Lenni Reviews: "The Obsidian Temple" (Desert Rising 2) by Kelley Grant

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

In the sequel to Desert Rising, Sulis travels to the Obsidian Temple to fulfill her destiny as part of a group charged with rejoining the gods with The One. Along with her friend Ava, she must learn the complicated moves and energy work to perform the ritual. Meanwhile, her twin brother, Kadar, is drawn up in a revolution as the Forsaken cast is fed up with being treated like slaves or worse. But the gods are not willing to let the Forsaken go or give up their power and are willing to wage war to keep what's theirs.

Sulis continues to be a strong character but to be honest, this book spent too much time on the training parts only to get to the good stuff towards the ending. I understand this was meant to be a trilogy and plot-wise, it is more realistic for the chosen ones to need to practice rather than to just be perfect from the beginning; but it made for a slow read. The inter-cutting of the Forsaken rebellion did bring up the pace, however.

Overall a great read. I'm ready to jump right into the next one. 4 out of 5. 

Lenni Reviews: “Markswoman” by Rati Mehrotra

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

After her first mark, newly initiated Markswoman Kyra lives to avenge the death of her clan. But her duties to the order of Kali take precedence as she tragically loses her mentor to what is obviously murder. Kyra embarks on a quest to expose the traitor in her order and bring them to justice.

I am honestly shocked this is marketed as YA but I loved reading this book. Kyra manages to be both determined but inexperienced without pandering or getting annoying. The fantasy world building is tight without a bunch of info dumps and the action is badass. I especially liked that Kyra’s journey is chosen instead of forced. She elects to go; not cast out.

The ending kinda felt a little bit of a copout as well as a cliffhanger but I am SO down for the sequel. 3.9 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Sinless" by Sarah Tarkoff

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

Grace lives in a world where your sins are physically manifest on your body. Pretty people are good and bad people have been punished with physical deformities and are ostracised from society until they earn forgiveness. When she encounters a boy seemingly immune to Punishment, it starts a chain of events forcing her to face some rather ugly truths about the world she lives it.

While an awesome concept, it feels immature in execution. About halfway through the book, Grace comes off to me as stumbling over the line between "flawed character" and "spoiled brat" so I found her hard to relate to; even as a YA novel. As things go on, (spoiler maybe??) she turns into the Queen of Being Kidnapped as this happens WAY too often in order to get her to the next plot point. 

It's a good thing this is essentially told by an older character because I am way more interested in adult Grace than teenage Grace. I almost want to read the next one with that want in mind. Despite not being thrilled with the protagonist, I still wanted to know what happened next enough to read through to the end. 2.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Blood Borne" by Archer Kay Leah

*This review was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

Ress is cornered between two opposing factions while all he wants is a quiet life with his family. Arden is trapped by duty to the Shar-denn and the orders to hunt down Ress for betraying them yet Arden finds the growing feelings for Ress may outweigh the task.

Setting aside how fucking confusing the pronouns for a nonbinary/gender queer character (Arden) are without knowing them before you start this book and think they are typos, it is the characters that make this book. The writing makes them come alive but the rest? I sadly found it tiresome. Boring isn't quite the word because I made it through the book without my mind fogging and my eyes glazing over but if what made the impact is the new pronouns making me feel like an out of touch old geezer, then something is missing. Not bad, took a chance with a character like Arden which needs to happen more, but ultimately a 3.5.

Lenni Reviews: "Fire" (The Ninth Circle #1) by C.A. Harland

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

This book follows the adventures of Tala and Aiva Morgenstern as they search for their missing sister, Hartley, in a world filled with magic and demons.

The way this flows is just like episodes of a TV show; absolutely riffing off Buffy, Angel, or Supernatural. If you like those shows and want some fastpaced urban fantasy, this isn't half bad. I don't wanna give away too much since there's a lot going on. Sometimes the writing felt forced; trying too hard to be badass but overall, it's a fun read. A bit gory but hey, there's demon killing happening so that's to be expected. 3.4 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Witch Creek" by Laura Bickle

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

Petra's husband, Gabriel, has gone missing and despite her body being currently ravaged by chemotherapy and cancer, she devotes her remaining days to finding him by any means necessary, even going so far as to adventure into the underworld.

There is a lot going on in this book. Aside for Petra, there's a coverup about Gabriel's disappearance, wolf clans, a mermaid seeking revenge for her imprisonment, a long lost son, a whole bunch of stuff. But it is cool stuff. We have a diverse cast of characters who meet up by chance, fun action, and interesting magic. I had a good time reading this but it didn't leave much of an impact after it was done. 3.8 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Ashes to Fire" by Emily B. Martin

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

In an attempt to bring peace, Queen Mona agrees to meet with the man who cost her her kingdom and many of her friends, King Celeno. But instead of diplomacy, Queen Mona ends up on the run after her ship is blown up and she is kidnapped along with Celeno's wife, Queen Gemma.

Despite being the second book in a series, enough details are filled in so you understand why things are the way they are and Martin includes these details well, without getting bogged down in clunky exposition. The cast of varied personalities all play off each other and the plot twists and turns like spinning poi (a reference you will understand when you read the book, which you should) making this a page-turning adventure. I can't speak to how well this fits in with the first book in the series but I can say I am absolutely looking forward to the next one! 3.8 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Crossing in Time" by D.L. Orton and Micah McDonald

This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated for 18+

Geneticist Isabel is given a once in a lifetime chance; to go back in time and get a second chance with her lover, Diego. But this is for much more than just love as their relationship may hold the key to saving humanity from mass extinction.

Now, I know one would think that knowing me and my other reviews; a "time travel, dystopian romance" would not only have my eyes rolling out of my head but send me into Serena's Plight levels of anger. Neither of these happened. I LOVED this book.

Isabel and Diego are both whip-smart, strong brave characters and there were precious few moments in the plot where I doubted they were anything else. And while their relationship takes center stage, supporting characters like Matt are quick witted, kind, and funny. All of them have such chemistry I didn't want to leave them (and I will be getting the next books in the series).

The time travel bits can get confusing and part of me doesn't want to believe anyone could accidentally set off a nuke (but with how things are with a president who tweets unintelligible typos, it seems sadly likely) but overall, this story had even a cynic like me believing that one relationship could mean saving the world. 4.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Drakon Book I: The Sieve" by C.A. Caskabel

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

Da-Ren appears on the doorstep of Castel Monastery demanding the monks redeem the lives of his wife and daughter. Despite being a barbarian, a pagan, and infidel in their eyes, the monks let him on the island where they are tasked with transcribing the warrior's story.

This book is the story of Da-Ren's first trials of training in a gauntlet his tribe calls The Sieve; a series of grueling life or death tests that had me legit wondering if this tribe just runs out of kids at some point. But my stupid jokes aside, this is the type of dark fantasy that's depressing but written in such a visceral and lyrical manner that it's almost hypnotic. It's written in the style of most sweeping epics, so it's not dumbed down or flinch from the gore. You can't help but get invested in Da-Ren and his world and though the book only covers the first part of his training and you know more is to home, the cliffhanger doesn't feel jarring enough to not seek out the next installment; which I will definitely be doing. If you like dark fantasy, this is a fantastic installment. A welcome 4.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "The Edge of the Blade" by Jeffe Kennedy

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated for 18+

Elite warrior, scout, and spy Jepp is lethal with her blades and her tongue so when she is selected for a diplomatic mission as an ambassador to a country where women are wives or sex slaves, she finds remaining docile and subservient more challenging than anything she's faced before. But she must gather information on how big of a threat this foreign king may be and return alive without starting a war. Oh, and she's sleeping with the king's son; Prince Kral... Who has a wife.

Jepp is a cool character. You get a great sense of who she is from the smart writing and enjoy the story from her perspective. She's smart, tough, and funny; you could see yourself chilling at the bar with her despite the fact she would drink you under the table.

While containing romantic and erotic elements, the way this book is structured made them feel like a legitimate part of the story instead of the plot grinding to a halt so the main characters can bone. There is genuine peril and intrigue with high stakes in a well written and constructed fantasy world. I haven't read the first book (it may have given me some deeper context into some character relationships but it's not necessary) but the story is so interesting, I'd be excited to follow to the next book. It's obvious Jepp and the Uncharted Realms world have plenty more stories to tell. 4.5 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Windsinger" by A. F. E. Smith

Mirrorvale has long stood in a precarious 'truce' with the surrounding kingdoms; held together with the fear of the changers. Now not only overload but a mother, Ayla Nightshade attempts to broker a formal peace treaty with an ambassador from the neighboring kingdom of Sol Kardis. After one day of hard negotiations, the ambassador is found dead. Suspected of murder, the race in on to prove Ayla's innocence and prevent all out war.

Across the the three books (this is the third Darkhaven novel) the writing quality, world building, and character depth has been consistently entertaining and well executed. The build up is slow to a rip-roaring climax; leaving plenty of time to be intrigued and entertained. The characters are especially interesting in this outing, with even the side characters having story arcs ramping up several times to push them to the limit and end up with some great development. It can seem a little trivial in the grander scheme of things but it was good to get to know them.

I do hesitate to give away too much and end up spoiling some pretty major plot points. Suffice it to say I am loving this series and hope to see more. 4.7 out of 5.

Press Release: "Windsinger" by A. F. E. Smith

Having  read and reviewed the first two in this series, I am super excited for the next installment! :D Here's the summary from the author:

"Ayla Nightshade prepares to meet with the Kardise ambassador to sign a treaty between Mirrorvale and Sol Kardis. However, negotiations are halted as the ambassador is discovered dead in his chambers, poisoned by the same bottle of taransey he and Ayla had shared the night before.

Ayla has been framed for murder and the peace between two kingdoms is at stake. Tomas Caraway and his Helmsmen must rush to prove her innocence before war destroys all they have fought for.

Along the way they discover the plans for a Parovian airship, the Windsinger, which reveal a chamber designed for a special cargo: a living one.

Together Ayla and Tomas set out to uncover their real enemies – a search that will lead them closer to home than they ever anticipated."

I am starting this book today and with the power of friendship I hope to have a review up for you guys before then! :D

Lenni Reviews: "Oria’s Gambit" by Jeffe Kennedy

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+

With her kingdom, Bara, captured by the Destrye, Oria gambles on a marriage with the conquering leader; Lonen. Since Bara is ruled by magic, the highly powerful and sensitive Oria takes a huge risk in marrying Lonen since he cannot use magic and Bara has never had a non-magic using ruler. The main reason for this gamble is Oria's cruel and despotic brother, Yar; who may likely begin another war despite the peace her kingdom has just attained.

Having not read the first part, there is enough here to make you understand there was a brutal war and that our main pair would like to spare their respective kingdoms any further bloodshed. Oria and Lonen are well developed enough and the writing is competent enough for you to get emotionally invested enough to want them to succeed. But the book does spend a great deal of time meandering around Lonen and Oria's obvious attraction to one another and their hope to overcome Oria's inability to even touch Lonen without her magic causing her pain. The pacing lost it's sense of urgency when the book spends so much time on the romance. The love story didn't distract from the major fantasy elements but once Yar came back into the picture, I felt the characters should have spent less time making gooily eyes and more time getting ready.

Don't get me wrong; Lonen and Oria have good chemistry and the overall story kept me interested enough to not only finish it but to want to know what happens in the next installment. If you like fantasy in your romance, this isn't a bad offering despite being pretty short and ending on a cliffhanger. 3.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "The Deadbringer" by E. M. Markoff

Kira Vidal is a Deadbringer, possessing the ability to summon souls and raise the dead. Likely the last of his kind, this fifteen year old boy hides his abilities while living with his uncle. In order to live in peace, he has to keep out of reach of the Ascendancy and their elite soldiers called the Sanctifiers; who are charged with the mission of killing all Deadbringers. When a stranger shows up at their door asking for help, Kira's secret is exposed and he must protect his uncle while learning the truth behind his powers.

The world-building done in this novel is accomplished by dumping you in and wishing you luck yet at the same time it's immersive enough for you to get lost in it. There are a lot of interesting and distinct characters and while some may fall into typical fantasy tropes (like the mysterious counsel of evil hidden in shadow, climactic battle at a wall with ground troops, horned people, etc...), they all managed to get into my head clearly so I stayed interested throughout the entire book. At times the conversations lagged or got bogged down in WAY more complicated words than necessary; the narrative meandered off on occasion but once the story centered on Kira and his journey, this novel shined. Even with the cliffhanger ending (Arrgh! Where's the next one!!!), I ended this book feeling like I had a good time. As a fan of dark fantasy, I give this story a 3.5 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Elixir: A Changeling P.I. Novel" by Ruth Vincent

Mabily Jones is an intern for a private eye after being tricked into human form by the Fairy Queen. Obadiah Savage sells bootleg Elixir to humans looking to get high. Thrown together when they are accused of a crime they didn't commit, the pair must travel to the Fairy realm to clear their names.

This book was pretty fun. Mab is as capable as she can be as a human with no powers against fairies. The romance between her and Obadiah is predicable but the way the story plays out between Mabily and the Fairy Queen was creative and unexpected. Mabily is a relatable character and while I enjoyed her, the while book seemed very light and simple. If you're looking for fantasy with fairies that doesn't get too dark, this is a good example of it. This felt more like a YA novel; teasing at the darkness but playing it safe. As I'm used to darker fantasy, it left me wanting but the story is fun and interesting; leaving me wanting to know what could happen next. 3.7 out of 5.

For more of Lenni's reviews, check out Haunting Hypatia.

Lenni Reviews: Goldenfire by A. F. E. Smith

**Warning: This review may contain spoilers for book one; "Darkhaven" reviewed here.**

In this sequel to "Darkhaven," Ayla Nightshade is adjusting to being the new overlord of Mirrorvale, and being able to freely transform into her changer self; a fire-winged alicorn. She also has settled into her relationship with Tomas Caraway; the infamous Breakblade who is now a hero for saving Ayla's life in the first book. The conflict here is an assassin has been sent to kill Ayla and the secret that pistols can harm changers has managed to leak from the walls of Mirrorvale. Since Tomas is currently accepting new recruits into the Helm, the assassin could be among them.

Like the first book, this story revolves around the hunt for the true identity of a killer. Despite the repeated theme, the tension, character development, and pacing are well worth the read. In this second installment, we learn more about the cities surrounding Mirrorvale, the nature of changers, and the impact of guns being introduced into a fantastical, steampunkish (because there's airships and airships = steampunk, apparently). In addition, many books in a series get sappy and annoying when the romantic interests finally pair off but not here. The relationship between Ayla and Tomas is there but it doesn't take over or drag down the plot. It was refreshing to see the couple still retain their individuality, face conflict in their relationship, yet still remain a united force.

When the assassin is revealed and everything is wrapped up, it feels satisfying for the journey is took to get there. Each character's weaknesses and strengths are faced with grace in a well-built fantasy world and the concepts brought forth - such as the use of alchemy - leave the potential for interesting story avenues in the future. If there is a third novel in this series; I look forward to reading it.

If you like detailed world-building, fantasy creatures, and intriguing assassination plots, you will enjoy this book.

Check out Lenni’s site at atthequillsmercy.com

Lenni Reviews: Clashing Tempest by Brandon Witt

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This book by Brandon Witt may be superficially marketed as 'gay fiction,' it is more like a sprawling fantasy where some of the characters just happen to be gay. This is also the third in a series called Men of Myth.

If you are coming to this book looking for some man-love fluff piece, you will be disappointed. Prepare to get invested in the fantasy of this world. There are merpeople, werewolves, vampires, and witches; which all have a unique take on the mythos of each species. Since I haven't read the first two, I cannot tell you how the story arcs connect from them but I can tell you that the arcs built up in this book are lovingly and fantastically done and carried to the end with enjoyable creativity. Witt's writing will immerse you in this world to the point where you will feel damp swimming with mers or in deep trouble with the vampires. 

The characters can get a tad whiny sometimes and on a personal note I found myself skipping the smutty scenes to get back to the main conflict of the story (yes, be aware there's hot stuff in this book). But that's just me. I found the fantasy riveting enough. However, if you do want an interesting LGBT fantasy that doesn't drive the plot with smut, Witt does a great job. Totally worth 450 pages.

 

Cant get enough of Lenni's writing? Check out her site At The Quills Mercy.

Lenni Reviews: Darkhaven by A. F. E. Smith

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In this dark fantasy by A.F.E. Smith, we meet brother and sister Ayla and Myrren, heirs to the Nightshade family throne. But they are not a regular royal family; but a family of shifters. Accused of attacking someone, the novel opens with Ayla fleeing the city, but things quickly become much more sinister when their father is murdered and Ayla stands accused as the last shifter remaining in her kingdom. She must prove her innocence and come to terms with the fact she may not be the only remaining shifter in the city.

Darkhaven is a book that hooks you in from the first page. You are plunged right into this world in the thick of the plot and keeps you tense and curious right up to the last page. And as this is a dark fantasy, there is a general somber feeling even when talking to a regular citizen of the city. I enjoyed experiencing this adventure with these characters; as they are interesting, conflicted, intelligently written, and grow with the story.

The end is wrapped up a little too easily in a rather messy bow; but with all the intrigue you are left wondering what the fate will be for the kingdom and the Nightshade line now. The way the shifter's abilities are handled is creative and quite beautiful and the limits imposed on this power are reasonable. If you like your fantasy with a bit of mystery, you will like this book.

Lenni writes more than reviews! Check out her site here.

Lenni Reviews: Veiled Empire by Nathan Garrison

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Sinking your teeth into a rich fantasy world can be like taking medicine or eating a decadent dessert. Veiled Empire by Nathan Garrison is most definitely the latter. You take the first bite and, wow. This world is well crafted, tense, beautiful, and of course filled with magic. 

The number of different races, characters, and places had me bouncing from text to glossary and my inability to remember large numbers of characters was blatantly apparent (why I never could finish Game of Thrones), but the gist of it all is The Empire is at war with rebels who are tired of magic only being for the ruling class and subjugating everyone else. The plot of this sword and sorcery epic (clocks in at 550 pages) is finely woven and smartly executed with battles that call back to Lord of the Rings; vivid and exciting. As it is the case with these types of novels, the ending is satisfying yet open and you want to know more. 

Over all, this book is a wicked ride and I had a lot of fun reading it. If sword and sorcery fantasy epics are your speed,  you will not be disappointed. If there ever is more, I'll be on the lookout for it!

This title will be released on July 7, 2015.

Lenni Reviews: Desert Rising by Kelly Grant

This novel introduces twins Sulis and Kadar on their way to the city of Illian from their desert home. Once there, Kadar begins apprenticing as a merchant and his sister Sulis joins the local temple to gods her people don't worship and with people who are prejudiced against those who come from the desert. Spurred on by the legacy of her now deceased mother, Sulis is bonded to a feli; giant sacred cats who help them communicate with their gods, and begins to unravel a conspiracy and oncoming war between the four gods of the temple. The novel also follows Kadar, poised on the brink of revolution with the Forsaken class in the city who are tired of being treated like chattel.

This novel is a marvelous piece of sprawling fantasy. Kelly Grant has solid world building skills and each character is unique and fleshed out in creative ways. Sulis is a great character and an excellent example of a strong female character in a fantasy setting. When she arrives at the temple and she's the outcast, she makes no attempt to hide who she is and what she knows. Her brother, Kadar, and the conflict he gets embroiled in, is thankfully as interesting as Sulis' so when you're switched between them, you stay interested in both stories. As the novel goes on, they do intersect in creative ways.

Unfortunately, the novel ends on a cliffhanger. I was flying through this book and while I enjoyed it, I felt I didn't get the pay off I wanted from all the build up in the book. I get that this is to get you to buy the second one but since this book isn't due out in paperback until May 26th, 2015, I have the feeling it's going to be a year before I get to see what happens next! Not fair, darnit...

Kelly Grant has a great world going here and I'm anxious to see where it goes. If you like magic, warring gods, and giant cats, you will enjoy this book.