The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey

Date of publication: August 30th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Adult, Fiction, High Fantasy, LGBT, Science Fiction, Queer, Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction Fantasy, Adult Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | Better World Books

Goodreads Synopsis:

Two warriors shepherd an ancient god across a broken land to end the tyrannical reign of a royal family in this new epic fantasy from the author of The Vanished Birds.

ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2022—Tordotcom, BookPage, LitHub

The people suffer under the centuries-long rule of the Moon Throne. The royal family—the despotic emperor and his monstrous sons, the Three Terrors—hold the countryside in their choking grip. They bleed the land and oppress the citizens with the frightful powers they inherited from the god locked under their palace.

But that god cannot be contained forever.

With the aid of Jun, a guard broken by his guilt-stricken past, and Keema, an outcast fighting for his future, the god escapes from her royal captivity and flees from her own children, the triplet Terrors who would drag her back to her unholy prison. And so it is that she embarks with her young companions on a five-day pilgrimage in search of freedom—and a way to end the Moon Throne forever. The journey ahead will be more dangerous than any of them could have imagined.

Both a sweeping adventure story and an intimate exploration of identity, legacy, and belonging, The Spear Cuts Through Water is an ambitious and profound saga that will transport and transform you—and is like nothing you’ve ever read before.


First Line:

Before you arrive, you remember your lola, smoking.

The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez

When I first received the publisher’s request to review The Spear Cuts Through Water, I almost didn’t accept it. I had reviewed The Vanished Birds and “meh” about it. But when I read the blurb, it caught my interest, and I decided to give this book a chance. I am glad I did because this book was one of the most uniquely written books I have ever read. Oh, and I also really liked it.

The Spear Cuts Through Water had an exciting plotline. It follows the journey of Keema, a one-armed outcast, and Jun, grandson of the emperor, as they escort Jun’s goddess grandmother across the country. Jun and Keema face many dangers but discover strengths they didn’t know they had. There is also another storyline that is intertwined with Keema and Jun. That is the story of an unnamed man who finds himself in a place called the Inverted Theater after a lifetime of hardship. He is watching a play about Keema and Jun and their journey. Like me, he had questions about their journey. Will they complete their journey?

Usually, I will put a trigger and content warning at the end of my review. But, if I feel that the book’s content will immediately affect the reader or the triggers are horrible, I move it to the top of the review. The triggers in this book are a combination of both. If you are triggered by gore, genocide, ritual cannabilism, body horror, dismemberment, and ableism, do not read this book.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is a medium-paced book in a dystopian ancient Japan or China (I couldn’t figure out which one). The author uses a lot of Japanese and Chinese folklore as a base for the story. I loved it!! It made the book so much more enjoyable for me to read because I enjoy the folklore/mythology from those areas.

As I stated above, this was very uniquely written book. It was written in equal parts, 2nd person and 3rd person POVs. I can count on one hand how many books I have read in 2nd person. And I can count how many of those books I have liked on half of that hand. The author seamlessly switched between the 2nd and 3rd person without disrupting the book’s flow. I was surprised at how much I liked the way it was written. Now, saying that the way this book is written isn’t for everyone, and I would keep that in mind when starting it.

The main characters of The Spear Cuts Through Water were well-written. The author did a great job of fleshing them out and making me care about them (and their journey).

  • Keema—I liked him. There’s not much I can say about him other than that he was almost stupidly brave. I wouldn’t say I liked that he was looked down upon for only having one arm or that the other guards picked on him because of it. His journey with Keema was to find himself as much as it was to bring the Moon to her final destination.
  • Jun—So, he didn’t make the best first impression when he showed up in the book. But, as the book continued, I saw Jun’s character evolving. He started to care about Keema and what the Terrors were doing to the people during his journey. Heck, he even cared about the tortoise. By the end of the book, he has changed from the beginning.
  • Unknown Narrator—This is the person being told Jun and Keema’s story and their own life story. I felt terrible for this man. He had been through so much in life. He was amazed to find himself at the Inverted Theater, watching this story unfold. There was a more fantastic connection between Jun, Keema, and himself that was revealed at the end of the book. I didn’t see that twist coming!
  • The Three Terrors—I was going to make them secondary characters, but I got to thinking, and they each, in their way, were main characters. To me, they embodied the worst traits that society had. Jun’s father (the First Terror) was Violence. He participated in genocide in the Old World. He did love his sons, but that was his only redeeming quality. The Second Terror, to me, was Greed and Gluttony. In my eyes, he was the scariest Terror, mainly because of what he did to gain the powers of the tortoise. The Third Terror, I couldn’t place him in any group. He was a horror exiled from his family at a young age. I will not even get into what he was or what he did. But I did feel bad for him. The scene with the man in that dungeon was both gruesome and heartbreaking at the same time.
  • The Moon— I wasn’t sure about her. I understood why she wanted to leave (who would want to be held captive under a palace). But I wouldn’t say I liked how she coerced Jun and Keema to do what she wanted. She didn’t get to her destination, forcing Jun and Keema to do something atrocious, something I had heard of but had never seen written in a book before. She also held no love for her children. That bothered me more than anything, to be honest.

The Spear Cut Through Water did have a lot of notable secondary characters. I will not list them, but they all added extra depth to the book.

The Spear Cuts Through Water was listed as a fantasy novel. I agree, but it is more suited as a dark and epic fantasy. The author did a great job weaving the epic fantasy angle (the journey) and the dark fantasy angle (everything else). It made for a great read.

I also want to add that there is a romance and LGBTQ+ angle to this book also. Keema and Jun’s romance is cultivated throughout the entire book. There was so much given with a look between them. And the yearning, oh my, it was almost too much for me to bear.

The author amazingly wrote the main storyline with Keema, Jun, the Terrors, the Moon, and their journey. The author had me glued to the book, wanting to know more, and you know what? He gave it to me in spades. The author explained everything, and he tied everything together. The author left no loose ends with this plotline. There were a couple of twists I didn’t see coming.

The storylines with the unknown narrator and the Inverted Theater was well written. I didn’t get as invested as I did with the main storyline, but still, it drew me in. A twist in that storyline made me put my Kindle down. I needed a second to process what I had read because the twist was that unexpected and that good.

Several secondary storylines give some added background and depth to the main storylines. The author incorporated them into the main storyline without pausing the book’s flow.

The end of The Spear Cuts Through Water was not what I expected, but at the same time, I expected it, if that makes sense. I loved how the author ended the main storylines and how he merged them both.

Three reasons why you should read The Spear Cuts Through Water:

  1. The storylines.
  2. The characters.
  3. Jun and Keema’s slow-burn romance

Three reasons why you shouldn’t read The Spear Cuts Through Water:

  1. The triggers. I am usually pretty good with the number of triggers in the book, but even I got triggered by this book.
  2. The way it was written. Being told in 2nd and 3rd person isn’t most people’s cup of tea.
  3. The Terrors. They genuinely creeped me out.

If you enjoyed reading The Spear Cuts Through Water, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Art of Prophecy (The War Arts Saga: Book 1) by Wesley Chu

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey

Date of Publication: August 9th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Adult, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Literature, Asian Literature, Science Fiction Fantasy, Adult Fiction, Epic, Cultural, Asia

Series: The War Arts Saga

The Art of Prophecy—Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

An epic fantasy ode to martial arts and magic—the story of a spoiled hero, an exacting grandmaster, and an immortal god-king from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lives of Tao.

It has been foretold: A child will rise to defeat the Eternal Khan, a cruel immortal god-king, and save the kingdom.

The hero: Jian, who has been raised since birth in luxury and splendor, celebrated before he has won a single battle.

But the prophecy was wrong.

Because when Taishi, the greatest war artist of her generation, arrives to evaluate the prophesied hero, she finds a spoiled brat unprepared to face his destiny.

But the only force more powerful than fate is Taishi herself. Possessed of an iron will, a sharp tongue—and an unexpectedly soft heart—Taishi will find a way to forge Jian into the weapon and leader he needs to be in order to fulfill his legend.

What follows is a journey more wondrous than any prophecy can foresee: a story of master and student, assassin and revolutionary, of fallen gods and broken prophecies, and of a war between kingdoms, and love and friendship between deadly rivals.


First Line:

The line of broken soliders stretched out of the training pit and around the arena, spilling out onto the streets.

The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu

I love long books, but only if they are well-written. I have read books (not this one, thankfully) that are well over 500 pages, and they ramble, but that is not the case with The Art of Prophecy. This book is 528 pages which kept me captivated to the very end.

The Art of Prophecy had an exciting plotline. Taishi, a grandmaster of marital arts who controls the element of wind, has arrived to evaluate Jian, who is prophesied to defeat the Eternal Khan. She finds a spoiled brat who can barely do martial arts or fight. When an ordinary soldier kills the Eternal Khan, Taishi finds herself doing the unexpected; saving Jian and hiding him away from people who want him dead. After a few months on the run, Taishi decides that Jian would be better hidden in plain sight and leaves him with another grandmaster. There, she hopes he will learn the discipline that he needs. But she also has an ulterior motive. Taishi will find the sect of monks who originally wrote the prophecy and see what it says. But it isn’t going to be easy for both Taishi or Jian. Jian has to deal with a school where people see him as a joke, and he cannot display any knowledge of fighting. If he does, his cover is broken. Taishi must stay one step ahead of the assassins sent to kill her. Add a morally gray character (Saliminde) whose only wish is to free her people and a psychotic bounty hunter (Qisami), and there is no telling what could happen. Can Jian stay hidden? Can Taishi find the monks and figure out the prophecy? Will Saliminde’s people be free? And will Qisami get her bounty?

As I stated in the opening paragraph, this is a long book. So, if you are going to read it, make sure you settle in for a while. Because I can guarantee you that once you start, you will not be able to put it down. That is a promise.

I loved that this book was set in an alternative (fantasy) China. The author did an excellent job of building up that world. It wasn’t an easy world to live in. It was violent, and the people lived under the constant threat of war. But, saying that, I would love to visit it!! The descriptions of blade dancing on the grass of the Grass Sea and its floating cities captivated me.

There are three (and, towards the end, four) main characters in The Art of Prophecy. They were all well-written and had their distinct personality. The characters are:

  • Taishi. I didn’t like her at first. She did come across as pompous and a little bit of a control freak. My dislike of her only lasted a short couple of chapters before I got glimpses into who the real Taishi was. That Taishi was a good person who wouldn’t let a child (who reminded her of her son) be killed. I also loved that she had a disability (she only could use one arm) and could still kick bad guys’ butts.
  • Jian. I felt terrible for Jian up to the middle of the book. He was the Champion of the Five Under Heaven. He was supposed to kill the Eternal Khan. Instead, the Khan was killed, and Jian ended up on the run with Taishi. It was a rude awakening for him. For the first time in his life, Jian had to work for things. By the middle of the book, I started to get aggravated with him. He kept having a “woe is me” mentality and was a jerk to the other kids at the school. By the time he and Taishi were reunited, he had grown out of that, and I got a good glimpse into the man he was going to be.
  • Saliminde. I liked her right from the beginning. She was The Viperstrike (head warrior) of the Great Khan’s army. Her weapon was one of the coolest ones I have ever seen described in a book. She was such a bad-a** that she decided she wouldn’t commit ritual suicide for the Eternal Khan. Instead, she was going to find the next Eternal Khan and free her people from slavery. She didn’t kill to kill; she had a code about it. By the end of the book, I couldn’t get enough of her scenes. That last fight scene with Taishi and Qisami was 100% epic.
  • Qisami. Ok, so I wasn’t a big fan of her when she was introduced halfway through the book. She was 100% psychotic, and the author made no qualms about it. She didn’t care who she killed (a 300-year-old drugged-out monk, for instance). She loved it. I found her constant talking in the fight scenes distracting. But, she did give both Saliminde and Taishi a run for their money, fightwise. Her ability to move through the shadows was terrific. By the end of the book, I still didn’t like her but understood her motivations for looking for Jian and Taishi.

There were many notable secondary characters in The Art of Prophecy. Each character added flair and depth to the book. I hope that some of the characters showcased at the end of The Art of Prophecy are made into more mainstream characters in the next book.

The Art of Prophecy also featured a fantastic fantasy storyline with action and adventure. I haven’t read a book that featured martial arts as prominently as this book did, and I still liked it. As for the fantasy, I couldn’t get enough of the world that the author had built up (if you can’t tell by me by fangirling this entire review).

As for the storylines, I LOVED them. There were some that I wished were expanded more upon (like Qisami’s origins) and some that I could have done without (the mapmaker), but they made the book.

The end of The Art of Prophecy was terrific. There was a truly epic fight scene where I did think one of the main characters had died. The author did not end any of the plotlines. Instead, he added to them during the last scenes of the book. Talk about making me want to read the second one!!!

Three reasons why you should read The Art of Prophecy:

  • Amazing characters and storyline
  • Martial Arts!!!
  • Great world building

Three reasons why you should not read The Art of Prophecy:

  • The book was super long (528 pages)
  • A lot of graphic violence
  • Some storylines could have been shortened or omitted.

If you enjoyed The Art of Prophecy, you will enjoy these books:

Locklands (The Founders Trilogy: Book 3) by Robert Jackson Bennett

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine, Del Ray

Date of publication: June 28th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Adult, LGBTQIA+, Science Fiction, High Fantasy, Science Fiction Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Queer, Magic

Series: The Founders Trilogy

Foundryside—Book 1 (review here)

Shorefall—Book 2 (review here)

Locklands—Book 3

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | IndieBound | Indigo | Kobo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A god wages war—using all of humanity as its pawns—in the unforgettable conclusion to the Founders trilogy.

Sancia, Clef, and Berenice have gone up against plenty of long odds in the past. But the war they’re fighting now is one even they can’t win.

This time, they’re not facing robber-baron elites, or even an immortal hierophant, but an entity whose intelligence is spread over half the globe—a ghost in the machine that uses the magic of scriving to possess and control not just objects, but human minds.

To fight it, they’ve used scriving technology to transform themselves and their allies into an army—a society—that’s like nothing humanity has seen before. With its strength at their backs, they’ve freed a handful of their enemy’s hosts from servitude, even brought down some of its fearsome, reality-altering dreadnaughts. Yet despite their efforts, their enemy marches on—implacable. Unstoppable.

Now, as their opponent closes in on its true prize—an ancient doorway, long buried, that leads to the chambers at the center of creation itself—Sancia and her friends glimpse a chance at reaching it first, and with it, a last desperate opportunity to stop this unbeatable foe. But to do so, they’ll have to unlock the centuries-old mystery of scriving’s origins, embark on a desperate mission into the heart of their enemy’s power, and pull off the most daring heist they’ve ever attempted.

And as if that weren’t enough, their adversary might just have a spy in their ranks—and a last trick up its sleeve.


First Line:

Are you ready? whispered a voice. Berenice opened her eyes.

Locklands by Robert Jackson Bennett

When I first tried to read Locklands, I had difficulty getting through it. Not from a lack of wanting to read it, I wanted to see where Berenice, Sanica, and the rest of the gang ended up after the events of Shorefall. I ended up DNF’ing at around 30% because I couldn’t wrap my head around some of the events that had happened or were happening in Locklands. I picked it back up because it was one of three books I had DNF’d this year, and I didn’t want to end the year on that note. While I struggled to read through the first 30% of the book, the book smoothed out and became enjoyable.

Locklands is book 3 in The Founders Trilogy. This book is not standalone; you must read the first two books before picking this up. The author goes into what happened in the first books but not in depth. I had a hard time following this book at first.

Locklands takes place around eight years after the events of Shorefall. A lot has happened in those eight years, but the most notable is that people used scriving to connect. Born out of the scriving are conscious entities called The Cadences. They are helping Berenice and her people fight a war against Tevanne. But they are slowly losing the war. Berenice realizes that the one person (or being, if you want to be technical) who could help them is being held captive and tortured by Tevanne. He is Crasedes Magnus, the hierophant and son of Clef. But can or will he help? Or will everything that they are fighting for be in vain?

I wasn’t a big fan of Berenice when the book first started. She came across as dull. As the book continued, I understood that she was anything but that. She was brave and willing to do anything to ensure her people were safe and get the job done. By the end of the book, I loved her. Her sacrifices did help her people in the future.

Clef had a considerable part in this book. A good chunk of the last part of the book is based on his human memories. He was still the sarcastic, wise-ass key he always was, but it was tempered by what he remembered. My heart broke for him during specific memories, but I also got very angry with him. It was his actions that made Crasedes who he was.

Crasedes didn’t show up until after Berenice rescued him. He was different from the egotistical man that the author featured in Shorefall. What he experienced in Tevanne changed him. It changed him so much that he was willing to work with Clef and Berenice to nullify Tevanne. Of course, he did have some tricks up his sleeve, but for the most part, he was pretty straightforward with what he wanted and was going to do.

Surprisingly, Sanica didn’t have a massive part in most of the book. With her physical changes, I could understand why she wasn’t out fighting on the front lines. But, towards the end, it was revealed what Sanica had to do and man, did she deliver!!

I loved the Cadences. Greeter and Design were my favorites. I loved reading about their interactions with Berenice and how they talked to her. They were also very instrumental in what happened at the end of the book.

The storyline with Clef and Crasedes (and ultimately Tevanne) broke my heart. As a parent, I could understand why Clef chose to do what he did. But as a person, I was horrified by it. Also, I will never be able to look at butterflies the same way. Again, the author revealed another sad thing.

The storyline with the war, Tevanne, Crasedes, the Cadences, Sanica, and Berenice, was well written. The author did a fantastic job of not only building up to the grand finale but explaining why it went the way it did.

The fantasy angle was one of the best ones I have ever read. The author perfectly outlined the use of scriving for pathing, the creations of the Cadences, and even Tevanne’s usage of magic/scriving. It sometimes frightened me, but it kept my attention wholly on the book.

There was a slight romance angle in Locklands. The relationship between Sanica and Berenice was relationship goals (seriously). They were utterly in love with each other, but they also understood that there was something bigger than themselves going on. So, yes, my heart broke when certain events happened.

The end of Lockalnds was interesting. I say interesting because I didn’t expect the book to end as it did. It surprised me.

I would recommend Locklands to anyone over 21. There is moderate to graphic violence, mild sexual situations, and language.


If you enjoyed reading Locklands, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Wizard’s Ward by Jules McAleese

Publisher: Vale Media

Date of publication: April 30th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Vale

The Wizard’s Ward—Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | Kobo

Goodreads Synopsis:

Francis has gray blood.

The King of the Elves ordered all gray bloods be put to death, by any means necessary. Francis, the Wizard’s Ward, has been hiding in plain sight all her life, under the care of Billington, the King’s wizard. When Billington disappears from the Cardinal castle, Francis enlists the help of her first love, a battle-ridden soldier called X, to find the only family she’s ever known.

But outside the castle walls, there is a war raging between kingdoms and Francis faces countless dangers that plague the land of Vale. Shapeshifting bounty hunters search for military deserters, pirates maraud Vale’s seas, combat-trained dragons dwell in the witch’s mountains, and betrayals harden once-warmed hearts.

As the journey pushes Francis to her limits, she uncovers the true power of her gray blood, a power that could fulfill a prophecy and bring down a psychotic king.

Vale: The Wizard’s Ward is the first installment of an epic young adult fantasy franchise.


First Line:

“Three pieces of kings copper?” Billington asked, as his unruly gray eyebrows rose in skepticism.

The Wizard’s Ward by Jules McAleese

I first saw reviews for The Wizard’s Ward on a couple of blogs I follow. I was very interested in reading it from the blurb and the reviews I kept seeing. But I figured that I would have to wait until I saw it for sale on Amazon. So, imagine my surprise when the author emailed me and asked if I would like to read/review this book. Of course, I jumped on it, and when I got the physical copy of the book, I decided that this would be my vacation book. Let’s say I read this book in 4 hours (split between two days) while driving to Fl, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I also have loaned it to a friend and her daughter (remember, I got a physical book). When I get it back, my 16 and 14-year-olds want to read it. So yes, I liked this book and have been recommending it to everyone.

The Wizard’s Rule had an exciting plotline. Francis is Billington’s ward, the wizard for The King of Elves. But Francis has a secret. She has gray blood, and The King has ordered all people with gray blood to be killed. Billington is hiding her in plain sight to protect her. Several things happen at once. Francis’s first love, a soldier named X is back from his 2-year deployment, Francis is required to attend a ball about her bully who happens to be the sister of The King, and Billington disappears. Determined to find him, Francis needs to go outside the castle and follow clues to where he could be. With the help of X, she escapes the castle but soon realizes that X is damaged and dangerous. With help from a surprising source, Francis enlists on a journey that will have her sail with pirates, fly with dragons, and confront a tyrant. But, can she find Billington, and can she learn what makes her so special to so many people?

I loved Francis. She did take her relationship with Billington for granted until he disappeared. It was then that she realized how much she had been protected. She also realized that he would have never disappeared without letting her know. That is when she took action and decided to go search for him. She learned much about herself and what her gray blood could do on that journey. Seeing her character grow and evolve was awesome!!

Let’s talk about X. I was pretty conflicted about his character right from the start. I didn’t understand why Francis had such strong feelings for him. He didn’t seem like her type. As the book went on and I got to see what happened from his perspective, I understood what attracted her to him. I also began to understand what attracted him to her. Francis was X’s haven. Memories of her helped him keep sane and not lose it when he was on that horrible island and forced to do awful things. So, I was a little surprised when the author had the storyline go the way it did. Surprised didn’t precisely entirely cover my reaction to that scene. More accurately, I was sad, horrified, and disgusted by his actions. Those feelings carried over for the rest of the book with everything he did and who he ended up hooking up with. But there were hints of the old X in there. He still thought about Francis constantly and imagined her when he was with Medea (which did gross me out).

I wish that Billington was more of a presence in the book. I loved how he came into the custody of Francis and raised her as his daughter. But there was a massive chunk of the book where he was just gone. I couldn’t get a feel for him as a character because of that. I hope he will be more there in the next book. I also hope the author explores Billington and Francis’s relationship a little more. He is her father, he did raise her, and I would love to see that discussed more.

The storyline about Francis’s gray blood was well written. I loved that the author didn’t fully explain what it meant (other than the prophecy and magic) until the end of the book. At that point, it made perfect sense, considering what had happened. I hope that in book 2, the author delves more into what gray blood can do.

The romance angle of the book was well written also. But, to be honest, I couldn’t pair Francis and X together in my head romantically. They were just too different. I hope that the author has them come together at some point in book 2. There are a lot of unresolved feelings on both their ends.

The author very well wrote the fantasy/magic angle of The Wizard’s Rule. The author did a fantastic job building this rich world where magic existed and was used for almost everything. I loved that Francis didn’t have a good grip on her magic for 90% of the book. She understood the spells, but they wouldn’t obey her. She ended up “wishing” for the magical things to happen, and they did. I can’t wait to see where the author will take that. I also can’t wait to see more of the fantasy world that these characters live in. The author gave us a glimpse into witches, sirens, centaurs, dragons, and pirates. What else could there be?

There are a couple of twists in the plotline. One comes with X’s storyline (see above). While I didn’t see it coming at the time, looking back, it made sense. But, the other plotline twist is HUGE and takes place in the very last chapter. I was so taken aback by what was revealed that I had to read that chapter 3 times. And each time, I kept thinking, “OMG, what did I READ!!!” It was very sneaky of the author to do that because there are certain characters that I can’t look at the same now. It also makes me want to read book two because of what was revealed.

As I mentioned, the end of The Wizard’s Ward was a complete bombshell. The author didn’t wrap up any of the storylines. Instead, she left them open, which left a vast opening for book 2.

I would recommend The Wizard’s Way for anyone over 13. There is no language, mild to moderate violence, and some very mild non-graphic sexual content (with X and Medea).

In a Garden Burning Gold (Argyrosi: Book 1) by Rory Power

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Ray

Date of Publication: April 5th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, High Fantasy, Paranormal

Series: Argyrosi

In a Garden Burning Gold—Book 1

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Twins imbued with incredible magic and near-immortality will do anything to keep their family safe—even if it tears the siblings apart—in the first book of mythic epic fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls.

Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity helping their father rule their small, unstable country, using their control over the seasons, tides, and stars to keep the people in line. For a hundred years, they’ve been each other’s only ally, defending each other and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger.

Now, with an independence movement gaining ground and their father’s rule weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep their family—and their entire world—from crashing down around them. But other nations are jockeying for power, ready to cross and double-cross, and if Rhea and Lexos aren’t careful, they’ll end up facing each other across the battlefield.


First Line:

A week was too long to be a widow.

in a garden burning bright by rory power

When I got the invite for In a Garden Burning Gold, I was intrigued by the blurb. A book about near immortals who control the tides and seasons of their country? It was an immediate yes from me. I was super hyped to read another book by this author (having read The Wilder Girls), and I did expect something very similar to that book. But, this book was very different from that book.

In a Garden Burning Gold is the first book of the Argyrosi duology. This book lays the foundation of the different families, their powers, and how they came by them. It also explains a complex religious system. The author was kind enough to include a glossary at the beginning of the book that details the different families and countries. But, even with that, I still had an issue keeping people/countries straight.

The plotline for In a Garden Burning Gold was interesting. Rhea and Lexos are twins who serve their father in ruling their country. Each has a magical power: Rhea can control the seasons, and Lexos can control the tides and stars. Their father uses their powers to his advantage. Rhea is married several times a year and uses her husband to usher in the seasons as a human sacrifice. Lexos only controls the stars and tides when directed by their father. But there has been stirrings of unrest in their country and other countries. As Rhea is married off to the only son of a northern ruler, Lexos is left behind to deal with his father’s increasingly erratic behavior. But some secrets will impact Rhea and Lexos’s relationship with not only each other but their father. These secrets are explosive and could rewrite everything they thought they knew about their family. But are Lexos and Rhea willing to let that happen?

I am going to put a trigger warning in this review. I usually don’t, but I feel that certain situations in the book warrant it. Per the author’s post on her blog, these triggers are emotional and physical abuse by a parent, death, manipulation/discussion of loss of agency, discussion of state violence and war, a history of imperialism, and mention/description of blood. If any of these could potentially trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

Out of all the characters in In a Garden Burning Gold, Rhea was my favorite. She wasn’t a precisely likable character, but I loved seeing her evolve from a self-centered, father-pleasing woman to a woman who embraced everything about herself and found the courage to become who she was destined to be. It was like watching a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, it was a little painful to read, but the result was terrific. I am curious to see what she will do in book two since she has embraced her mother’s legacy.

I wasn’t that fond of Lexos, on the other hand. Outside influences easily led him (certain scenes with the ruler of a different country showed that), and he was terrified of his father. Now that I understood. His actions were directly related to his fear of his father. So, I was surprised when he decided to do what he did in the second half of the book. He meant well, but I wasn’t surprised when it blew up in his face. I also wasn’t surprised when Rhea had the reaction that she did.

The younger siblings intrigued me. I thought Nitsos’s powers were terrific (even if his father didn’t). I wanted the author to explore his character a little more. But I feel that he will become a significant player in the second book. Chrsyanthi was an enigma. I couldn’t quite place her power (it was something to do with paint), and I hope that the author thoroughly explains it in book 2. I could have missed it, but I expected her power to be very obvious.

The storyline with Rhea being Thyspira was engrossing. I was fascinated by the fact that she needed to have a sacrifice to bring about winter and summer. It made me wonder how human sacrifice was brought into play and if the author would explain that in book 2. I also loved how it evolved. I can’t say anything without giving away spoilers, but I will say that I found it very fitting.

Lexos’s storyline was also exciting, but I was a little bored by it. I am not a hugely political person, so the talk about overthrowing rulers bored me a little bit. But it did get interesting towards the end of the book. I can’t wait to see where Lexos ends up in book 2.

The end of In a Garden Burning Bright was exciting. Again, I can’t say much about what happened, but I will say that I agree with what Rhea was doing. I didn’t quite agree with the other thing she did, but I understood why she did it. It hooked me in for the next book.

I would recommend In a Garden Burning Bright to anyone over 21. There are several triggers (see above). There is also mild language, violence, and non-graphic sexual situations.

Destined for a King (The Bastard Brotherhood: Book 1) by Ashlynn Macnamara

Destined for a King: The Bastard Brotherhood by [Macnamara, Ashlyn]

Publisher: Loveswept

Date of publication: September 6th, 2016

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Historical, Fantasy Romance, Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal Romance, High Fantasy, Medieval

Series: The Bastard Brotherhood

Destined For a King—Book 1

Claimed by the Commander—Book 2

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Indigo | Kobo | Apple Books

Goodreads Synopsis:

Bestselling author Ashlyn Macnamara, hailed by Jennifer McQuiston as “a born storyteller,” introduces the strapping, audacious outlaws of the Bastard Brotherhood in this enchanting tale of forbidden love between supposedly sworn enemies.
 
Though she is intended for the king, Calista Thorne picks up a crossbow to defend her ancestral home, Blackbriar Keep, from a gang of landless knights. She even manages to sink a poison-tipped arrow into their commander, who survives long enough to conquer the Keep and claim Calista for his own. Now, with her father’s life at stake, Calista must nurse the brigand back to health, and the strangest thing happens: She finds herself fascinated by his tautly muscled body, and enthralled by his hotly whispered demands.
 
Ever since his father’s death, the fearsome warrior they call Torch has been consumed by his quest for revenge. Taking Blackbriar Keep is the first step in that plan, and—by the three gods—it won’t be the last. But after taking one look into Calista’s smoldering gray eyes, Torch discovers a passion nobler than retribution. He will fulfill his destiny and take her from the usurper king, even in his weakened state. For with Calista’s love, no man has ever felt more powerful.


I was excited about this book when I saw the synopsis. “Oh wow, Jolie, it’s a Middle Age romance, and it is going to ROCK,” I thought.

Talk about setting myself up for a huge disappointment.

Destined for a King did have a great start. The book starts when Blackbriar Keep is overtaken by Torch and his knights. Calista, Lord Thorne’s daughter, and only child, manages to shoot Torch in his leg with an arrow and wounds him.  After announcing to the keep (and her parents) that he will marry her, Torch passes out. Turns out that the arrow was tipped with kingsbane and poisoned him. Torch’s second in command orders Calista to heal Torch. He threatens her with this: If Torch doesn’t live, neither will she or her parents. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Calista is promised to the King, Magnus Vandal. Also, Torch claims that he is the long-lost heir to the throne, Josse Vandal.

Got that. Good. Because after all that is revealed, the book gets confusing.

I was not fond of Calista at all. She was headstrong and prone to doing things that got her and others in trouble. Like sneaking out of the keep to see her old tutor, Brother Tanctrid. She asked him about what happened with the King and Torch. I still don’t understand how she did it, with the keep being as defended as it was.

Then there is Calista’s mother. She drove me nuts. Always reminding her that she was “destined for a king” but never saying why. What got me was when she told Calista,remember why I named you,” and then NEVER WENT INTO THE REASON!!!! WTH. Why did she name Calista her name? WHY? Inquiring minds want to know over here.

Calista gets attacked by Brother Tanctrid after she wakes him from his trance. I thought he would end up being a vampire with all the talk about blood. It isn’t blood that he wants. Calista is affected by his attack, but not in the way you would think.

There is Instalove too. Calista goes from hating Torch to being in love with him within 4 days. Excuse me while I gag. I hate Instalove. At least give it a week or so to develop. The sex scenes were great and delicious.

The ending was good, too, leaving the book open for other books in the series.

I would recommend Destined for a King to anyone over 21. There is sex and mild violence.




 

The Hunger (The Hunger: Book 1) by Michael D. Young

The Hunger by [Young, Michael D.]

Publisher: Future House Publishing

Date of publication: April 7th, 2016

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Magic

Series: The Hunger

The Hunger—Book 1

Crude Magic—Book 2

Purchase Links: Amazon | WorldCat

Goodreads synopsis:

Feed your Hunger.

In a distant, war-torn land, every man, woman, and child must either consume the magical substance known as Sustenance or succumb to the Hunger. Those who succumb develop deformities and face exile — or even death.

The scholar Azil wants nothing more than to lead a tranquil life and beat back the Hunger. But when a mysterious assassin tries to kill Azil, and a stranger shows up at his door challenging him to join her on a quest, he embarks on a dangerous journey to steal the sacred gems of Sustenance guarded in a forbidden fortress. To get there, Azil must venture through a land of floating cities, ravenous mage wraiths, ax-wielding warriors, and bloodthirsty bandits.

But with the sacred gems of Sustenance come volatile magic — magic so strange and dangerous, that the prophecies foretell it could usher in a golden age, or turn its wielder into the darkest of villains.


I love fantasy, and I know that I have mentioned it in past reviews. So when I was approached to review this book and read the synopsis, I was excited to read The Hunger.

And this book didn’t let me down!!!

From the beginning, where I met Azil, Evelet, Kaval, Sarhah, and Jamith…the story sucked me in. I couldn’t put the book down; that’s how engrossing the story is.

A twist at the end of the book took me by surprise. Not giving anything away here, but it is a huge twist that went with the book.


If you enjoyed reading The Hunger, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

The Reflections of Queen Snow White by [Meredith, David]

Publisher: David Meredith

Date of publication: October 2nd, 2013

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Adult, Retellings, Fairy Tale, Fairy Tale Retellings, Magic, Adventure, High Fantasy

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible

Goodreads synopsis:

What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?

On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished, and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:

The king is dead.

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.


I have always wondered what happened to the fairy tale characters after the tale’s end. What was their life like after the words “Happily Ever After” were written? I know I am not the only one who has thought this. I mean, it’s hard not to think about it.

If you are like me and have wondered about “Happily Ever After, “ you should read this book.

It was a wonderfully written, descriptive book about Snow White and the aftermath of Prince Charming’s death. It also tells how she finds the Magic Mirror and uses it to see her true self. The flashback scenes are all heartbreaking. The author, for the most part, stayed very true to the fairytale.

The ending was not what I expected, and it did delight me.


If you enjoyed reading The Reflections of Queen Snow White, you will enjoy these books: