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.

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.


My review:

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

And this book didn’t let me down!!!

From the very 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.

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

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.


My review:

I have always wondered what happened to the fairy tale characters after the end of the tale. 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“, then you should read this book.

It was a wonderfully written, very 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.