Serena’s Review & Giveaway: “The Waking Land”

32671619Book: “The Waking Land” by Callie Bates

Publishing Info: Del Rey Books, June 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC giveaway from Goodreads & ARC NetGalley e-book

Book Description: Lady Elanna Valtai is fiercely devoted to the King who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder and must flee for her life.

Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition powers that suddenly stir within her.

But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.

Review: First off, thank you to the publisher and Goodreads for providing me this book through a give away! I also read a portion of it through an e-book ARC provided by NetGalley. You know, cuz I need to be able to read the book at ANY GIVEN MOMENT and thus need copies available in every format.

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(source)

Anywho! On to the review! Beyond the beautiful cover (yes, I do judge a book by its cover when it suits me, thank you very much), I was instantly intrigued after reading the story synopsis. It sounded like an appealing mix of political intrigue, manners and etiquette, and, of course, magic. And while it was all of those things, there were a few stumbling blocks along the way.

First off, the political intrigue. It became very clear early in the book that the author was drawing inspiration from the Jacobite rebellion between Scotland and England to create the history and heart of the conflict in her story. There are two countries occupying an island nation, one has been overthrown in recent history, but still hopes to put their own choice leader on the thrown and regain independence for their portion of the country. Obviously, there’s much more to it than this, but at its core, it’s fairly straightforward. I was very pleased with this portion of the story. It was interesting finding similar threads to real history sprinkled within this fantasy novel, especially when those threads diverged from the path with which we are familiar.

Bates clearly had a lot of world building she was trying to pack in this novel. Beyond these tie-ins to the Jacobite rebellion, there’s a complicated history that goes back centuries before it, involving not only these two nations, but another powerful nation who had conquered the entire region at one point and then retreated again.  Detailed histories likes this make a story interesting, but they also present a challenge to authors. All too often books end up with large info-dumps presenting all of these details, which no one loves. But here, we saw the opposite side of the coin. I was a good 150 pages into this story and was still trying to work out the timeline of who conquered who when and why. At a certain point, it was so frustrating that I simply gave up trying to understand. I hesitate to recommend more info dumping, but in circumstances like this, it’s probably the better option than sprinkling in details throughout a long-ish book where much of the plot revolves around the political implications of this history and readers end up just confused.

I did love the magical set up that was brought into the story. Sure there was the cool magic that Elanna was able to create, but the more interesting part was, again, the detailed framework and history behind her power. Not only are her powers needed for the rebellion, but the symbol that she represents as a corner of the tri-part governing force that traditionally ruled the land is highly motivating to the people.

I had mixed feelings with regards to Elanna herself. Her history (the stolen child of a failed rebel leader being held to keep the other side in check) is one that sets her up to have many conflicting feelings and views of those around her. Things like family, friendship, and even national loyalty are all tied together in knots. She feels abandoned by one family, guilty for developing attachments to her captors, questions everyone’s motives around her, questions her own loyalties. Much of this was very interesting and created a rich character arc for her to travel. Unfortunately, all too often she would perform complete 180s on a dime with very little explanation for why she changed her mind. She hates her father! She’ll join her father in this rebellion! Also, while the stress and frustration that would arise from her situation is understandable, at times she read as very unlikable and immature. I never could quite decide how I felt about her. Ultimately, I think I was more invested in the story that she was living than in her as a character on her own.

So there are my thoughts! To be summed up, I was very conflicted with this book. It had true moments of brilliance with a unique and complicated history, both political and magical, and the main character also had flashes of greatness. But I was also all too often confused by the same history and frustrated with Elanna herself. I would still likely recommend this book to readers who enjoy historical “fantasy of manners” type books based on its strengths. Want to judge for yourself? Enter our giveaway to receive an ARC of this book!

Enter to win an ARC of ‘The Waking Land!”

Rating 6: Had so many things going on (complicated history, complicated characters) that it didn’t quite manage to fully flesh it all out.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Waking Land” is new and isn’t included on any relevant Goodreads lists, but it should be on “Fantasy of Manners” and “Best Books Containing Elemental Powers.”

Find “The Waking Land” at your library using WorldCat!

Summer Giveaway: “We Were Liars”

It’s time for another Library Ladies giveaway! And since we’re in the heart of summer, what could be more perfect than giving away a SIGNED hardback copy of “We Were Liars!” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. But it may be better if you haven’t. Read on…..

16143347Book: “We Were Liars” by e. lockhart

Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, May 2014

Book Description: A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Mini review & Synopsis:

Kate here! So I read “We Were Liars” a few months after it was first published. I knew that it had a lot of buzz surrounding it, and I knew that people were keeping pretty tight lipped as well. I basically swallowed it whole over the course of two days, reluctant to put it down unless I absolutely had to, and I can say that it is amazing, and the perfect summer book to give away.

So why is it the perfect summer book? For one, it’s compulsively readable. Like I said, I couldn’t put it down while I was reading it. It would be a great read for the beach, or an airplane, or just sitting around your house on a super hot day whilst drinking lemonade. And for another, the story and setting really set the mood of summer. It’s about a teenage girl named Cady Sinclair who spends her summers on the family island out east (think Kennedys). She goes with her mother, and spends a lot of time with her cousins. She is closest to cousins Mirren and Johnny, but is also very close to the nephew of Johnny’s mother’s boyfriend, Gat. They’re all so close that they formed a little clique that calls itself The Liars, and Cady and Gat even strike up a summer romance. But during the fifteenth summer, something happened that has left Cady with horrible headaches and few memories. After taking a summer away from the island, she and her mother return for the seventeenth, and she’s reunited with The Liars. But what did happen that fifteenth summer? And why did she forget?

Seriously, this book is a major treat and a lot of fun with its twists and turns. You may not have a private family island to read it on, but the story will nearly whisk you away so that won’t be necessary. Good luck, everyone! You’ll want to get a hold of this book! For a fun bonus, this book has been signed by the author!

Enter the Giveaway!

Serena’s Review and Giveaway: “The Cold Eye”

28962896 Book: “The Cold Eye” by Laura Anne Gilman

Publishing Info: Saga Press, January 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: bought it!

Book Description: In the anticipated sequel to “Silver on the Road,” Isobel is riding circuit through the Territory as the Devil’s Left Hand. But when she responds to a natural disaster, she learns the limits of her power and the growing danger of something mysterious that is threatening not just her life, but the whole Territory.

Isobel is the left hand of the old man of the Territory, the Boss—better known as the Devil. Along with her mentor, Gabriel, she is traveling circuit through Flood to represent the power of the Devil and uphold the agreement he made with the people to protect them. Here in the Territory, magic exists—sometimes wild and perilous.

But there is a growing danger in the bones of the land that is killing livestock, threatening souls, and weakening the power of magic. In the next installment of the Devil’s West series, Isobel and Gabriel are in over their heads as they find what’s happening and try to stop the people behind it before it unravels the Territory.

Review: After reading and loving “Silver on the Road,” I was excited to pick up this prequel. In the first book we were introduced to the unique, re-imagined West that is ruled by the enigmatic Devil who has sent out 16-year-old Isobel to travel the territory as his own brand of magical justice. In many ways, this book simply doubled-down on the same elements readers were presented with in the first novel, in some ways to its benefit and in others, less so. But ultimately, the “freshness” of the story/world/characters pulled through, leaving me with favorable impression of this second book in the series.

As before, the atmospheric world of the West was one of the biggest appeals with this book. The story starts out with Isobel traveling alone, and through her eyes we once again get to experience this strange, untamed landscape that effortlessly blends the ruthlessness of nature (with some added teeth from the magical elements) alongside the stark beauty of the rolling plains. Of course, there would be no story if something wasn’t amiss, and Isobel’s “sixth sense” leads her down a path of darkness and mystery.

While I enjoyed Isobel’s independent moments in the story, I was also very happy when she was reunited with Gabriel, as their friendship/mentorship was one of my favorite parts of the first book. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book also continued down these relationship paths without any addition of romance. Each respects and admires the other, but, if anything, they read as siblings on the page. It is refreshing to read a story about a 16-year-old female protagonist that proves you can draw an interesting tale and create viable and intriguing relationships without the need to insert romance into the equation. Believe it or not, teenage girls are capable of forming other types of relationships with those around them.

I did have a few frustrations with the story, however. And, like the pros to the tale which all built upon elements I loved from the first book, the negative aspects came from the same quibbles I had with the first as well. Namely, the pacing and the magical system. While the slow and meandering travels allow readers to fully immerse themselves in the world that has been built, it can also deflate the story from the brief action sequences that can be found, leaving readers wondering just how many descriptions of dusty saddles are really necessary. The last third of the book involves some high stakes and challenging moral considerations (of the kind that really make you wonder about the Devil’s thinking in sending out an untrained, teenage girl to deal with the forces at work in the Territory), but it takes a long time to get to this point, and I wish there had been a way to tighten up some of the storytelling of the first two-thirds.

And lastly, the magical system. I love the uniqueness of the magic that is set up in this book, especially that which is connected to the animals (the buffalo’s herd magic, and the speaking snakes). But as far as Isobel’s own particular brand of power, it is just as frustrating as it was in the first book. She does things, but never knows how she is doing what she is doing. And more often than not just lead into an action by an undefined “feeling.” I understand that she is learning what her role is as the Left Hand, but that means she must actually learn. Just discovering that something worked without any explanation or knowledge of how/when/in what circumstance she could hope to repeat the process, at a certain point simply feels like lazy writing. And a bit boring.

But, as I said, at this point in the series, the uniqueness of the world and the appealing nature of Isobel and Gabriel and their friendship is enough to keep me interested. But don’t take my word for it! Check it out for yourself and enter to win a hardcover copy of “The Cold Hand!”

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Rating 7: A strong sequel that builds on the elements I liked from the first, but also, sadly, doesn’t improve on my original quibbles either.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Cold Eye” isn’t on any relevant  Goodreads lists but it should be on “Best Alternate History Novels and Stories. “

Find “The Cold Eye” at your library using Worldcat!

Previously reviewed: “Silver on the Road”

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: “Eye of the Storm”

Occasionally we are approached with the opportunity to promote books that may be of interest to our readers. And occasionally in lieu of a full review of the book, we will let it speak for itself by posting an excerpt from it. So if you like what you see in one of these excerpts, we have good news! You have the chance to win a copy of it! What could be better?

31363558Book: “Eye of the Storm” by Frank Cavallo

Publishing Info: Dark Serpent/Ravenswood Publishing, August 2016

Book Description: On a research mission in one of the most remote regions of the world, former Navy SEAL Eric Slade and Dr. Anna Fayne are caught in a mysterious storm. Catapulted through a rift in space-time, they are marooned on a lost world.

Struggling to survive and desperate to find a way home, they must confront the dangers of this savage land—a dark wizard and his army of undead—a warrior queen and her horde of fierce Neanderthals that stands against him—and a legendary treasure with the power to open the gateway between worlds, or to destroy them all: the Eye of the Storm.

My Notes:

I received a paperback copy of this book in exchange for this promotional post. I want to thank Kelsey B., who sent it to me and gave our blog this opportunity.

This book is perfect for fans of Sword & Sorcery fantasy novels, with its action packed sequences and the always enjoyable use of stranding modern people in strange new worlds. My nostalgia bells were going off constantly with this book (specifically for things like “The Land that Time Forgot”), and who can resist a healthy dose of nostalgia? Red City Review gave the book 4 stars saying “Cavallo spins a fast-paced tale in his latest read…with a unique cast and setting…a flurry of twists and turns…quite a page turner, Eye of the Storm is bound to be a favorite among fantasy enthusiasts.”

This is by no means Frank Cavallo’s first book on the scene, coming in with several fantasy novels already under his belt, and another that was just released this last January, “Rites of Azathoth,” which sounds like X-Files (Scully’s character at least, as a female FBI agent is the hero of the story) meets Stephen King. For more information on the author, you can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, as well on his website http://www.frankcavallo.com/.

Enter the giveaway below to try and win yourself a free copy of “Eye of the Storm” and read the excerpt below! – Serena

Click Here to Enter The Giveaway!!

Excerpt:

The halls were dusty and cold as they headed into the heart of the citadel, climbing towards the Keep by Azreth’s vague directions. Spider-webs hung like curtains along the walls. Every corridor and passage was choked with the detritus of war. A hiss seethed from somewhere in the shadows.

At the crest of a winding staircase, they found a gallery-like corridor that opened under a vaulted ceiling. Despite having stalked the ruins for hours, their torches were no lower, and they cast a reddish light upon the whole of the grand hall. The walls were plastered from floor to ceiling, in brilliant shades of violet, green and gold. Unfamiliar characters were set in relief across both sides.

They continued on, hoping to glean some direction from the strange decorations. With a few of the glyphs there were images of figures. Men and beasts, elegant in detail but difficult to see in the torch-light, cavorting as if frozen in time. Some frolicked in festival, while others looked to be at war, painted blood dripping from their swords.

Each wall had several such murals, of men and women in long white robes and gold sashes. The designs were intricate and beautiful and savage.

At the far end of the hall, looming over the entrance of an inner hold, a stone carving larger than a man’s height peered down at them. It was no human face. The features of the carving were a caricature of humanity, still as sharp as from the sculptor’s hand; like everything else uncannily preserved from the ravages of time.

    Horns like a bull’s grew from the temples. Jowls like a hound’s hung open, with rows of teeth flanked by twin fangs.

“We’re getting close,” Azreth said. “I remember this. The bust of Wrael. This is the passage into his throne chamber.”

They all studied it for a moment, but had little time to consider. A rumbling grew up, as if the walls were coming to life. The stone began to vibrate, and the floor shifted beneath them. It was no quake. The thunder was organic, the growling of a carnivore.

“You remember this too?” Slade asked.

“The beast king’s guardian,” Azreth whispered. “The basilisk.”

Spawned from the darkness, something slinked out from beneath the statue. Though at first as black as the shadow itself, it moved of its own accord. Only its crimson eyes were visible. Threya gripped her sword. The thing shrieked. Slade pulled Azreth behind him. Kerr ducked with him, even as he drew a dagger from his cloak.

A lizard-beast leaped into the firelight. It drooled from a snout like a wolf’s, but its body was lean and scaly. The monster slashed at Slade. The force of its thrust knocked him to the floor, a gash torn in his arm.

Threya’s sword whistled through the air, slicing into the basilisk’s haunches before it could strike again. Her second slash tore open its back. The beast flicked its spiked tail, climbing halfway up the wall in a momentary retreat. It eyed Threya with a burning scarlet glower.

It leaped next toward her, throwing itself upon the warrior-queen. Again, the force of its landing was too much, and she collapsed under it, leaving the beast perched on top of her. Its powerful legs pinned her arms to the floor, holding down her sword. It reared its jaws over her, spilling hot, fetid breath in her face.

Back on his feet, Slade jumped from behind and Kerr from the other side. Both plunged their blades through the creature’s torso. Slade clamped his arms around the beast’s throat as it howled, until it squealed with a weakened yelp as the leper’s dagger choked the life out of it. Azreth neared, poking at the carcass with his staff.

“We’re very close now,” the mystic said.

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: “Weave a Murderous Web”

Occasionally we are approached with the opportunity to promote books that may be of interest to our readers. And occasionally in lieu of a full review of the book, we will let it speak for itself by posting an excerpt from it. So if you like what you see in one of these excerpts, we have good news! You have the chance to win a copy of it! What could be better?

29444730Book: “Weave a Murderous Web” by Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks

Publishing Info: Melange Books LLC, February 2016

Book Description: Jane Larson, a hot-shot litigator for a large law firm in New York City, is sucked into an unfamiliar world of divorce and child support when she helps out a friend. Jane’s discovery of the deadbeat dad’s stash of money soon unravels a web of lies, drugs, and criminal activity that keeps getting more dangerous. Soon, Jane is involved in a high stakes race to recover a missing suitcase of cash and catch the murderer before she becomes the next victim.

Notes from the Blogger:

I received a paperback copy of this book in exchange for this promotional post. I want to thank Kelsey B., who sent it to me and gave our blog this opportunity. Jane Larson is on the case, but from the somewhat unique side of coming from the lawyer’s side, in “Weave a Murderous Web”! I think that fans of mysteries will enjoy this book, which is the second in a series (“The Jane Larson Novels”). Though I haven’t read the first one, I can honestly say that I did feel like this one stood on it’s own two feet pretty well. It should also be noted that Kirkus gave this book a pretty solid review, saying that “The first person narrative delivers both caustic wit and serious reflection (source).”

For more information of the authors, you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, and the third novel in the series, entitled “Mind Me, Milady” is coming this year. Mystery fans, Jane Larson may be the next mystery protagonist you love to follow! Enter the giveaway below to try and win yourself a free copy of “Weave A Murderous Web”, and read the excerpt below, including the rest of the chapter under the cut! – Kate

Click Here to Enter The Giveaway!!

Excerpt:

I was in my office at Adams & Ridge talking on the telephone when Francine entered. At the moment, my friend, Lee, was on the other end of the wire, yakking up a storm in my ear. Her rant covered already familiar terrain. My man, my David, was drifting dangerously away from me while I did nothing to win him back. As we say around the courts, Oy.

Francine tiptoed forward and placed on my desk a two-day-old copy of The Daily News opened to the item concerning Mark Samuels’ death.

“I gotta go, Lee,” I said.

While Francine waited for me, she had backed into a corner of my office, leaned against the wall, and tried to make her six feet of lanky body less noticeable. Two large metal buttons were pinned to her heavily braided cotton sweater. One read Stop Fracking New York and the other protested against the annual Canadian seal hunt with a scarlet X through an image of a baby seal whose brains had been battered to a pink pulp.

I pointed at the newspaper and gave her a questioning glance, but she quickly averted her eyes to stare at the floor.

“Have you been listening to me at all?” Lee demanded. Her voice rose to a kind of exasperated wail. “David has been dating someone. I think he may be getting serious.”

“David was born serious, Lee,” I said.

“Stop it, Jane,” she shouted so I had to hold the phone away from my ear. Even Francine raised an eyebrow. “You know what I mean.”

“I’m sorry, Lee.”

“I don’t understand why you’re taking this so nonchalantly. You know you still love him. You could get back together in a heartbeat if you’d just spend a tenth as much time on a relationship as you spend on your career.”

“I’m a lawyer, Lee. Not a—”

A sharp intake of breath followed. “Not a baby maker?” Lee demanded. Anger replaced the plaintive wail. “Is that what you were going to say?”

Would I ever admit that the word had been on the tip of my tongue?

“No. I was going to say, ‘not a librarian’, or the owner of some other nine-to-five job. The hours come with the territory, Lee. David knows that, but deep down in that wonderful heart of his, he also thinks the hours spent at the office are A-okay for the guy, but not for the girl. In any event, Martha didn’t raise her daughter to compete over a man.”

The sound of a whale breaching the surface erupted from the phone. “You’re maddening, Jane.”

“No, I’m busy,” I replied.

Lee sighed. “Well, I have to go too. Laurie is home sick and I’m taking her to the doctor. We’ll talk more later, Jane. I’m not going to sit back and let this happen to my two best friends in the world. I’m going to fight, Jane.”

“Goodbye, Lee.”

She disconnected.

Actually, I wasn’t busy at all, or I wouldn’t have spent even that much time on the phone being lectured by Lee. She’s an old friend from Columbia Law, but enough is enough.

A major litigation I had been working on had settled just a day before and the client and powers-that-be at Adams & Ridge were very happy with me—especially Seymour Ridge. The old man himself had hammered out the settlement shortly after I made the CEO of the party suing our client look like a doofus on the witness stand. So, I had some time on my hands until I was given another assignment.

More to the point, I wanted to know why Francine was still standing in my office, staring at the tips of her shoes. She was a legal assistant with the firm. I had gotten her the job. However, she didn’t work on any of my cases. That was a rule I had laid down from the beginning.

“Hello, Francine,” I said.

“Hi, Jane.” She looked up shyly, smiled her timid smile, gave a meaningful glance in the direction of the paper and resumed looking at her shoes. I had known her for so long that she was more like a relative than a friend, in the sense that one does not choose one’s relatives. She was really really shy but also effective in getting her way with me. I read the article….

Continue reading “Book Excerpt and Giveaway: “Weave a Murderous Web””

A Blog’s Birthday Bonanza and Giveaway!!!

So last year, the two of us got together with the idea that we should do a book blog. And now it’s, amazingly, a year later, and we are celebrating our Bloggaversary (is that right?)! And with that comes our warmest, deepest gratitude to you guys who have been following us and supporting us and reading our reviews and lists. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And because of this, we wanted to host a huge and special giveaway! Like mentioned yesterday, it’s not just one book, but four books! Each of us picked two to pass on, and we think that you will love them too! So what are these books? We’re glad you asked.

7234875Book: “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters

Publishing Info: Riverhead Books, May 2010

In post-war England, Dr. Faraday goes to the countryside to tend to the someone who lives at the sprawling and glamorous Hundreds Hall. Though the Ayres family still lives there, changing times, changing economic circumstances, and changing ways have pushed the family closer and closer to losing everything. But along with a changing way of life, there may be something else in these halls that is haunting this family. Dr. Faraday soon finds himself twisted up with this family and whatever else comes with them. This is a haunting and sweeping book, that is a must for fans of “Downton Abbey,” as well of fans of old school haunted house stories.

13132403Book: “17 & Gone” by Nova Ren Suma

Publishing Info: Dutton Books, March 2017

Lauren is a seventeen year old girl who is haunted by disturbing visions. Visions of girls who have gone missing, and also seventeen. She doesn’t know why these girls are reaching out to her, or what it means. But she feels a need to figure out what has happened to them, just in case she is potentially next. After all, she, too, is seventeen. This suspenseful YA book is a tense and interesting rumination on how there are many different ways that a person can be lost, and Nova Ren Suma writes about difficult subjects with lots of care.

18490585 Book: “Mistborn” by Brandon Sanderson

Publishing Info: Tor, July 2006

Brandon Sanderson is one of my all time favorite authors, so I had to include a book from him in this giveway, and what is more fitting than “Mistborn” the first book of his I read that served as a gateway drug to the long, loooong list of books this author regularly pumps out. “Mistborn” tackles the question of what a fantasy hero journey would look like if the hero fails. Long ago, instead of saving the world, its hero died, leaving the land to sink into desolation under the heavy hand of its cruel king the Lord Ruler. A ragtag group, featuring our lead character, a spunky street rat teenage girl named Vin, hope to now succeed where this previous hero failed. Kate knows my love of this book as I literally shoved it at her a few years ago, so now I’m shoving it at you all as well!

28220899Book: “Freeks” by Amanda Hocking

Publishing Info: St. Martin’s Griffin, January 2017

Mara has grown up in the circus surrounded by the odd and the extraordinary. But so far, she herself seems fairly…normal. When the circus stops at a new town, Mara jumps at the opportunity to blend with the locals where her normalcy is a boon and she can pretend, just for a little while, that she too is leading an ordinary life. That is until members of the circus begin to disappear, starting with the most powerful among them. Mara, along with a dreamy local boy named Gabe, must now rush to untangle the truth before all of her strange family, including her clairvoyant mother, are lost forever. This book hits many of the standard tropes of YA fantasy, but I’m always a sucker for a circus story, so I had to include it in this giveaway!

Enter the giveaway!

 

 

Serena’s Review and Giveaway: “A Conjuring of Light”

29939230Book: “A Conjuring of Light” by V.E. Schwab

Publishing Info: Tor Books, February 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: I bought it! (And an extra for this giveaway, since, let’s be real: I’m keeping mine!)

Book Description: Londons fall and kingdoms rise while darkness sweeps the Maresh Empire—and the fraught balance of magic blossoms into dangerous territory while heroes and foes struggle alike. The direct sequel to “A Gathering of Shadows,” and the final book in the Shades of Magic epic fantasy series, “A Conjuring of Light” sees Schwab reach a thrilling culmination concerning the fate of beloved protagonists—and old enemies.

Review: While I should have felt completely confident after Schwab nailed the always-challenging middle book of a series, the final book is really what a series lives and dies on and…and…nothing bad must happen to my lovelies, Lila, Kell, and Rhy! And, while bad things do happen in this book (narrative-wise, not quality-wise, thank god), as a closing chapter for the trilogy, “A Conjuring of Light” was everything I wanted and many things I didn’t know I even DID want!

I was lucky enough to have gotten around to “A Gathering of Shadows” only a week or so before this book came out. So I only had to live with that killer cliffhanger for a few days before I rushed out to my local bookstore and purchased this book. I feel true and deep pity for all the other readers out there who had to struggle with it for a whole year! With my approach, and the fact that this book takes off exactly where the previous one leaves off (Lila rushing to Kell’s rescue AGAIN, and Rhy sinking into death-remission), this almost felt like the very long second half of the story that was started in the second book.

The pacing of this book is essentially action-packed from the get go with a few, very few, breaks often in the form of flash back sequences. As the personified dark magic seeps into Kell’s world, the true magnitude of the disaster that our heroes are up against begins to take form. The stakes are impossibly high, and from the beginning it was clear that any hope of winning wasn’t going to come without a steep cost. While the second book highlighted what magic can do as it was put on show during the international competition, this book shows its limitations, especially at the hands of the fragile human magicians with their limited capacity to channel it. The fancy flourishes and tricks prove to be much too little against the seemingly unstoppable force that is the Shadow King.

This book also can be split into two parts. The seemingly futile disaster overtaking Red London, and then a jaunty ship journey, complete with Sea Serpents! If it sounds like those two things wouldn’t mix well, you’d be wrong. And in many ways, this second half of the book was my favorite. It was essentially an odd company adventure romp featuring my favorite characters: Lila, Kell, Alucard, and, bizarrely, Holland.

Lila is, and will always be, my favorite character. And while much of her growth took place in the second novel, we see her really come into her own in this book, recognizing the benefit of staying put every once in a while and the strength to be gained from relationships with others, even with the risk of loss.

Kell, too, was much more filled out coming off the second novel, so his arc was also more limited to simply overcoming this great nemesis. However, there was some interesting nuance added to his relationship with the royal parents, and his relationship with Rhy continues to by my favorite portrayal of brotherhood on page.

And, obviously, Lila and Kell now together….my heart!

The more surprising character arcs came for both Alucard and Holland. With both, but especially with Holland, we are given a much clearer look into their past through flashbacks. Alucard’s story highlights the fact that Red London, as advanced as it is, does struggle with similar prejudices as our own world, a fact that he suffers for greatly.

And Holland. His story came out of left field! While the first book does a good job setting him up as more than a simple villain, this is where we finally see behind the mask and are witness to the complete and utter tragedy that has been his life. Honestly, after seeing it all, Holland turns out to be the strongest character of them all, even given the fact that they largely wouldn’t even be in this whole “Shadow King” mess had it not been for him.

I’ve already written a bunch and I still feel like I’ve barely skimmed the surface of what’s to love about this book and series as a whole. I honestly can’t recommend it enough for fans of fantasy. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a trilogy that feels so perfect in every way. In this case, even the most wild and outlandish praise is well deserved.

Rating 10: A perfect 10 for the whole trilogy.

Reader’s Advisory:

“A Conjuring of Light” is newly released and thus not on many Goodreads lists, but it should be on “Fantasy/SF Atlas–London” and “Magic, Adventure, Romance.”

Find “A Conjuring of Light” at your library using Worldcat!

But wait! There’s more! If somehow you have managed to resist instantly purchasing this for yourself, never fear, I am hosting a giveaway for a hardcover edition of “A Conjuring of Light!”

EDIT: I failed to update the “comment on the blog” question for the giveaway! So instead of favorite murder mystery (darn you, Kate, and your murder mysteries and my own ineptitude when recycling your work!), what is your favorite fantasy novel that was published in the last year?

Click here to enter the giveaway!