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: "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: "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.

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: 'Into the Darkness' by A. M. Rycroft

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Aeryne Ravane, a sword for hire, has been on a mission to discover the treasures of the deceased hero Tynan Selvantyr. Having been raised on his tales, Aeryne is excited to explore The Black Caverns and learn her hero's secrets; but the treasures contained therein are so much more than gold as she discovers even heroes have their deadly secrets.

This book is more about the journey than the result, in my opinion. Aeryne meets a young thief, the ghost of her hero, a vampire, and magic priests on her quest to defeat evil and come to terms with her past. Clocking in at 467 pages, the final climactic battle is around the 400 page mark. I did enjoy watching the main party of this sword and sorcery novel come together and grow as a group, the settings are well described and fun (or scary when applicable) to read; but there were points that had me muttering the dreaded "are we there yet" because I wanted the bad guy to get what was coming to him. It began to drag towards the middle there, but it picked up and it was worth reading through to the end.

All in all, Into the Darkness is a pretty cool book with some interesting characters. Everyone is fallible and real, and the story is overall fun if you enjoy these types of fantasy novels.