Tuesday, October 31, 2023

REVIEW: The Witchfinder's Serpent by Rande Goodwin

The Witchfinder's Serpent
My Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

After the death of their father, Nate and his younger brother Marc leave New York City to live with their mysterious aunt in Windsor, CT. Her one rule: under no circumstances are they to enter the locked room on the second floor. Of course, teens being teens, their curiosity gets the better of them and they eventually explore the room, uncovering some pretty creepy stuff, including a serpent bracelet cuff that's magically attached itself to Nate's wrist and refuses to be dislodged. But what else they've unleashed is even creepier, the stuff of nightmares!

The Witchfinder's Serpent is a modern-day young adult fantasy inspired by true historical events. The story spans multiple timelines—the present (2019) and the past (1647), during the time of the earliest Puritan settlers in New England and America's first Witch hanging. I liked that the past timeline directly related to what was happening in the present day, and unlike other books' flashbacks, I did not find myself wishing for the chapter to end and return to the present day. The chapters in the past held my interest just as much, if not more so, than the present.

Being a New England-er myself (transplanted to California 13 years ago), I am intimately familiar with the Salem Witch Trials. I also identify as a Witch, drawing energy and practicing magick with the usual Witches tools. So I related well to this book, and even appreciated how the author spelled "magick" with a K, just as modern Witches do, to distinguish it from stage and illusionist magic.

The book started off a bit slowly, allowing time to develop characters and set the scene, but quickly picked up about 20% in when the story got really intriguing. The writing style was not as elegant as some of the more established writers I've read. I would've liked to have seen less "telling" and more "showing" in several places, but such is the hallmark of a new writer, and honestly after the story picked up, I barely noticed it as much. Some parts of the story were also a bit simplistic and quickly explained away... . But seeing as it's young adult, I suspect the author didn't want to get too bogged down in details that could detract his target audience.

Despite those minor criticisms, the story itself was entertaining and captivating, and definitely hard to put down. I found the author to be very respectful towards his subject, conveying the horror of past times when Puritans unjustly accused and prosecuted anyone perceived as different or sensitive. I also appreciated the way Aunt Celia explained the significance of the pentacle and the beliefs of modern-day witches to her two young wards in a light-hearted but factual way—providing young adult readers with an objective basis for the modern Witchcraft movement. While the story wrapped up nicely, it clearly alluded to much more to come! I'll be looking forward to the sequel.

Thank you to NetGalley and Greenleaf Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

#TheWitchfindersSerpent #NetGalley

View at Amazon
View at Goodreads

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Demon Tide (The Black Witch Chronicles #4) by Laurie Forest

The Demon Tide
My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

There was a lot to like about this book, along with a few things I didn't care so much for. But taking the good with the bad, I still have to give this a solid 4 stars.

For starters, I'm glad that I read the two books of The Rebel Mage prior. Both Wandfasted and Light Mage provided a great deal of background to some of the characters that were just introduced to Elloren for the first time in this book. While little details of them were sprinkled throughout, experiencing Fain's closeness to Elloren's mother, Tessla, firsthand, the back story of Rivyr'el, or how Sage met and fell in love with Ra'Ven—all of that added a lot more dimension to these characters when they showed up here in The Demon Tide. And even though they weren't mentioned by name, I recognized Za'ya, Zeymir, and little Na'bee (minor characters from Sage's Light Mage story, sitting in Mora'lee's cafe in one scene. Glad to know they are well and made it to the Noi lands. 😀 Or at least as well as can be expected with what's going down...

While the author is fantastic at detailed world building and character development (with the exception of Elloren's character in this book), I felt that a lot of this book dragged on where it should've been a bit faster paced. The events of Xishlon eve for example, I really didn't care about more than half of those love hookups and could've done with a single chapter, especially for the more minor characters. And the jumps from first to third person POV were often confusing as we switched character perspectives. In previous books, I believe only Elloren was in first person, and all other character perspectives were in third. In this book however, we have Elloren, Trystan, and Vothe all using first person. Until 70% through the book when Vothe's chapters start using third person instead. Often times when reading, especially the Trystan/Vothe chapters, I had to keep reminding myself who "I" and "me" referred to. A bit more consistency here would've made for a lot smoother reading.

I had been hoping to finally see Elloren come into her own and embrace her full power in this book, but alas, it's not until the last 25% ish that we really get to see what great evil her power is capable of, and then only when Vogel invades and takes over her mind and body. Towards the very end, she's transformed and finally does come into her own, but we're left to wait for The Dryad Storm to see how all that actually plays out. Please bring back the self-confident, kick-ass Elloren we began to get a glimpse off at the end of book 3.

Despite my above grievances, I still have to rate this highly because any book that can draw so many emotions from me—laughter, sadness, screaming, and even hate—definitely gets my vote.

In addition, the parallelism between Erthia and our own world is staggeringly accurate and makes this fantasy world seem even more real. Prejudice and xenophobia only serve to corrupt and fragment our society. And the more fractured and divided people are, the easier it is for hate and bigotry to sneak in, creating even more division and destroying the balance of life. A life lesson everyone should embrace.

"the more that people are divided, the more the Shadow Tool grows in power. It feeds on fracture. And then it destroys the Balance."
"The people of this land were fractured before the Branch gained power. They forgot the truth of the Source Tree at the center of their faiths and worshiped the fractured edges instead. They forgot their tether to the natural world."

View at Amazon
View at Goodreads

Saturday, October 28, 2023

REVIEW: Dawn Study (Study #6) by Maria V. Snyder

Dawn Study
My Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

This last book in the Study series was a great close to the series that wrapped everything up with a neat little bow! Throughout this series, many of the secondary characters have become favorites, overshadowing even Yelena and Valak in a lot of aspects. But I'm happy to always come back to this power couple, and was very satisfied with their happy ending... and baby makes three!! :)

Despite the loss of her magic, Yelena is still a kick ass character, who won't let anything stand in her way. And now that Sitia has fallen under the thrall of an evil Cartel leader, she and her happy herd will stop at nothing to prevent the war that's brewing between Sitia and Ixia.

View at Amazon
View at Goodreads

Sunday, October 15, 2023

REVIEW: Shattered Glass (Glass #3.5) by Maria V. Snyder

Shattered Glass
My Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

A short little detour between Night Study and Dawn Study to visit with Opal. I do like the person she's become—so much more determined and confident, happy and at peace despite not having her magic back.

In this short story, she's called to aid by former Master Magician Zitora, and while the plot doesn't add much to the Chronicles of Ixia series as a whole—and isn't required reading—it not only catches you up with what Opal and Zitora have been up to, but also ends on a bit of cliffhanger. Ending with Zitora returning to the Citadel and Opal returning home to Fulgor to find something very wrong, I can only assume we'll be seeing more of both of them in Dawn Study. Coming up next in my reading queue.

View at Amazon
View at Goodreads

Saturday, October 14, 2023

REVIEW: Night Study (Study #5) by Maria V. Snyder

Night Study
My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

While Yelena is still mourning the loss of her magic, a serious threat has begun to engulf Sitia and Ixia, threatening war between the two countries. As enemies are closing in, Yelena and her friends must do everything in their power to evade disaster and avoid falling prey to enemy hands.

An exciting and action-packed addition to the Study/Chronicles of Ixia series with some major plot twists and developments. The underlying intensity throughout this book left a thrill down my spine... and I had a hard time putting it aside to sleep or get anything done. LOL Despite being a "middle child", I thought this was even better than Shadow Study.

View at Amazon
View at Goodreads

REVIEW: The Shadow Wand (The Black Witch Chronicles #3) by Laurie Forest

The Shadow Wand
My Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Wow! Pretty much nonstop danger for Elloren throughout this book—running for her life nearly the entire time! With very few allies, and a whole slew of enemies in both the Western and Eastern military intent or seeing her dead or enslaved, Elloren's life is in extreme peril.

I loved visiting and learning more about the Noi culture who, like the Amaz, are very maternal with a lot of women holding powerful positions. Very unlike the Gardnerians where the women are treated simply as second class citizens and breeding material.

Like the previous books, the writing is very well done and pulls you right into the story with it's descriptive prose... as if you're right there experiencing everything right alongside these characters. Because of this, I often found myself talking back to the characters quite a bit. Things like, "grow a backbone, Elloren!" and similar cracks were some of my most frequent. :)

And when they decided to send Elloren to Lukas in Gardneria for protection, I was like WTF??!! Definitely the Amazakaraan lands would've been a much safer choice. Or if that didn't work out for some reason, there were any number of alternate places they could've stashed her instead of right under Vogel's nose! Here, I almost felt as if she was placed there simply to advance the story line with Lukas. However, I didn't end up minding in the long run because I love me some Lukas... and that we got to learn so much more about his rebellious side. Yup, I'm Team Lukas, baby! :p

I was devastated with how it ended, but then had a massive "you go girl" moment when Elloren finally took the reins, grew a backbone, and fought back! I hope this self-confidence (and self-reliance) sticks because I'm getting fed up with the whiny, I-can't-do-anything version of Elloren we see so much of in this book. LOL

View at Amazon
View at Goodreads

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

REVIEW: The Iron Flower (The Black Witch Chronicles #2)

The Iron Flower
My Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

This was a fun read and a great follow-up to The Black Witch that picks up right where the previous book left off.

The Reaping Times have seeped out of Gardneria and into Verpacia and the University, with Marcus Vogel and the Gardnerian Mage Council imprisoning, killing or slaughtering the "Evil Ones"—anyone who's not allied with them. Which is basically everyone except the Alfsigr Elves and loosely, the Noi and Vu Trin military. To fight back against the injustice running rampant, Elloren and her band of rebel friends have joined the underground Resistance—a larger team currently helping to smuggle the oppressed groups out of the Gardnerian held territories.

And then we've got the love triangle—Elloren fighting against her ever growing feelings for the rebellious (non-Gardnerian) Yvan Guriel, while still entranced by the seductive power of Lucas Grey, who's now commander of the Fourth Division Gardnerian military base. Can she get Lucas to change his stripes, or convince Yvan to get past what the Gardnerians have done to his family?

While the ending seemed like it came on suddenly, it was definitely a Wow WTF moment. I immediately had to start on the next book. Boy, am I glad I didn't read these as soon as they came out for that very reason. Having to wait 2 years between this book and the next would've been murder!!

View at Amazon
View at Goodreads