I’ve got two bite-sized reviews for you today, both fantasies! I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
Series: Royal Bastards #2
Also in this series: Royal Bastards
Published by Disney-Hyperion on June 5, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: YA (Characters have sex but it's not shown, Some violence and drinking)
Tilla, bastard of House Kent, has it made. Safe from her murderous father in the dazzling capital of Lightspire, she lives a life of luxury under the protection of the Volaris King, alongside her boyfriend Zell and best friend, Princess Lyriana.
So why isn’t she happy? Maybe it’s the whispers and stares that follow her wherever she goes, as the daughter of the traitor waging war against Lightspire. Or maybe it’s the memories of her beloved brother, Jax, who lies cold in his grave even as she tries to settle into a life in the city's prestigious University.
Then, Tilla stumbles upon the body of a classmate, a friend. The authorities are quick to rule it a suicide and sweep it under the rug, but when Tilla herself is attacked by a mysterious man with terrifying powers, she’s convinced of a conspiracy. Her friends beg her to stay silent; what she's suggesting is impossible... and treasonous.
But Tilla can't, won't, let it go. And the deeper she digs, the more questions she uncovers. How is the West beating the supposedly invincible Lightspire Mages in battle? Is it connected to the shadowy cult wreaking havoc in Lightspire? Nothing is as it seems in the glorious capital, and Tilla’s presence might just be the spark that sets the Kingdom aflame.
One thing that I LOVE about this series is that it isn’t told from the perspective of the “special snowflake” or the “Chosen One.” Really, when I think about it, this series would normally be told from the POV of Princess Lyriana—not only a princess, but also a powerful mage. Or even Zell, a Zitochi warrior who can fight and win pretty much any battle. But, no, the story is told through Tilla’s eyes—and there is literally nothing special about her except she happens to be the bastard daughter of the man who’s trying to overthrow the king. She gets caught up in the whirlwind of the revolution and can’t escape. Amazing things are happening all around her: powerful magic, revolutionary plotting and intrigue, massive battles, but she’s still just a regular girl. So it’s sort of a sign of Shvarts’s genius that we are enthralled with Tilla anyway. Tilla is strong and intelligent, and she stands on her own in a world that could easily overshadow her.
Anyway, this book was maybe a smidge less action-packed than the first, but it still kept me interested the whole way through. I love Shvarts’s humorous style—a fantasy that makes me laugh is the best! These books aren’t rich, epic fantasy—they’re lighter overall—but I enjoy that occasionally. In the end, this sequel hit the spot (avoiding the dreaded middle-book syndrome), and I’m eager for the finale to this trilogy!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman
Series: The Elementals #1
Published by HarperCollins on March 27, 2018
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
My content rating: Middle Grade
Everyone in Vallen knows that ice wolves and scorch dragons are sworn enemies who live deeply separate lives.
So when twelve-year-old orphan Anders takes one elemental form and his twin sister, Rayna, takes another, he wonders whether they are even related. Still, whether or not they’re family, Rayna is Anders’s only true friend. She’s nothing like the brutal, cruel dragons who claimed her as one of their own and stole her away.
In order to rescue her, Anders must enlist at the foreboding Ulfar Academy, a school for young wolves that values loyalty to the pack above all else. But for Anders, loyalty is more complicated than obedience, and friendship is the most powerful shapeshifting force of all.
NOTE: This series is actually just called ELEMENTALS, but since I already had a series with that title on my blog, it messed things up, so I just had to add “The” to it so the books would show up properly. Sorry for any confusion!
I had high hopes for Kafuman’s newest, even though it was a departure for her: a middle grade fantasy. I actually ended up reading the first 50 pages while in line at her signing with Jay Kristoff (it was a long line), and I was thoroughly pleased with the engaging storyline. But then I had quite a few review books I needed to read, so I ended up putting this book aside for awhile and picking it up again over a month later. This could have spelled doom for the book—usually if I set a book down for so long, it sort of ruins the flow—but in this case, I was no less excited about the book when I started reading again. That, in itself is a ringing endorsement!
Anyway, this book ended up being a really fun middle grade fantasy, filled with shape-shifting dragons (and wolves!) and a whole lot of adventure! Sure, it had a few predictable elements, but I was engaged with the story and the characters were fun and well-developed. We had a little bit of mystery, a few nice revelations, and an MC you couldn’t help but love (as a mom, I just wanted to give the kid a hug!). I’m excited to keep reading this series!