Storm’s Herald Review

Storm’s Herald by J.W. Golan

Happy Easter everyone! Or just happy Sunday if you don’t celebrate Easter, I hope you have a great day with chocolate regardless. If you want to read these books, Storm’s Herald is free as an ebook on Amazon 10-12th April, and Storm’s Cloud 24-25th April.

I received both Storm’s herald and its sequel, Storm’s Clouds, in exchange for a review. All views expressed are honest and my own. I have a very terrible habit of writing notes while I’m reading a book, then writing the actual review quite a while afterwards. It means that sometimes my notes are very vague and incomprehensible, but not this time. I had so much fun rereading the notes I made, I think they are possibly some of the best notes I’ve ever made. And you can’t have good notes without an interesting book to make them on, so kudos to Storm’s herald. Here’s the synopsis:

A peasant girl who dreams of becoming a sorceress, a boy who imagines himself a knight – trailed by a ruthless mercenary armed with an ancient sword.

All Lynette wanted was to leave her boring village life – to attend the Fae Academy and become a Druid priestess like her teacher before her. Her clumsy attempts at magic are a reminder of how much she has yet to learn. But if they would only accept her, if the Fae Kingdom – closed to human visitors for centuries now – would only just open its doors, she is certain she could become a master of the magical arts.

Yet her journey puts her on a collision course with a reawakened evil – offering a king’s ransom for the recovery of a long-lost relic. Treasure hunters of every variety – werewolves, mercenaries, common thieves and undead alike – are soon locked in pursuit of its promised riches. Together with Baxter, a young squire who fled his own kingdom, and Eirlon, a gnome who trades in rare antiquities, Lynette is drawn unwillingly into the hunt for the elusive relic.

Hounded by goblins, ogres – and darker things – Baxter carries his own burdens: secrets that have made him the enemy of the crown. And then there is Garth, the mysterious mercenary who both frightens and intrigues Lynette: the weapons-master armed with an ancient blade – snatched from the hand of a long-vanished fae prince.

Willingly or not, Lynette, Baxter and Eirlon must together solve the riddles behind the relic – and stay one step ahead of the ruthless killers that pursue them.

Like many a fantasy, and lots of books now I think about it, Storm’s Herald begins with introductions to various different viewpoints over the first few chapters. Quite quickly I understood the basic worldbuilding and the traditional type of fantasy I was reading. Slightly uncommonly, new points of view were introduced throughout the book, sometimes only for one chapter. These were usually to show what was happening somewhere else in the world, but sometimes I found the switching too frequent, so it took me longer than usual to properly get to know the characters. Slowly all of the various characters crossed each other’s paths, and for once there was none of the hiding information from these people are clearly on your side. I was very thankful for that, because nothing irritates me more than a character being unnecessarily reticent as a plot device. The storytelling is not very complicated, but the story was good, and it was fun and easy reading.

Let’s move onto the characters. There were four main viewpoints I could identify, with several minor ones who would appear once or twice like Kalden. The main viewpoints were Lynette, Elise, Eirlon and Baxter. I don’t know if I have a favourite, but I like them all in different ways and by the end of the book I was very interested in seeing what happened next. The story begins with Lynette, a normal girl with magic her half-fae teacher is teaching her to control. After some *events* Lynette sets off to the Fae-gate from which she can enter the fae lands and join the magic school. Lynette is the typical beautiful, magical peasant in many ways and she does get attached to a very dodgy guy, but when he first meets her in the forest and is very creepy (in my opinion), she doesn’t put up with it which I applaud.

Baxter is apprenticed to a knight and is very accepting of his master being a horrible person because of his nobility but apart from that he’s quite a nice guy. He’s just a regular, hardworking human who predictably ends up with a crush on Lynette, but the focus on the romance is very minor. Eirlon the gnome is pretty cool. A chill guy, albeit with a minorly annoying habit to keep things to himself. Elise is the fairy princess, heir to the fae throne. She doesn’t take any rubbish from anyone and despite her insecurities she pretty much does what she thinks is right. I’m down with that. The other character mentioned in the synopsis, Garth, I have a LOT of opinions on but that would be spoilers so that will be going in my next review. The fae are what you would expect of fae in a traditional fantasy, with longer life spans, few children, attuned with nature and big fans of trees.

This is not a particularly descriptive book in terms of physical descriptions of people/settings, but personally I actually tend to pretty much read those and forget them anyway unless they’re long and lyrical, so I didn’t mind. The one thing that threw me in this book was the passing of time. From one chapter to the next 9 months could have passed and there would only be a brief mention of it which was a bit wild, but once I got used to it, I just rolled with it.

When I got to the end of the book, I was very thankful to have the sequel next to me because I really wanted to know what happened next. I was left like what?!?! But ready to read the next one. Would I survive? I think I would, if I stayed out of the way of goblins.

All Your Twisted Secrets Review

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

I’ll start by saying I was very kindly gifted and advance copy of this by Harper Teen, so thank you! I’m on a bit of a YA crime streak at the moment- I recently read two Karen M. McManus books, and my next book to read is This Lie Will Kill You. I never think of this as one of my favourite genres, but after all these I think I may reconsider because I’ve really enjoyed them. All Your Twisted Secrets will be released in two days, on the 17th March 2020.

All Your Twisted Secrets is Diana Urban’s debut novel, and honestly I can’t wait for her next one. It follows the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loser and music geek after they are invited to a scholarship dinner, then locked in there. They are given a choice- poison someone or a bomb will kill them all. They have one hour.

The main viewpoint followed is that of the music geek, Amber Prescott. Diana quickly and smoothly establishes the setting and characters without it being obvious or clunky. There are two different storylines followed, the present in the scholarship dinner and the past. The present stretches over the course of an hour, while the past follows the events over the course of about a year. The characters are all linked in different ways, some obvious and some less so, and all the characters are well rounded and interesting, especially the ways in which they change under pressure. All the characters are around my age, 17, which was a bit strange because a lot of their drama and secrets could never happen to me. Nonetheless, I was engaged throughout and could hardly put it down.

The setting of this novel was perfect. An empty restaurant, the locked room, the elaborate dining setup and the rising temperature of the room. As the heat increases so do tensions, with incredible sensory descriptions to immerse the reader in the situation. The drama which unfolds is a mix of secrets being revealed and the consequences of the students’ actions as they desperately try to escape the room. Alliances are made and broken all in the space of an hour, under the watching eye of a ticking bomb.

The ending was perfection. I loved it. Despite all the twists and turns, I never saw this one coming. Oh My Goodness. Would I survive this book? That would be spoilers.

A Smuggler’s Path Review

A Smuggler’s Path by I.L.Cruz

I was very kindly gifted a copy of A Smuggler’s Path in advance of the blog tour for A Noble’s Path. The blurb reads:

In Canto, magic is a commodity, outlawed by the elites after losing a devastating war and brokered by smugglers on the hidden market. But some know it’s more—a weapon for change.

Inez Garza moves through two worlds. She’s a member of the noble class who works as a magical arms dealer—a fact either group would gladly use against her. Neither know her true purpose—funding Birthright, an underground group determined to return magic to all at any cost.

But the discovery of a powerful relic from before the Rending threatens her delicate balance.

Inez’s inherent magic, which lies dormant in all the Canti, has been awakened. Now the Duchess’s daughter, radical and smuggler must assume another forbidden title—mage, a capital crime. This will bring her to the attention of factions at home—fanatical rebels bent on revolution, a royal family determined to avoid another magical war, her mercenary colleagues at the hidden market willing to sell her abilities to the highest bidder—and in Mythos, victors of the war and architects of the Rending.

Evasion has become Inez’s specialty, but even she isn’t skilled enough to hide from everyone—and deny the powers drawing her down a new path.

As you can see, this book has A LOT of ideas. In the beginning there is quite a bit of explanation of the world which takes a little while to process, but this could be said of any fantasy book. Inez’s world is a land which was pulled from the sea after people with magic were driven from the mundane world, and it is protected by a magic barrier to hide them. I was a bit confused and overwhelmed for the first few pages of the book, as the reader is thrown right into the thick of the action, but the more I read the more I wanted to read on. Once you have got used to the various ways magic works and the workings of the world the plot is really quite good, and I found myself desperate to know what would happen next.

There are a few fantasy clichés used, such as a letter from a deceased relative and a parent who has hidden something from their child, but these are weaved in amongst many unique and fun details such as Froth, the milk bar where smugglers and guards alike spend time, and the seemingly random appearance of lots of different characters. They can be slightly hard to keep track of, thankfully there is a useful glossary of characters at the start which I made use of frequently. There seems to be a random element to the plot in some places, leaving me wondering what just happened, but it does all have a purpose eventually, it just sometimes takes a while to discover it. I liked Inez, the main character. She never did anything insanely stupid or unreasonable which some fantasy MCs sometimes do in a rather frustrating way, she made decisions and stuck to them the best she could.

I can say with certainty that this book is never boring. It is packed full of action and mystery and intrigue and plenty of plot twists. A Smuggler’s Path takes time to pull everything together, and I wish it happened a bit sooner, but when it does it is awesome. I was definitely missing the presence of any LGBTQ+ characters, and I could have used some more elegant descriptions that I like in fantasy, but overall I really enjoyed this book and could not wait to start the next one! Would I survive this book? Yeah I think so, I’d enjoy being a smuggler or a rich person.

Look out for my review of A Noble’s Path tomorrow as part of the blog tour!

Fight Like a Girl Review

Fight Like a Girl by Sheena Kamal

Happy International Women’s Day everyone! I hope you have a great day and I’d love to hear what books you’re reading today!

Fight Like a Girl is Sheena Kamal’s debut novel released on the 10th March, and it is one whopper of an entrance. I was kindly gifted it by Hot Key Books and from the moment I saw it I found the blurb intriguing, especially since it tells us that Trisha kills her father straight up. This book is an emotional tapestry of love and violence, based around Trisha, a badass Muay Thai kickboxer of Trinidadian descent. From the blurb I had no idea how hardcore this book was going to be, but I loved it.

The story is told in first person, Trisha, who lives with her mum and her mum’s new boyfriend who moves in soon after her father dies. The main locations are her house and the Muay Thai gym which I found quite interesting since a lot of YA contemporary books have a heavy focus on school, whereas in this it is barely mentioned. This brings the events of the novel into higher definition and prevents any distractions, showing Trisha’s decline in excruciating detail.

Sheena Kamal nails the tone, ramping up the tension and mystery as time goes on with an excellent amount of sensory descriptions to immerse you in the scenes. Kamal somehow conveys a feeling of something being off without explicitly describing it, causing the reader to question both their own and Trisha’s paranoia. This book had a darker tone than I was expecting, although looking back I wonder why because it does involve patricide in the blurb!

The ending does leave some things as a mystery, but I found that okay, I think the epilogue covered the most important things. Overall this book is filled with twists and turns, harsh love and one fighter’s changing world.