To Raise a King by Justin Orton

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About the book:

When Matt escapes a Scottish boys’ home to search for his parents, he instead finds himself fleeing for his life. Cast back in time to the brutality of 6th-century Scotland, he is sent on a dangerous quest – a race to recover the missing fragments of King Arthur’s broken crown in an epic bid to save two worlds from certain destruction.

Love, betrayal and murder follow Matt as he battles against a backdrop of powerful magic and political intrigue that soon erupts into open war. Matt’s faith in himself, and his trust in his friends will be put to the ultimate test as he fights to Raise a King.

“To Raise a King” is the first novel in the “Broken Crown” series, and builds on the original Arthurian legend that says Arthur did not die, but was placed in eternal sleep by Merlin.

Follow Matt’s struggle for survival, and his harrowing journey across Scotland. Experience a young man’s struggle as he deals with the loss of innocence, an unexpected romance, and the shocking discovery of his own heritage.

“The Broken Crown” provides a remarkable glimpse into dark-age Scotland, and weaves together history and legend to produce an action packed tale rich in characters and adventure.


My review:

This was an interesting read, but I’m still not sure how I really feel about it. I’ve been fascinated by the legend of King Arthur for most of my life and enjoy seeing all of the different interpretations of the stories. To Raise a King, while it is definitely a reworking of the legend of King Arthur, focuses a lot on Merlin: his backstory and his role in Arthur’s life and “death.”

And that’s where it gets really weird. Orton has chosen to depict Merlin as a “Marsonian” — a former inhabitant of Mars. Yep, you heard me right, Merlin’s a martian. Everything else in the story related to the legends of Arthur is very well-researched and lines up with recent historical finds, so the whole martian thing just seemed so out of left field for me. I was glad to get past that section of the book and get lost in the quest.

My other big issue was head-hopping. We jump perspectives a lot (though it does get better toward the end of the book), skipping from one character’s ideas/thoughts/views to another’s with no indication that there is a change until you have to stop for a moment and figure out whose eyes you are looking through. It makes it a bit hard sometimes to stay in the flow of the story.

Yet, Orton’s descriptions of the scenery in Scotland are absolutely lovely. I was mesmerized by the beauty he describes and so want to be walking through those glens and alongside those lochs. And the overall plot following Matt’s quest was definitely enjoyable.

So, while it was not a perfect read for me, there was enough to make me kind of like this book and even want to read the next book in the series. If you like your Arthurian legends with a healthy dash of science fiction, you’d enjoy reading this one, too.

Many thanks to Justin Orton and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

 

**Note for parents of readers: while this is a YA novel (the main character is only 17), I would rate it a PG-13++ for language, violence, and some sexual content. And it is definitely not a Christian novel, so don’t be expecting anything along those lines. 🙂

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Spark by J.M. Hackman

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About the book:

Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands.

Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.

When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. Against her will. Who knew portals even existed? But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil.

Hold up. Can everything just slow down for a sec?

Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin (Um, hello, Hottie!) pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified. Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time?

And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?


My review:

Spark is J.M. Hackman’s first full-length novel, and I spy a promising career behind Brenna and her Firebrand abilities!

Hackman’s writing style is relaxed, but also drizzled with lyrical imagery and a liberal sprinkling of snark that conveys a perfect teenage girl voice. One of my favorite descriptions was of morning in Linneah: “Dawn had arrived, holding hands with a vivid orange-streaked sky.” Such beautiful imagery! But you can also see the teenage snark in her description of some food in Linneah: “A large platter held a boar lizard roast, which like the cliché, tasted like chicken, but had the consistency of pencil erasers.” 😀

I enjoyed Brenna. She’s a lovely heroine, flawed but feisty. Naïve enough to get herself into bad situations, but also just skeptical enough to get herself back out and all with a sense of humor.

This was only book one of the Firebrand Chronicles, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. I’d recommend you grab your own copy of Spark and dive into the adventure! Happy reading! 🙂

Iridescent by Kait Spangler

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About the book:

Things are more than they appear…

Aly Roberts wasn’t expecting much out of small town Airyville, North Carolina. She certainly wasn’t expecting to get caught up in a conspiracy involving the town’s gated community, Lagniappe. The people of Lagniappe are private, and Aly’s new friend, Riley Monroe, is certain that they’re hiding something. Lagniappe’s secrets are dangerous, and uncovering them may just change their lives forever.


My review:

I so wanted to like this book: strange happenings, weird family members, conspiracy theories, superhumans…

But unfortunately, it left too much to be desired for me to recommend you read it. The writing was fairly amateurish, which I could probably have overlooked if the dialogue and plotting would have been stronger.

The main characters are teenagers, but you’d still hope they’d have some common sense locked away somewhere! The young girl is just moving to a new area, and the first person she meets is a boy in her class who is completely obsessed with a nearby housing development. And she still wants to talk to him after she learns this? Aly’s cousin, the one Aly of course thinks is weird, just happens to live in that particular gated community. Why wouldn’t Aly just ask her cousin what’s going on and save everyone in the story a whole lot of trouble? No common sense…

The story got weirder as the writing regressed, and it took all I had to finish reading it. Do I care what happens in the next book in the series? Not really. But I’m guessing the characters will do stupid things which land them in difficult situations that they are miraculously saved from for bizarre reasons.

Sorry, I hate to say this about any book, but I don’t recommend you read this one. It ended up being a bit of a waste of time for me and that breaks my heart. Bummer!

The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo

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About the book:

A Former Privateer and a Desperate Heiress Join Forces to Find a Treasure

Jump on board with a brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees.

One hundred years after her mother’s family came to the New World on the Mayflower, Maribel Cordova has landed in New Orleans to seek the man who holds the key to finding her father’s lost treasure. Attorney Jean-Luc Valmot has buried his past life so deep that no living person will ever find it—or so he hopes as he accepts a position on the governor’s staff. But the daughter of an infamous pirate threatens all he holds dear. Can Maribel and Jean-Luc compromise so they both can hold onto what they most desire?


My review:

This is the second book in the Daughters of the Mayflower Series: a series of books, written by different authors, all revolving around the descendants of a fictional couple who met on the Mayflower (which is the story recorded in the first book of the series, The Mayflower Bride). I did read the first novel in the series, but you certainly don’t have to read it to understand the story, since they take place about a hundred years apart.

I kind of enjoyed the first part of the story, where Mirabel is a young girl with a love for reading (especially reading about pirates), who is “captured” by privateers and charms them into allowing her to be a member of the crew.

After that, it kind of went downhill for me. I felt like the second part of the book was the Reader’s Digest Condensed Version: the writing seemed rushed and not as developed as it did in the first part. We skip ahead to Maribel as a young lady, teaching in the orphanage she was raised in. Then suddenly her family finds her and all these secrets begin to come to light one after the other. I got to the end and felt like I’d missed something.

And I really didn’t feel like the book blurb (as shown above) truly matched the story that I read, so I was a bit disappointed. It was a quick read and relatively diverting, but I did feel like there was something a bit off about it. Possibly because when they first meet and become somewhat enamored of each other, Maribel is only around eleven, while Jean-Luc is in his early twenties. That was awkward. Nothing untoward happens until they meet again about ten years later at a more appropriate age, but still.

If you need a quick and easy read, try it, but I won’t be putting it in my re-read pile. Which is a bummer, because I do love good historical fiction and pirates usually make any story better (they were the best part of this story!).

Thanks to Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

Mythical Doorways by Fellowship of Fantasy

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About the book:

Eleven Tales of Magical, Mysterious, Mythical Doorways!

Step through portals and into adventure as the authors of the Fellowship of Fantasy take you on another journey into fantastic worlds. Travel through time, space, and realities to encounter monsters, mechanical foxes, and the Fates themselves. You’ll fly with dragons, save implausible beasts, and perhaps find your true home. Choose your path wisely, for dangers lurk in the lands beyond.

In the third anthology from the Fellowship of Fantasy, eleven authors promise you journeys into fairy lands hidden within the modern world, futuristic universities, and lands of ancient myth. So what are you waiting for? Cross through our Doorways for the adventure of a lifetime!


My review:

This was a fabulous anthology filled with a magical blend of stories all swirling around the common theme of doorways and how they can change a life. Each author brought a new angle on the power, the promise, the pressure, or the predicament of passing through a doorway to find all that could be on the other side.

I did have a few favorites, including Savannah Jezowski’s “Well of Fate,” based on Norse Mythology and with a squirrel for a main character; Bokerah Brumley’s “Door Number Four,” whose main character I could totally empathize with in his fear of failure; Laurie Lucking’s “Threshold,” a sweet tale of having to choose; and Arthur Daigle’s “Idiot’s Graveyard,” about the Sorcerer Lord Jayden and his assistant Dana and how they save the kingdom. I also really enjoyed H.L. Burke’s “Jericho and the Magician’s Daughter.” Having read the first of her Spellsmith & Carver Gaslamp Fantasy series, it was really cool to read the backstory of some of the characters in those books. I will admit that there was one story I didn’t finish—it just wasn’t my cup of tea. But that’s the beauty of an anthology: there’s something for everyone!

If you’re looking for a great read, grab your own copy today (they are free on Amazon!!). Not only will you enjoy the anthology, you might even find your next favorite author from the talented bunch at Fellowship of Fantasy! Happy reading 🙂

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

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About the book:

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.


My review:

I. Loved. This. Book. I think I could probably end my review with just those four words, but I’d love to tell you a little about why I so enjoyed this read.

Fawkes is a fascinating twist on historical fiction: the perfect blend of truth and fantasy, bringing new life to history. Brandes does a fabulous job of staying fairly true to the historical facts: she included most of the primary characters of the Gunpowder Plot and the basics of the motivations behind the plot with King James I and his persecution of certain members of English society. As I read, I was impressed with the level of research she must have put into this piece. But then she used her own special tweaks to freshen the tale, turning it from a struggle for religious liberty to a battle for magical freedom.

And I was entranced and so encouraged by Thomas’ theme: do not blindly believe what you are told, don’t simply trust your emotions, but always search for the truth. That is so important for everyone today, young and old, to learn.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. However, you’ll have to wait a few more weeks before you dive in. Fawkes releases on July 10. Trust me, it will be worth the wait! Happy reading 🙂

Many, many thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for the digital copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂

 

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick W. Carr

wounded shadowAbout the book:

The kings and queens of the northern continent lay siege to the Darkwater Forest, desperate to contain its evil. But rumors of gold and aurium have lured deserters and the desperate into its shadow, creating a growing army held in its sway. Desperate after the death and dissolution of their greatest ally, Willet and the Vigil seek the truth of what lies at the heart of the evil they face. They delve the mind of an old enemy and find an answer far worse than they could have imagined.

Danger stalks the cities of the north, striking at the rulers of the kingdoms. As Willet and the rest of the Vigil seek to find answers, the group is scattered with an ever-growing darkness around them. Will they discover a path to keep their land safe, or will an ancient evil reclaim the world it once called its own?


My review:

So I’ve been sitting here for a while trying to come up with the words to describe just how much I liked this third book of the Darkwater Saga (and how much I hope Patrick Carr doesn’t wrap this series up, but continues it forever!!), but words seem rather inadequate. It was just so good, it took my breath away a bit!

I really liked the first two books (and the introductory novella) in the series, but I loved The Wounded Shadow. It was absolutely crammed with everything I love in a good read: terrifically crafted and intelligent characters, intricate world building, intense and exciting adventure, good and evil, love and heartbreak, and fabulous wit. Willet, Gael, Rory, Bolt, and all the characters that I have gotten to know over the first books, I came to cherish in this book, and I already miss spending time with them! I have a feeling I’ll be re-reading this series. 🙂

Patrick Carr just keeps getting better, and I can’t wait to see what he has for his readers next!

Many, many thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for the digital copy of this novel for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂