ARC REVIEW : A JEWEL BRIGHT SEA

A whirlwind of intrigue, lies, politics, and adventure swirls around one woman—and the prize she’s been sent to reclaim …
 
It was her talent for tracking magic that got Anna Zhdanov sent to catch a thief. A scholar’s daughter sold as a bond servant, she has no desire to recover the Emperor’s jewel for herself. But a chance to earn her freedom has driven her to the untamed Eddalyon province, awash with warm breezes, lapping waves, and more danger than she could possibly guess.

Within days her cover as an indolent noblewoman is in question, and it’s clear there’s more to Anna’s task than she knows. Soon she’s the captive of the unpredictable pirate captain Andreas Koszenmarc, hunted by the Emperor’s guard, besieged by a brigand queen, and at odds with her only friend. She must trust someone if she is to survive. But when all that’s certain is that everyone is hiding something, it’s no simple thing to choose 


review

This book has two of my favorite things combined together – magic and pirates! Who doesn’t like that?

Anna is on her way to find an important gem that was stolen from the emperor, before falling into the clutches of pirates, who also happen to be looking for the gem. She is forced to join hands with the pirate captain Andreas. She doesn’t trust him but she has no other option. What follows is a journey filled with magic and mayhem.

It took me some time to get into the story. Because we’re dropped into this strange world without any warning. The world building throughout the book left me wanting for more. I wanted to know more about the world, its history, the system, culture, everything. But the author doesn’t really go into the details.

We get introduced to a lot of characters at first and so much is happening right off the bat that I felt like a fish out of the water for the first quarter of the story. I wish the author took some time to absorb us into the world. I had to take a break from the reading because I found it all too much. But thankfully, after a point, I could find myself getting into engrossed.

I love Anna. She’s a fierce and brave protagonist. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. I also liked the secondary characters. Andreas is another interesting character. He’s got this quiet, unpredictable vibe that I enjoyed. But he remains a mysterious character even in the end. Having said that, I’d have liked a little more backstory to more of the characters.

Another qualm I have with this story is the romance. It had this almost slow-burn quality, but didn’t get enough breathing space amidst all the action and adventure, to build upon. And that’s just such a waste.

This was the first book in a series. So we can’t be too disappointed with all our unanswered questions. But at the moment, I’m feeling slightly indifferent about the next book.


ratings

★★★☆☆

Publication Date: 3rd September, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher -Kensington Books (via Netgalley)

Links –  AmazonGoodreads Book Depository

BOOK REVIEW : SPIN THE DAWN

 

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.



review

Normally, the word ‘Mulan’ is enough to tempt me to start a book. But then you add ‘Project Runway’ to it? Color me intrigued. Besides Mulan, I could also find elements from stories of ‘Aladdin’ to ‘Spirited Away’. There are other myths explored in this novel, mainly from Chinese origins. I particularly liked the re-imagination of the silk road.

The beginning was promising. I found myself invested in Maia and her family very fast. Her family slowly descends towards its ruins, after she loses her mother, and her brothers to the war. It’s the same war that forces the emperor to marry the enemy’s daughter as a truce. And to please his bride, he arranges a competition for her to choose her master tailor.

Maia’s father is also summoned to participate in the competition or send his son to represent him. But her father is a mere shadow of his former self from a series of emotional loss, and her brother unskilled in the family business. It had long before fallen upon Maia to take on the reins as the main tailor in the family business.

We move to the castle when Maia goes to the castle disguised as her brother, a capital crime. I enjoyed the competition with all the mysteries, the competitors, the politics, and the details of all the dressmaking. I was also torn between feeling sympathy and suspicion towards the princess who’s forced to wed her enemy and does everything in her capacity to delay the wedding. The best part of the book came at the end of the first part where the author totally subverted my expectations by doing the unexpected.

The pace slowed down a lot in the second part, with Maia going on an unimaginable journey in order to collect the materials to make an impossible wedding gown for the future empress. I found my attention wavering from here on. I also could not find myself invested in the romance between Maia and Edan. It’s probably because I just could not find Edan’s whole character arc to be unconvincing from the start. But my loyalty towards Maia remained constant throughout the book. I loved her courage, vulnerabilities and mostly the conviction of following her heart.

Although the pace picked up in the third and final part, and there were some very unpredictable twists, my interest could not be restored to what it was at the beginning.  I also have qualms about how someof the plot unfolded. Some resolutions felt unearned. I’d really like to vent about them but can’t because of the spoilers. But I’m hoping that the second book will give us better explanations to, though. And I’m certainly interested in reading the sequel because of how the book ended.

It’s interesting if you look at my breakdown of rating for the three parts of the book –
5- stars for the first part, 3-stars for the second part, and 4 stars for the third part. Heh.


ratings

★★★★☆

 

Book Review : Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy #3.5) By Ilona Andrews

Nevada Frida Baylor and Connor Ander Rogan cordially invite you to join their wedding celebration. Summoning, weather manipulation, and other magical activities strictly forbidden.

Catalina Baylor is looking forward to wearing her maid of honor dress and watching her older sister walk down the aisle. Then the wedding planner gets escorted off the premises, the bride’s priceless tiara disappears, and Rogan’s extensive family overruns his mother’s home. Someone is cheating, someone is lying, and someone is plotting murder.

To make this wedding happen, Catalina will have to do the thing she fears most: use her magic. But she’s a Baylor and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for her sister’s happiness. Nevada will have her fairy tale wedding, even if Catalina has to tear the mansion apart brick by brick to get it done.


A quick insight into the Hidden Legacy Universe

To those who haven’t read Hidden Legacy series, this short novella is sort of a bridge between the trilogy and the next trilogy on the same universe, with a different protagonist. Hidden Legacy was about Nevada and the next series will be about her younger sister Catalina.

Just a quick insight into the world –

In this alternate universe that has all the technology that we have, there are primes. They are a result of a serum having been discovered in the 1800s which unleashed people’s magical talents. This serum, as a result, became sought after by the wealthy and powerful who used it as a means to gain more wealth and influence. The serum was later locked out after the its potential for destruction was realized. But by then, many wealthy families all over the world already had used it. Now, magic runs in families and has created magical dynasties so much so that even marriages are decided based on these magical powers and which powers combined can create powerful children. The most powerful magic users are called Primes.

The Baylors weren’t initially a prime. They ran (still do) a detective agency, with the eldest daughter Nevada in charge. Nevada has the powerful ability to detect lies. Hidden Legacy was about her and Rogan – one of the most notorious and powerful primes out there – who has an unimaginable telekinesis prowess.


My Review 

By the start of Diamond Fire, the Baylors have become registered Primes. But very few people know about Catalina and Arabella’s (Nevada’s younger sisters at 18 and 16) magical powers.

Arabella is the protagonist now. She has the dangerous ability to make people fall in love with her so much so that they lose all their senses and become infatuated with her. I loved the idea of her character. And I love her even more. She’s amazing. She has had a sheltered life, with having to keep to herself so that she wouldn’t unleash her powers, after some tragic experiences in her childhood. She’s shy, insecure and doesn’t have social skills. I can’t wait to see more of her story.

This novella itself was short and fun. The plot was pretty simple. Catalina who’s the de-facto planner for Nevada and Rogan’s wedding has been given the responsibility by Rogan’s mom to find the culprit from her corrupt family who stole the priceless heirloom tiara before the wedding. As if stolen tiaras weren’t enough, there are family secrets to unveil and poisoned food to be prevented.

I liked the parts with the Baylor family interactions. They’re simply my favorite! I loved the insights into Catalina’s character. It was great to see the old gang back. But Mrs. Rogan became my favorite new character. She’s super awesome!

I didn’t like the short length. I wanted to see the wedding from Nevada or Rogan’s point of view. I wanted more of Nevada and Rogan in general. I wanted to see more of Alessandro Sagredo who we have all surmised to be Catalina’s love interest and the only prime in the world who can withstand Catalina’s magical power. We only see a cameo from him and that just isn’t done.

I feel like this book accomplished what it set out to do – make me anticipate Catalina’s story. But it also suffered from its short length and didn’t have the usual brilliant plotting and storytelling that we know the author can bring to the table.


Also, can we have more covers like this in the next books? Hidden Legacy had the worst covers fit for B-grade books! I’d never be able to own that series, all thanks to those horrible covers.


My Rating: ★★★☆☆

ARC Review : His Dark Magic (Northern Circle Coven # 1) By Pat Esden

*I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book in return of an honest review.*


Its power is legendary. It can fulfill every impossible magical desire. But for one young witch seeking redemption, the Northern Circle coven will challenge her skills—and her heart—beyond measure.

One tragic impulsive mistake made Chloe Winslow an outcast to her influential magic family. As a medical student, she wants to combine science with sorcery to heal those she hurt and right her wrongs. But brilliant, charismatic Devlin Marsh re-routes her plans with a once-in-eternity offer: membership in the exclusive Northern Circle, a mysterious Vermont coven known for pushing the limits.

Enthralled by Devlin and their mesmerizing mutual attraction, Chloe makes a dangerous sacrifice to help the Circle’s high priestess awaken Merlin himself—and learn his timeless cures. But a foreshadowing soon causes Chloe to doubt the Circle’s real motives, as well as Devlin’s . . .

Now Merlin’s demonic shade is loose in the human world, while Chloe and Devlin’s uneasy alliance will pit them against ancient enemies, malevolent illusions, and shattering betrayal. And with the fate of two realms in the balance, Chloe must risk her untried power against a force she can’t defeat—and a passion that could destroy her.


I’m conflicted about this book. I liked the mystery elements and the parts with the coven bonding. But I felt confused for half of the book.

I wasn’t happy with the world-building. For a long time in the beginning, I had many questions swirling inside my mind –  What exactly is the context of this world? Does everyone know that witches exist? Do witches and non-magical people have some sort of verbal agreement about living together and minding their own businesses? How does this alternate universe work exactly? – I’m not sure I got proper answers to these questions by the end.

At one point we get to discover that the High priestess of the coven – that the protagonist Chloe is about to join – has a grandfather named Zeus. The name of the high priestess happens to be Athena. I was thrown by that bit. I found myself wondering – Does this mean there are Greek mythological elements in it? – But then I felt foolish and realized that it makes no sense. These are witches not gods and goddesses. I think I’d have liked the author to address this pop-cultural reference in a fun way. But nothing of that.

I’ll give credit to the author for setting up the atmosphere, though. The way she sets up the surrounding nature and locale was impressive. I could almost feel myself being a part of the places.

This was a book where I liked the side-characters a lot more the main ones. I did not like the protagonist Chloe. I found many of her actions and decisions to be superficial. She felt like a very self-involved character to me. Not that I mind self-involved characters. But I like them to be intriguing and complicated. But I never found Chloe interesting.

Even the love interest Devlin left a lot to be desired. Neither did I see any depth to his and Chloe’s relationship and nor did I find their chemistry appealing. Their relationship felt just as shallow and flat like the two characters themselves.

I liked the coven members a lot. All of them had interesting quirks and histories that I wanted to know more of. Sadly, we see very little of them. I think many of them would make better main characters than Chloe herself.

I’ll end it by saying that this book did not feel like the first of a series but rather a sequel. I felt like I was missing something throughout the first half. The premise was very promising and could’ve been executed in a better manner.


My Rating: ★★★☆☆


Publication Date: 11th December, 2018.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)
You can find this book on – Goodreads | Amazon