Review: Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

A Kindle rests on a white marble table. A white pumpkin is to its left. A package of pumpkin chai tea sits to its right. A lit Sweater Weather candle sits above it.

Alexis:

I adored Divine Rivals...and yes, it did emotionally destroy me.

Divine Rivals is an upper YA/NA historical fantasy novel that follows two main characters. Iris Winnow is a new journalist at a newspaper called the Oath Gazette. Roman Kitt is her rival—a fellow journalist who is competing against her for a promotion as a columnist. 

But after centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again, and Iris’ own brother, Forest, has joined the armed forces of one of the gods. Iris, who is worried sick about him, writes him letters. But Iris doesn’t know where her brother is. All she knows is that her letters magically disappear when she slips them underneath her wardrobe door. 

What she also doesn’t know is that Roman is the one receiving them, and then he begins anonymously answering her letters. 

THIS BOOK. I’ve always loved Ross’ writing style. I’ve read both A River Enchanted and Dreams Lie Beneath and enjoyed both of them, but Divine Rivals hits differently; I connected with the characters on another level. 

This book is a masterpiece. I love Ross’ lyrical, beautiful, and emotional writing. The book is so atmospheric, and layered with tension that you can feel on every page.

I adore both Iris and Roman. They have so much chemistry, and I love their banter and rivalry. 

Divine Rivals reads like a fantasy version of a World War I/World War II story. Ross writes about the horrors of war in such an effective way. The story is about grief, both Iris’ and Roman’s. It’s about being trapped in a life where you can’t make your own decisions. It’s about loneliness and connection. It’s about finding love, but also about the messiness of loving your flawed family. It’s about the power of writing and letters. Throw some mythology about the world’s gods in the mix and you have this perfect book.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Divine Rivals comes out on April 4, 2023.

Of course that means I have to wait even longer for the sequel. Please pray for my impatient reading brain. (Cliffhangers should be illegal.)

Thanks so much to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for the e-ARC!

Review: Furyborn and Kingsbane by Claire Legrand

The spines of Furyborn and Kingsbane rest on a windowsill next to a white curtain and a candle.

Alexis:

Furyborn, and the rest of The Empirium Trilogy, has been on my tbr list for a while now, and when I found Furyborn in a used bookstore, I grabbed it!

To be honest, it took me a while to get into the worldbuilding. I had to read the first half of this book carefully in order to understand the world and the characters.

Furyborn has two timelines—1000 years apart. Two queens, the Sun Queen and the Blood Queen, are prophesied to either break or save the world. Rielle can perform all seven kinds of elemental magic, and enters a series of trials to prove that she is the Sun Queen. 1000 years later, Eliana is an assassin just trying to keep her family alive in the Undying Empire when she runs into a rebel named Simon who needs her help.

Like I said, once I got to the halfway point, I loved this book. It’s both action packed yet slow paced. The first chapter/prologue offers a glimpse of what happens in the end, and I found that it upped the tension and anticipation for me while I read. 

While I wasn’t a huge fan of Rielle’s character, I found Eliana to be interesting and flawed. And Simon was by far my favorite character; I can’t wait to learn more about him in the next book.

My one main critique is that this book was originally marketed as YA and—it’s not. It’s definitely adult, with adult themes and sex scenes. I would categorize it as New Adult, which I desperately hope will eventually be a more solidified genre. 

If you’re looking to dive into a new trilogy full of action, powerful and flawed women, angels and elemental magic, and dual timelines, then you might like this.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

As for Kingsbane, where to begin!

The plot thickens. Legrand throws her characters into everything imaginable; anything bad that can happen does.

It’s hard to say anything else about this book without giving major spoilers, but I both hated and loved reading it, and the ending almost had me throwing it against the wall.

Despite feeling terrible for all of the characters, this book was just so intense and dark, and I loved it. That being said, I’m not a fan of how Legrand writes her sex scenes, and I think there were several in here that were unnecessary. 

But Kingsbane stuck with me, and I’m still waiting to read the third and final book in the trilogy to see what happens!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Review: Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco

Alexis, wearing a black jumpsuit, stands in front of a fence, holding a hardcover copy of Kingdom of the Cursed.

Alexis:

I knew this series would be New Adult! I kept hearing other readers call Kingdom of the Wicked YA, and I was confused because I definitely thought it was NA. But this one…it definitely has steamy scenes and adult themes. 

What I didn’t know was that this wasn’t a duology…but a trilogy, I believe. So now I have to wait for a third book?!

I liked this one much more than the first one! Both Emilio and Wrath had great character arcs. Emilia is still a little naive; however, I found her character development was much better, and I enjoyed reading from her perspective. I also enjoyed learning more about Wrath, his identity, and his role.

I liked the plot more than the first book, too. There was one main plot point that I guessed, but also two great plot twists! Even Maniscalco’s writing and imagery are better in this sequel, even more atmospheric than the first, and I devoured this book while reading it. 

While this was a five-star read for me, there was one scene that made me uncomfortable to read, and it takes a lot to make me feel uncomfortable when I’m reading. It involved a strange questionable consent/mind control scene, and while yes, it did technically make sense with the plot, and yes, this book is full of morally grey characters, I think it could have easily been avoided, and the point would’ve still come across.

This book is not for the faint of heart, and deals with some heavy themes; the point of the story is Emilia going down the path of vengeance and accepting her anger and sexuality.

If you’re looking for a good series to read this October, with plenty of sexual tension/romance, dark fantasy elements, and themes of vengeance and love, then you might like this!

VERDICT: 💀💀💀💀💀

TW: Blood, gore, violence, murder, sexual themes, mind control/questionable consent

Review: For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

A library copy of For the Wolf sits on a deck flanked by a sunflower and a Sweater Weather candle, along with some fall leaves.

Alexis:

For the Wolf has a lot in common with Lakesedge:

✔️A self-sacrificing man who is seen as a monster to the outside world, but who is only trying to control the environment around him—the environment that is also a part of him

✔️ A run-down estate/castle surrounded by dark, creepy woods

✔️ A slow-paced story of a strong woman attempting to learn how to control her magic

Which of course means that I loved it! I’m always, always a sucker for an atmospheric read with lyrical writing and creepy woods. And this book has so many depictions of dark woods come alive with earthy magic.

Although For the Wolf is being marketed as YA fantasy for some reason, I would describe it as a new adult, romantic fantasy, as Red, the main character, and her twin sister, Neve, are twenty-years-old. 

Red is the Second Daughter of the Queen of Valleydan, which means that she must be sacrificed to the Wolf of the Wilderwood. She’s been told all her life that the Wolf is a monster who is keeping the world’s captured gods from returning. But when she finally meets the Wolf, a man named Eammon, she realizes that what she’s been told is a lie. Meanwhile, stuck as the Princess, Neve, the First Daughter, is doing everything in her power to get Red back from the Wolf, even if it means upending her own world.

As much as I loved this book, I will admit some flaws I noticed while I was reading. While Lakesedge’s magic and worldbuilding is clear, For the Wolf’s worldbuilding is a little hazy. I enjoy slow-paced books, but a lot of answers about the magic system came a little late. We also get short chapters, called Interludes, from Neve’s perspective. And I’ll be honest: I wasn’t really interested in her chapters. However, based on the ending, I think her POV will work well in the sequel. 

While the romance is very similar to that in Lakesedge, I do think it was more fleshed-out and better written in For the Wolf. 

All in all, if you liked similar books, such as Uprooted and The Wolf and the Woodsman, then you might enjoy this one, too!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

TW: Self harm for magic use (cutting), blood and mild gore, parental death, religious abuse 

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Alexis:

Spoilers Below!

Overall, A Court of Wings and Ruin, the third book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy, was a 4 star read. It was more along the lines of the first book than it was the second book. However, I did have a list of issues with it that I will explain below!

I’ll start with what I liked. Maas’ writing shines when she writes action scenes. I loved reading the war scenes. I thought she did a great job with their pacing and descriptions.

I also loved that Rhysand fully transformed in the final battle. I was like, “Heck, yes!”

I also enjoyed having all the High Fae in the same scenes. Their histories and abilities were very interesting all pooled together.

As for what I didn’t like as much, for some reason, Maas’ writing is just a little bit worse in this book. She has a tendency to lean towards the occasional cheesy line, but this book seemed to bring her cheesiness out just a little more.

This book felt like Maas had been rushed, that she had a deadline that her publisher wanted her to keep, so she wrote this book quickly. And then it wasn’t edited enough. The pacing felt slow. This book is about war, and war does drag on, but the plot doesn’t flow as nicely as it did in A Court of Mist and Fury. Everything just felt slowed down.

And…the sex scenes did not fit as well in this book as they did in A Court of Mist and Fury. They felt cringey and all of them were basically a carbon copy of each other. There’s also a scene where Rhys tells Feyre, “You smell like blood,” after they fought in a battle. And then they have sex. Hmm. I don’t know about that.

And, my biggest issue. I am all for diversity, but not just for the sake of diversity. Mor’s reveal as bisexual was a complete cop-out from Maas. Mor’s been hiding that she’s bi…for 500 years?? Just so she won’t hurt Azriel’s feelings?? Her hiding this from her family for that long did not feel true to character.

As for the plot, I had issues with the fact that Feyre is insanely powerful and yet she HARDLY FOUGHT. Obviously, Rhysand has significantly more war experience, but Feyre is his equal, so they should’ve fought together. Her mention of, “You know, I don’t really like war,” was not a good enough reason for her not to fight.

As for the whole new cast of characters at the end, this also felt like a cop-out from Maas. When Rhysand asked why they couldn’t find them, their answer was, “Oh, I guess we hid too well, so even our friends couldn’t find us.”

If they had been such good friends/allies during the last war, they definitely would’ve found a way to keep in contact with Rhysand and his crew.

As for my last complaint, Armen should’ve died. Rhysand coming back from the dead made sense, but there’s no way Armen could’ve come back after all that.

Despite my issues, I enjoyed the book overall! I definitely think the trilogy is worth a read, just be aware that it isn’t perfect.

VERDICT: 4 stars

 

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Alexis: Read 4/27/19

Spoilers Below!

While I have some mixed feelings about A Court of Thorns and Roses, overall, it was a 4 star read for me.

So, here’s the book in a nutshell: It starts out as The Hunger Games, then turns into Beauty and the Beast, and finally turns into Twilight.

I’ll start with what I loved about the book. While Maas writes the occasional cheesy and cringey line, I enjoyed her writing style overall. I love the way she describes color, and I was impressed by the landscape she painted in the beginning of the book. I related to Feyre in the beginning of the book the way I related to Katniss: she’s a girl turned hard from trying to survive, and I sympathized with her.

I found Tamlin an interesting character because of his role as a host and protector of his manor and land, because of his drive and sense of honor. His shapeshifting was written well. And I liked Lucien the most; he had the most vibrant personality of all the characters.

Once the plot picked up, I enjoyed the action-packed third section of the book. I think Maas’ writing shines the most when she writes action scenes. I also enjoyed (finally) learning about the political and historical backstories of the world.

I also liked the romance. The middle section of the book was very slow-paced, so Feyre and Tamlin’s budding romance didn’t feel too rushed or insta-love.

As for what I didn’t love about the book, my biggest issue was that most of the important backstory/plot points weren’t revealed until 250 pages in. Yep. 250 pages. Even the synopsis of the book includes the curse, which Feyre doesn’t know about until, again, 250 pages in. Here’s the thing: everyone knows the basis of Beauty and The Beast. So the main, mysterious plot of the most of the book wasn’t so mysterious, because this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. If Maas had switched it up a little more, the reveals would have been more interesting.

I also had issue with some of the characters. I didn’t have any issue with Feyre, though I found her name annoying because I had to remind myself how to pronounce it. I’m also not a fan of Tamlin’s name; it just sounds like the name of a modern five-year-old boy. But that’s just personal preference. I wanted Tamlin to have more of a stand-out personality, especially since he doesn’t have much of a role in the latter half of the book. Rhysand has more personality than Tamlin, and unfortunately, I have a feeling a love-triangle is going to make an appearance in the next book.  

As for the ending, I guessed it about halfway through the book. There were too many similarities to Twilight, and I knew human-Feyre wouldn’t make it too much further in the series.

Overall, this was a fun and engaging read. Though the middle was a little slow, it allowed time to get to know the characters better. I enjoyed the final section of the book the best, despite the Twilighty ending. I’m definitely going to continue the series, as I tend to like the first book in a series the least!

VERDICT: 4 stars