Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (Review)

Yes, I’m finally getting around to reviewing this, and I’m afraid it wasn’t my favorite. I’m sorry!

Title: Fawkes

Author: Nadine Brandes

  • Date read: December 29, 2018
  • Rating: 2 stars
  • Genre: Historical Fantasy
  • Age: YA (darker side)
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 430 (hardcover)
  • Source: The publisher, through Booklook Bloggers

My Review

I finally read FAWKES and, awkwardly, I didn’t love it. *shifty eyes* *stows self away behind fortifications*

Firstly, taste in books varies, and this review is just my personal opinion! FAWKES wasn’t my cup of tea, but if it’s yours, that’s great! I feel like nearly everyone I know loved this, and I’m sad that I didn’t. I enjoy books in general, but this one unfortunately did not click for me.

Negative reviews are not my forte, but this was a review book, and a few people have asked for my opinion, so I’m going to attempt to share a review. I know it’s long overdue. *cough* (It’s also going to be terribly hard to do without spoilers but I will do my best.)

And at the end I’ll list the things I did like, since that’s only fair. 😉

But firstly, reasons why FAWKES and I did not get along, personally.

For one thing, it was rather dark and depressing. That in itself is enough for me to decide it wasn’t my thing. Despite the fantasy aspect, the setting was gritty and unpleasant and actually rather more dystopian than anything, and I just wouldn’t want to live there. The plot itself is pretty dark and violent, if only because of the historical incidents it’s dealing with — which, well, not to get into spoilers but I should have known better than to think things would turn out well, but apparently I didn’t think about that? My mistake! The stone plague was super creepy, too — though I’ll grant it was unique and interesting. XD

But talking of the historical aspect: for some reason I thought that since it was historical FANTASY, history wasn’t set in stone. (No pun intended. XD) I mean, it’s already an alternate history since there’s magic and different factions and stuff, so why can’t that mean that the characters can bring about different outcomes in history and it could be alternate history in THAT way too? Well, apparently it didn’t work that way. Which . . . yeah. It kind of made things seem pointless, to me. Especially when one character didn’t seem to care about this thing that *I* at least thought was awful. And it felt like it was a “well, since it’s history, regardless of the choices they make it’s going to turn out this way, so it doesn’t matter” sort of subtext. That might have worked with time-travel but apparently I just wasn’t suspending my disbelief enough there or something.

Apparently taking a historical time, not improving it, and mixing in magic and a few modern points of view is a thing that happens and that I don’t seem to enjoy much, myself, given that the last two such books I tried I didn’t like. (Maybe I’ll steer clear of historical fantasy in the future . . . That might help.)

Plus, hardly anybody was a nice person, which just sort of depressed me? A lot. If you can’t even LIKE hardly any of the characters in the book, it’s sort of a problem. For me, at any rate. 😛 (Flawed characters, yayyy.) I’ve discussed this about other fiction before, so it’s not this book’s fault, just a trend.

Another trend is what I call telliphobia, where the show-don’t-tell comes out so hard that I was terribly confused about the color powers and the whole magic system for about the first half of the book, since I was never straight-up informed of how the magic worked. Again, not just this book — it’s a trend in current publishing, but it gets a little tiring. All I want is to know what’s going on, you know? Is that too much to ask? (Disclaimer: I did eventually figure it out and do think the idea of the color powers is pretty cool. I just wanted it explained early on so I could get on with the story, instead of stumbling through tiny hints and getting distracted from the plot by trying to understand how things worked.)

But the last three things I complained about are general things I dislike and not the direct fault of this book, necessarily, so I suppose that’s not quite fair — sorry. (This reminds me of something C.S. Lewis said in On Stories. Something along the lines of how he didn’t like detective novels, so if he reviewed one it would be rubbish criticism, since he’d be reviewing/disliking the KIND of book it is, not the actual work, which isn’t totally fair. I’m paraphrasing, but anyway.)

Back to characters. Sometimes I liked Thomas, but other times he really frustrated me. Never knowing who he should be rooting for or who *I* should be rooting for was kind of exhausting. Plus I got pretty mad at him near the end when spoilers happened and he just didn’t seem to CARE at all. UGH. So Thomas and I didn’t get along all the time, for those reasons and also how he was sometimes sort of petulant/unmanly. I can’t really explain it. But I did sometimes really like him or at least feel bad for him and want him to succeed! It’s . . . confusing. I did like Emma most of the time and what little we saw of Norwood and maybe some other people occasionally. But it did seem like nobody else was likable at all. And I could never decide how I felt about Guy Fawkes himself — I felt like he had loads more potential. I also put the book down for several months after, well . . . a spoiler. I’m just saying, if basically the only nice character dies on me, I’m going to be a little put out. *cough* Also, taking such a long break probably didn’t help the book hang together in my mind. 😛

I never rooted for either side of the Keepers/Igniters. They were both being jerks and I didn’t really care. And the allegorical side of things sort of confused my brain. Especially the White Light, which could have been a funny character but felt totally way off, if it was supposed to be what I think it was supposed to be — I was just way too weirded out by its self-centered flippancy. (At one point [page 247] it was like “I could have done that, you know. You just never asked,” but actually, um, no, excuse me, THOMAS DID ASK EARLIER, on page 196, and the White Light conveniently wasn’t listening or didn’t care or SOMETHING. I just. I can’t.) I could be toootally off, but if it was supposed to be an allegory of God it totally missed the mark — for me at least. So that was sort of depressing and I felt like, personally, maybe I would have enjoyed the book more if I didn’t feel like it was trying to do Christian allegory stuff in a weird way.

So yes. Dark, depressing. Felt let down by the historical fantasy element that I was looking forward to. Didn’t find the characters to be ones I could root for on the whole. And in general some of it just . . . didn’t work for me. I feel like there were a couple of other things I didn’t care for, and don’t want to get into now. But essentially I read for enjoyment and this one didn’t hit the mark for me. I simply couldn’t enjoy myself and it wasn’t fun and honestly it totally stressed me out. But I think that’s just me?

Things I did enjoy!

  • The cover is still one of my FAVORITES.
  • The writing was gorgeous and everything was vivid.
  • It was very unique and interesting and exciting.
  • I did like a couple of the characters! Norland and Emma and Thomas sometimes. 😛
  • Emma and Thomas together were precious and squishable.
  • And it was pretty awesome when they saved the day from . . . well . . . something. Near the end but not at the end. No spoilers.
  • The color magic system was really neat once I figured it out.
  • At least it wasn’t a TOTAL tragedy and (aside from all the awfulness) there were one or two good outcomes, so yay!

Overall, the things I did like weren’t enough to override the things I didn’t enjoy, so this one was a bit of a disappointment for me. Personally. I really wanted to like it! (Plus, the author is the SWEETEST HUMAN on her Instagram so it makes me sad I didn’t love this book, though naturally I still love her as a person! And I do have hopes for trying more books from this author.)

So that’s the story of how I accidentally didn’t love FAWKES. My apologies.


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers


About Fawkes

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th-century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, June 26, 2018


Links

Find the book on: Goodreads • Thomas Nelson • Barnes & Noble • Amazon • Author Website


Thanks for reading! 🙂 (Please don’t hate me. XD)

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The Orphan’s Wish by Melanie Dickerson (Review)

Title: The Orphan’s Wish

Author: Melanie Dickerson

  • Date read: September 15, 2018
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Retelling / Christian Fiction / Romance
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 329 (hardcover)
  • Series: Hagenheim, #8 (stands alone)
  • Fave character: Aladdin
  • Source: BookLook Bloggers review program (Thomas Nelson Publishers)
  • Notes: Thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy. These opinions are all mine.

My Review

So far I’ve always enjoyed Melanie Dickerson’s novels—sometimes you just want a fun, light read, you know?—and I loved this one too. 🙂

I liked that The Orphan’s Wish had a somewhat different feel than the other Hagenheim books, though still with ties to them that made it familiar at the same time that it was fresh. I enjoy a good knight-or-duke’s-son-with-the-fair-maiden-in-a-castle-or-the-woods adventure/romance as much as the next person (as most of these have been), but this one (though with elements of that) was a new setup. Aladdin, while having some action, was much more of a hardworking businessman, which was different and fun for a change, and the setting was largely in the city of Luneberg and it was such a colorful, medieval European city, which reminded me a little of reading about Prague. I enjoyed that! And, of course, I enjoyed visiting Hagenheim again as well. 😉

It’s a retelling of Aladdin, but I confess that story’s not terribly fresh in my memory (I may have read the original folktale once or twice, and saw a certain Disney version of it maybe once awhile back), so I don’t feel like I caught many references. Which was fine. I enjoyed it well enough as a story on its own merit! If you’re looking for a super-Aladdin-y retelling you might possibly be disappointed, though.

Aladdin himself was a wonderful character and I felt deeply pulled into his point of view. He’s not your usual main character—he’s brave and courageous and clever, but he also works really hard and is always trying to do the best he can, and be the best he can be. He has a talent for running businesses and he’s kind of out to make his fortune so that he feels that he, a lowly orphan boy, brought from the Holy Land as a child to live at Hagenheim, can hope to be worthy of marrying a duke’s daughter. But he has a lot to learn, too. 😉 I was kind of annoyed at him for not manning up and telling someone something he didn’t want to say (you caused more problems, man!), but I also loved how he tried to do better, and how he would be clever and heroic sometimes, just when you started to think all he usually did was run businesses and be in love. XD Anyway, he was great.

I liked Lady Kirstyn too. I appreciated that she was the quiet kind of heroine—poor thing felt somewhat overlooked in her family, even though they’re wonderful (because we’re talking about Duke Wilhelm’s family of the Hagenheim Castle series. :P). And she goes through a lot too. The mischievous orphan Abu and the kind old merchant Herr Kaufmann are other interesting characters. And a villain or two…

I also loved the cameos of Valten and Wilhelm and some of the others from this series! So awesome. Especially man-of-few-words Valten giving Aladdin relationship advice. XD (This can totally stand alone as its own book, though, and you don’t have to read any of the others in the series to appreciate it. In fact, it’s a fine place to start.)

I suppose it’s a fairly usual Christian romance, but I enjoyed both of those aspects—it was sweet, and there were some nice faith elements/messages. The plot was also interesting, and—like I mentioned—felt kind of new and fresh. There’s some danger and excitement and mystery thrown in, so it’s not just Aladdin and Kirstyn trying to figure out their relationships. XD I liked how we got to see them grow up together, briefly, at the beginning (childhood friends turned lovers, yay!), and how there were also a lot of memories mixed in, because it really felt like they’d known each other forever, and that was neat. Oh, and I also loved the letters and the storks!

Random note about the series: I exaggerate slightly, but I kind of feel bad for Duke Wilhelm always having to run around after his kids when they’re the hero or heroine of the book and are always getting kidnapped, or shot with crossbows, or running around falling in love with the wrong person… Like, seriously, poor Wilhelm and Rose every time their kids get a new book. XD I love it though.

Anyway, this was another fun novel from this prolific author, and I always look forward to more. 🙂

A favorite quote: “I suppose it is difficult to be good at both business and art.”

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers


About The Orphan’s Wish

From New York Times bestselling author Melanie Dickerson comes an inspired retelling of the beloved folk tale Aladdin.

Orphaned and alone, Aladdin travels from the streets of his Arab homeland to a strange, faraway place. Growing up in an orphanage, he meets young Lady Kirstyn, whose father is the powerful Duke of Hagenheim. Despite the difference in their stations, Aladdin quickly becomes Kirstyn’s favorite companion, and their childhood friendship grows into a bond that time and opposition cannot break.

Even as a child, Aladdin works hard, learning all he can from his teachers. Through his integrity, intelligence, and sheer tenacity, he earns a position serving as the duke’s steward. But that isn’t enough to erase the shame of being forced to steal as a small child—or the fact that he’s an orphan with no status. If he ever wants to feel equal to his beautiful and generous friend Kirstyn, he must leave Hagenheim and seek his fortune.

Yet once Aladdin departs, Lady Kirstyn becomes a pawn in a terrible plot. Now, Aladdin and Kirstyn must rely on their bond to save her from unexpected danger. But will saving Kirstyn cost Aladdin his newfound status and everything he’s worked so hard to obtain?

An enchanting new version of the well-known tale, The Orphan’s Wish tells a story of courage and loyalty, friendship and love, and reminds us what “family” really means.

Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, June 26, 2018


Links

Find the book on: Goodreads • Thomas Nelson • Barnes & Noble • Amazon • Author Website


Thanks for reading! 🙂

The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson (Book Review)

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The Silent Songbird

by Melanie Dickerson

Young Adult / Christian / Historical Romance / Fairy Tale Retelling / The Little Mermaid / Medieval


_225_350_book-2070-coverEvangeline is gifted with a heavenly voice, but she is trapped in a sinister betrothal—until she embarks on a daring escape and meets brave Westley le Wyse. Can he help her discover the freedom to sing again?

Desperate to flee a political marriage to her cousin King Richard II’s closest advisor, Lord Shiveley—a man twice her age with shadowy motives—Evangeline runs away and joins a small band of servants journeying back to Glynval, their home village.

Pretending to be mute, she gets to know Westley le Wyse, their handsome young leader, who is intrigued by the beautiful servant girl. But when the truth comes out, it may shatter any hope that love could grow between them.

More than Evangeline’s future is at stake as she finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue that threatens England’s monarchy. Should she give herself up to protect the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

Published November 8, 2016, by Thomas Nelson


Links — find The Silent Songbird on:

Thomas Nelson | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Goodreads


My Review

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5starratingAnother enchanting, romantic Young Adult fairytale retelling from Melanie Dickerson!

Evangeline, a young woman with a beautiful voice (and the ward of King Richard), is kept in a castle but longs to go out into the world. She finds her chance when she must escape marriage to a horrible man, and meets a caring young man named Westley le Wyse. Deception, scheming villains, and misunderstandings all stand in her way, as she tries to escape her fate and find love and a deeper faith in God.

I was curious how a retelling of The Little Mermaid would work with no magic and not even a mermaid, but it worked wonderfully in this book! It was so fun to pick out the references and see how the retelling wove through the story in surprising yet fitting ways.

The plot was so interesting and really kept me on my toes, wondering what would happen next and how it would all work out. It had a lot going on, was exciting and sweet by turns, and kept me totally absorbed in the lives of these characters, who felt so real. I loved them!

Evangeline was a good heroine, who I quite liked. Westley was the best—endearing, noble, kind, with a sense of humor, though also conflicted about a lot of things going on, and quite energetic which for some reason was really cool. I liked him a lot. I also love their names! (Speaking of the name Westley… I couldn’t help grinning when Eva told Westley “as you wish” once. I loved that! :D)

The romance was so sweet and beautiful—loved it—and the Christian elements were also lovely.

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Hagenheim books! Only missing The Golden Braid…

The other characters were great to read about as well: Lord and Lady le Wyse, Westley’s parents—his mother was so nice, and his father was simply awesome. Reeve Folsham, too. He was a gruff character who surprised me by really growing on me. The rest of the characters were all well-written.

The whole book, in fact, was written excellently. And I loved the setting, which I felt so immersed in: the medieval English countryside and castles! So awesome. ❤ I also loved that King Richard was in the story!

The book started out a little predictably (heroine supposed to marry old, ugly, evil man, and determined to escape), so that part sounded somewhat like other books (but I suppose that couldn’t be helped, and it quickly moved on to become surprising and intriguing). Otherwise, I didn’t have any real complaints and I just really enjoyed it. 🙂

I’m aware this is a sort of sequel to The Merchant’s Daughter by the same author, which I’ve not read yet, and I can tell that anyone who read it will love reading this one and seeing references and characters from before. But The Silent Songbird also stands alone, and my lack of familiarity with the first one didn’t take away from my enjoyment of reading this. In fact, it’s made me even more excited to go back and read The Merchant’s Daughter, very soon, to read the story of Westley’s parents!

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Three generations of le Wyse brides! 😉

Whether you’re a long-time fan of Melanie Dickerson’s novels, or thinking of trying one for the first time, I highly recommend picking up The Silent Songbird! It’s one of my favorites of her books so far, and I’m eagerly awaiting her next release. 🙂


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Retellings, anyone? I know I certainly can’t resist reading them. XD Have you ever read a retelling of The Little Mermaid?

Epic Modern Irish Warriors + Faeries = An Earthly King Review (Blog Tour)

anearthlykingphoto

I’m super excited to be a part of the blog tour for the release of An Earthly King by Hazel B. West!

You may remember my rave review for book 1, Blood Ties, earlier this year in March… Well, good news! There’s a sequel out now, and if you missed a chance to read book one, Blood Ties is FREE ON KINDLE until November 5th. So get thyself over to Amazon and download Blood Ties ASAP, do you hear?

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November, because that’s the last day Blood Ties is free on Amazon!

anearthlykingtourbanner

Anyhow, I’m here today as part of the blog tour for the second book in the Modern Tales of Na Fianna series, to review An Earthly King! I’m very excited about this book. ^_^

Head on over HERE to follow the rest of the tour!

And scroll down to the bottom of this post for info on a giveaway of signed paperback copies of both books in this series so far! 🙂

First, a bit about the book and author, and then my review (and even an excerpt)! (All this info AS WELL AS a free ebook and a giveaway for two paperbacks? Yes, I know, I know, all of this is too good to be true. BUT IT IS TRUE, so deal with it and soak up the epicness.)

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Title: An Earthly King (The Modern Tales of Na Fianna #2)

Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy, Alternate History

Synopsis

Six months after Ciran defeated King Lorcan and instigated a peace treaty between the High Court of Ireland and the Goblin realm, things have been slowly getting back to normal in the kingdoms. That is, until the council decides that it’s time for High King Eamon to find a queen.

On top of that, there seem to be stirrings of rebellion in the Faelands, as not all the Fair Folk like the High Court’s treaty with the Goblins. So it’s up to Ciran Mac Cool and his company to stop the rebellion before it goes too far, while also trying to keep Eamon safe from potential assassins. And with all the prospective brides rubbing elbows with the High King, that’s easier said than done.

With the help of their friends and a spunky agent from the Bureau of Protection Against Fair Folk, Ciran’s Company attempts to stop the Faery plots before Ireland is thrown into all out war. Again.

An Earthly King is another action packed book in this Celtic urban fantasy series with lots of friendship, humor, angst, and even traces of the Ballad of Tam Lin.

Find An Earthly King online:

Createspace Paperback | Amazon | Smashwords | Add it on Goodreads

About the Author

Hazel West lives in Purgatory, er, Florida, with her books and her hedgehog Horatio. When she’s not writing, she’s reading other people’s books, studying folklore, or binge-watching something on Netflix—drinking coffee is also a given.

You can find her online in these places:

Blog: http://hazelwest.blogspot.com

Writing blog: http://talesfromamodernbard.blogspot.com

Twitter GoodreadsYoutube | Pinterest

My Review

earthlykingcoverpic2-copyAn Earthly King

(Modern Tales of Na Fianna, #2)

by Hazel B. West

YA / Fantasy / Contemporary / Alternate History / Retelling / Tam Lin / Celtic / Ireland

I received a complimentary e-ARC copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review, and these opinions are entirely my own.

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There are so many awesome things about this book, I don’t even know where to begin. I loved it even more than book one (Blood Ties) if that’s even possible. These were definitely among my top favorite reads this year — instant classics for me!

This book has everything: Swashbuckling action, suspense (I’m pretty sure I forgot to breathe a few times), mystery, deceit, evil faeries (and less-than-evil ones), cars and leather jackets and swords, kings and warriors, true love, comradely brotherly relationships, characters I adore so so much, witty banter, humor and dry narrative which had me laughing more than once, awesome Celtic/Irish/Fae folklore, even a touch of retelling in the form of the ballad of Tam Lin — all wrapped up in a thoroughly FUN story which was simply a joy to read. When I say everything, I mean everything!

Have I convinced you yet?? Because really, I don’t know what more I need to add to this. (Except I will totally keep talking about it because obviously this is an excuse to babble about one of my favorites books, I never turn that down.)

I thought it would be different than it was (just like the first one was different than I thought it would be). I vaguely expected it to continue mainly with Ciran and his gang, and while his gang was in it, they were more side characters, since it was mostly about Eamon (I was very very excited to get a story from his point of view!) and others who are spoilery. Which isn’t a complaint; I just thought there would be more of the same group dynamics as there were in book 1. I expected something different, but I do love how it turned out. This one is also actually very different than the first book: while much of Blood Ties was out in the Faelands, An Earthly King is centered mostly around the castle and such, by its very nature, because it is largely about High King Eamon.

I say largely, because although it’s primarily Eamon’s story, it’s not entirely. There are also chapters from the point of view of Ciran, hero of Blood Ties, which made me SO happy, because I love Ciran. He has a lot going on, especially in the aftermath of certain — ahem — events in book 1. So it was great to continue with him. There’s also a new point-of-view character: Bree, who is awesome and I love her to bits.

So yes, this book is told in three alternating first-person points of view… and I don’t even mind. It may sound like it wouldn’t work, but trust me, the author pulls this off masterfully. It’s always a pleasure to be in each of their minds, and I was never mixed up who I was reading about (it may help that their names are at each chapter heading). It was BRILLIANT how the story weaved through their different points of view without repeating anything, but always showing exactly what needed to be seen. Now, I’m a writer, and all I can say is, that’s #writergoals right there. This book blew me away in so many ways.

Setting: A+ in my book. An awesome, modern/medieval mashup of Ireland, with some Faerie stuff thrown in for good measure. Medieval stuff mixed with a little Faerie magic in a modern setting — how cool is that? I’m just saying that when an evil fairy calls your cellphone and tells you to come to an address they’ll text you and to come alone… this is just mind-blowingly awesome storytelling. I’m a fan. Can I just live here? This world is fabulous and (aside from the fact that I’d probably be dead within five minutes) I just want to move to this alternate modern-day Ireland please and thank you.

Speaking of which, I felt so at home reading this book! Something about reading the new twists on various Celtic lore, Faerie lore, Ireland, even Tam Lin bits, was just so… FAMILIAR. Which made me incredibly happy. I felt like I knew these things… things about Irish and Fae and such; they were familiar, the way your neighborhood walks or a fairytale you’ve heard a hundred times is familiar. I read along happily, going “oh, she used that little thing I knew about!” or “oh, what a neat extra tidbit I didn’t know about, but it still feels familiar!” It was fabulous. ❤ My Celtic roots and love of Faerie things coming out, I suppose. (Even if you’re not a Celtic, Faerie nut as I am, you’ll still enjoy it, though!)

AND THEN THE CHARACTERS. I love them so much. *group hug* Their interactions, relationships, and dialog are simply PRICELESS, and the characters themselves are so real, lovable and… just the best.

  • Eamon, High King of Ireland, an excellent king but also a down-to-earth, nice, willing-to-joke-around, comradely and good-hearted sort of fellow, a little overwhelmed with plots and suspicious Fae things, not to mention being expected to marry (especially when all the prospects are so dismal; these women, though. o.o). He was so fun to read about (especially paired with Killian) and I so enjoyed getting to read his story and see things through his eyes!
  • Ciran, hero of book 1, and co-hero of this one, is just AWESOME. I love him muchly. He’s trying to deal with problems in his family and protect his king and he’s just wonderful; not to mention still really fun to read his thoughts. 😀
  • Bree is an introverted but down-to-business agent who is here to investigate fishy Fae stuff, and I absolutely loved her! She’s redheaded and wears red boots and has freckles (oh, the freckles. XD) and she loves books and gets insecure and eats chocolate when she’s nervous, and is kind of shy about people (I relate!), but she’s also really capable and knows her stuff, and she and a certain other person in the book are positively ADORABLE together, oh my word. <3333 She’s the main new addition to the cast, and I just loved her! ^_^
  • Killian… Oh my goodness, this guy. XD Eamon’s best friend/captain of the guard, he positively defies description because his relationship with Eamon is hilarious. They have such a brotherly, teasing relationship, and Killian acts all bossy and snarky, always ordering his king around or calling him names and Eamon doesn’t mind and it’s just glorious. I CAN’T WITH THESE TWO. ❤ One of the absolute best parts of the book. 😀 (The snark, though.)
  • A certain Ciran brother who I can’t say much about, but THIS PRECIOUS PERSON. D: Waaah. He and Ciran are great. ❤
  • Daegal is Ciran’s little brother, who has the Second Sight. He’s really beginning to develop as an awesome character in his own right — one of those enigmatic young fellows with more to them than meets the eye. He’s one of my new favorites, actually.
  • Caitlin: Kinda-sorta “Ciran’s girl” (and Killian’s sister… which I always forget, for some reason? o.o) is also awesome. No-nonsense but perfectly warm, friendly, and capable too. Just. All of these characters!! ❤
  • Oberon is… interesting. I will say no more. *zips lips*
  • And then of course (one and all awesome) are the other members of Ciran’s Company (who now have a ballad in their honor about their quest in Book 1 — sung by the rock band Swords and Shamrocks — which is a top hit on the radio. …I just love this story.).

And and and… I COULD GO ON. I loved the idea of BPAFF (The Bureau of Protection Against Fair Folk, an agency who investigate problems with Fae); I loved the sideplot of romance which was adorable but didn’t take the story over and felt totally natural; the BANTER that I just adored so much; there was even some deeper stuff going on with families and relationships and problems to solve; all the relationships and brotherliness; and just… I loved how extremely FUN it was, and I enjoyed myself immensely positively the entire time I was reading. I’m seriously tempted to go back and read both books already… (If only it wasn’t NaNo! *cough*)

Okay, so remember how I said this book has everything? Well I may have been a little economical with the truth there. There’s one thing it doesn’t have, and that is… anything I didn’t like. Did I have any complaints? NOPE, literally none that I can think of right now. (This is rare, okay?)

The author is a genius and I love these books so much. ❤ (Now where’s book 3?? I NEED MORE OF THIS SERIES/WORLD/CHARACTERS IN MY LIFE. And so do you. Go hither and read them at once, do you hear? SHOO.)

Bottom line: An Earthly King is an excellent book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. ❤

Excerpt From An Earthly King

“Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think it will.”

I appreciated my younger brother’s optimism, but didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was far off the mark. I knew without turning to a pessimist’s standpoint that this was going to be every bit as bad as I thought. I had seen Colin O’Rourke shake his head sadly only half an hour before in anticipation of the moment, and when even the cheery redhead could see no silver lining to being surrounded by unmarried women for two weeks, there was something to be very afraid of.

I had been sent to “prepare myself” for the ladies as Killian had put it. It sounded vaguely ominous. I was supposed to be in full kingly attire for guess who else would be arriving with the girls? Their esteemed guardians, the other kings and queen, and many more higher Irish families. The ones who served on my council. Everyone had pitched in with some female relation to offer up to be my bride like they were vestal virgins and I some ancient god demanding sacrifice. I was flattered—almost. The problem was that I knew the reputations of most of these girls and didn’t have a care for any of them—my opinion hadn’t changed since we were forced to meet in our ‘comings out’ when we were twelve or so. And the ones I didn’t know, I didn’t suppose had much more promise. Killian would probably say I was ‘disenchanted’. I just wondered how out of all those girls, there couldn’t be any normal ones.

I cast a sad glance over at my worn leather jacket and jeans tossed into a chair at one side of my room. I wanted nothing more than to don normal clothes and go out to the lists, practice archery or take on the Guard for my own amusement. But that was later this week, as Killian informed me, and it would still be in front of my ‘admirers’.

“If you stay in here too much longer, everyone will just think Airdrígh Eamon is afraid of a bunch of women,” Oran teased with a laugh.

“Then why are you still hiding here yourself?” I asked, grabbing him playfully in a headlock and mussing his hair.

The door opened and Killian came in, casting a longsuffering glance over the proceedings. “You still aren’t dressed? Get your armor on, Eamon! They will be arriving in less than half an hour! Aeden and Ciran just pulled up.”

I released Oran with a pinch to the side as he protested loudly. I took my copper breastplate from its stand and allowed Killian to secure it before he grabbed my long dark green cloak and put that around my shoulders as well, securing it to the breastplate. He then came around to my front, straightening my circlet, and made sure at least part of it was visible in my untamable mass of hair. He scowled at it as he finally yanked my twin braids straight to make sure they showed.

“Don’t ask me what the girls will see in you, because I really don’t know. You look more like a vagabond than a king.”

“I have the black curls and sparkly eyes, what more do I need?”

Killian rolled his eyes. “You’ve got to have a nice set of cheekbones to please the girls these days.”

“But I have dimples!”

“Missed the boat.”

Oran handed me my sword and I buckled it around my hips, checking myself in the mirror. I looked more presentable than was to be expected from Killian’s grousing, and was overall pleased enough that I would at least make a good impression. As much as I didn’t want to do this, I also didn’t want to give the kings any more reason to hate me.

An Earthly King by Hazel B. West

Giveaway

Hazel is giving away signed paperback copies of both books on her blog, so head on over to THIS POST to enter the giveaway! You don’t want to miss this one! 🙂

(An Earthly King is Book 2.) Find Book 1, Blood Ties, here:

bloodtiescoverfront copyCreatespace Paperback

Amazon (free Nov. 1 – 5!)

Smashwords

Goodreads

My Review of Blood Ties

Does this book sound awesome, or does it sound awesome? Do you like the idea of an alternate-history modern/medieval/fantasy blend? And how do you like Ireland and retellings? Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour! 🙂

Blood Ties Blog Tour & Review

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Today I’m excited to be part of the blog tour for Blood Ties by Hazel B. West, with a review and other good stuff — and an appropriately Irish post, what with Saint Patrick’s Day coming up this week and all… 😉

Follow the tour (and enter the giveaway for a copy of the book!) HERE. You don’t want to miss this! 🙂

Here’s a bit about the book and author, and then my review*! (Read on to the end of the post for a taste of the book with the excerpt Hazel’s sharing with us!)

*a.k.a. where I squeal about Ireland and warriors and fast cars and epicness and brothers and friendships and Faerie and all of the things

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Title: Blood Ties (The Modern Tales of Na Fianna #1)

Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy, Alternate History

Synopsis

In an Ireland that mixes high kings, faeries, and modern warriors who drive fast cars, Ciran, a descendant from the famous warrior Fionn Mac Cool, bands together with a company of young warriors from the legendary order of Na Fianna to go on a quest to recover their missing family members who were captured by the Goblins in a shaky peace between the two kingdoms. Ciran and his companions must figure out not only how they are going to rescue the prisoners, but how they are going to complete their mission without killing each other. Through trial and error, running battles, unexpected friendships, and daring escapes, Ciran and his company come face to face with the Goblin King himself in a final battle that will decide the fate of all involved and of Ireland itself.

The first book in a new series, Blood Ties takes the traditional Irish legends and puts a modern spin on them with a heavy helping of friendship and the love of family.

Find the Book

Createspace Paperback | Amazon Paperback | Kindle | Smashwords | Add it on Goodreads

About the Author

Hazel West lives in Purgatory, er, Florida, with her books and her hedgehog Horatio. When she’s not writing, she’s reading other people’s books, studying folklore, or binge-watching something on Netflix—drinking coffee is also a given.

You can find her online in these places:

Blog: http://hazelwest.blogspot.com

Writing blog: http://talesfromamodernbard.blogspot.com

Twitter GoodreadsYoutube | Pinterest

My Review

bloodtiescoverfront copyBlood Ties

by Hazel B. West

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for my honest review, and all opinions are my own.

5 stars

This book contains, among other things: awesome characters galore, brothers by blood and by bond, friendship, bickering (oh, the bickering!), quests, Irish warriors with fast cars and swords, a few fairies, a lot of goblins (in black leather, of course), a lot of epic fight scenes, muffins, and knitting; all wrapped up in a modern Ireland with an alternate history, keeping all of the awesomeness of medieval times, and one foot in modern times for all the cool things we have now, like cell phones and laptops and movies and cars.

I really don’t see why anyone would need any reasons beyond that to read it . . . but I shall continue, in any case, since I’ll take any excuse to fangirl over this delightful book. 😉

My two favorite things: the setting and the friendships.

It perfectly blends a modern Irish setting with medieval warrior clans and a dash of Faerie, which may sound like an odd mix, but it WORKS. I was simply in love with this world! Like… aside from the danger, can I just live there, please? I really enjoyed getting to learn more about the setting and how it all fit together. The whole thing came so alive for me! I don’t usually read much modern fiction, but I loved this — so even if you’re not one for a contemporary setting, this one’s still worth giving a try!

Just the idea of these Irish warriors, who are a mix of medieval and modern, descendants of Finn Mac Cool, still working for a High King of Ireland; and being part Fae as the hero and the other Fianna are, they have faster reflexes and more instincts; they’re basically like ninjas, only cooler and faster and Irish. (Our narrator, Ciran, even mentions that it’s been proven that ninjas can’t beat them. XD How cool is that?)

It’s so fun how the characters will one moment be in a motorbike/car chase with some goblins, the next having a sword fight, and the next be hanging out at home at their castle with a brother, eating ice cream and cheese balls and watching a movie late at night . . . and then off on an epic journey across the rolling green hills of Ireland, having to watch out for the tricks of the Fae. I just love it! The mix is a ton of fun.

The characters leapt off the page. They are all awesome and I am very fond of them! *hugs them all* They’re mostly teens (or early twenties) and a fabulous bunch. Their interactions and dialog and how they bounce off each other and fight and make friends is just wonderful. It’s the best.

Our hero Ciran, who is awesome and my favorite; his best friend Tierney (their relationship is the best!); Caitlin, a warrior maiden who is both maiden and warrior and not stuck up about it, and goodnatured, who I loved a ton; Deaglan, lady’s man and archer and always with perfect hair; Riordan the very calm (licensed!) Berserker who knits; and his flashy troublemaker little brother Keevan. Then of course there’s High King Eamon, who is simply fabulous; and his captain of the guard/best friend Killian — the antics of those two together, especially, simply had me in stitches with laughter. But all of them together were so great!

I loved the relationships in this book so much. Family is very strong, but also friendship. The main theme is one of brotherhood — whether they be sword brothers or brothers born. This best-friend buddies kind of story is one of my favorites, and for sheer amount of awesome bro-ness, it’s likely the best I’ve ever read. The love of family, brothers, friends, and what they’d all do for each other, while teasing and fighting a bit… I just LOVED it! ^_^

I’m not the biggest fan of books told in first person, so it’s a high compliment coming from me that I loved how this story was written, and the narrator, Ciran, is my favorite character of all. I just loved his dry witty way of putting things. Seeing the story through his eyes was awesome. I love his determination and how he tried his hardest and learned to be a leader. Just… Ciran! He’s great. 🙂

The book also has a more serious and darker side to it, with some deeper themes and emotions, touching on family, loyalty, betrayal, coming of age — it’s about a group of mostly teenage warriors, after all! The content is clean, although sensitive readers might want to know there’s mention of torture; and of course a bunch of fighting, because that’s a given with this sort of epic adventure. 😉 On that note, I have to make a special mention of the fight sequences — sword fights and otherwise — which were amazingly well written! I could see them all so well. The fight descriptions and the humorous bantering dialog attest to this author’s skill.

I’ll admit that from the way it started out, I expected it to have more emphasis on the modern aspect, like in a city… with roads and things; and on the specific friendship between the hero and his best friend, Tierney. But that relationship, while still present, fell somewhat in the background with the onset of several other (awesome) characters and all of their interactions, and once the story got underway, it was much more a medieval fantasy adventure quest type of thing (though the modern showed its head from time to time). But all of that is right up my alley, so although I expected something a little different, you will definitely not find me complaining. 😉

Do I have any complaints, then? Mainly that I wish it wasn’t over and need the next one!

Overall: I definitely recommend Blood Ties! I loved this book and just want to hug it, and/or go live there, and I’m excitedly awaiting the sequel! (It’s going to be from Eamon’s point of view and I could. not. be. more. excited. EEP! When is that releasing, again??) I can’t wait to return to this world! ❤

Excerpt From Blood Ties

There was a moment when I couldn’t quite believe the fact I was grappling on the brink of a waterfall just like in an overblown action movie, but yet there I was and Keevan wasn’t far behind, still facing off with the same Goblin he had been before, who was pressing him hard. I couldn’t see where Tierney and Caitlin were because I was a bit too busy for that at the moment, but hoped they were not in as precarious a position as I was or worse.

There was a sudden yell and, forgoing all training I had ever had, I looked over with concern to see Keevan slipping off his rock and falling down with the rushing water, the Goblin he had been fighting going with him.

I would have screamed for him, even knowing it wouldn’t have done anything, but I was suddenly slammed in the face by the hilt of my opponent’s sword. I teetered back on the precipice but gained my balance just before I received another strike that knocked the sword out of my wet hand. I kicked out at the Goblin, but he caught my leg and I knew then, with horror, that this was it. He grinned, knowing as well, and I flailed my arms as he pressed me back. The only thing I could do now was take him with me, but I didn’t even get that chance.

Have a nice swim, Finar,” the Goblin said with a jeer, before he let me go and I fell backwards.

It wouldn’t have been terrible, but for the fact that halfway down I slammed into the side of the cliff, smashing up my side, and by the time I hit the freezing water, well, I hardly remembered the impact enough to tell about it.

— Blood Ties by Hazel B. West

Giveaway

(Rafflecopters notoriously do not show up well on WordPress blogs, it seems, but here’s the link and you can also go to Hazel’s blog to find it. :))

a Rafflecopter giveaway