Zhara (Guardians of Dawn: Book 1) by S. Jae-Jones

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books

Date of publication: August 1st, 2023

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Young Adult Fantasy, Fiction, Mythology, High Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Asian Literature, Retellings

Series: Guardians of Dawn

Zhara—Book 1

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sailor Moon meets Cinder in Guardians of Dawn: Zhara, the start of a new, richly imagined fantasy series from S. Jae-Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of Wintersong.

Magic flickers.
Love flames.
Chaos reigns.

Magic is forbidden throughout the Morning Realms. Magicians are called abomination, and blamed for the plague of monsters that razed the land twenty years before.

Jin Zhara already had enough to worry about—appease her stepmother’s cruel whims, looking after her blind younger sister, and keeping her own magical gifts under control—without having to deal with rumors of monsters re-emerging in the marsh. But when a chance encounter with an easily flustered young man named Han brings her into contact with a secret magical liberation organization called the Guardians of Dawn, Zhara realizes there may be more to these rumors than she thought. A mysterious plague is corrupting the magicians of Zanhei and transforming them into monsters, and the Guardians of Dawn believe a demon is responsible.

In order to restore harmony and bring peace to the world, Zhara must discover the elemental warrior within, lest the balance between order and chaos is lost forever.

First Line:

The rent was due, rodents had gotten into the rice, and Zhara had just dumped a bag of salt instead of sugar into the custard filling.

Zhara (Guardians of Dawn) by S. Jae-Jones

Jin Zhara’s life hasn’t been easy. Her mother died as a baby, her father was taken and killed in a purge of magicians, and she is treated horribly by Second Wife, her father’s second wife. She also has to hide that she has magical powers. Her only joy is tending to her blind younger sister, reading romance serials, and working at the apothecary shop. But that will change when she bumps into a young man named Han. Through him, Zhara discovers that a plague corrupts the magician’s powers and turns them into unrecognizable monsters. She also finds the secret organization, the Guardians of Dawn, sworn to help the surviving magicians and discover what caused the plague. Zhara doesn’t know or understand that she is instrumental in balancing order and chaos. But Zhara must learn to control her magical abilities, or the world as she knows will be lost. Can Zhara do that? Can Zhara learn to control her magical powers and save the world?

When I got the email containing the widget for Zhara, I was pleasantly surprised. I had read Wintersong a couple of years ago and enjoyed it (which, it turns out, puts me in the minority). I accepted the invitation and downloaded the book. Also, what figured into my downloading the book was that I love the mythology and lore of South Korea. Seeing that this book is loosely based on those myths and lore, I knew I needed to read it.

Before I get further into the book, I want to put up some trigger and content warnings. The warnings are:

  1. Child abuse (off-page but prevalent. It consists of emotional, verbal, and physical)
  2. Genocide (off-page and vividly remembered by everyone in the book)
  3. Death of parents (Zahara’s mother died of a fever when she was a baby, and her father was killed in the genocide of the magicians in the land. Han’s mother was also killed during that same genocide)
  4. Possession (on and off page. Demons possess the living bodies of magicians and transform them)
  5. Body Horror (Zhara, without permission, used magic to try to help Suzhan (her stepsister). Instead, she ended up blinding her sister)
  6. Abelism (Second Wife shames Suzhan constantly for being blind. Suzhan’s suitors discard her after discovering she is blind.)

If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book.

Zhara is the first book in the Guardians of Dawn series. Here is where I post if this book is a standalone or if you need to read the other books in the series. But since this is the first book in a new series, you can disregard anything I usually say.

The author has a forward explaining how this book is loosely based on Korean mythology and lore. She also apologizes for any inconsistencies that arise because of it. It was a very tongue-in-cheek forward, and it did make me smile.

There are three storylines in Zhara. One follows Zhara, her introduction to the Guardians of Dawn, and her home life. The other storyline follows Han and his search for a book, Songs of Order and Chaos, and the shenanigans he and Xu get into. Towards the middle of the book, Han and Zhara’s storylines merge, following them as they look for a cure for the plague and figure out who was behind it. All of these storylines were wonderfully written and could keep my attention.

I loved the characters in Zhara. I found them all to be complex characters. Some of these characters had more depth, more layers, to them than what the author had written.

The storyline following Zhara, the Guardians of Dawn, and her home life broke my heart. I was beyond angry at Second Wife and her treatment of those girls. She kept reminding Zhara that she kept her safe from the Kestrels and that she houses and feeds her. The abuse that both Zhara and Suzhan went through (even if it wasn’t on page) was awful. But, at the same time, I liked that Zhara started to see herself as more than Second Wife’s property (even though she wasn’t). Her character growth during the book was terrific. It reached a head during the battle scene, where she faced and overcame her demons (literally).

The storyline following Han, Xu, and their shenanigans did give a bit of a comedic break between Zahra’s chapters. But, there was a darker undercurrent running underneath. Han and his brother were forced to watch their mother die because she was a magician. Before she died, Han’s mother made him promise to take care of his brother, who was a magician himself. It was a lot to put on an 11-year-old, but he did it. He ensured his brother was kept safe from the Kestrels at all costs. His friendship with Xu was one of the best I have ever read. The search for the book became a backdrop when Han and Zahara’s storyline merged.

The storyline following Han, Zhara, the plague, the reason for the plague, and the search for the book was interesting. I liked that Zhara slowly started to accept that she was worthy of her power and love. There was a part that I wasn’t fond of. It was the engagement of Han and Yuli. This brings me to another thing I didn’t like: Han keeping who he was from Zhara. It made that scene where she finds out heartbreaking.

The fantasy angle of the book was wonderful. The author created a world that, while similar to ancient Korea, was different. I liked that magic was something people were born with. I also loved that there were antimagicians. I wasn’t expecting that revelation, and who was revealed to be one.

There is an LGBTQIA rep in the book, and I loved how the author wrote those characters. Xu was gender-neutral. I loved their personality and their friendship with Han. They were like Jiminy Cricket was to Pinnochio with Han: a voice of reason. Yuli, who is introduced later in the book, is lesbian. She isn’t exactly loud and proud, but she doesn’t hide it either.

The end of Zhara was interesting. The battle scene and what happened while Zhara was in the Void was anti-climatic. But Zhara needed it. The fallout from that battle was widespread but needed. Also, something shocking happened, something that I didn’t see coming. The author did wrap up most of the storylines but left a few hanging. That makes sense if there is going to be a second book. Also, the epilogue was fascinating, and I can’t wait to find out if that person is a friend or foe.

I would recommend Zhara to anyone over 16. There is no language, but there is violence and a couple of kissing scenes. Also, see my trigger warning list.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, NetGalley, and S. Jae-Jones for allowing me to read and review Zhara. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoy reading books similar to Zhara, then you will enjoy these books:

Other books by S. Jae-Jones:

Thief Liar Lady by D.L. Soria

Publisher: Randon House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey

Date of publication: July 11th, 2023

Genre: Fantasy, Retellings, Adult, Romance, Fairy Tales, Fiction, Science Fiction, High Fantasy, Fantasy Romance, Fairy Tale Retellings

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

I’m not who you think I am.

My transformation from a poor, orphaned scullery maid into the enchantingly mysterious lady who snagged the heart of the prince did not happen–as the rumors insisted–in a magical metamorphosis of pumpkins and glass slippers. On the first evening of the ball, I didn’t meekly help my “evil” stepmother and stepsisters primp and preen or watch forlornly out the window as their carriage rolled off toward the palace. I had other preparations to make.

My stepsisters and I had been trained for this–to be the cleverest in the room, to be quick with our hands and quicker with our lies. We were taught how to get everything we want in this world, everything men always kept for themselves: power, wealth, and prestige. And with a touchingly tragic past and the help of some highly illegal spells, I would become a princess, secure our fortunes, and we would all live happily ever after.

But there’s always more to the story. With my magic running out, war looming, and a handsome hostage prince–the wrong prince–distracting me from my true purpose with his magnetic charm and forbidden flirtations, I’m in danger of losing control of the delicate balance I’ve created…and that could prove fatal.

There’s so much more riding on this than a crown.

First Line:

I never thought the tale of my daring escape from servitude into the glittering world of the royal palace would be boring, but after the hundreth telling it had begun to lose its shine.

Thief Liar Lady by D.L. Soria

Ash (better known as Lady Aislinn) knew what she was doing when she met Everett at his birthday ball and used magic to have him fall in love with her. Under her stepmother’s tutelage, Ash had learned to lie, use her body, and use illegal magic to capture a man. Now that she has the prince, she needs to make it to the wedding, and she will be in the clear. Ash is marrying the prince for his money and title, and so much more is riding on her wedding. But, when she meets the hostage prince, the dashing Rance. Then everything she has worked so hard for is shaken. Ash cannot let Rance distract her from her plans. But when the unthinkable happens, and Rance is implicated, Ash must decide: Will she stand by her Prince Charming? Or will she follow her heart?

When I saw this would be a retelling of Cinderella, the book caught my interest. For some reason, I have seen many fairy tale retellings on my Goodreads home page, and when I saw that Random House had this as a wish on NetGalley, I decided to wish on it. I wasn’t expecting it to be granted, and when I got the email, I was thrilled. I was glad when Random House granted this wish because I enjoyed the book (even if I had a few quibbles about it).

Thief Liar Lady is a fast-paced book. Because it is a fast-paced book, the plot line lags slightly towards the middle (around the wedding and the events after). It didn’t affect how I liked the book or my ability to stay focused on it(I have outside influences that do that).

Thief Liar Lady takes place entirely in the country of Solis. Solis didn’t seem like a place that I would like to live. If you were a native Solisian, then you were alright. But there was much hatred and mistrust if you came from the kingdom that Solis had been at war with. I could go on about genocide and religious suppression, but I won’t. Just remember that it happened in this book and was heartbreaking to read.

Thief Liar Lady’s storyline centers around Ash and the various activities that she is involved with. I loved that the author took the Cinderella fairy tale and had it take such a turn. I loved its what-if factor (What if Cinderella had an agenda). I also loved the backstory that the author built up for her. Ash was mistreated by her stepmother, there is no doubt about that, but she and her stepsisters were equally mistreated and trained, just like Ash. I did have a quibble with how Ash’s story was laid out. I wouldn’t say I liked starting the book in the middle of the story. It left me feeling off balance while reading. Also, I felt off balance while reading Ash’s backstory (how she got engaged and why). It was thrown in with no lead-in. This book’s use of magic (or lusture) was interesting, but Ash relied too much on it. Also, if Rance trained Puppy to detect lusture, why didn’t anyone pay attention when she started going nuts everything Ash was around?

I liked Ash. She was very straightforward with her intentions and why she was marrying Everett. She showed early in the book that she wasn’t easily manipulated. By the middle of the book, I liked that she decided she wouldn’t let people walk on her. That scene with Ryland was gold. I did worry for her when she started caring more for Rance than she should. I knew she was head over heels for him by the cottage scene. That’s what made everything that happened afterward so bittersweet.

I liked Rance but didn’t know what to think about him. He was an enigma and remained an enigma until the end of the book. I did have questions about his feelings for Ash throughout the book. I questioned how he felt until the end of the book.

I liked Everett, but I couldn’t tell if what I was seeing was the actual prince or the prince that had been repeatedly dosed with lusture. So, reading his scenes with Ash made me a little sick. Here is what seems to be a nice guy forced to be in love with someone he would have never looked at. The author focused his entire character on Ash, so I wonder if the guy I was seeing when the magic wore off was real.

The romance angle of Thief Liar Lady was well written. The central romance between Everett and Ash slowly leads to a love triangle between Everett, Ash, and Rance. And that slowly gave way to just Ash and Rance. As I mentioned above, the romance between Ash and Everett was forced because Ash had Everett under magical control. I didn’t get to see the build-up. Instead, the author highlighted the downfall. The romance whose build-up was highlighted was Ash and Rance. It was a prolonged build-up. It seemed to stall out there until the rebels kidnapped Ash and Rance. After that, it got going.

The storyline with Ash, her grandmother, and the rebellion was sad. Ash believed what she was doing was for the best. But, I feel her grandmother used her for information and didn’t care about her. The scene at the cottage only cemented that for me.

The storyline with Ash, her stepsisters, and her stepmother made me angry. The author gave little information about Ash’s childhood, but the glimpses were abusive. Ash and her stepsisters went through hell growing up. I wondered when the control Ash’s stepmother exerted over those girls would snap. It did towards the end of the book, and the fallout was explosive.

The end of Thief Liar Lady was not what I thought it would be. I loved how Ash fixed everything. It was unconventional, but it worked. The author was able to wrap up and end all of the storylines in ways that satisfied me.

I would recommend Thief Liar Lady to anyone over 16. There is no language, but there is violence and sexual situations.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey, NetGalley, and D.L. Soria for allowing me to read and review Thief Liar Lady. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of Thief Liar Lady, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Perilous Times by Thomas D. Lee

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: May 23rd, 2023

Genre: Fantasy, Adult, Fiction, Retellings, Arthurian, LGBT, Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Science Fiction Fantasy

Trigger Warnings: Climate Change, Eco-Terrorism, Racism, Grief

Publication Link: Kindle | Audible | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

An immortal Knight of the Round Table faces his greatest challenge yet—saving the politically polarized, rapidly warming world from itself—in this slyly funny contemporary take on Arthurian legend.

Being reborn as an immortal defender of the realm gets awfully damn tiring over the years—or at least that’s what Sir Kay’s thinking as he claws his way up from beneath the earth, yet again.

Kay fought at Hastings, and at Waterloo, and in both World Wars. After a thousand years, he thought he was used to dealing with a crisis. But now he finds himself in a strange new world where oceans have risen, armies have been privatized, and half of Britain’s been sold to the Chinese. The dragon that’s running amok, that he can handle. The rest? He’s not so sure.

Mariam’s devoted her life to fighting what’s wrong with her country. But she’s just one ordinary person, up against a hopelessly broken system. So when she meets Kay, a figure straight out of legend, she dares to hope that the world’s finally found the savior it needs.

As the two quest through this strange land swarming with gangs, mercenaries, and talking squirrels, they realize that other ancient evils are afoot. Lancelot is back too–at the beck and call of immortal beings with a sinister agenda. And if their plans can’t be stopped, a dragon will be the least of the planet’s worries.

In perilous times like these, the realm doesn’t just need a knight. It needs a true leader.

Luckily, Excalibur lies within reach–and Kay’s starting to suspect that the hero fit to carry it is close at hand.

First Line:

Kay crawls up from under his hill, up through the claggy earth.

Perilous Times by Thomas D. Lee

Cursed (or blessed, depending on how you look at it) with saving Britain from peril, Kay is digging his way out of the earth when he realizes it is different. There is no birdsong, no bugs, and it is uncomfortably warm. He doesn’t understand why he has been summoned to protect Britain again until he meets Miriam. Miriam has been devoted to saving the world from climate change and impending doom. When she meets Kay, she accidentally blows up a fracking rig, blowing toxic fumes into the atmosphere. After accepting Kay’s explanation (after seeing him return to life after being killed), Miriam and Kay start a quest to help Britain. But, also resurrected is Lancelot, and he is working for the enemy. What happens when the unthinkable happens and an ancient leader is resurrected? Will Miriam and Kay be able to help Britain and the environment? Or will Lancelot and the villains succeed in their plans?

I have always been intrigued by the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I have prioritized reading anything that mentions King Arthur, the Knights, and the legend. So, when I read the Perilous Times blurb, I knew I wanted to read it. And let me tell you, I am glad that I did because this book was equally funny and heartbreaking.

Perilous Times is a fast to medium-paced book in future England. The book takes a wandering tour through various English cities and eventually ends up in Wales. The pacing suited this book. The author kept the pace fast enough for me to follow (without returning to previous pages to reread) but slowed down during crucial parts.

The plotline of Perilous Times centers around Kay, Miriam, Lancelot, and the plot to bring King Arthur back (and yes, it is a spoiler). This plot meanders all over the place but, at the same time, sticks closely to the main characters. Usually, I wouldn’t like it written like that, but in this case, it worked. It allowed for a good view of dystopian England affected by climate change and other outside influences. The author did a great job of stressing how climate change affected the lower-lying coastal areas, rivers, and other bodies of water. As for the different influences, it wasn’t a stretch to see Britain reduced to a shadow of what it was. No monarchy, Wales and Scotland were independent (honestly, I can picture this in real life), armies were privatized, and other countries bought up parts of England to help pay their debts. Again, I had no issue seeing this happening in real life.

There are trigger warnings in Perilous Times. They are:

  1. Climate Change: England (and the rest of the world) has been ravaged by climate change. Polar caps have melted, releasing long-dormant diseases. Seas have risen because of the polar caps melting. Trees are almost all gone. Birds, worms, and insects are dying out.
  2. Eco-Terrorism: Miriam is part of an eco-terrorist group trying their hardest to save the world. They do this through nonviolent protests. But Miriam goes off script and accidentally blows up a fracking complex.
  3. Racism: Unfortunately, racism is alive and well in dystopian England. Kay, who is black, makes it a point to remember that his skin color wasn’t an issue until more recently (the last two to three hundred years). Kay also takes a rather drastic approach to being talked down too: he slaughters everyone in the group except Barry, who he turns into a squirrel.
  4. Grief: Kay grieves for his wife and the past. Lancelot grieves for his lover when he discovers what happened to his tree. But Lancelot also turns that grief into a rage and exacts revenge.

If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading the book.

I liked Kay and understood why he was so tired of being resurrected. All he wanted was to be at peace and see his wife in Heaven. But he knew something was different when he dug out of the earth this time. The world was too warm, too wet. He meets Miriam after the fracking explosion and convinces her to take him to Manchester. But, on the way, they encounter a dragon, and Kay’s quest to get to Manchester gets sidetracked. He gets to Manchester, gets Excalibur, and starts on a quest to find Merlin. While on that quest, a whole bunch of Monty Python-like situations happens. Kay’s storyline kept me on my toes.

I liked Miriam. She was trying her hardest to do her part to save the world. She knew that the Saxon Company (a megacorporation) was behind everything that had happened to England (and the world) but didn’t know how to change things. It wasn’t until she accidentally blew up a fracking site and met Kay that her path became clear. She was a quiet but compelling leader who wasn’t afraid to get stuff done. She convinced her FETA sisters to follow her and Kay. The best part of her storyline was towards the end of the book. What she did was nothing short of amazing. All I can say is, Once and Future Queen?

Lancelot was different from who I thought he would be in Perilous Times. He was not the Lancelot from myth. In this book, Lancelot is at the beck and call of the Saxon Company and a man named Marlowe. He also was gay, which was a surprising turn for me (since he supposedly seduced King Arthur’s wife). His sexuality added extra depth to his character. I didn’t think he was terrible, but he did shady stuff like taking Kay’s wooden staff or helping Marlowe and Morgan resurrect King Arthur. But, once he realized what he did was wrong (and it was very shortly after King Arthur returned), he set about fixing things with Morgan.

As I mentioned above, King Arthur is brought back. I was not too fond of his character, but at the same time, I couldn’t stop reading. The author portrayed him as a jerk and a sexist. He was also too easily led by people and couldn’t see the truth if it was woven in front of his face. In the end, though, he did the right thing; for a secondary character, he was larger than life. He almost overshadowed the main characters at one point in the book.

The author did have Merlin make a brief appearance. Honestly, I was very disappointed in how the author portrayed his character. I thought he would have had more interactions with Kay. But after the bombshell he dropped on Kay, he jetted. I was not OK with that.

There were several other deities/gods/goddesses mentioned in Perilous Times. The fae was brought in a solitary character that sold drugs (now that did make me laugh for a minute). Herne, a Celtic forest god, communicated with Kay and Miriam through dreams. And the Lady of the Lake, Nimue, was a considerable presence towards the end of the book. She reminded me of a cranky old lady who complained about doing things but did them anyways.

The end of Perilous Times was action-packed and very interesting. I will not get more into it than others to say I agreed with how it ended. There was hope for a better future.

I would recommend Perilous Times to anyone over 21. There is language and violence, but no sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning list.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Thomas D. Lee for allowing me to read and review Perilous Times. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of Perilous Times, then you will enjoy reading these books:

The Witch and the Vampire by Francesca Flores

Star Rating:

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books

Date of publication: March 21st, 2023

Genre: Fantasy, Lesbian, Young Adult, LGBT, Romance, Retellings, Queer, Vampires, Witches, Paranormal

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Trigger Warnings: Blood, death of a parent, animal death, physical abuse, torture, child abuse, vomit, child death, murder

Goodreads Synopsis:

Francesca Flores’s The Witch and the Vampire is a queer Rapunzel retelling where a witch and a vampire who trust no one but themselves must journey together through a cursed forest with danger at every turn.

Ava and Kaye used to be best friends. Until one night two years ago, vampires broke through the magical barrier protecting their town, and in the ensuing attack, Kaye’s mother was killed, and Ava was turned into a vampire. Since then, Ava has been trapped in her house. Her mother Eugenia needs her: Ava still has her witch powers, and Eugenia must take them in order to hide that she’s a vampire as well. Desperate to escape her confinement and stop her mother’s plans to destroy the town, Ava must break out, flee to the forest, and seek help from the vampires who live there. When there is another attack, she sees her opportunity and escapes.

Kaye, now at the end of her training as a Flame witch, is ready to fulfill her duty of killing any vampires that threaten the town, including Ava. On the night that Ava escapes, Kaye follows her and convinces her to travel together into the forest, while secretly planning to turn her in. Ava agrees, hoping to rekindle their old friendship, and the romantic feelings she’d started to have for Kaye before that terrible night.

But with monstrous trees that devour humans whole, vampires who attack from above, and Ava’s stepfather tracking her, the woods are full of danger. As they travel deeper into the forest, Kaye questions everything she thought she knew. The two are each other’s greatest threat—and also their only hope, if they want to make it through the forest unscathed.

First Line:

I slam the journal shut when a floorboard creaks downstairs, and listen closely for any more movement. Zenos must be awake now, which means he and my mother will come to my attic soon – and I’ll have to play the part of the perfect, obedient daughter.

The Witch and the Vampire by Francesca Flores

Ava has been confined to her room in her house for two years. She has unwillingly allowed her mother to steal her magic for two years. For two years, Ava had to hide that she was a vampire and was turned when vampires overran the town and killed her best friend’s mother. When her mother goes away on business and leaves her with her diabolical stepfather, Ava makes a break for the forest surrounding her village. Meanwhile, her best friend, Kaye, is channeling her grief into her Flame witch training. Fire is the only thing vampires are afraid of, and the villagers use it to their advantage, killing them with fire. Seeing Ava for the first time in two years, Kaye realizes she is a vampire. Channeling her rage and grief into capturing Ava, Kaye soon discovers the girl she was best friends with isn’t a heartless beast. Convincing Kaye that her only escape is through the woods, they travel. But they are being tracked by other vampires, vampire hunters, and Ava’s stepfather. Will Ava and Kaye make it through the woods? Will their friendship and budding romance rekindle? What truths will they find during their journey?

I was super pumped when I read the blurb for The Witch and the Vampire. I love fairy tale retellings and will go out of my way to read them. So when I read some reviews for this book and realized that it was a Rapunzel retelling, there was no way I wouldn’t read it. Have you read a good Rapunzel retelling? Well, until this book, neither did I.

Before I get further into the review, I do need to put up a trigger warning paragraph. The Witch and the Vampire do have a few trigger warnings. The trigger warnings are:

Blood (not surprising, this is a vampire story)

Death of a parent (Someone turned Ava’s father into a vampire, captured him, and then murdered him. Kaye’s mother was murdered also. Both are vividly remembered)

Animal death (Ava drank the blood of squirrels and rabbits to sustain herself)

Physical abuse (Ava by her stepfather, and it is graphic)

Torture (Ava by her stepfather during his experiments. Also what the Flame witches do to the vampires to get information. I considered both to be graphic)

Child abuse (Ava by both her mother and her stepfather. Her mother emotionally abused her and turned her into a vampire against her will. Her stepfather physically and verbally abused her when her mother was gone)

Vomit (Kaye threw up a few times but nothing overtly graphic)

Child death (off-page there were several murders of teens in the village and a preteen being used as a sacrifice)

Murder (so much murder)

If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading this book.

The Witch and the Vampire is a fast-paced book. It took me no time to read because of how fast the plotline was. I enjoyed that!! It is a dual POV 3rd person storyline, which was great because I got to see what was going on in Kaye and Ava’s heads during the book.

The main characters in The Witch and the Vampire broke my heart. They both had suffered so much loss and had their innocence taken from them at an early age. I do wish that there were more flashbacks to when Ava was human. I would have loved to see more of her and Kaye’s interactions.

I liked Ava, and I loved that the author used her as a comparison to Rapunzel. Right from the beginning, I could tell that she was just done with being in the attic, and she was done with being used as a magical sippy cup for her mother. Ava’s main focus was survival for the first half of her storyline. Once she escaped from her house, she knew she had a limited time to get to the woods. Running into and getting captured by Kaye was not part of her plan. Her character growth throughout the book was terrific. I loved seeing her go from a scared child to a woman who wouldn’t be treated like she had been. Of course, the events in the last half of the book helped that along.

I feel bad admitting this, but Kaye annoyed me until almost just past the book’s climax. She refused to believe Ava about anything until it smacked her face (i.e., Ava and herself getting caught). Kaye made decisions based on emotion and not rational thought. She was a powerful witch, though. I also thought that her immediately putting Ava as her mother’s murderer was awful. But, like Ava, her character growth was remarkable. I liked seeing her misconceptions about vampires torn down. I also liked that she changed enough to admit she was wrong. That is when my annoyance with her disappeared, and I started to like her.

The lore in this book was unbelievable. I would have loved for there to have been a glossary with some of the more critical bits of lore added to it. Because I needed help keeping track of everything thrown at me, lore-wise. I also pray that there is book two because I have questions about the other lands mentioned in this one.

Kaye and Ava’s romance was very low-key until almost the end of the book. I liked that they had an adorable moment before everything went berserk. I also loved the flashbacks that showed how close they were friendship-wise and how close they were getting romance-wise. What happened at the very end of the book was an act of love by Ava. That was very clear to me, and Kaye knew it.

The storyline with the vampires, Ava, Kaye, and the journey to leave the woods was well-written and kept my attention. I couldn’t believe how vampires were treated and cringed reading those scenes. I also cringed at how Kaye treated Ava after capturing her. There was a very neat (and heartbreaking) twist to this storyline that I didn’t see coming. It involved Casiopea (the Queen of the Vampires) and how vampires were created. Again, I didn’t see it coming. Ava’s role in this was also a surprise.

The storyline with Ava, Kaye, the Flame witches, and Kaye’s mother’s murder was well-written and heartbreaking. Everything about this storyline was a twist. My heart broke for Kaye several times throughout this storyline. I also was a little mad that she couldn’t get her revenge.

The end of The Witch and the Vampire surprised me. There were deaths that I didn’t see coming and one that made me so angry that I had to put down my Kindle. I liked how the author wrapped up the storylines, and I had a huge smile when a certain someone got their just deserts. I hope the author writes another book in this universe because I would love to know more about what Kaye and Ava will do.

I would recommend The Witch and the Vampire to anyone over 21. There are no sexual situations or language. There is graphic violence. Please also see my trigger warnings.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, NetGalley, and Francesca Flores for allowing me to read and review The Witch and the Vampire. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed this review of The Witch and the Vampire, you will enjoy reading these books:

Other books by Francesca Flores:

Children of Icarus (Children of Icarus: Book 1) by Caighlan Smith

Children of Icarus by [Smith, Caighlan]

Publisher: Switch Press

Date of Publication: August 1st, 2016

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Mythology, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Mystery, Retellings, Adventure, Greek Mythology, Young Adult Fantasy

Series: Children of Icarus

Children of Icarus—Book 1

Children of Daedala—Book 2 (review here)

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.”

This is one of the best YA books that I have read in a while. I read it in one sitting. I was engrossed by the story.

The book is based on the myth of Icarus and Daedalus and the myth of the Labyrinth.

In this story, a whole society has formed around that Greek myth. Society never goes outside but instead lives within many skyscrapers. Once a year, 6-7 children, ages 10-16, are chosen to run the Labyrinth and find the Angels.

The story’s main character is Nameless, and she is a bit of a wuss. She lives in her best friend, Clara, shadow. She is excited and afraid when she is picked to go into the Labyrinth along with Clara. Clara is everything she isn’t. Beautiful, creative, brave…

Once they get into the Labyrinth, everything changes for the worse. What happens in the Labyrinth is awful, and these children are an annual sacrifice. A lucky few are rescued by a group of children who have survived the Labyrinth.

I am not going to go into the book other than to say from the moment that Nameless enters The Fates to the ending was unbelievable. I ran the full gauntlet of emotions. From happy to sad to upset to disbelief.

I would recommend Children of Icarus to anyone over 16. There is violence and one scene of attempted rape.

If you enjoyed Children of Icarus, you will enjoy these books:

Fallen (Crowns of Twelve: Book 3) by Ann Hunter

Fallen: fractured fairy tales -- THE FROG PRINCE (Crowns of the Twelve Book 3) by [Hunter, Ann]

Publisher: Afterglow Productions

Date of publication: October 3, 2014

Genre: Retellings, Romance, Fairy Tales

Series: Crowns of Twelve

The Subtle Beauty—Book 1 (review here)

Moonlight—Book 2 (review here)

Fallen—Book 3

A Piece of Sky—Book 4 (review here)

The Rose in the Briar—Book 5

Ashes—Book 6

In The Mean While—Book 7

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads synopsis:

One prince. One mistake. One… chicken?

A twisted retelling of The Frog Prince, featuring your favorite villain from The Subtle Beauty & Moonlight, Sylas Mortas.

What would YOU do for love?

17-year-old Prince Sylas of Killeagh wants what everyone else wants: control over his own life. When he tries to run away from home and escape an arranged marriage, the last thing he expects is to fall in love with a robber in the woods. Hiding behind a mask, the robber girl seems to lead a life of freedom Sylas has only dreamed of. Their adventure comes to an end when the Castle Killeagh guards hunt Sylas down and he’s forced to return home. He convinces his parents to allow him to find the girl again and consider her as a candidate for marriage, but he only has until the next full moon to find her, or all bets are off.

Death has a name, and it is Crwys. As a ban sidhe, her job is to visit the great houses of The Summer Isle and keen out the living to prepare them for death. King Sionnach has far outlived his days and it is time he crosses the Unliving World. When she arrives, a young prince named Sylas intervenes and offers to go in his grandfather’s stead. This break with tradition, and selfless sacrifice, move Crwys into loving Sylas, who looks so much like a shadow from her past. But when he crosses her to be with his true love, he invokes the wrath of a woman scorned.

Rós is just a little, aura-seeing, red hen whose master believes she is chosen by the gods. Her arrival at King Sionnach’s court is insignificant to Sylas at the time, but their destinies are interwoven. Can she help Sylas save himself from the curse Crwys has planned for him? Or will he become a fallen frog prince?

As stated in the synopsis, this book is a fantastic retelling of The Frog Prince, and what a retelling it is. The author did something that I have rarely seen while reading books. She took a villain and told HIS side of the story. And guess what, he wasn’t as bad as he was made out to be in the other books!!!

I loved Sylas Mortas’s story, and what made me love it was that it had Ros in it. Ros had her own story in A Piece of Sky, where she carried a magical acorn to safety. I was excited when I saw that she reappeared (and was a major factor) in this book. I loved her character in that book, and her character didn’t disappoint in this book, either.

The story was awesome too. The story is about a prince who sacrifices three times for the people he loves.

I did feel bad for Crwys at points in the book. All she wanted was to be loved, and she made an enemy by forcing Sylas to love her.

If you enjoyed reading Fallen, 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: