Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publisher: Blue Box Press

Synopsis:

Is Love Stronger Than Vengeance? A Betrayal… Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her. A Choice…. Casteel Da’Neer is known by many names and many faces. His lies are as seductive as his touch. His truths as sensual as his bite. Poppy knows better than to trust him. He needs her alive, healthy, and whole to achieve his goals. But he’s the only way for her to get what she wants—to find her brother Ian and see for herself if he has become a soulless Ascended. Working with Casteel instead of against him presents its own risks. He still tempts her with every breath, offering up all she’s ever wanted. Casteel has plans for her. Ones that could expose her to unimaginable pleasure and unfathomable pain. Plans that will force her to look beyond everything she thought she knew about herself—about him. Plans that could bind their lives together in unexpected ways that neither kingdom is prepared for. And she’s far too reckless, too hungry, to resist the temptation. A Secret… But unrest has grown in Atlantia as they await the return of their Prince. Whispers of war have become stronger, and Poppy is at the very heart of it all. The King wants to use her to send a message. The Descenters want her dead. The wolven are growing more unpredictable. And as her abilities to feel pain and emotion begin to grow and strengthen, the Atlantians start to fear her. Dark secrets are at play, ones steeped in the blood-drenched sins of two kingdoms that would do anything to keep the truth hidden. But when the earth begins to shake, and the skies start to bleed, it may already be too late.

Review:

Let me start off by saying this, I really enjoyed From Blood and Ash, the first book in Armentrout’s new series, but this next installment missed the mark. The author crammed tons of page-turning action into the beginning and end of A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire. I could feel the external conflict, such as the Craven and the Ascended, which I enjoyed, but the drawn-out conversations and steamy sex scenes overshadowed these threats. The plot dragged for over 400 pages. Literally 400 pages. 

Poppy’s internal struggle and Casteel’s constant doting left me rolling my eyes. It was too much. I love a good sex scene, but this book had so many I started skimming the pages. At times, I wondered if Armentrout abandoned her attempt at adult fantasy and switched gears to romance. 

The endless conversations and repetitive sentences bored me to pieces, and the ending, though exciting and jaw-dropping, felt rushed. Speaking of the ending, Casteel’s actions felt out of character. An overprotective prince who never lets Poppy out of his sight because he fears for her safety around his own people, suddenly lets her explore his homeland with a young wolven who lacks combat experience. Huh? Come again?

Overall, I struggled with this book because of the stark difference in the writing from the first installment. I’m always here for a new adventure, but it lacked in action and pacing. I do love Armentrout’s writing style and her witty banter. The woman knows how to tell a story. Perhaps she’s still getting her feet wet with adult fantasy. I'm definitely willing to give the next book in this series a shot because I have so many unanswered questions about Poppy’s lineage.

Readers: A fun read for those who love romance, character-driven books, internal struggles, and steamy sex scenes.

Writers: For those who need more experience writing sex scenes, witty banter, and relationship strife.

Triggers/Warnings: adult language, explicit sex scenes, violent and graphic scenes


Grading Scale:

Plot: 3/5

Pacing: 2/5

Escapism Factor: 3/5

Emotional Connection: 3/5

Character Development: 4/5

Star Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️

Completed Read: 10/26/2020


Author: S.A. Chakraborty

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Synopsis:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, and a mysterious gift for healing—are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive. 

But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.


In Daevabad, within gilded brass walls laced with enchantments and behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments run deep. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, her arrival threatens to ignite a war that has been simmering for centuries. 

Spurning Dara’s warning of the treachery surrounding her, she embarks on a hesitant friendship with Alizayd, an idealistic prince who dreams of revolutionizing his father’s corrupt regime. All too soon, Nahri learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. 

After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for . . .

Review:

“A delicious debut that blew my mind in the best way possible.” J.M. Buckler, author of the Seeker of Time series


I started listening to this book on Audible. My mistake. The narrator had a soothing voice, but her execution fell flat. She made Nahri and Ali sound whinny, immature. I was very close to putting the book down for good, but a fellow reader encouraged me to continue the story with the physical copy. What a difference! It hooked me after a few pages. I couldn’t put it down.


Chakraborty is a magician with words. Her vivid details transported me to Daevabad. I found my mouth watering because of her delicious descriptions of Indian cuisine. I had a strong connection with each character. The world-building in the novel is mind-blowing. I see why it got picked up by television producers. I can’t wait to see this series come to life.


Chakraborty writes with powerful emotions and stunning imagery that draws the reader into her novel. Yes, it is a dense book, and I struggled with the pronunciation of names and locations. This is one you don’t rush to finish. You savor each sentence on every page. It’s a work of art.


The author’s pacing was fantastic. Each character had his/her own voice. I didn’t need to read the tags to know who was speaking.


Overall, I adored this book. I loved everything about it.


Readers: perfect for those who enjoy high fantasy, Indian culture, plot twists, subtle romance, memorable characters, and beautiful world-building


Writers: perfect for those looking to elevate their craft. Chakraborty’s series teaches a variety of sentence structures, rich description, world-building, swordplay, believable dialogue, escapism, and emotional showing vs telling.


Triggers/Warnings: some adult language, graphic scenes that some may find disturbing


Grading Scale:

Plot: 5/5

Pacing: 4/5

Escapism Factor: 5/5

Emotional Connection: 5/5

Character Development: 5/5


Star Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Completed Read: 8/31/2020


Author: R.F. Kaung

Publisher: Harper Voyager


Synopsis:

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.


But surprises aren’t always good.


Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.


For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .


Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

Review:

“Morally grey characters clash with power-hungry gods in this epic debut.” J.M. Buckler, award-winning author of the Seeker of Time series.

Kaung doesn’t just deliver her readers a handful of morally grey characters, she delivers them a story of epic proportions. Ren, an orphan raised by opium dealers, goes from an externally meek young woman to a badass warrior. No, she didn’t always make the best decisions, and honestly, I’m concerned she’ll go down a destructive path in the next book, but damn, Kaung made me feel her struggles. And let’s not forget about Altan. His internal demons made my stomach churn.

The pacing was fantastic, and the dialogue flowed beautifully. Author Kaung’s writing kept the pages turning. I cared deeply for the characters. I wanted them to succeed and my heart broke when they failed. I loved the balance between action and quiet conversations. On a personal level, one scene rubbed me the wrong way. Eastern culture has taught spiritual students that once they reach a level of enlightenment, negative emotions and desires such as vengeance and attachment dissolved. This was not the case for Ren. It was the opposite. Her 180-degree turn in the book felt out of character. The theme of self-discovery quickly switched to brutal vengeance.

This is NOT a book for the faint-hearted. Kaung pulled graphic, disturbing historical references from The Rape of Nanking. One chapter, in particular, revisits that horrible time period in vivid detail.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading the second book in the series.

Readers: Excellent for those who love a healthy mixture of character/plot-driven books, fast-paced action, morally grey characters, and military strategy.

Writers: Excellent for those who need guidance with pacing, battle scenes, military strategy, dialogue, morbid descriptions, and world-building.

Warnings/Triggers: adult language, self-harm, self-sterilization, graphic imagery, drug abuse, sexual assault/rape. Veterans suffering from PTSD may find certain scenes disturbing.

Grading Scale:

Plot: 4/5

Pacing: 4/5

Escapism Factor: 3/5

Emotional Connection: 3/5

Character Development: 3/5

Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Completed Read: 10/11/2020

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