The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world—a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life. (taken from Amazon)

           The word “exquisite” doesn’t begin to describe the beauty of this book. This book is the sweet melancholy of virgin snow, soon to be stepped in. It is the delight of a surprise package, the excitement of a first kiss, the mysterious possibility of change. It is perfection on pages.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is an excellent protagonist, sweet and a little unsure of himself. The story begins with a book found in a library, one that contains a tale about Zachary’s childhood. It’s a memory of something that really happened, something that no-one has been told about.  Zachary’s need to know more about the origin of the book leads him into labyrinthine tunnels, and the even more difficult -to- navigate maze of self-discovery.

The prose is gorgeous and the nonlinear way that the story unfolds is perfect. I love how Erin Morgenstern evokes not just sight and sound, but smell and taste with her writing. This book made me sad in that beautiful way that is so close to happiness that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe I’ll do both. That will really freak my husband out.

The Night Circus, which is Erin Morgenstern’s first book, is on my “top five favorite books of all time” list. I have officially made it my “top six favorites” because this has found a place in my heart. Read this book.

“Each door will lead to a Harbor on the Starless Sea, if someone dares to open it.
Little distinguishes them from regular doors. Some are simple. Others are elaborately decorated. Most have doorknobs waiting to be turned though others have handles to be pulled.

“These doors will sing. Silent siren songs for those who seek what lies behind them.
For those who feel homesick for a place they’ve never been to. 

Those who seek even if they do  not know what (or where) it is that they are seeking. 
Those who seek will find. 
Their doors have been waiting for them.”

The Perfect Book Tag

I was tagged in this fantastic post by The Orangutan Librarian. I’m not attempting to write a book, but I’ll give it a go. Huzzah for participation!

The Perfect Genre: pick a book that perfectly represents its genreImage result for the hobbit book

Of course, I’m going to go with fantasy. As much as I like many other genres, fantasy is always my favorite. I have to say The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien perfectly represents this genre. Tolkien’s world is fully realized, it has the hero’s quest, a great group of fascinating characters, and of course there’s Smaug. He’s the quintessential fantasy dragon.

The Perfect Setting: pick a book that takes place in a perfect place

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I feel like I use The Night Circus in a lot of my posts, but I can’t help it. It’s so gorgeous. I’d love to wander through the Cirque de Reves. Anyone who hasn’t read this book, needs to add it to their (probably already overflowing) to be read pile.

The Perfect Main Character

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This question was really hard on me, because I usually don’t love the main characters in books. Because they are often used to further the story, I find myself getting annoyed by how shortsighted or flat-out stupid they can be. I do love Slowhand, though.

The Perfect Best Friend

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Charlie is so sweet and considerate. He takes the time to get to know all his friends’ quirks, their likes and dislikes. He’s loyal to a fault, and he has a loving heart.

The Perfect Love Interest: pick a character who you think would be the best romantic partner
I’ve got nothing. I am bereft of any sort of interest in bookish romances.

The Perfect Villain: pick the character with the most devious mind

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Dolores Umbridge is absolutely vile. What makes her so incredibly disturbing, though, is that she’s firmly convinced she’s right. She thinks she’s justified in everything she does, and people like that are very, very dangerous.

The Perfect Family: pick the perfect bookish family

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I didn’t want to post Harry Potter twice in a row, but the Weasleys are the perfect literary family. They pretty much adopted Harry. Not because he was “the Chosen One”, but because they saw a kid who needed love. They’re boisterous, fun, a little bit chaotic, but loving and sweet.

The perfect animal or pet: pick a pet or fantastical animal that you need to see in a book

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(art by Matt Stawicki)

I’ll always choose dragons. I actually collect dragons. I have figurines, stuffed animals, even a stained glass window hanging. This particular dragon is a favorite of mine, featured in Dragonlance.

The perfect plot twist

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I loved every mind-bending moment of this book. Stuart Turton’s second novel, The Devil and the Dark Water will be coming out sometime next year. I have no idea what it’s about. I truly don’t care: I’ll still be in line to buy it as soon as it releases. His writing is astounding.

The Perfect Trope: pick a trope you’d add to your book without thinking

Does the whole “small group will goes on an epic journey” thing count as a trope? If so, then that’s the one I’d add without a second thought.

The Perfect Cover: pick a cover that you would easily put on your own book

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I love everything about this cover, from the gold-and-blue embossing, to the title. It has a mysterious, dark fairy tale feel to it that I can’t get enough of.

The Perfect Ending:

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I want to say The Night Circus again, but I’ll refrain. I love books that feel like they’re continuing on beyond the final page, and we can catch up with the characters years down the road and chat like old friends. Both Alix E. Harrow and Erin Morgenstern have captured that feeling perfectly in their novels.

So, there you have it. I’m not going to tag anyone here, although I might tag some people on Twitter. If you feel like participating, please do. I’d love to see what others think!

Limbo by Thiago d’Evecque

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The Limbo is where all souls — human or otherwise — go to after dying. Some don’t realize where they are. Death is a hard habit to get used to. Gods and mythological figures also dwell in the plane, borne from humanity’s beliefs.

A forsaken spirit is awakened and ordered to dispatch 12 souls back to Earth to prevent the apocalypse. Many don’t take kindly to the return. Accompanied by an imprisoned mad god, the spirit must compel them.

Each of the 12 unlocks a piece of the forsaken spirit’s true identity. Memories unfold and past wounds bleed again.

The journey will reveal buried truths about gods, angels, humanity, and the forsaken spirit itself. (taken from Goodreads)

                            Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

This book is so stinking creative! I saw “mad god” in the description, and was immediately interested. One thing I loved about this was the way the book reads like a puzzle. That sense of questioning transferred over from the main character to me, and I couldn’t stop thinking through what I thought the possibilities might be. I was surprised by the way things culminated as well, which is always cool.

At times, the book felt a bit too descriptive but the descriptions themselves were amazing. The author had such a fully realized view of every last detail, from the way things looked, to how they were formed. Just read this:

There was no space or time. I strode without leaving the place, while, in fact, everything around me arranged itself to look like I was moving. The setting gradually changed. Small pieces climbed up to my feet and descended from where the sky should be. As in a puzzle, these pieces fit together and shaped the surroundings. The ground floated in blocks until they glued together in a perfect picture, an impeccable union.

Oddly enough, another thing I really enjoyed was reading the notes afterward to see what myths and religions the author pulled from and took liberties with. It’s obviously a passion project, and reads well because of it.

It’s a quick read, and one that I suggest to those who like new takes on old myths, legends, and archtypes.

The End of the Year Book Tag

The end of the year is rapidly approaching. I’m not sure why 2019 decided to move at a gallop, but it seems that it did. I’ve seen this book tag on several blogs and I’m not sure where it originated. The credit for this great tag goes to Ariel Bissett. Without further ado, here are my answers to some questions that no one has asked:

Are There Any Books You’ve Started This Year That You Need To Finish?

Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy #2) by Emily A. Duncan: I started this long before its release date, which is April 7th, 2020. I obviously have plenty of time to read and review it before the release date, so I’m not stressing it.

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Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone…or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet―those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

In her dramatic follow-up to Wicked Saints, the first book in her Something Dark and Holy trilogy, Emily A. Duncan paints a Gothic, icy world where shadows whisper, and no one is who they seem, with a shocking ending that will leave you breathless. (taken from Amazon)

Do You Have An Autumnal Book To Transfer Into The New Year?

Indeed, I do. I always reread the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman in the fall. I’m enjoying it even more than usual this year, since I’m participating in Offthetbr’s readalong.

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Lifelong friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales of strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a chance encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman, who bears a magical crystal staff, draws the companions deeper into the shadows, forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world.

No one expected them to be heroes.

Least of all, them. (taken from Amazon)
Is There A New Release You’re Still Waiting For?

Oddly enough, not really. My most anticipated new release just came out, so now I’m just enjoying discovering new books and rereading favorites.

What Are Three Books You Want To Read Before The End Of The Year?

The Audacity by Laura Loup: I’m starting this one soon, and I’m really excited to see where it goes.

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May’s humdrum life gets flung into hyperdrive when she’s abducted, but not all aliens are out to probe her. She’s inadvertently rescued by Xan who’s been orbiting Earth in a day-glo orange rocket ship, watching re-runs of “I Love Lucy”.

Seizing the opportunity for a better life, May learns how to race the Audacity and pilots her way into interstellar infamy. Finally, she has a job she likes and a friend to share her winnings with–until the Goddess of Chaos screws the whole thing up, and Xan’s unmentionable past makes a booty call. (taken from Amazon)
The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington: I love a good fantasy, and I think this book will deliver.

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As destiny calls, a journey begins.
It has been twenty years since the godlike Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them — the Gifted — are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion’s Four Tenets, vastly limiting their powers.
As a Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he and his friends Wirr and Asha set into motion a chain of events that will change everything.

To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian’s wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is…

And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir. (taken from Amazon)

The Jackal of Nar by John Marco: My husband recommended this book, and he has excellent taste in fantasy books.

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His enemies call Prince Richius “the Jackal,” but he is merely a reluctant warrior for the Emperor in the fight for the strife-ridden borderland of Lucel-Lor. And though the empire’s war machines are deadly, when the leader of a fanatical sect sweeps the battlefield with potent magic, Richius’s forces are routed. He returns home defeated—but the Emperor will not accept the loss. Soon Richius is given one last chance to pit the empire’s science against the enemy’s devastating magic, and this time he fights for more than a ruler’s mad whim. This time Richius has his own obsessive quest—and where he hesitated to go for an emperor’s greed, for love he will plunge headlong into the grasp of the deadliest enemy he has ever encountered. . . .(taken from Amazon)

Is There A Book You Think Could Shock You And Become Your Favorite Book Of The Year?

I’m a big fan of surprise masterpieces, so I go into each book I read with an open mind and hope that it will be one I enjoy. It has been a year full of amazing books, and I know that I’ve only begun to discover all the incredible voices out there.

Have You Already Started Making Reading Plans For 2020?

I can’t even plan an outfit! I do have some ARCs that will be released in 2020, so my goal right now is to have them all read and reviewed before their release date. Other than that, my plan is to maybe remember to put eyeliner on both eyes if I’m going to put makeup on before leaving the house.

If you want to participate, feel free! This is a fun one.

The Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency and the Case of the Missing Ghost by D.L. Dugger- ARC Review

The Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency: And the case of the missing ghost by [Dugger, D.L.]
When a ghost disappears from a local house he was haunting, his sister in the OtherWorld spirit realm hires the Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency to find him. Eager to locate the missing ghost, the youthful sleuths, Abby, Toby and Billy, and their grumpy Medium Arthur Monsento jump right into the investigation. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available to purchase on November 11th.

What first drew me to this book was the old-school kids’ detective agency idea. I loved that sort of story when I was young, and this seemed a fresh take on an old favorite. There was a Scooby-Doo vibe, except that the ghosties happen to be actual ghosts.

This is the third installment in the Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency series, but it was easy to understand what was happening, thanks to explanations given throughout the book. The explanations didn’t necessarily fit into the storyline nicely; rather, they just sort of popped up. However, it was good to have them. I don’t think they are long enough to bore repeat readers, which is also a plus.

The premise of this particular mystery is the search for a missing ghost. He’s no longer haunting the house he normally appears at, and his recently deceased sister is concerned about him. I laughed pretty hard at that idea.

The detective agency consists of three kids (Abby, Billy, and Toby), and a cranky old medium. They follow clues of an unusual kind to attempt to find the missing ghost. I don’t want to give too many details away, since half the fun of a mystery is following the twists and turns.

This book is a lot of fun. It’s a new take on the usual trope and I quite enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a quick, entertaining read, this is a good one to check out. I’ll know I’ll be going back and reading the first two in this series.

Master of Sorrows by Justin T. Call- ARC Review

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You have heard the story before – of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who comes to a fuller knowledge of his magic and uses it to fight the great evil that threatens his world.

But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same?

What if the boy slowly came to realize he was the reincarnation of an evil god? Would he save the world . . . or destroy it?

Among the Academy’s warrior-thieves, Annev de Breth is an outlier. Unlike his classmates who were stolen as infants from the capital city, Annev was born in the small village of Chaenbalu, was believed to be executed, and then unknowingly raised by his parents’ killers.

Seventeen years later, Annev struggles with the burdens of a forbidden magic, a forgotten heritage, and a secret deformity. When he is subsequently caught between the warring ideologies of his priestly mentor and the Academy’s masters, he must choose between forfeiting his promising future at the Academy or betraying his closest friends. Each decision leads to a deeper dilemma, until Annev finds himself pressed into a quest he does not wish to fulfil.

Will he finally embrace the doctrine of his tutors, murder a stranger, and abandon his mentor? Or will he accept the more difficult truth of who he is . . . and the darker truth of what he may become . . . (taken from Amazon)

                        Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available in stores on February 25th, 2020.

I can sum up this book in one word: incredible. I am in awe of Justin T. Call’s writing. I opened the book and was immediately drawn into the story. I got major Name of the Wind vibes, which is high praise indeed.

Where should I start? Well, first off, the storytelling is masterful. There wasn’t a single misstep through the whole book. This book follows Annev as he learns who he is, both in a magical sense, and a moral one. Much like Name of the Wind, the book takes its time setting the tone for all that follows. And what follows is fantasy at its finest.

The solid foundation is what took this book a step above many other fantasies I’ve read. Each little tidbit mentioned fits like a puzzle piece, making a full picture. The trials at the beginning of the book were so interesting to read. I loved seeing Annev make decisions regarding his treatment of others. Would he betray them to get ahead? I’ll leave it to you, Reader, to find out.

I loved Sodar. He tried so hard to raise and protect Annev. He made mistakes and chose to be reticent when openness might have served him better, but that’s part of what made him so fascinating. He’s such a realistic character. Although, really, all the characters were utterly believable.

The world building was excellent, the characters fantastic, and I can’t wait to see where the story goes as it continues in the sequel. Basically-wow.

Grab this book the second you’re able to.

The Death of Mungo Blackwell by Lauren H. Brandenburg- ARC Review

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‘We all need to know what’s missing in our lives. At a funeral someone stands and describes everything a person has accomplished in their life. But what if they missed something? What if there was one thing they never got to do? And what if they had a chance to go back and do it?’ The Blackwells are a family with an extraordinary history and astounding traditions, which include attending their own funerals before they die! Their ways are questionable and their stories about deceased relatives are as bold as their red hair, but it is their eclectic wares that keep tourists coming back to their market in the town of Coraloo. Charlie Price, whose world has come crumbling down after a lapse in judgement leaves him unemployed, finds himself flung into the chaotic world of the Blackwells when he relocates to Coraloo with his socialite wife, Velveteen, and shy son, Gideon. Here Charlie attempts to make a living as a ‘picker’, reselling under-priced items he picks up at the market. Some of the Blackwells welcome him with open arms, but others resent pickers and want him thrown out of the market. Charlie soon finds this new way of life under threat and his quest for simplicity seems to be crumbling. Perhaps it’s time for Charlie to have a funeral of his own! This charming story of hope will warm your heart and make your imagination soar. (taken from Netgalley)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.

Peculiar, but highly entertaining, this is one that I’d file under “cozy books”.” After an incident involving a food truck leaves Charlie Price jobless, he moves to small Coraloo with his wife and son. They find themselves thrown in the middle of a feud between two old families: the Tofts and the Blackwells.

What originally drew me to the book was the part of the description that mentions the Blackwells attending their own funerals before they die. It sounded like a fun, quirky read. However, the funeral isn’t actually the focal point, or the thing that stuck with me. This book is full of small-town eccentricities and charm to spare. It’s not a trite book, though; it found a sweet, quiet way of talking about stress, adjusting to new and scary circumstances, and “blooming where you’re planted.”

Equally funny and touching, this book managed to warm my cold little heart. I highly recommend it.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight Read-along hosted by Offthetbr

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As pretty much everyone knows by this point, I love the Dragonlance Chronicles. I reread them about once a year, but this year is going to be epic because I’ll be taking part in a Dragons of Autumn Twilight November read-along! It’s being hosted by Jason at Offthetbr, which is an awesome blog. If you want to join in, check out his post here to learn how to sign up, etc. I hope you’ll join the fun!

          Lifelong friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though   each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales of strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a chance encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman, who bears a magical crystal staff, draws the companions deeper into the shadows, forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world.

No one expected them to be heroes.

Least of all, them. (taken from Amazon)

The Night Country (Hazel Wood #2) by Melissa Albert- ARC Review

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                                            ****Spoilers for Hazel Wood below!***

                   In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home… (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on January 7th, 2020.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. Unfortunately, I can only muster a like. The thing that originally drew me to The Hazel Wood was the creepy, dark feel of the fairy tales (I’m still dying to know the story of Twice-Dead Katherine). This book didn’t have that feel for me. The sense of something lurking just outside of view wasn’t there. While there are some messed-up story characters, they were much more straight-forward, which lessened their impact for me.

The plot is interesting, continuing with a new threat to the Hinterland, and the ex-stories who have left the Hinterland behind. Alice is one of the few ex-stories who has managed to eke a normal human life for herself, and many others resent her for that. Also, there’s a small matter of some ritualistic-looking deaths, and no-one knows who is responsible, or who will be next.

If you have read my review of The Hazel Wood (which you can find here), you’ll know that my biggest complaint was that the relationship between Alice and Ellery felt a little one-note. Again, in this book, the relationships fell a little flat. I think that’s just a character development issue that will improve as Melissa Albert continues to write, which I hope she does. Even though I didn’t love this book, Melissa Albert is a creative voice and I look forward to seeing what else she comes up with.

 

The One Kingdom (The Swans’ War #1) by Sean Russell

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In a kingdom long without a king, two great enemy families desire the prize of rule. The machinations of the Renne and the Wills have already sundered a troubled realm. And now, generations on, their intrigues could drown it in blood. (taken from the back of the book)

Written exceedingly well, this series belongs on the shelf next to greats such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and Tad Williams. It’s the sort of story world I happily get lost in, peopled by characters that are flawed, dangerous, brave, loyal, and incredibly real.

There are multiple story-lines in this book that seem very disparate, but eventually become tangled up in interesting ways. A good chunk of this book follows the Hero’s Journey, through the character of Tam. Tam is one of a group of traders, hoping to buy more horses and, ultimately, return home wiser in the ways of the world. It’s a very hobbit-esque origin, without being a rip-off. Unfortunately for Tam and his friends (but fortunate for the reader), the wide world has other plans.

At the same time, Toren Renee is the first of his house to hope for peace. It’s a hope that is threatened on all sides, as those from both the Renee house and the Wills plot to prevent that. Never come between a powerful person and his feud.  On top of the political intrigue, there’s an unwanted marriage in the Wills family, and- underneath it all, an ancient and powerful revenge story that threatens everything.

One of the things I loved about this book is that it doesn’t rely on quick slash ’em up battles. Any action is there to further the story. Because of this, the pacing can seem a bit slow at the beginning. Trust me; the setup is worth it. The prose drew me in, and the way the characters evolved kept me interested. The ending of the first book had me rushing to grab the second.

A good chunk of the book takes place on the river Wynd. Normally books that involve sitting on boats or ships for long periods of time bore me, but such was not the case here. The river itself is an intriguing, and sometimes creepy, character. I love when a setting becomes more than just the backdrop!

If you’re a fan of The Wheel of Time series, like a good fantasy, or just want a well-written book, don’t pass up the chance to grab The One Kingdom.