Malice by Heather Walter

Once upon a time, Princess Aurora was cursed by an evil sorceress with the only solution being true love’s kiss. Many would imagine the story where Aurora was sent to be raised by three fairies and was awaken from her cursed sleep by Prince Charming. However, in this retelling of Sleeping Beauty, that is not the case.

Alyce is who someone called a “Dark Grace” but that doesn’t quite summarize what she actually is. A Grace is someone who tends to the needs of humans either by healing people through or making them more beautiful through their blood. But Alyce isn’t like the rest of the Graces since she is half-Vila, someone who is demonized by all of society.

Princess Aurora is stuck with a curse in which she would die by the age of 21 if she hasn’t kissed someone who is her true love. No one truly cares if she lives or dies since they have seen the same thing with her sisters and the ancestors that came before her. It seems as though Alyce and Princess Aurora would have no reason for their stories to intertwine but Fate turns the table and have the two unexpectedly fall into love with each other.

I find this fantasy book to be truly amazing. The world-building is spectacular, the characters are seen as genuine and relatable, and the plot is amazing. There are many plot twists that occur in the book and has developed the story into a tale of what love and hate equally could do to a person in desperate times. Many times, I couldn’t stop reading the book even when I needed to do something because it had intrigued me so much. I recommend this book for anyone who loves fantasy and loves the story of Sleeping Beauty.

Malice by Heather Walter is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Nightfall by Shannon Messenger

Nightfall is the sixth book in the Keeper of the Lost Cites series (which is currently 8.5 books long), and the events come as a definite surprise to anyone who has read the other five books before it.

In this book, the main character of the series, a powerful young elf named Sophie Foster, has to rescue her human parents from a Neverseen hideout called Nightfall. (The Neverseen are a deadly rebel group that formed in the Lost Cities, and they always seem to be out to get Sophie and her friends.) But Sophie knows that the Neverseen might be using her parents as a diversion to distract her from the larger issues at hand, so, no matter how painful it is, Sophie is forced to look at the bigger picture and accept that the threat looming over her human parents might not be the problem she needs to focus on. She helps her friend, Keefe Sencen, with the issues he has with his mother, Lady Gisela, (who also happens to be a leader of the Neverseen) and attempts to figure out the identity of the prisoner who escaped from the Lumenaria dungeon in the previous installment of the series. But all of these issues seem to come together in the end of the book, when Sophie and her friends (Tam and Linh Song, Biana and Fitz Vacker, Keefe Sencen, and Dex Dizznee) and her foster father, Grady Ruewen, enter Nightfall. There, they encounter some members of the Neverseen and discover who their new ally is–the former prisoner of Lumenaria.

While all of this was going on, they also had to deal with another enemy, one whose alliance with the Neverseen hit extremely close to home. Alvar Vacker, the older brother of Fitz and Biana, was found abandoned by the Neverseen in one of their old hideouts, bleeding to death. They had discovered that Alvar was a member of the Neverseen in the earlier books, but they’d never have guessed that the group would leave him for dead. He doesn’t give any information in his interrogations except for one, crucial detail, which readers will find out in the beginning of Flashback.

The reason why I love this novel is because of all the plot twists and the fact that the characters have realistic personalities. Their problems kept me rooting for them the whole time the book was in my hands, and the storyline stuck with me for a long while after I’d finished. This book (and the series it belongs to) is a magical read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves the fantasy genre.

Nighfall by Shannon Messenger is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Warlords of Nin by Stephen R. Lawhead

The Warlords of Nin is the second book of The Dragon King Trilogy, by Stephen R. Lawhead.  The main character of this series is a young man named Quentin.  Peace has been returned to the kingdom for several years, following Quentin’s perilous adventures in the first book.  However, trouble is lurking from a distant land.  A group of warlords is led by a deified leader known as Nin the Destroyer.  This evil threat is on a rampage of destruction and conquest.  Quentin is once again destined to restore peace to the kingdom.

Most of the characters are interesting, and their personalities are unique.  However, this book does not provide much of a backstory for the antagonists.  The warlords seem to be nothing more than stock characters.  They are supposed to be villains, but their personalities lack depth.  As a result, the conflict in the story seems inadequate.  However, the development of some of the other characters improved as the story progressed.  The story was gripping enough to keep me engaged through the end of the book, even though the warlords themselves were not very interesting.

Overall, I would say that this book is enjoyable.  I do not consider this to be the best fantasy book that I have come across, but I still consider it worthwhile to read.  If nothing else, this provides a good transition to the third and final book in the series.  I would recommend this book, but not as a stand-alone novel.  I would recommend reading this along with the other books in the trilogy.

The Warlords of Nin by Stephen R. Lawhead is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Review: These Rebel Waves

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch is a two book long series including the sequel These Divided Shores.

These Rebel Waves is a fantasy book that revolves around the magical land of Grace Loray, and the religious kingdom of Argrid.

Adeluna (or Lu for short) is a soldier who helped free the magic rich country of Grace Loray from its Argridian oppressors. Devereux is a stream raider who steals the magic plants of Grace Loray to sell on the black market. Ben is the heretic prince of Argrid, who finds himself secretly interested in Grace Loray’s forbidden magic.

Adeluna grew up during the rebellion and knew nothing but how to be a soldier. Now that she helped Grace Loray overthrow Argrid she found herself lost on what to do with her life. She doesn’t need to find out because there’s trouble in the council as one of the Argridian delegates goes missing. Devereux is a raider with no alliances, one of the most notorious outlaws to walk Grace Loray, but he soon finds himself launched straight into the political mess of Grace Loray, and as he finds out that the raiders are being blamed for the disappearance of the delegate Ibarra, he agrees to help Adeluna find the missing delegate to prevent the upcoming war. Ben has only known to fear the magic of Grace Loray after his dear uncle and cousin were burned for researching magic. But when his father asked him something unbelievable, he now must find out if he is being set up to die, or can he really change the minds of Argrid.

I found this book interesting because of the endless plot twist, the frequent cliffhangers between chapters, and how you can really see what each and every character is feeling, and every character is going through in the story. I would recommend this book to age’s 13 and up.

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King by Jenny Nimmo

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King is the fifth book in the Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo.  At the time this book was written, it would have been the last book in the series.  However, Jenny Nimmo later decided to write more books to continue the saga.  In this book, Charlie Bone is on a mission to finally discover the identity of his father.  Throughout the series so far, Charlie Bone has wondered about his father.  Charlie had been told that his father died, but the circumstances surrounding his death were mysterious.  In this book, Charlie is determined to find out the truth about his father.

Other than the main character, Charlie Bone, my favorite characters throughout the series are Lysander Sage and Tancred Torsson.  These two characters do not disappoint in this book, either.  I really enjoyed reading about how they used their magical powers to help Charlie, and that they always remained loyal to their friends.

I also enjoyed a part in the story when another of Charlie’s friends, named Olivia, helped him to obtain a magical mirror.  After a battle against mysterious dark forces, Charlie is able to use the mirror to learn the truth about his father.

It was very satisfying to finally learn more about Charlie Bone’s father.  This book is exciting and action-packed, and I enjoyed reading it very much.  I would recommend it highly to anyone.  This book seems like a fitting conclusion to the series, even though the author went on to write more Charlie Bone books after this one.

-Simon H.

Charlie Bone and the Hidden King by Jenny Nimmo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Fablehaven: The Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

In the fictional novel The Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull, Kendra and Seth Sorenson are back at their grandfather’s house, which is actually a sanctuary for mythical creatures. To begin the story, Seth makes friends with some satyrs, and together they steal some treasure from small, fairy-like creatures called nipsies. Seth and the satyrs notice that some of the nipsies have turned dark, as if they had been infected with some type of evil. It turns out that is the case, and the plague that has been spread is the conflict of the book. 

Although the reading level of this book is comparatively lower, the story, literary elements, and character development are surprisingly advanced. Higher-level readers can find strong themes throughout the pages, and since the story itself is fantastical and enjoyable, The Grip of the Shadow Plague is a very fun read! It is part of a much larger series called Fablehaven, and all of the books of this series are centralized around the mystical adventures of Kendra and Seth. I would give this book a 5/5, and I would recommend it to readers of all ages.

-Ayati M.

Fablehaven: The Grip of the Shadow by Brandon Mull can be downloaded for free from Libby.

Magic Systems and How to Write Them

A Guide to Writing Magic Systems | The Fantasy Hive

Writing a fantasy novel is amazing because the possibilities are endless. However, sometimes it’s difficult to get your creative ideas on paper in a way which makes sense. This will go over a few common fantasy themes and give some ideas on how to approach descriptions.

Perhaps the most standout theme in fantasy novels is magic, but this can also be the hardest to explain. First, plan out some ideas of what magic your world will have. Will the magic be elemental, illusions, mind-control, telekinesis, or manifestations? The next thing to consider is how the magic system works. Are there wands involved? Perhaps the character can shoot out the magic through their hands, or maybe, the magic is contained within the character. Furthermore, will every person be able to use magic? Is magic something that can be learned, or is it genetic? Or maybe magic is only reserved for royalty. Adding rules and boundaries to magic will help make the novel more believable.

Once you have created your magic system, the second most important part is putting it into words. A common trope in fantasy novels is that magic is channeled, almost like working out. Characters will get fatigued, especially if the magic is particularly strong. This is a relatively easy way to write magic and can lead up to very suspenseful moments, like if a character is stuck in a dangerous situation and has to strain themselves to create one powerful spell. 

Another way to write magic is if it is channeled through an object. This could be a wand, crystals, tarot cards or any other object. In this case, you will want to spend some more time describing said object. One example could be if the object heats up or breaks under lots of stress or use. You could also use a combination of the two ideas. An example would be if a character can use magic without the object, but the potency of the spell is increased with it. 

Finally, here are some possible descriptions you can use in your fantasy novel. A boy is filled with rage. He feels as though flames are dancing under his skin, begging to be released. He complies, expelling the liquid flames outwards in a beam. A girl, standing a few feet away from said boy, throws her wand up in response. She clenches her eyes shut as she is hit with a blast of scorching air. But then, as suddenly as it appeared, the heat dissipated. A low hum was now audible in the air around her. She opens her eyes and notices a shimmering blue shield at the end of her wand. 

-Michelle L.

Something Dark and Holy Trilogy: Character Analysis

Amazon.com: Wicked Saints: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy, 1):  9781250195661: Duncan, Emily A.: Books

Overview:

The book series, Something Dark and Holy (shortened to SD+H), is a dark fantasy trilogy written by Emily A. Duncan. The whole series revolves around a cleric by the name Nadya Lapteva. Her character is particularly interesting in the way she grows over the course of the series. Here’s some quick background information first. The series takes place in medieval Eastern Europe and follows Slavic mythology. Her country, Kalyazi, has been at war with Tranavia for centuries. The main difference between the two is that Kalyazi has clerics, individuals who can communicate directly with gods, while the Tranavians do not follow the gods and use blood magic. Nadya finds herself as the last remaining Cleric and last remaining hope to end the war. Fair warning, this will contain spoilers.

Wicked Saints:

Amazon.com: Ruthless Gods: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy, 2):  9781250195692: Duncan, Emily A.: Books

In the beginning of the first book Nadya is a very timid girl. As the last cleric, she has been constantly protected and on the move. This, of course, leads to problems. In the first half of the book, she is separated from her countrymen and meets Malachiasz. He is a Tranavian who claims he was exiled from his country. Nadya sees him as a lost boy, pities him, and eventually agrees to travel with him. Malachiasz uses this story in order to gain her trust and lead her into the capital of Tranavia. Throughout this part of the novel, Nadya’s gods try to communicate with her and warn her. However, she ignores them. 

Around the middle of the novel, Malachiasz begins to show his true colors. However, Nadya is still too naïve and blindly in love with him. Nadya’s character continues down this path until the final chapter of the novel. In the last half of the book, Malachiasz admits he was never exiled. He only brought Nadya to Tranavia because she contained the power to turn him into a god. Nadya is absolutely torn and heartbroken with this betrayal. She not only lost the only boy she ever loved, but now her gods won’t even speak to her.

Ruthless Gods and Blessed Monsters

Amazon.com: Blessed Monsters: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy, 3):  9781250195722: Duncan, Emily A.: Books

In the beginning of the second novel, it is revealed that Nadya has fallen into a deep depression. She was in solitude for nearly a year before she decided to try and track down Malachiasz; he now has the power of a god and was terrorizing her home country. Her depression disappears when she finally finds him and tries to work out problems. This is where Nadya’s character truly emerges. She gains strength, bravery and grows in power. She becomes her own character as she makes the discovery that her magic doesn’t come from her gods, but rather herself. By the end of the series her character is nearly unrecognizable from the first novel.

I highly recommend this series if you like a strong female protagonist and lots of character development. 

-Michelle L.

The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen

My Mom found this book in a book shop a little while ago. I had just finished reading the False Prince that was also by Jennifer A. Nielsen and I had been looking for another book in the same series. Since I enjoyed the False Prince, my Mom had given me this book and I had decided to read it. 

In The Scourge, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Ani Mells has gotten herself in trouble and is encountering a series of problems. Ani is a River Person who is less better off than what their people would call, the “pinch worms”. Ani seems to have caught the Scourge; the sickness that has spread across the country of Keldan. It is highly contagious and supposedly incurable. Ani is sent to the Colony, where all the Scourge victims are put and to be left for their demise. Weevil, Ani’s best friend, and Della, a pinch worm, are all on the Colony together. During her time on the island, Ani finds something suspicious going on on the island, and she plans to get to the end of it and make everything better. 

This book was wonderful. At first, I was reminded of COVID since a big part of the plot was about a virus that was hard to cure. The farther I read, however, I realized that that wasn’t the case. The story had a huge twist at the end of the book that had a great build up. And throughout the story, there were more surprising events. They were definitely unexpected to me. There was great character development; especially from Ani. Ani’s confidence levels grew, and so did her leadership. But all characters had character development. Even the smallest of side characters had character development. 

I believe that this book was the second Jennifer Nielsen book I’ve read and it definitely didn’t disappoint me. It’s an enjoyable book that isn’t super long, so you can finish it quickly. I would definitely recommend this book to other readers.

-Nicole R. 

The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Crier’s War by Nina Varela

The War of Kinds had brought destruction upon the human race and prosperity to the Automa. Because of this war, resentment spread across the races, both knowing their loathing for each other but never explicitly stating it to one another. But their beliefs and actions have proved they consider each other enemies.

The Automa sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier, had no idea of this destruction. And she never really had no clear idea until she met Kinok and Ayla. Kinok is her soon-to-be husband who she is forced to marry for the betterment of her kingdom. Her father felt that the only way to subdue Kinok’s influences was to extinguish the threat of power he felt from recent times. But would this action create a difference?

Ayla is a human servant girl who wishes for nothing more than Crier’s immediate death. She believes wholeheartedly in the saying “An eye for an eye” and after the death of her family order by the sovereign himself, she thought to act upon this ideology. But as the book continues, Ayla begins to realize the true nature of Lady Crier and separate some Automa from others. And Lady Crier also begins to realize the true connection between the Automa and humans and how her father isn’t exactly who she thought he was.

From the way this book was written to the path of the plot, I couldn’t stop thinking about the book even when I wasn’t reading it. So many little things in the plot occur in the story that seem to have no meaning until it creates meaning into the story altogether. When reading, one wouldn’t see major plot twists coming until they approach it and read back on all of the clues Nina Varela left for them in obscured areas. The imagery was beautiful, unfolding the story in my eyes with vivid scenes and intense dialogues. And the symbolism wrapped the entire story together and the fates of the characters in the book. The story is also an enemies-to-lovers book so if you like that, you should definitely check it out!

-Saanvi V.

Crier’s War by Nina Varela is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.