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 Ferryman by Justin Cronin

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of Publication: May 2nd, 2023

Genre: Science Fiction, Fiction, Dystopia, Fantasy, Thriller, Mystery, Adult, Science Fiction Fantasy, Horror, Speculative Fiction

Trigger Warnings:

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

From author of The Passage comes a standalone novel about a group of survivors on a hidden island utopia–where the truth isn’t what it seems.

Founded by the mysterious genius known as the Designer, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they retire themselves, embarking on a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh.

Proctor Bennett, of the Department of Social Contracts, has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding people through the retirement process–and, when necessary, enforcing it. But all is not well with Proctor. For one thing, he’s been dreaming–which is supposed to be impossible in Prospera. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly fast. And then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.

Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun to question their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and there are rumors spreading of a resistance group–known as “Arrivalists”–who may be fomenting revolution.

Soon Proctor finds himself questioning everything he once believed, entangled with a much bigger cause than he realized–and on a desperate mission to uncover the truth.

First Line:

Dawn is breaking when she creeps from the house. The air is cool and fresh; birds are singing in the trees.

The Ferryman by Justin Cronin

Prospera is an island utopia that the mysterious Designer founded to shield people from climate change and the general chaos of the outside world. Death is not known in Prospera. All residents wear a monitor embedded in their arms, and those monitors measure their physical and mental health. Once the meter falls below 10 percent, the citizens must retire to the Nursery. There, their memories are wiped, their bodies rejuvenated, and they are readied to start life again as a teenager. But things are beginning to change in Prospera. The support staff, who mainly live in the Annex, are beginning to question their place in the social order of the island, and a resistance group is formed. While that is happening, Proctor Bennett, the Director of Social Contracts, is having a crisis. He has been dreaming, something no one on the island should be able to do. Proctor also received a cryptic message from his father shortly before his father forcibly retired. Running into roadblocks, Proctor starts to realize that there is more going on in Prospera than he realized and that Prospera isn’t what he thinks it is. What will happen when Proctor uncovers the truth? Will he be able to handle it?

I first heard about The Ferryman when I read several reviews on blogs I follow. What I read got me very interested in reading it. But I figured I would have to wait for it to be published to read it. It so happens that I saw it was on Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine’s NetGalley page as a wish. So I figured I would wish for it and see if I got it. And as you can see, I did. I was very excited; this became the book I read this spring. I hyped it up in my mind, and I became a little wary about it. Usually, when I get so excited to read a book, I get let down. Not in this case. Nope, this book definitely delivered for me!!

The Ferryman centers its storyline around Proctor. Proctor is an Elite. From the age of 15/16, he grew up lacking nothing on Prospera. He eventually married an artist and became head the Director of Social Contracts (who oversaw the ferryman). Life was good until it wasn’t. The author briefly explains Proctor’s early life, including the death of his beloved mother. More focus was on Proctor’s dreams, his rapidly falling stats on his monitor, and his shaky mental health. Everything started to happen after Proctor was forced to retire his father, and his father kept repeating a word over and over. That starts Proctor’s digging into the truth, and what he uncovers is amazing and, frankly, a little scary (and I am applying what was revealed in the last part of the book to this statement)

The other main storyline in The Ferryman centers around Thea, The Annex, Mother, and the resistance. The author did a wonderful job of keeping me guessing how Thea was involved and why she sought out Proctor. And when he melded the storylines, it was gold. I loved it!!!

There was a major secondary storyline involving the heads of the society. I can’t get much into it, but everything they were doing made sense once it was explained. I can’t give any more detail than that. But I was a little surprised by what Proctor did at the end. I was left scratching my head at first, but then I thought of the old saying: Keep your friends close but your enemies closer. Then it made perfect sense.

The characters in The Ferryman were well-written and fleshed out. I wish I could go more into them because there is more to their characters than what is revealed at first. I loved the comparisons once the author dropped his bombshell. It made sense.

I liked Proctor. He was a natural leader, but he was so confused by what was happening to him. I liked that even his dreams kept telling him to do things. I also liked that his dreams hinted at something that could destroy him. When that was revealed, it did. But then he got back up and resolved to keep fighting.

I thought Thea was awesome. I had her pegged as someone totally different than what she was portrayed as. Her actions throughout the book showed that. She loved Proctor to the point where she was willing to let him go.

The end of The Ferryman was amazing. The author explained everything that was going on in the book. And when I say everything, I mean everything. All of my questions were answered, and then some. Did I agree with what Proctor did at the end of the book? Not really, but I got why he did it. There was also a big twist involving Thea that I maybe should have seen coming, but I didn’t.

I recommend The Ferryman to anyone over 21. There is language, mild sexual situations, and violence.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Justin Cronin for allowing me to read and review The Ferryman. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of The Ferryman, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Other books by Justin Cronin:

S.O.P.H.I.E. by C.J. Noble


Date of publication: April 27th, 2023

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia

Trigger Warnings:

Purchase Links: Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:

Oxford, England, September 2023. A world not quite our own…

Fifteen-year-old Tim Alto has one thing on his mind, and one thing only. Not to make a complete fool of himself in front of his crush at the end of summer party (which isn’t easy when your overly tight jeans are making you walk like a penguin). But, in a city where androids are part of everyday life, anything can happen. A stolen wallet ruins Tim’s evening, and things go from bad to worse when the perpetrator shows up at school the next day.

Tim suddenly finds himself thrust onto a path filled with assault, grief, tests of friendship and unexpected romance.

A path that will lead Tim to question what it really means to be human.

First Line:

Tim had been spotted. A metallic head followed his movements across the room, the neck jerking unnaturally as it twisted around.

S.O.P.H.I.E. by C.J. Noble

Tim was having a good day until his wallet got stolen by a pink-haired thief at a local hang-out spot. Imagine his surprise when the thief shows up as the new girl in school the next day. After following her home and seeing an assault that shakes him to his core, Tim strikes an unlikely friendship with the pink-haired girl, Sophie. But Sophie has a much bigger secret than what is happening to her at home. How will Tim react when he is told? Will her secret make any difference in their friendship? And what is Sophie’s secret?

When I first read the blurb for S.O.P.H.I.E., I wasn’t sure if I would like it. For one, I don’t generally review middle-grade books (or books classed as middle-grade). And secondly, the blurb didn’t grab my attention at first. When I reread the blurb, I realized that this was a dystopian book and that androids were a considerable part of the plotline (no spoilers, read the blurb). The author piqued my interest, and I decided to read it. I am glad I did because this was a charming coming-of-age book.

The main storyline in S.O.P.H.I.E. follows Tim, his character growth, his relationships with his friends and Sophie, and his personal life. I felt that Tim was your typical teenager. He was immature (his reaction to his best friend’s news was a dead giveaway), but he did care about his friends. When his grandfather died, he did push them away, but they understood (well, Rachel using her dog’s death to understand Tim’s grief was a little awkward). But Tim also showed astonishing maturity during the book. Tim was a good kid trying to do the right thing by the time the book’s climax came around, and he was wise enough to bring his mother into everything (and his mother was a mama bear once she found out). He was willing to help Sophie with her home life (even though Sophie wanted him to leave things be).

There are trigger warnings in S.O.P.H.I.E. They are:

  1. Grief: Tim is mourning the death of his grandfather, who was a father figure to him. Sophie and her guardian are mourning the death of someone close to them.
  2. Child Abuse: I will not give names because this is a spoiler. But someone is physically and verbally abused during the book.
  3. Accident: There is a nongraphic car accident detailed that takes away someone that Sophie and her guardian love.
  4. Coming out: I put this as a trigger because of how Tim reacted to it. Tim’s best friend comes out as gay and confesses his love to Tim. Tim reacts by running away.

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

I liked the characters in S.O.P.H.I.E. They were well-written, and I could relate to them (being a parent to someone in that age range). I felt the author captured the teenage attitude and sassiness (on Sophie’s end) well. I also loved that most teenagers in this book had open relationships with their parents. Tim could talk to his mother about anything; Jeff’s family was excellent (they accepted his sexual orientation without fuss).

There was a romance angle to the book that did make me smile in spots, mainly because of how the fifteen-year-old acted. They were portrayed in a normal way. The romance angles were:

  1. Tim and Rachel: I wasn’t surprised that this romance didn’t go anywhere, even though Tim liked her. But, he became involved with helping Sophie and then developed feelings for her, which killed his feelings for Rachel. I felt terrible for Rachel because she seemed like a nice kid.
  2. Tim and Jeff: Now, I was a little surprised by this. I noticed Jeff acted weird around Tim during some scenes with Rachel and Sophie. I wasn’t expecting his confession. I gave him major props for coming clean to Tim. But what Tim did after Jeff’s confession wasn’t cool. See my trigger warning above about it.
  3. Tim and Sophie: This was a couple that I couldn’t mentally put together. They were so different, but you know the old saying: Opposites attract. Also, there is Sophie’s secret.

Sophie’s secret was a huge factor in the main storylines. I was surprised when she revealed it, but looking back, I shouldn’t have been. There were clues sprinkled throughout the book. I will admit that Tim pulled an M.V.P. move when he got his mother involved. I also thought he did the right thing.

The end of S.O.P.H.I.E. was interesting and hearfelt. The author wrapped everything up in a way that satisfied me. I had no questions about what happened to the main characters or even some of the secondary characters. There are some very humorous footnotes that the author included at the end of the book, which cracked me up. If you read the book, you need to read those too. They were hilarious. I also cannot wait to read more books by this author!!

I recommend S.O.P.H.I.E. to anyone over 13. There are very mild kissing scenes, nongraphic violence, and no language. Also, see my triggers.

Many thanks to C.J. Noble for allowing me to read and review S.O.P.H.I.E. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of S.O.P.H.I.E., then you will enjoy reading these books:

Prince of Typgar: Nurjan and the Corpse in the Quadrangle by Krishna Sudhir

Publisher: Notion Press

Date of publication: August 25th, 2020

Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure, Young Adult

Trigger Warnings: fat shaming, cannibalism, death of a parent (off page), grief, kidnapping

Series: Prince of Typgar

Prince of Typgar: Nurjan and the Monks of Meirar—Book 1 (review here)

Prince of Typgar: Nurjan and the Corpse in the Quadrangle—Book 2

Prince of Typgar: Nurjan and the Temporal Traversal—Book 3

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N | AbeBooks | Kobo

Goodreads Synopsis:

This is the second in the Prince of Typgar series, the much-anticipated sequel to Nujran and the Monks of Meirar. At the end of the first book, we left Nujran as a teenager who has learned much through his journeys alongside his teacher Amsibh. He experienced romance, conflict, friendship, betrayal, and loss. He grew up along the way.
We begin the second book on the sprawling campus of the prestigious University of Western Foalinaarc, where a body has just been discovered. Who is this girl, and why is she dead? Could it be linked to the mysterious illness sweeping the campus and plaguing the teaching community? Why does Amsibh come to the school, and what does he need to protect Nujran from? Through what twist of fate is Nujran reunited with his old friends, the Monks of Meirar? And why does Nujran end up being a captive again?
The stakes are higher than ever before, with fugitives on the run, turbulence on the university campus, a new romance, a bizarre kidnapping, a perilous escape from prison, and a rescue mission where things don’t quite go as planned. Corpse in the Quadrangle is another fast-paced adventure that will hold young readers spellbound!

First Line:

It was twilight, and all was quiet, the air warm and still. Handac and Iandic had just started their celestial dance in the sky.

Prince of Typgar: Nurjan and the Corpse in the Quadrangle by Krishna Sudhir

Prince of Typgar: Nurjan and the Corpse in the Quadrangle begins a few years after the events of the Monks of Meirar. Nurjan attends the University of Western Foalinaarc and is enjoying his studies. His peace is interrupted when a girl’s body is found in the quadrangle and is further disrupted when Honan and his accomplice escape from prison. Things are thrown further into disarray when the faculty are simultaneously sickened with a stomach bug. That is when Amsibh arrives, and the Monks of Meirar come shortly after him. With their help, Nurjan and the other students go back to having a sense of normalcy. But Honan and his followers have other plans. And those plans include kidnapping Nurjan and holding him captive. Can Amsibh, the detectives, Nurjan, and the other students solve the murder? Besides Honan, who is behind the events on campus? How did Nurjan get captive again, and will he be able to escape?

Prince of Typgar: Nurjan and the Corpse in the Quadrangle (I will call this book The Quadrangle for short in this review) is the second book in the Prince of Typgar series. A reader can read this book as a standalone. But I do recommend reading the Monks of Meirar before reading this book. There are references to events in the first book that are better read than explained after the fact (if that makes sense).

The Quadrangle is a medium to fast-paced book set in Foalinaarc. There was a slight lag in the middle of the book, but it didn’t bother me. The author was able to get the book back on track.

Nurjan was much better in The Quadrangle than in Monks of Meirar. Mainly because he matured, and that was a huge thing. Nurjan in Monks of Meirar was immature, while Nurjan in The Quadrangle wasn’t. In this book, Nurjan recovered from the events of the Monks of Meirar and used what he learned from those events to understand why they happened. The only sore point was his father’s death (and honestly, I was still a little salty about that too).

The main storyline with the death of the girl in the quadrangle, the investigation, and Nurjan was interesting. I liked that the author had a storyline take a different turn with the death. That was the first twist of this storyline. There was also a twist about why this person died, who did it, and why that person did it. I was surprised and saddened when that was revealed.

The other main storyline, which started after Amsibh arrived on campus, revolved around Honan, his accomplice (who I can’t reveal because it is a massive spoiler for the end of book 1), how the girl’s death is involved, Nurjan, the Monks of Meirar, and Nurjan’s kidnapping. Amsibh, as in the past book, was a massive part of this book. He was the one who brought the Monks of Meirar to the University to help. He guided (for lack of a better description) the investigation into the girl’s death and the teachers’ poisoning. The only time he couldn’t help was when the enemies kidnaped Nurjan. But even then, he used his brain to figure out where Nurjan was taken to. I was surprised at how twisty this storyline was, also. There were several twists that I didn’t see coming.

The fantasy/science fiction angle was well written and kept my attention on the plotlines. I loved the time machine that the Dean had invented. Amsibh’s thought machine made a couple of appearances also.

There is a romance angle in The Quadrangle. It is between Nurjan and another classmate. It was clean, with only a couple of kissing scenes. It was adorable and gave me warm fuzzies whenever it appeared in the book.

The end of The Quadrangle was interesting. The author wrapped up the main storyline (the murder), and I couldn’t believe who the killer was. That person was not even on my suspect list!! As for the second storyline, the author wrapped up some of it but left a good part of it open. Nothing was resolved with Honan and his accomplice. That has set me up for book three, and I can’t wait to see how this storyline will be resolved.

I recommend Prince of Typgar: Nurjan and the Corpse in the Quadrangle to anyone over 13. There is mild violence. There are also very mild kissing scenes, but the book goes no further. Also, see my trigger warning list at the beginning of this review.

Many thanks to Novel Cause and Krishna Sudhir for allowing me to read and review Prince of Typgar: Nurjan and the Corpse in the Quadrangle. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

Other books by Krishna Sudhir:

The Tracks We Leave (The Stepuli Chronicles: Book 1) by Maggie Maxwell


Date of publication: December 1st, 2022

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery

Series: The Stepuli Chronicles

The Tracks We Leave—Book 1

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N

Goodreads Synopsis:

Stasia is a woman unmoored. Abandoned as a baby, she has little sense of who she is or where she belongs in the world. Seeking the answers, she jumps at a job opportunity in Washington. There, she meets Jack, a mysterious neighbor who is raising his younger sister and brother. Stasia is charmed by the family next door but finds their walls may be too high to climb.

Jack is fighting against the mysterious US government organization trying to bury him and his family. Born to an alien heritage, he works against a corrupt treaty to raise his sister and brother the best he can. When a human neighbor moves in next door, he feels his families secret, and freedom, are threatened.

Jack and Stasia soon learn their similarities may eclipse their differences. That they may be exactly what the other needs. And the government will learn the unfathomable lengths both humans and aliens will go to for those they love.

First Line:

The probe moved inside me, invading me. Violating me. My lower abdomen cramped at the pressure.

The Tracks We Leave by Maggie Maxfield

Before I start my review, I am changing my review style again. I have been reading reviews published pre-Covid and liked how they flow. So, I am going back to that style. I might change it up again. Example of the writing style I am talking about, click here.

And now, onto today’s highly anticipated review!

Stasia has moved to Washington, hoping to find herself. Abandoned as a baby and shuttled from foster home to foster home growing up, she has no sense of who she is or where she belongs. So, accepting a nursing job at a small military base seems perfect for her. But, as she gets settled into her new job and life, she learns that the base and the island it is on have a secret. This secret is so explosive that the government will silence anyone with knowledge. And part of that secret is Stasia’s grumpy, hot next-door neighbor, Jack, and his younger brother and sister. What is the secret? How are Jack and his family involved?

There are trigger warnings in The Tracks We Leave. They are off-page childhood sexual abuse, child abandonment (off-page), death of a parent (s) (Jack and his siblings’ mother, Jack’s father), internment, medical trauma (moderate to explicit), medical content (moderate to explicit), mental illness (moderate), forced pregnancy, and forced insemination (graphic). I highly suggest not reading this book if any of these triggers you.

Stasia’s backstory broke my heart. What she had to overcome to get to the point she was at now was amazing. Her empathic abilities were showcased from the beginning of the book. It made sense why she went into nursing.

I understood why Jack was so angry all the time. He was dealing with pressure from the government, his family, and his community. He was forced to do things no normal person would be pressured into doing to keep his family safe. I got sick when I saw how life was for him and the others. And honestly, I had no issue believing that the government would do that.

The storyline with Stasia, her job, Jack, his family, and what was happening at the military base was exciting and heartbreaking. The day-to-day of her nursing job on the military base was interesting but boring. But it got very interesting when she got into the top-secret program. Add in her relationship (or lack thereof) with Jack and his family, and things get very interesting.

Jack’s backstory, relationship with his family and Stasia, and relationship with the government were fascinating. Jack was willing to do anything to keep his sister out of the program all of the island’s children entered. He also wasn’t very trusting of anyone outside of his community, leading to some unfortunate misconceptions about Stasia initially. His relationship with his siblings was strained because Jack had to be a mother and father to both of them, which led to some resentment. He hated the government, and with good reason. The things he was forced to do for the head honcho were disgusting.

There was a romance angle to The Tracks We Leave, but the author didn’t precisely focus on it initially. Instead, she chose to lay the groundwork for Stasia and Jack’s storylines. When that was finished, then the romance began.

The science fiction angle of The Tracks We Leave was unique. The author took the Roswell crash and put her spin on it. I would have believed it if I had heard about this on one of those UFO shows. That is how believable it was. I also had no issue thinking that the government was doing forced breeding to get a certain thing and that Stasia would be just another statistic to them.

The end of The Tracks We Leave left me pretty upset. There was a death that I didn’t see coming, and it shook me. I was a little suspicious about that person until a few scenes before. Then there was the scene with Stasia and what was revealed about her. My heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces over what was revealed. I’m not going to go much further into the ending. I will say this; I hope I get to read book two because I need to find out what will happen. The author left it on a cliffhanger, grrrr.

I would recommend The Tracks We Leave to anyone over 21. There is moderate to explicit violence, moderate language, and mild sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings.

Many thanks to Novel Cause and Magge Maxfield for allowing me to read and review The Tracks We Leave. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of The Tracks We Leave, then you will enjoy reading these books:

The Drift by C.J. Tudor

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: January 21st, 2023

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Adult, Suspense, Dystopia, Science Fiction, Apocalyptic

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Three ordinary people risk everything for a chance at redemption in this audacious, utterly gripping novel of catastrophe and survival at the end of the world, from the acclaimed author of The Chalk Man

Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. During a hasty escape from a secluded boarding school, her coach careened over a hillside road during one of the year’s heaviest snowstorms, trapping her inside with a handful of survivors, a brewing virus, and no way to call for help. If she and the remaining few want to make it out alive, with their sanity–and secrets–intact, they’ll need to work together or they’ll be buried alive with the rest of the dead.

A former detective, Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She is in a cable car suspended far above a snowstorm and surrounded by strangers in the same uniform as her, with no memory of how they got there. They are heading to a mysterious place known to them only as “The Retreat,” but when they discover a dead man among their ranks and Meg spies a familiar face, she realizes that there is something far more insidious going on.

Carter is gazing out the window of the abandoned ski chalet that he and his ragtag compatriots call home. Together, they manage a precarious survival, manufacturing vaccines against a deadly virus in exchange for life’s essentials. But as their generator begins to waver, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger, and their fragile bonds will be tested when the power finally fails–for good.

The imminent dangers faced by Hannah, Meg, and Carter are each one part of the puzzle. Lurking in their shadows is an even greater threat–one that threatens to consume all of humanity.

First Line:

They circled the body in the snow. Scavengers. Looking for anything they might strip from the corpse.

The Drift by C.J. Tudor

When I first read the synopsis for The Drift, I was initially put off by it. Why? For one, I am suffering from post-Covid burnout. That means I am actively not reading books with pandemic themes running through them. But something about this blurb made me take a second look at it, and that second look made me want to read it. Forget about the pandemic theme; I was genuinely interested in the scenarios and characters portrayed in the blurb. I am glad I did because this turned into a great horror book after a rocky (somewhat confusing) beginning.

There are trigger warnings in The Drift. They are gore, death, blood, body horror, detailed injury, gun violence, violence, murder, child death, suicidal thoughts, medical content, medical trauma, car accident, animal death, rape, suicide, terminal illness, torture, grief, abandonment, pregnancy, addiction, and body shaming. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The Drift is a fast-paced book set in modern-day and future England. The plotline for The Drift could have been clearer to follow at first. Not going to lie to you all, but I had an issue following the timelines (there are three different ones) and the main characters. But the author does eventually tie them all together, but until then, it isn’t evident.

Getting back on topic, The Drift follows three people – Hannah, Meg, and Carter. Hannah is a student at a prestigious academy who is being evacuated to a place called The Retreat with several other students. On the way there, there is an accident, and everyone on board is killed except for Hannah and five other students. Desperate to escape, Hannah realizes that the virus that has killed half the population and keeps mutating is present in one of the dead. But there are more significant problems, such as a blizzard burying the bus, wolves, and several people on the bus hiding explosive secrets. Will Hannah and the other survivors make it out?

Fast forward ten years later, and the pandemic is still going strong. Meg, a former detective, is woken up and finds herself stuck in a cable car with other strangers while a snowstorm rages outside. When it becomes clear that no one is coming, the group of people starts turning on each other, with tensions ending in murder. Who is killing the other people in the cable car, and why? Will help come, or will Meg have to do the impossible swing on the cable car line to get to safety, which is 200 meters away? And what will happen to Meg once she is at the cable car station?

Fast forward around 2-3 years later, and everything has stayed the same. Carter is part of the science team who is turning out vaccines desperately to stem the pandemic’s spread. But his life at The Retreat is falling apart. Their generator is failing, the infected are closing in on the chalet, and the man who gives them supplies is suddenly wanting more. So, when various crew members are murdered or missing, Carter is on edge. See, Carter has an ulterior motive for being at The Retreat, and this motive, along with everything else, might get him killed. Why is Carter there? Who is he looking for? And, more importantly, will he survive the fallout?

The characters in The Drift were well-written. What I liked the most about them is that they were written to be morally gray characters. Take Carter, for instance. He did awful things to get where he was. But he wasn’t a bad person. He was doing what he had to do to get by in a society devastated by a pandemic that didn’t have a cure.

  • Hannah— I liked her the most out of the three main characters. In her parts of the book, she brought a clinical, almost detached view of what was happening. She learned to do it after her mother died and relied on it to process everything. She quickly discovered certain things on the bus and was instrumental in helping when things started to go sideways. And it was that reason why I was so mad with how the author ended her storyline.
  • Meg—She had the most heartbreaking storyline of the three characters. She was the most emotional out of the three because of what she went through. But I liked that she also thought like a cop. She knew something was up with the other people in the car. The scenes where she escaped the car were harrowing, and I didn’t think she would make it during parts of her escape. I disagreed with how her storyline ended, but I got why the author wrote it the way she did.
  • Carter—I didn’t understand why he was included until halfway through the storyline. Then a lightbulb clicked on in my head. It made sense why he had such extreme frost bit to his face. I also liked how he followed his gut about who was killing the other people at The Retreat.

I mentioned at the beginning of this review that I wasn’t a fan of how the author wrote the timelines. She jumbled them all together, and we had to figure out where in the 12 years this book covers that it took place. It wasn’t obvious. But, a little more than halfway through the book, the author starts tying all three of the storylines together, and by the end, everything makes sense.

The storyline with Hannah, the bus crash, and everything else were well written. I felt awful for Hannah. Not only did she discover something horrible, but she had to do something terrible to save a life. I also felt her trust in a specific person was misplaced. As I mentioned in her section, I wasn’t happy with how her storyline ended.

The storyline with Meg, the cable car, the other passengers, and what happens after is interesting. I say interesting because of what the author reveals. Keep that in mind while you’re reading the book. How the author portrayed that storyline was interesting. There was a mystery that should have been super easy to solve but wasn’t. The breakout scene of this storyline was Meg’s escape while traveling the cable car lines. It was perilous. Again, I wasn’t happy with how Meg’s storyline ended, but I understood why it ended that way. It was something she wanted more than anything in the world, and while it broke my heart, it made me so happy for her.

The storyline with Carter, The Retreat, and the murders was interesting. I’m not going to get much into this storyline because there are major spoilers. But several things surprised me while reading it. Such as the murderer. I thought I knew who it was, and that was wrong. I also liked how the author brought elements from the previous storylines into this one. Again, I was taken by surprise at certain things revealed. Like the other two storylines, I wasn’t thrilled with how Carter’s ended. But it did make sense, and it explained a particular scene.

The Drift fits one hundred percent into the horror genre. The author did a fantastic job of creating a world ravaged by a pandemic similar to Covid. I had no issue picturing what happened in this book happening in real life. There is also a mystery angle to this book that the author did a fantastic job with. I usually can figure things out reasonably early, and I couldn’t in this book.

There are no happy endings in The Drift. I was surprised by who was featured at the very end. What that person did was surprising. All I could think was that this person had a death wish. It left me sad because of everything that had led up to that small chapter.

I would recommend The Drift to anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and non-consensual sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and C.J. Tudor for allowing me to read and review The Drift. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of The Drift, then you will enjoy reading these books:

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.


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 Last Huntress (Mirror Realm: Book 1) by Lenore Borja

Publisher: Sparkpress

Date of publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Series: Mirror Realm

The Last Huntress—Book 1

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Alice Daniels has a problem. Her reflection keeps misbehaving when she looks in the mirror–and the longer she ignores it, the harder it tries to get her attention. On her eighteenth birthday, she learns why: she is a huntress, someone gifted with the power to enter mirrors and the magical world that exists beyond. But with this power comes immense responsibility, for in the Mirror Realm lurks an evil that has infected the human race for centuries: demons. It is up to her and her three huntress sisters–with the help of one handsome and overbearing protector–to hunt and banish this evil one demon at a time, thereby keeping the chaos in check. But when an ancient god pays Alice a visit that turns deadly, it is clear the Mirror Realm is more than it seems, and she soon finds herself in a race against time to save the life–and soul–of the one man the gods are determined to never let her have.

The Last Huntress is a story of redemption and sacrifice, the bonds of true sisterhood, and the impossible, sometimes frightening, things we’ll do for love.

First Line:

Alice watched the blood pool into a dip in the asphalt.

The Last Huntress by Lenore Borja

The Last Huntress is the book that made me rethink my NetGalley hiatus. When I got the invite, I didn’t notice that it was from the publisher (I thought it was from the author). I also didn’t see the address of the link that was in the email. So after reading the blurb, I was very interested in this book, made up my mind to read it, and clicked the link—which brought me to my deactivated NetGalley account. So, I decided to reactivate it and start my NetGalley journey again. I am glad I did because this was a fascinating book.

The Last Huntress is book one in the Mirror Realm series. Any of the usual stuff I write in this section doesn’t apply.

The Last Huntress had an exciting storyline. Alice has just moved to Arizona after her parent’s divorce. Living in her mother’s childhood house, Alice is convinced that she will hate it there. Around the same time, Alice notices that her reflection is acting up. Thinking nothing of it, Alice ignores it until she can’t anymore. When things start to implode around her, Alice meets Soxie, Olivia, and Hadley.

Along with Colin, they tell her that what she is experiencing is real because she is a Huntress. She is supposed to hunt demons in the Mirror Realm. But Alice soon discovers more at stake than being a Huntress. What she finds out sets off a series of events that holds grave consequences for her and her loved ones. What is Alice? Can she stop whoever is manipulating her? And can she stay one step ahead of the person she loves the most?

I liked Alice for about 90% of the book. She was headstrong and wasn’t afraid to stand up to anyone. She did have her moments of weakness, though, centered around Colin. There were points where I wanted to shake her and say, “Dude, just leave him be.” Her storyline did get a bit convoluted when the author introduced Greek mythology. I figured it was going in that direction when the girls explained Colin’s/The Mirror Realms backstory, and there was an abundance of Greek mythological figures being named. But I wasn’t expecting it to get as messy as it did. Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of it and wished that the author had just stuck to her being a Huntress and left out the other stuff (but then again, those scenes with Hades and Persephone wouldn’t have happened).

I didn’t like Colin. Even with knowing his backstory, I felt that he was a bully. He refused to acknowledge his feelings for Alice, and when he did, he turned into a psycho. But, in the end, he did prove himself when he tried to save Alice by going into the Mirror Realm (he was forbidden too).

I loved Olivia, Soxie, and Hadley. They were everything that Colin wasn’t, and they weren’t afraid to tell him where to go. They took Alice under their wings and taught her everything they knew about the Mirror Realm and defeating demons. They even helped when Colin turned psycho. They were the besties that every girl wished they had in high school.

The storyline with Alice, Colin, the girls, and the Mirror Realm was exciting. I loved the lore behind how the Mirror Realm came to be. I also liked the twist thrown in that storyline about Alice being a Huntress. Also, Colin’s relationship with the goddess is interesting. I wish the author had expanded a little bit on it.

The storyline with Alice and Colin was interesting but disturbed me at the same time. I will come right out and say it; there was Instalove. It was immediately with both, but Colin, the d-tickle, refused to acknowledge it. The disturbing part was what happened after Colin admitted his feelings and discovered what would happen to Alice. I was horrified to read about the drugging and keeping her sequestered from everyone else. All because of a prophecy.

The author amazingly wrote the storyline with Alice and the Greek Gods. I couldn’t get enough of reading about that. The author extensively researched everything, and it showed. The main gods showcased were Hades and Persephone. The Fates were also talked about (and man, were they scary!!). Zeus also makes a very brief appearance toward the end of the book. I was enthralled with what I was reading.

The author very well wrote the young adult angle. I did feel, though, that teenagers went one of two ways. They were super immature and did stupid things or acted like mini adults (everyone else). There was no in-between with them. Still, I found that the teenagers written about were well-written and had depth.

As I mentioned above, the author did a fantastic job incorporating Greek mythology into the storyline. The fantasy angle was also well-written. I liked that the darker the fantasy angle got (and it got pretty dark toward the end of the book), the more well-written it was.

The romance angle was meh. As I mentioned above, I wasn’t a fan of it because of the Instalove bit and the fact that Colin was a tool for 90% of the book. Of course, that storyline did take an unexpected turn at the end of the book.

The end of The Last Huntress was exciting and a little twisty. I wasn’t expecting the twists thrown in about Persephone toward the end of the book. I also wasn’t expecting the twist about Colin and what happened to him. That last chapter messed with my mind.

I would recommend The Last Huntress to anyone over 16. There are non-graphic sexual situations, language, and mild violence. There are also scenes of kidnapping and drugging.

If you enjoyed reading The Last Huntress, 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:

Black Tide by K.C. Jones

Publisher: Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire

Date of publication: May 31st, 2022

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Post Apocalyptic, Thriller, Dystopia, Speculative Fiction

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

It was just another day at the beach. Then the world ended.

Mike and Beth were strangers before the night of the meteor shower. Chance made them neighbors, a bottle of champagne brought them together, and a shared need for human connection sparked something more.

Following their drunken and desperate one-night stand, the two discover the astronomical event has left widespread destruction in its wake. But the cosmic lightshow was only part of something much bigger, and far more terrifying.

When a lost car key leaves them stranded on an empty stretch of Oregon coast and inhuman screams echo from the dunes, when the rising tide reaches for their car and unspeakable horrors close in around them, these two self-destructive souls must fight to survive a nightmare of apocalyptic scale.

First Line:

My mom once accused me of being a human car wreck, I laughed in her face when she said it.

Black Tide by K.C. Jones

Black Tide was the first in a series of books I had seen on other blogs that I wanted to read. So, like everyone else, I added it to Goodreads and prayed to the book gods that I got an invite. The book gods blessed me because I got every single book I had put on my Want to Read list. I was pretty stoked about getting it and couldn’t wait to read it. I am glad I did because this book scared the everliving out of me!!

Black Tide is a fast-moving horror story on the Oregon coast. Beth is a woman who has gone through a lot but is turning her life around. She is pet sitting for a wealthy couple and enjoying it. Then one night, she meets Mike. Mike owns the house next door and is a bit of a mystery. When Beth sees him drinking champagne on the deck of his house, she invites herself over. That turns into a drunken one-night stand with Beth having a strange, almost vivid dream and Mike witnessing a meteor shower like none he had seen before. When Beth wakes up, Mike is on the beach with Jake (the dog she is pet sitting), and Mike has disturbing news. There is no power, and he cannot get a hold of anyone over the phone. He also has a strange pod on the beach that turned up (along with several others). Deciding to leave and try to find a person of authority who knows what is going on, they drive until they find a bunch of people parked on the beach and the road. What happens next is almost unbelievable, and Beth drops the keys to the car in a rush to get out—stranded and with high tide coming in, Mike and Beth need to figure something out fast before they end up like the people with them on the beach. What happened on the beach? Will they get out? Will they find out what happened?

I very rarely get frightened by books. I lost the ability to do that when I read The Stand and It in middle school (I was a precocious reader). But this book scared the ever living out of me. But, at the same time, while I was scared to death, I also couldn’t put it down. I 100% attribute that to the author keeping me hooked and wanting to see if Mike, Beth, and Jake (along with another person who appears later in the book) would get out alive. I was left feeling breathless during certain scenes. The author also ramped up my anxiety.

I could relate to Beth on certain levels. Who hasn’t felt like a car accident waiting to happen during specific points in their life? Who hasn’t hit rock bottom and has to claw their way out? I know I have. I loved seeing her character grow. She went from being this self-absorbed drunk to a woman willing to do whatever it took to get out of her situation.

I wasn’t too sure about Mike when he was introduced. I kept feeling that he was hiding something (which he was, and it was very sad when it was revealed). But his character also transformed throughout Black Tide. He was pulled out of his depression and realized his life was worth living. I thought he was perfect for Beth, and he complimented her towards the end of the book.

The author very well wrote the horror angle of Black Tide. During the scenes in the car (while the tide was creeping in), I did get some Cujo-like vibes. That didn’t take away from how much I liked the book. Instead, it added to it. And as I said above, the author stoked my anxiety during pivotal scenes.

The science fiction angle of the book was well written also. I loved the imagination the author had with the aliens. They were so monstrous that I had no issue imagining them in my head (which added to my anxiety).

The end of Black Tide left me with conflicting emotions. I was upset over some things, but I understood why they happened. But at the same time, I was overjoyed over other things. I was also sad because of what they realized after leaving the beach. The book didn’t end with a HEA. Instead, without going much into it, I left the book feeling pessimistic about Beth and Mike’s future.

I would recommend Black Tide to anyone over 21. There is violence, language, and nongraphic sex/sexual situations.