Review: The Palace of Lost Memories by C J Archer

 

About the book:

The king’s magnificent palace was built in a matter of weeks. No one saw the builders, no villagers are allowed beyond the gilded gate, and only one servant has ever left. The haunted look in her eyes as she was recaptured by the palace guards is something Josie, daughter of the village doctor, has never forgotten.

For Josie, the palace is a mystery that grows more intriguing after she meets the captain of the guards, a man known only as Hammer, as mysterious and captivating as the palace itself. Whispers of magic fuel Josie’s desire to uncover the truth, but an ordinary girl like her can only dream of ever being invited inside.

When the king decides to take a wife from among the eligible daughters of the noble families, the palace gates are finally thrown open and the kingdom’s elite pour in. In a court where old rivalries and new jealousies collide, the king’s favorite is poisoned and the doctor is summoned. As her father’s assistant, Josie finally sees inside the lavish walls, but she soon learns the palace won’t surrender its secrets easily, for not a single resident, from the lowest servant to the king himself, has a memory from before the palace existed.

In the search for the truth, Josie is drawn deeper into danger, and the answers she seeks might shake the very foundations of the kingdom.

Review by Katy Haye:

C J Archer has created a glorious, immersive fantasy world for the After the Rift series. The Palace of Lost Memories was a fascinating fantasy mystery and a great start to the series. I thoroughly enjoyed unravelling the mystery with Josie and Hammer, although they only begin to scrape the surface of the bigger mystery in this, first, book.

Josie was an excellent main character: complex, strong and capable yet vulnerable and realistically nuanced. Hammer was a delight who often made me smile along with Josie (inadvertently on his part), and I loved the subtlety of the romance thread, while the secondary characters were also very well delineated and memorable.

C J Archer is definitely an author to look out for because this was a delightful and fresh fantasy story.

Love fantasy? Try Katy Haye’s Princess Witch series. First in series is Dragon Thief. Princess Jurelle wants revenge on her vicious father, but her actions unleash magical powers she has no idea she possesses – and which place her in terrible danger.

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Posted in families, fantasy, fiction, magic, review, teen, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

About the book:

Tell the truth. Or face the consequences.

One year ago, there was a party.
At the party, someone died.
Five teens all played a part and up until now, no one has told the truth.

But tonight, the five survivors arrive at an isolated mansion in the hills, expecting to compete in a contest with a $50,000 grand prize. Of course…some things are too good to be true. They were each so desperate for the prize, they didn’t question the odd, rather exclusive invitation until it was too late.

Instead, they realize they’ve been lured together by a person bent on revenge who wants to finally unravel the truth about what actually happened that deadly night, one year ago.

Five arrived, but not all can leave. Will the truth set them free? Or will their lies destroy them all?

Review by Katy Haye:

Oh my. I picked this up on a recommendation and because it outright said it was perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and I love Karen McManus’s stories.

Well, for maybe as much as the first half of This Lie Will Kill You I thought it was a solid read, but not remarkable; a bit of a wannabe. But from the halfway point I was utterly hooked. The writing is so vivid and intense I was truly inside the characters’ heads (and that’s a mixed blessing in this story, to be honest).

I guessed a twist I wasn’t even looking for a moment before the characters got there and it was so remarkable I exclaimed aloud (it’s okay, I was on my own; no witnesses). And the last quarter or so was read late at night with my eyes closing in the bookworm’s mentality of “I promise I’ll finish at the end of this chapter … okay maybe one more…”

I absolutely loved This Lie Will Kill You. It’s about love and friendship, and infatuation and control, and truth and lies, and revenge and forgiveness. The plotting is perfect and the writing flawless.

Stupendous. Read it and lose out on sleep!

Katy Haye is the author of the Clockwork War series, a YA steampunk adventure featuring Clara, a mechanical genius who just wants to keep her family safe, and young lord Gordy who’s hiding a remarkable secret.

Posted in contemporary, crime, fiction, friendship, review, teen, thriller, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Review: Wager’s Price by G P Ching

About the book:

Caught in the act…
Finn Wager’s luck has run out. Arrested for the one crime he didn’t actually commit, he’s forced to finish his education at an alternative school.

A chance at redemption…
The Revelations Institute is an upscale, private reform academy with a 100% success rate. Delinquents go in and model citizens come out.

Deadly discipline…
Students who don’t perform to expectations disappear. And although their bodies return model citizens, their minds are hardly their own. Something evil lurks inside Revelations, and if Finn and his new friend Hope can’t find a way to stop it, they’ll risk more than their lives. The repercussions could cost them their souls.

Review by Katy Haye:

The in-thing in indie YA fiction at present is academies. Everything out this year (it feels like) is set in an academy. I was bored just at the idea of trying one to review because they all sounded the same … but then I saw an ad for GP Ching’s Wager’s Price and thought the premise looked interesting. I started reading and that was it … the next two days of my life were taken care of!

Wager’s Price has some glorious staples: a creepy, isolated school; strange undercurrents and a powerful sense that all is not as it appears; and a bunch of misfit kids brought together. But it’s the vivid writing that brings it all alive. I was right there with Finn and Hope, unease tingling up my spine with each new discovery.

Lots of disparate elements came together beautifully in a rapid-paced finale, and the ending opened up for more drama for Finn and Hope, although Wager’s Price is a fully-realised novel on its own and doesn’t leave you dangling.

NOTE: I realise now from reading other reviews that G P Ching wrote another series before this with some of the same characters. I can confirm that absolutely ZERO prior knowledge is required. I loved this without reading a single word she’s written before!

Katy Haye’s Princess Witch series is now complete and ready for you to binge-read. Start Relle’s story with Dragon Thief. If you like magic, danger, deadly royals and a heroine who won’t accept her fate tamely, Dragon Thief is the book for you!

Posted in fantasy, fiction, friendship, magic, mythology, review, Romance, supernatural, teen, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Review: Charm by J. A. Armitage

 

About the book:

You thought you knew the story of Cinderella… You were wrong.

The kingdom needs an heir and Princess Charmaine is quite aware that the job rests solely upon her shoulders. When her elder sister dies, Charmaine must take her place at the ball designed to find her a husband. With the wedding itself already planned, a hundred men stand ready to be chosen as her husband.
Now all she has to do is pick.

As a servant in the castle kitchens, Cynder knows his place beneath the royals.
With the impending war between the people of magic and those of his masters, there is little he can do to stop it. On one hand, he’s a staunch supporter of equal rights for his own kind, but on the other, he has already given enough of his life to these people. The only thing truly holding him to the castle is the attraction he feels for the daughter of his King and Queen.

When the two meet, sparks fly… and not just the magical kind.

Review by Katy Haye:

The plotting of Charm was utterly glorious. This might be inspired by Cinderella, but it’s not the story you might be expecting! I was constantly delighted to be taken aback by events twisting and turning and matters not working out at all in the way I expected.

The relationship between Charmaine and Cynder was simply lovely and I’m rooting for them to get their happy ending.

The finale in particular was fast-paced and breathless and had me dashing through the pages. Charm is the first in a series, but it has a proper conclusion and makes for a satisfying read in itself. Highly recommended!

Katy Haye’s Princess Witch series is now complete and can be binge-read. Start Relle’s story with Dragon Thief. If you like magic, danger, deadly royals and a heroine who won’t accept her fate tamely, Dragon Thief is the book for you!

Posted in fairytale, fantasy, fiction, magic, review, Romance, teen, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , , ,

Review: The Nutcracker Curse by Margo Ryerkerk

About the book:

12 days. 4 realms. Break the curse. Or turn into a nutcracker.

I thought I knew the main threat to my freedom.

I was wrong.

At seventeen years old, I’m not ready to marry, and yet that’s what I must do as the crown princess of Austria.

However, getting to know the foreign princes visiting my kingdom becomes the least of my worries when I touch a bespelled nutcracker and unleash a deadly curse. I have twelve days to feed the nutcracker the magical nut Crackatook. If I fail, my soul will become trapped inside the toy for all eternity and my body will turn to wood.

Instead of relying on my suitors or the king’s men to find the cure, I saddle my unicorn and sneak out of the palace. My childhood friend Philip intercepts me and makes me choose between returning to the castle or allowing him to come along.

Reluctantly, I agree to him joining me, and soon, we are off to lands filled with mythical creatures.

Will we survive all trials and find the Crackatook in time? Or will my soul become trapped in the nutcracker and my body turn to wood?

Review by Katy Haye:

(Sorry, this one has spoilers)

This was a nice premise, but I found it patchy in the extreme, I’m afraid. I liked the romance, and I actually liked Griselda far more than I did Clara (villains, you see … much more interesting character arc…).

The story was solid enough, but in many places the style was over-written. Our heroine seemed to feel obliged to point out where things were dangerous or difficult and to make sure we were aware of every time she had to make a decision. We had comments along the lines of, “despite the deadly danger posed by these snakes/scorpions/guards with swords, I must reach the other side of the valley, so here I go.” You don’t need to point out that perils are perilous because it kind of goes with the territory. Trust the reader to “get it” rather than hitting them over the head with every single one of your character’s stream of conscious thoughts.

There were quite a few conveniences that snagged me out of the story as well. I was prepared to have some “magic” explanations for things, but for example, they step onto a sailboat and immediately know how to control it, and then they cross an abyss by tightrope walking, “Don’t worry, it’s easy,” the hero calls merrily to the heroine. Hmm, I’ve never tried it, tbh, so perhaps it is, but I wasn’t convinced. And then there was the part where the hero got stabbed (with a sword, no less) and moments later he’s up and fighting again. Crikey, they make ’em tough!

Okay, but no better than that, I’m afraid.

Giveaway

There’s only just time to enter Piranha Katy’s Grisha giveaway (ends this weekend): you can win a collector’s edition of Six of Crows, and a *signed* edition of King of Scars.

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Reviews: White Pawn and Black Pawn by Ingrid Seymour

A double-review this week, of the first two in Ingrid Seymour’s new Vampire Court series.

About White Pawn:

Bianca is a Trove. Her blood is so powerful it allows vampires to stroll in the sunlight.
She lives a socialite life of masquerades, governesses and flirting with eligible men like the handsome thief, Nyro Stonehelm, who openly defies the vampire King and Queen.

Soon a visit from the King brings Bianca face to face with a terrible reality—her father has gambled away everything, and still owes the King’s Court more. To set an example, the King executes her father. That one fateful morning, Bianca loses everything she ever knew.
With his last breath, her father confesses she’s a Trove and begs her to run. Instead, she swears revenge and joins the Queen’s Court, determined to destroy the King one day.

But how is a Trove to live amongst vampires without being discovered and made a blood slave? And how is her life linked to the handsome thief?

About Black Pawn:

Nyro lives in Acedrex, a city ruled by two vampires: the White Queen and the Black King.
No one can leave or enter Acedrex and, for the majority of people, that is fine. It’s a safe place, far better than the outside world.

Unless you’re a Trove.

The curse runs in Nyro’s family. His father was a Trove and his willful eight-year-old brother, Timotei, is one too. Their blood can make a vampire powerful enough to walk in sunlight.

Nyro works hard to keep him safe. He promised his now-dead parents he wouldn’t let the vampires find him. But when Timotei is captured by a member of the Black Court, Nyro joins the King’s ranks in hopes of protecting his brother from within. There, he finds himself in a world of intrigue and machinations that promises to steal more than his family.

The King wants Nyro to be his Pawn and tries to take the last thing Nyro thought he might lose.

His soul.

Reviews by Katy Haye: White Pawn

I’m reviewing these together because they are very much intertwined stories, and I gobbled them up back-to-back on my week off last week. White Pawn is told from the perspective of our heroine, Bianca, while Black Pawn is hero Nyro’s story.

The world Ingrid Seymour has created is delightful. As well as vampires, we have a country founded on a chess game that left a single king and queen ruling over their halves of a land turned into a chess board. For humans, political power in the court is reliant on moving up the chessboard, from a pawn, to a rook, a knight and finally a bishop. The premise was fascinating and it really worked.

White Pawn saw Bianca lose everything when her father is murdered by the black king, and her servant/companion taken by the king as a blood slave. To gain revenge, Bianca seeks a place in the court of the white queen, with the plan to eventually face and destroy the king who has destroyed her life.

The story then followed classic YA lines of train-and-face-a-challenge. Bianca found helpful friends as well as a horrible enemy I was rooting to get his come-uppance. I enjoyed watching Bianca develop from a feeble lady of leisure to a determined and capable candidate for pawn, although I would have liked a stronger bond between her and the friend she wants to save, because their relationship didn’t seem close enough for Bianca to risk discovery for her.

Black Pawn

Nyro’s motivation wasn’t a problem in Black Pawn. The bond between the orphaned brothers was clear and Nyro’s need to free Timotei was compelling.

Again, we had fascinating insights into the world of Acedrex, the vampires and their blood slaves. Nyro took a parallel route to Bianca, forced to compete for a place at the court, although this time at the court of the black king.

Nyro’s story had a glorious finale (if you hate these things – beware because both stories end on cliffhangers) and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Roll on White Rook and Black Rook!

Grishaverse giveaway

There’s still time to enter Piranha Katy’s Grisha giveaway: you can win a collector’s edition of Six of Crows, and a *signed* edition of King of Scars.

Posted in Contest, families, fantasy, fiction, paranormal, review, Romance, supernatural, teen, YA, Young Adult | Tagged , , , , ,

Review: Internment by Samira Ahmed

About the book:

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying ‘fifteen minutes in the future’ United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin is forced into an internment camp for Muslim-Americans along with her parents.

With the help of newly-made friends also trapped within the camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment questions the imaginary boundaries that separate us and challenges readers to fight the complicit silence that exists in our society today.

Review by Katy Haye:

I liked Internment, but I didn’t love it. Internment was described as dystopian (to be fair, it was described that way on social media – that word does not appear anywhere on the cover), but it didn’t read like a dystopian YA novel. It read like a contemporary novel that’s only a few years ahead of where we are currently. Now, that’s of course a compliment to the writing and the writer, because that’s how it’s meant to read. But that in itself exasperated me. It felt like something I’d read before, because I’ve read things like Anne Frank’s Diary, or Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The frustration was because the setting and the story was so convincing – and it convinced me that humans are emotionally incapable of learning from history and we just move in circles repeating the same mistakes.

But the entirely of twentieth century western history is probably too much weight to put on a single book, so let’s move on from Internment’s existence to the writing. It’s a very well-written book; I was utterly absorbed. Layla was a wonderful, complex character and I really felt her hopes, fears, and anger. The relationship with her parents was beautifully drawn with their worries colouring their actions, and the dynamics of how the pressures of internment change relationships was fascinating.

I wasn’t fully convinced by either Jake or the Director. Jake’s true allegiance was fairly clear to the reader from the start, and I thought he took far too many risks, which left the Director looking stupid because he couldn’t see what was going on underneath his nose. I just kept thinking that it’s dangerous to portray those responsible for oppression as fools, because that runs the risk of underestimating them, which is surely exactly what leads to oppression tightening its grip while the rest of us feel like we blinked and missed it.

Jake’s recklessness, however, did make me challenge my own thinking – was I more worried that the “safe”, white character might venture into danger than that the “at-risk” Muslim character stayed in it? I really hope not, but if the purpose of Internment is to make you think, then it certainly worked!

I guess, to my shame, I liked but didn’t love Internment because it wasn’t a comfortable, enjoyable read. But for that and other reasons, I’m very glad I have read it.

Grishaverse giveaway

If you’re a lover of all thing grisha, check out Piranha Katy’s giveaway: you can win a collector’s edition of Six of Crows, and a *signed* edition of King of Scars.

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