ARC Review | Wardens of Archos (The Relics of Ar’Zac, #2) by Sarina Langer

The rarest of things: a strong middle volume in a trilogy!

Wardens of Archos by Sarina Langer

Wardens of Archos (The Relics of Ar’Zac 2) will be published on 16th October 2017.


SPOILER ALERT

This is the second book in the series and so the blurb below contains spoilers for book 1 – Rise of the Sparrows. However, my review is spoiler free!


The blurb: Once a despised street rat, now the reigning queen of Rifarne, Rachael is at the centre of everyone’s attention. All she wants is a few peaceful moments to herself — but her kingdom has other plans.

A Mist Woman brings her a gift, and a warning: Aeron’s death has released the Dark One’s shades into the world. And Rachael, as the only living seer in existence, is the only one who can stop him before he destroys everything she’s beginning to cherish. But can Rachael trust the Mist Woman, or is Kaida just another sorceress playing with her life?

Rachael is running out of time. The shadows are coming, and their claws are reaching for her.


My take:

Sarina very kindly gave me an advanced reader copy of Wardens of Archos to read.

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My top 10 books of 2016

I only gave three books 5 stars this year. But, happily, I gave seven books 4.5 stars which means I can do a top 10!

I read and reviewed 117 this year. Only three of them got 5 stars. I think I may be getting pickier with my 5 stars as I get older!

There were also seven books which came very close to those elusive 5 stars, so I’ve included them here too.

Click on the book title for my full review. Click on the book cover to go to Goodreads.

Here we go!

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Review | Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine

A promising series opener. 3.5/5 stars.

ink-and-bone-by-rachel-caine

The blurb: In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn…

My take:

As YA fantasy series openers go, this was fine (I’ve read a few after all. Sometimes I wonder if I’m approaching saturation point!). The writing was particularly good and that’s why I’ve given it the extra half star.

I had to give a lot of thought to why I didn’t enjoy Ink and Bone more. The concept was excellent, its execution good, and I liked the characters. So why wasn’t I enthralled?

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Review | Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Spoiler-free review: should you read this? Yes! 4/5 stars.

crooked-kingdom-by-leigh-bardugo

The blurb: I won’t put the blurb here to avoid spoilers for the first half of the story, Six of Crows. However, if you’re interested, you can see the blurb for that book and my review here.

My take:

This will be a short and slightly stunted, odd review as I attempt to avoid any and all spoilers. So, the short version: this is very good and if you enjoy fantasy fiction and haven’t read Six of Crows yet, get that book and then move on to this one! 🙂

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Review | Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas

Overlong and lacking in humanity. 3/5 stars.

empire-of-storms-by-sarah-j-maas

For more background and blurbs, check out my reviews of Throne of Glass (Book 1), Crown of Midnight (Book 2) and Heir of Fire (Book 3), and Queen of Shadows (Book 4).

For those of you who don’t know, the Throne of Glass series is a 6-book saga following the adventures of a bad-ass female assassin in a fantasy realm which features fairies, witches and all sorts of magical shenanigans. While the first two books in the series felt solidly YA, I’m guessing the author feels her readers are growing up as the series goes on and certainly book 5 is more NA territory with some undoubtedly “adult” content.

Now, before I get into what will possibly become a bit of a rant, I want to make it clear that this was fine. Just fine. Not great, not bad. Just OK.

However.

Wait! There’s more. Click for the rest of my review!

Review | Rise of the Sparrows (The Relics of Ar’Zac, #1) by Sarina Langer

A confident series opener and debut.

rise of the sparrows by Sarina Langer book cover

The blurb: Rifarne is a country opposed to magic. When its people demand harsh action, King Aeric sees himself with no other choice but to outlaw those with the gift. Rachael, a homeless orphan with the rare gift of a Seer, soon finds herself with visions of her own violent death. When her escape goes wrong and she ends up in the clutches of a vicious Mist Woman lusting for her blood, she finds she is the only person to stop the war against people like her – and assassinating the King to become Queen to a people who once wanted her dead may well be the only way to do just that.

My take:

Sarina very kindly gave me an advanced reader copy of Rise of the Sparrows to read in return for an honest review.

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Review | Passenger (Passenger, #1) by Alexandra Bracken

A promising adventure crushed by a suffocating romance. 3/5 stars.

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken book cover

Thank you to Hachette, Quercus and Netgalley for giving me an e-copy of Passenger in return for an honest review.

The blurb: In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home… forever.

My take:

This is a story of two parts. One part is a fantastical time-travel adventure motivated by a centuries-old family feud. This layer of the story is wonderful and takes in a range of locations and time periods, each described in evocative detail.

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Review | A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOTAR #2) by Sarah J. Maas

In some ways better than book 1, but overlong. Again. 4/5.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

The blurb: Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

My take:

I’ll try to talk about this book without including spoilers. However, if you’re determined to avoid anything even remotely spoilerly, just know this: if you enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses, you’ll love A Court of Mist and Fury. Go and read it now. You won’t be sorry!

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Q&A with author Sarina Langer

I’m delighted to welcome Sarina Langer to Art and Soul as part of the celebrations for the publication of her first book, Rise of the Sparrows.

rise of the sparrows by Sarina Langer book cover

The blurb: Rifarne is a country opposed to magic. When its people demand harsh action, King Aeric sees himself with no other choice but to outlaw those with the gift. Rachael, a homeless orphan with the rare gift of a Seer, soon finds herself with visions of her own violent death. When her escape goes wrong and she ends up in the clutches of a vicious Mist Woman lusting for her blood, she finds she is the only person to stop the war against people like her – and assassinating the King to become Queen to a people who once wanted her dead may well be the only way to do just that.


Hello Sarina! Welcome to Art and Soul and congratulations on publishing your first book! Could you tell us, in your own words, what Rise of the Sparrows is about (no spoilers!)?

Rise of the Sparrows is about a girl who is struggling to survive. Her name is Rachael, and she has the rare gift of a prophet – which makes her a shunned criminal in the eyes of many people. She has been homeless and on her own since she was a child, and while she has learned how to defend herself and where to find food there’s only so much she can do if no one leaves their leftovers out for her. Her visions scare her. She can’t control them, so when she sees herself dying and helpless in a place she doesn’t recognise (she’s also surrounded by demons) she knows she needs to do something. She didn’t expect to run away with a girl who can set fire to everything and everyone, and who doesn’t know that burning people alive is a bad thing, no matter the situation!

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Review | The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh (spoiler free)

A satisfying end to an enchanting story. 4/5.

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh book cover

The blurb: In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

My take (no spoilers):

I enjoyed this very much and more than the first installment of the story: The Wrath and the Dawn. This was partly because The Rose and the Dagger delivers entertaining magical shenanigans, and also because my enjoyment of book 1 was hampered by some irritating stylistic quirks which were mercifully absent from book 2.

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