The Crow Rider by Kalyn Josephson

The Crow Rider (The Storm Crow #2)
Author: Kalyn Josephson
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: July 7th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Princess Thia, her allies, and her crow, Res, are planning a rebellion to defeat Queen Razel and Illucia once and for all. Thia must convince the neighboring kingdoms to come to her aid, and Res’s show of strength is the only thing that can help her.

But so many obstacles stand in her way. Res excels at his training, until he loses control of his magic, harming Thia in the process. She is also pursued by Prince Ericen, heir to the Illucian throne and the one person she can’t trust but can’t seem to stay away from.

As the rebel group prepares for war, Res’s magic grows more unstable. Thia has to decide if she can rely on herself and their bond enough to lead the rebellion and become the crow rider she was meant to be.

The Crow Rider is the exciting sequel to The Storm Crow. As we join Thia in her fight to save her kingdom.

It has been a while since I’ve read The Storm Crow and even though The Crow Rider picks up where it left off, there isn’t any info dumping from the first book. Even so my memory is jogged pretty easily while reading. Kalyn Josephson does a good job of putting in little reminders that don’t make it feel like you are reading a summary of the first book. I definitely prefer that since a series like this can easily be binged.

I remember having so many frustrations with Thia in TSC and thinking she wasn’t giving Ericen enough credit. It’s funny how TCR starts with those same feelings for me. Where I wasn’t sure if I was ever endeared to Thia previously. I did start to really like her in this sequel. We see her learning and developing as a human. As she understands that not everyone is perfect. She’s mad her own mistakes and ignorance is not always a defense.

I still love Ericen. I don’t think there was enough of him in this story. I would have loved to see Kiva and him get into it more. I love the way they can play off one another. In a non-romantic way. In the we both care about Thia and are just dealing with the other way.

The thing I really liked about this second half of the story is Res. I think he really endeared me to the idea of these crow riders. He’s like some combination of cat, dog and with some human like tendencies that made him sweet.

As far as the plot is concerned. I did enjoy it. There is one aspect that felt a little rushed and I think that’s because it was a sequel instead of trilogy. It was something that could have had a deeper delve but also I was fine with it not. I understood what the element was and their impact. I did really like how so much of the ar is driven by revenge and not because I like revenge. I just think people can get lost in emotions sometimes. Fueled by different things and the fact that Raziel had not just a purpose of gaining power for no reason. She had something that made her the way she is.

There is plenty of action in the story. Being that they are brushing with war. So if you enjoy the battle scene there are few for you here.

I did really enjoy it and I felt like it does wrap up the story. It’s also nice to have it be a two book series that is a fun fantasy to read if you're not looking for something that’s intense and takes a lot of books to complete.

Kalyn Josephson currently works as a Technical Writer in the tech industry, which leaves room for too many bad puns about technically being a writer. Though she grew up in San Luis Obispo, California, she graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in Biology and a degree in English (Creative Writing). Currently, she lives in the Bay Area with four awesome friends (because it’s the Bay Area and she’d like to be able to retire one day) and two black cats (who are more like a tiny dragon and an ever tinier owl). THE STORM CROW is her debut novel.

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If you pre-order TCR submit their receipts, they can choose a bonus scene from either Kiva or Ericen's POV, and be entered to win a TSC bookmark + character cards. Open US and CAN only.

Also, if you order TSC (hardcover OR paperback) or TCR from Kaylyn’s local indie store, Keplers Books, before July 7th they can get a signed, personalized copy. Readers need to say in the order comments if they wanted it personalized through.

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

Forest of Souls (Shamanborn #1)
Author: Lori M. Lee
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: June 23rd 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Danger lurks within the roots of Forest of Souls, an epic, unrelenting tale of destiny and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Susan Dennard.

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.

Forest of Souls was a book that once I started reading, I could not put down. I just needed to know what was going to happen.

I loved the plot and thought of this as a fast paced adventure. I read the book in a day because I needed to know what was going to happen. I actually think I read Lori’s other books in a day as well. I just think her writing style really appeals to me. There is definitely an elimination of mystery to the story as well as a plot that branches in a couple directions. Although some questions are answered in this first book there are still more that need to be sorted. The ending of the book left you hanging but also felt like a comfortable cliffhanger. If there can be such a thing.

There isn’t really romance in Forest of Souls but there is potential for romance. Which I liked even better. Say if in the next book some things developed it would be so natural because of the ground work in this book. At the same time if nothing develops, I wouldn’t be upset either because that would also seem natural.

I loved the friendship and familial bond between Sirscha and Saengo. No matter what they have one another's backs and even though there are things they have to work through. They are able to put those things on the back burner in order to conquer more pressing problems. I think because it feels like they know they have to hatch some stuff out but they also know they can make it through it because their bond is strong.

There are other side characters that I really liked. Meilek, Theyen and Phaut, were all characters that added their own special touches. I felt like Kendara and Ronin are a little more enigmatic and I hope there is more revealed in the next book.

Like I said I don’t want to spoil the plot because there are things that are mysterious and revealed throughout the story. I did really enjoy Forest of Souls and I’m really excited for the next book and to see what road all the characters end up following.

Lori M. Lee is the author of FOREST OF SOULS, first in the Shamanborn series, as well as GATES OF THREAD AND STONE and THE INFINITE. She’s also a contributor to the anthologies A THOUSAND BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS and COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES. She considers herself a unicorn aficionado, enjoys marathoning TV shows, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family.

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Sisters of Sword and Song by Rebecca Ross

Sisters of Sword and Song
Author: Rebecca Ross
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: June 23rd 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

From the author of The Queen’s Rising comes a thrilling YA stand-alone fantasy about the unbreakable bond between sisters. Perfect for fans of Ember in the Ashes, Sky in the Deep, and Court of Fives.

After eight long years, Evadne will finally be reunited with her older sister, Halcyon, who has been proudly serving in the queen’s army. But when Halcyon appears earlier than expected, Eva knows something has gone terribly wrong. Halcyon is on the run, hunted by her commander and charged with murder.

Though Halcyon’s life is spared during her trial, the punishment is heavy. And when Eva volunteers to serve part of Halcyon’s sentence, she’s determined to find out exactly what happened. But as Eva begins her sentence, she quickly learns that there are fates much worse than death.

Sisters of Sword and Song was enjoyable standalone fantasy story.

I like that the heart of the story is really about family. Blood relation or not, I loved reading the bond between the characters. It really shaped their actions and how they reacted to one another. Even in their worst moments.

I did really enjoy the plot. This is a land of magic and myths Some are blessed with powers and others are not. Halcyon and Evadne are descended from the God Kirkos who became mortal when he fell in love. So their chances of having any magical abilities are slim to none. They find other ways to shine. Halcyon in her ability to be a warrior. Evadne in her wisdom and loyalty. The sisters are put to the test in each of their own ways.

I really liked Evadne. She in a way is just considered average. Yet she has this well of strength that nobody really expects. I liked her character development in the story. How she stays strong no matter what is placed in front of her. Fueled by her love of her sister and her family. I think it’s interesting that Kirkos' fall was because of love and considered a weakness. When it appears to be his ancestors greatest asset.

Halcyon is also kind of interesting because she is the sister that seems to have everything. Yet she loses so much in the story. I didn’t feel as bonded with her character as much as Evadne but I still appreciated her.

The romance is light and cute. I really liked the little bit it added but that it wasn’t a main focus.

I enjoyed this as a standalone fantasy. I liked the strong family roots and the plot steeped it’s own mythology.

Rebecca Ross grew up in Georgia, where she continues to reside with her husband, lively dog and endless piles of books. She received her bachelor's degree in English from UGA. In the past she has worked at a Colorado dude ranch, as a school librarian, and as a live-time captionist for a college.

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The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae

The Kinder Poison (The Kinder Poison #1)
Author: Natalie Mae
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: June 16th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Holly Black, this enthralling fantasy adventure follows a teenage girl chosen to be the human sacrifice in a deadly game between three heirs who will do anything for the crown.

Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.

With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.

I loved The Kinder Poison. I was addicted from the minute I started reading and I just could not put it down. I felt like I didn’t know what would happen to Zahru up until the end.

I loved everything about this story. The plot is so fast paced and a villain isn’t just a villain. The characters all have their moments where they balance the line. I loved how well we get time with each of the heirs as Zahru becomes a part of the race. It’s not just the race that is the focus of the story. We find that tensions are rising outside of the kingdom as well.

I like Zahru a lot because she doesn’t have all the answers. She has what is considered a lesser magic. By being a Whisperer she is able to talk to animals. I thought that's pretty cool magic personally. I don’t think she really gets to test its full limits in the story though but that’s just my assessment. Ha ha. I loved the undercurrent of the story that does center around Zahru and who she is besides her magic.

I loved their three heirs because they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Jet is kind but he also seems to have this complex that makes him often feel like he needs to step back and let others shine. Kasta is cruel but also has more to his story, more to him. Sakira is charismatic and seems reckless but also wants to help her people. That’s just the heirs, not counting their companions who all have varying personalities. They really pull the story together, we get to know them all and I loved how each one can make an impact on someone else.

I really loved The Kinder Poison and I can not wait to see what the next book has in store. There are a few different things that are going to be at play. I want to see where this journey for Zahru goes.

Natalie Mae is an ex-programmer, dessert enthusiast, and author of young adult novels. She has also been a freelance editor and Pitch Wars mentor, and feels it notable to mention she once held a job where she had to feed spiders.

She now writes full-time at home with a bag of dark chocolates in one hand and a leopard cat on her lap. She is most definitely not checking Instagram right now.

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The Glamourist by Luanne G. Smith

The Glamourist (The Vine Witch Series #2)
Author: Luanne G. Smith
Publisher: 47North
Release Date: June 9th 2020
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction

A spellbinding novel of bloodlines, self-discovery, and redemption by the author of the Washington Post bestseller The Vine Witch.

Abandoned as a child in turn-of-the-century Paris, Yvette Lenoir has longed to uncover the secrets of her magical heritage and tap her suppressed powers. But what brave and resourceful Yvette has done to survive the streets has made her a fugitive. With a price on her head, she clings to a memento from her past—what she believes to be a grimoire inherited from the mother she never knew. To unlock the secrets of her past, Yvette trusts in one woman to help solve the arcane riddles among its charmed pages.

Elena Boureanu is the vine witch of Ch√Ęteau Renard, noted for its renowned wines. Even as she struggles with her own bloodline—and its poisonous threat to her future—Elena can’t ignore a friend on the run. Joined by a cunning thief, the proprietor of an enchanted-curio shop, and a bewitching black cat, Elena and Yvette are determined to decode Yvette’s mysterious keepsake. But what restless magic will be unleashed? And what are Yvette and Elena willing to risk to become the witches they were destined to be?

The Glamourist is a story about witches and finding your power.

The story continues over from The Vine Witch. We have Elena who is trying to hide from her heritage and Yvette who is trying toward her heritage.

I love Elena’s maturity and intelligence. I feel like she is kind of like Sherlock as the mystery of unlocking their past moves along. I definitely wouldn’t call Yvette Watson, more of the fiery sidekick that can react recklessly because she has all this energy built inside her. I really like how Yvette’s character is so different from Elena’s yet they are friends.

I really enjoy the magic system and having the aptitude for one type of magic or another. Part of Elena’s hurdle is after learning that her mother was a witch of poisons and she loves her role of a Vine witch she doesn’t want the one to taint the other. Yvette knows there is buzzing inside her but no matter how she tries she can’t find the way for it to come out. I love the bit of mystery that comes with discovering the girls roots, present and future.

There is something that really appeals to me about the writing style that I find in these books. I can’t quite put my finger on what to exactly call it. It kind of has that historical sense but a little more.

I enjoyed The Glamourist. It will be interesting to read The Conjurer and follow Sibra on her own journey.

Luanne G. Smith is the author of THE VINE WITCH, a fantasy novel about witches, wine, and revenge set in early 20th century France, and the forthcoming second book in the series, THE GLAMOURIST. She’s lucky enough to live in Colorado at the base of the beautiful Rocky Mountains, where she enjoys reading, gardening, hiking, a glass of wine at the end of the day, and finding the magic in everyday life.

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Hood by Jenny Elder Moke

Author: Jenny Elder Moke
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: June 9th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retellings, Fantasy

You have the blood of kings and rebels within you, love. Let it rise to meet the call.

Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John's ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle's father, Robin Hood.

As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf's clutches and find the father she's never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear?

Hood turned out to be a really cute story. I love that it’s not re-telling of Robin Hood as much as a continuation of the story. We get to glimpse some of things we are familiar with from the legend but also a whole new story.

Isabelle is an interesting character. I could tell if i always like her or not. She struggles with a lot of self-doubt and kind little miny pity parties. She is also sixteen though and figuring out that her father and mother are not exactly who she thought they were. When she overcomes her challenges she really overcomes them. Throwing herself into the fray to help people. She can show great strength at times.

I really enjoyed the plot. It’s an easy flowing story that is a fun quick read. Very fast paced and of course brings together elements from the Robin Hood tale. Lie Sherwood Forest and the Merry Men. I really loved the design of Sherwood Forest. It makes so much more sense in Hood. Ha ha. I also like how no element is too overpowering. There is a little dabble in romance but it doesn’t take over the story. There is definitely adventure but the root of the story is family. I think the things that were meant to shine through did and didn’t get lost in the story somewhere.

It would definitely be interesting to see more from this world. Even maybe with some of the characters that were particularly close to Isabelle. Maybe Adam, Helena, Little or Patrick could get some more spotlight.

I really enjoyed Hood and it’s a nice read when you need a break. Of course I really like Robin Hood tales in general though and I think this does justice in the vein.

Jenny Elder Moke writes young adult fiction in an attempt to recapture the shining infinity of youth. She was a finalist in the 2017 Austin Film Festival Podcast Competition, and studied children’s writing with Liz Garton Scanlon.

When she is not writing, she’s gathering story ideas from her daily adventures with her two irredeemable rapscallions and honing her ninja skills as a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Jenny lives in Austin, TX with her husband and two children.

Her debut novel, HOOD, about the daughter of Robin Hood and Maid Marien, will release from Disney/Hyperion in Spring 2020. She is represented by Elizabeth Bewley of Sterling Lord Literistic.

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