The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman

The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman

Though the Beast is seemingly subdued for now, a new threat lurks in Four Paths: a corruption seeping from the Gray into the forest. And with the other Founders preoccupied by their tangled alliances and fraying relationships, only May Hawthorne seems to realize the danger. But saving the town she loves means seeking aid from the person her family despises most — her father, Ezra Bishop.
May’s father isn’t the only newcomer in town–Isaac Sullivan’s older brother has also returned, seeking forgiveness for the role he played in Isaac’s troubled past. But Isaac isn’t ready to let go of his family’s history, especially when that history might hold the key that he and Violet Saunders need to destroy the Gray and the monster within it.
Harper Carlisle isn’t ready to forgive, either. Two devastating betrayals have left her isolated from her family and uncertain who to trust. As the corruption becomes impossible to ignore, Harper must learn to control her newfound powers in order to protect Four Paths. But the only people who can help her do that are the ones who have hurt her the most.

With the veil between the Gray and the town growing ever thinner, the Founder descendants must put their grievances with one another aside to stop the corruption and kill the Beast once and for all. But the monster they truly need to slay may never been the Beast…(taken from Amazon)
This is the sequel to The Devouring Gray, which means there might be some unintentional spoilers for that book in this review. If you haven’t read The Devouring Gray, you can find my review here.

After somehow managing to survive the events in The Devouring Gray, the four children of the founding families have splintered into separate factions. Too many betrayals have left them wondering who- if anyone- they can trust. But then May realizes that something is seriously, life- threateningly wrong with the Gray, and suddenly the teens are given a choice: die alone or work together to hopefully survive.
Take the Upside Down from Stranger Things, plunk it square in the middle of Riverdale, and you’ve got the setting for this book. I don’t know which part was more intriguing: the beast in the Gray, or the absolutely messed-up nepotism and privilege given to the descendants of the founding families. Just when you think all the skeletons in the closets have been found, something else jumps out.
I really enjoyed the tangles of storyline. There was a bit of a mystery surrounding the origin of the corruption escaping the Gray, which I really enjoyed. Watching as the teens picked apart the secrets surrounding their families to discover truths that had been thoroughly buried was fascinating.
The previous book focused a lot on Violet and Justin. While they were still a big part of this book, May and Isaac took center stage this time. I liked that the author took time to develop all of the characters, giving each one a specific and unique hurdle. Violet was the window into the town in the last book, so to speak. She was the impetus that brought the weird favoritism to light. May was the one tasked with ending things in this book. Once you read why, it makes perfect sense.
I loved the way the beast from the Gray was described, but it was the freaky trees that had human hair growing out of them that got my gag reflex working overtime. Odd fact about me: any hair not attached to my head grosses me out. Needless to say, those trees are definitely on my “nastiest creations found in literature” list. Blech! I can’t deny that the author’s descriptions were very effective.
This duology is a blast to read and I’ll be on the lookout for more by this author.

A Smuggler’s Path by I.L Cruz

Image result for a smuggler's pathIn Canto, magic is a commodity, outlawed by the elites after losing a devastating war and brokered by smugglers on the hidden market. But some know it’s more–a weapon for change.

Inez Garza moves through two worlds. She’s a member of the noble class who works as a magical arms dealer–a fact either group would gladly use against her. Neither know her true purpose–funding Birthright, an underground group determined to return magic to all at any cost.
But the discovery of a powerful relic from before the Rending threatens her delicate balance.
Inez’s inherent magic, which lies dormant in all the Canti, has been awakened. Now the Duchess’s daughter, radical and smuggler must assume another forbidden title–mage, a capital crime. This will bring her to the attention of factions at home–fanatical rebels bent on revolution, a royal family determined to avoid another magical war, her mercenary colleagues at the hidden market willing to sell her abilities to the highest bidder–and in Mythos, victors of the war and architects of the Rending.
Evasion has become Inez’s specialty, but even she isn’t skilled enough to hide from everyone–and deny the powers drawing her down a new path. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Rachel Poli at Bosky Flame Press for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.

This is the sort of fantasy that is a joy to read. It’s fun, fast-paced, and full of unique characters and a great history. I loved the way the author gave a bunch of history in the prologue, and managed to tell it simply and in a way that made the story seem even more intriguing.

Inez was an enjoyable main character. Her need to survive was often at odds with who she was, and I loved watching her character grow and evolve. While she was a strong character, she was strong in an atypical way. She’s not unfeeling, she doesn’t think she’s an island, and she doesn’t have a “chosen one” complex. It was refreshing.

The other characters in this book were equally enjoyable. I loved that Rowley is a talking dog. That just tickled me. I also liked the little nods I saw throughout the book: seeing “Jabberwocky” written is always fun.

It does take a bit of time to get going, but that setup is far from boring. The slower build-up gave me a chance to really get acquainted with I.L. Cruz’s world and showcased her excellent writing abilities. If my interest is kept during a slower beginning, I know the writer is talented.

This is the sort of fantasy that works well for pretty much any age group. It’s creative and fun. I recommend giving it a read!

The Dark Stalkers by Henry Bassett

I: The Dark Stalkers (The Dead Chronicles of Martha Railer Book #1)In a town not too dissimilar to yours lived Martha Railer; a solitary individual who lived by herself, yet enjoyed the company of her close friends whom she spent time with on days out. In a realm outside of human perception, something sinister had been put into motion, and inhuman dark figures arrived in her town. They stalked Martha on her day to day activities, but was she chosen or was it chance or, perhaps, even fate? However, a simple choice of a short cut home would change everything for her…& them. (taken from Amazon)

                               Have you ever seen one of those artsy films? You know, the ones where the story-telling is so different, and the camera shots are so distinct, that you know there will never be another movie like that made, no matter how many other people try to mimic the style? This felt a bit like that.

The story itself is a simple one, but the execution is so unique that the story-line in and of itself really doesn’t matter. I’m used to books that attempt to make the reader a part of the world. This one deliberately keeps the reader at arms’ length, allowing a glimpse into what’s happening, but never opening the door all the way. It lent the book a sinister vibe, like there was a secret being held which added a sense of urgency.

The point of view switches back and forth from that of Martha and the stalkers. Martha never really reveals much personality at all. Because of that, certain things that happened in the book didn’t hit me the way I think they were supposed to. This is one of six novellas and I wonder if possibly combining them all into one full-length novel might help the characters come to life a bit more.

I can’t sum up my opinion of this book in a neat “I liked it” or “I didn’t”. I’ll settle for this: the book is intriguing and will stick with me for quite a while.