram makes her reminiscent of a younger Xena Warrior Princess in my head. Only with very white hair and pale skin. Her fellow Winterians also have similar features, physical traits reminiscent of their former kingdom, Winter, which is a land that many of them haven’t seen in sixteen years. Meira and her companions are all refugees, driven from Winter by their rival country’s leader (Spring), Angra. Sixteen years ago, Angra forcibly took over the kingdom by imprisoning the Winterian citizens and killing anyone who resisted, including Queen Hannah.

Now, Meira and a handful of survivors – including her mentor, “Sir” (William) and Hannah’s only son, Mather. They’ve managed to stay out of Angra’s eye until now – but they’re trying to get their magical conduit back (the item that represents their power) and Meira knows they can’t wait any longer, especially once news of the conduit’s locations is brought to them.

This story has a lot of adventure and a lot of layered plots as the story unfolds. Aka, there’s a lot going on. It’s not confusing in any way, but prepared to go through a lot of multi-faceted stories within one story.

For one, there’s the fact that the Winterians are trying to get their hands on the conduit, a locket; but Mather, their supposed “king” of Winter, is male and therefore unable to use it due to magical laws set way back when the conduits were first created. This particular detail of the story eventually takes a turn later, but they manage to get the locket anyway.

Then they decide to ally with a Rhythm kingdom, Cordell, and by doing so, Meira ends up engaged to Theron, the heir of Cordell’s king, Niall. She’s not exactly thrilled about the situation, as her heart has always belonged to Mather. But at least in this book, Theron proves to be a very understanding and what more, a protective friend who grows close to Meira’s heart.

So there’s also the romance angle – a love triangle between Meira, Mather, and Theron. Meira finds herself drawn to Theron and seeing Mather as more of a friend.

There’s an entire plotline where Mather and Meira discover a new kind of magic within themselves and that they’re not who they think they are.

Then of course, there’s the final epic battle as Cordell, Winter, and Autumn join forces against the armies of Spring and Angra. And well, stuff happens (no spoilers here).

Overall this is a great book. I found the characters really drove it for me, or at least they mattered more to me than the actual plot, which although is given a unique spin, seems to have a similar theme to other high fantasies I’ve read before. The world building is pretty cool too! But as much as I enjoyed it, I found it hard to keep reading at times; it just didn’t have the same “I’ll stay up all night to finish this” feel for me.

I still give it a four!

Our reviews in this series…

Links will become active as reviews are published.

Other recommendations…

If you love high fantasy check out these other great reads! Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis, the Elemental Trilogy by Sherri Thomas, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White.

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.

Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

I was really excited to read this since I enjoyed The Girl from the Well duology so well. There are some of the elements that I loved about Girl from the Well that are present in this novel as well: beautiful descriptions, gorgeous settings, and interesting characters. But somewhere it fell flat for me.

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

TitleThe Bone Witch
AuthorRin Chupeco
SeriesThe Bone Witch, Book 01
Publish Date: March 7, 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s DescriptionA Publishers Weekly Most Anticipated Young Adult Book of Spring 2017!

In the captivating start to a new, darkly lyrical fantasy series for readers of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir, Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price…

Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha—one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind in this brilliant new fantasy series by Rin Chupeco!

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Luna Lovebooks says…

Likes: I love the fact that this is a darkly beautiful world. There is betrayal and war (mentioned in passing for the most part) and, of course, death. But death is what makes this novel unique. How, you ask? The answer is in the very title of the book! Bone witches raise the dead, heal the sick, and defeat demonic-like creatures. The way they are described reminds me of magic wielding geisha! I love the idea of heartsglass as well. It is a wonderful way to detect emotions and a fun way to bring sayings into literal play – for example, if you give someone your heart they have power over you. I love the relationship between Tea and her brother, Fox.

Dislikes: As much potential as this story has, it fell flat for me, and I gradually lost interest until the last couple of chapters when it picked up again. I devoured the beginning for its explanation of this world and the people in it. I flipped excitedly through the pages towards as I wanted to know what would happen. But the middle was a montage of years of training – only not. It felt like no time at all had passed and Tea became an asha in the blink of an eye, still only 14. The two timelines interwoven added to my confusion until the very end. But not much happens in either plot. There is a love triangle, but it is mostly hinted at. I can’t decide if this is worse or not – either way, the story does not need a triangle.

I would love to rate this book higher, but because of my confusion and the loss of interest for the middle section of the book, I have to give this 3 bones.

Other recommendations…

Dreamfall by Amy Plum, Poison Kiss by Breeana Shields, Roar by Cora Carmack.

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