Review: “Windsinger: A Darkhaven Novel” by A.F.E. Smith

Review: “Windsinger: A Darkhaven Novel” by A.F.E. Smith

A review by Vanessa.

Again I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to review this series. This is the third installment of the Darkhaven series, the first of which I reviewed in July 2015, and the second in Jan 2016.

Ayla Nightshade is the overlord of Darkhaven, the ruler of the city of Arkannen and all of Mirrorvale, mother of three small children, and wife to her captain of the Helm, Tomas Caraway. It is a lot to balance, especially when she is the only known Changer left in Mirrorvale, and her enemies are many. But she hopes to have one less enemy, that of the neighboring kingdom who has been the most recent trouble for her, Sol Kardis. After fending off attacks by their assassins a few years earlier, all Ayla really wants is to find a peace treaty with them and move on with living her life and helping her people. She wants to make Arkannen a thriving center for trade and commerce and give all of her people the chance at peaceful and prosperous lives. Indeed, Arkannen will be receiving a marvel of new technology from their neighboring kingdom of Parovia. The Windsinger is a giant airship which Ayla hopes will inspire her people in their own technological advances.

Tomas Caraway is happy to be the father of Ayla’s two small daughters and their adopted son Marlon. Though he still finds doubt in his ability to lead the Helm, he has been successful at recruiting some of the best and most loyal to aid him in protecting Ayla and his family. And he will need them the most when the emissary sent by Sol Kardis dies at the hands of a poison that seems like it could only have come from Ayla herself. Ree, Penn, and Zander have been serving in Arkannen since the events of several years past. Ree is a respected female member of the Helm. Despite his family’s hatred of Captain Caraway, Penn has proven to be a loyal Helmsman as well. But Zander, discovered as the son of a prominent Sol Kardis councilor, didn’t make it into the inner circle of trust or the Helm. But he serves as a fifth ring weapons master, and he has no desire to go home. With the death of the emissary from Sol Kardis, all of these loyal friends will have their own part to play in keeping Ayla and her young family safe, and protecting their home of Mirrorvale. Meanwhile, Tomas has some plans of his own and a spy that might help him along the way. There is treachery within the very halls of Darkhaven, maybe closer than even Tomas realizes. Can they avert war and disaster and find the real culprit in time?

Masterful world building abounds in this third installment to the Darkhaven series. The characters as always are multifaceted and engaging. Ayla’s strength and leadership is not at all hampered by her decision to marry Tomas Caraway. They are as always a team, where he is happy to support her as a ruler and she relies on his support and wisdom as any wise ruler would. Her physical abilities as a Changer make her the bigger, stronger, and more imposing character, but that is not a detriment to Tomas or any other character in the story. Tomas is a wonderfully flawed but lovable strength in Ayla’s life. Ree as the first and best female Helmsman has her struggles. As readers we get to admire her determination and independence as someone who is simply human and makes the best of the life she has made for herself. Even Penn and Zander get their perspective in the story, and we get to learn more about them. Penn is struggling with his separation from his family, and Zander’s experiences as essentially an immigrant in Mirrorvale are as relevant to our own world as any in the book. All of these weave together in a wonderfully fantastic read that does not disappoint.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “The Alchemists of Loom” by Elise Kova

Book tour Review- The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

A review by Domoni.

Ari is a the White Wraith. A legendary criminal who refuses to bow under the rule of the Dragons. She is a Chimera, a Fenthri imbued with blood or organs from dragons. On Loom, the three humanoid races live together, though not in peace. When Ari finds Cvareh injured on the ground, she moves to kill the dragon and steal his heart. He promises her his boon if she will get him to the alchemists. Ari knows that it would be a risk, and though she despises all dragons, having the chance to get her wish granted convinces her to save and help him.  When Ari’s charge Florence is separated from her after dragons attack their town, Ari realizes Cvareh is running from something much bigger than she realized. The dragon king has his strongest warriors searching for them and it will be a miracle if they make it to the alchemists.

This is an interesting fantasy/steampunk story. The author’s writing is excellent and she has created a deep full world full of vivid scenery and characters. The hierarchies of the different races are complex and frustrating, making the world ripe for resistance. The story had some wonderful moral underlays that hit the heart, making you connect deeper to the characters.

I enjoyed the main characters. Ari is fierce and strong and though her anger was ever present in her distaste for the dragons, you eventually learn the reasons and it makes sense. Florence was actually my favorite. I loved her strength and determination. A good book with two amazing female characters is always a plus for me. I was bothered that the first half of the book alluded to the women being in an intimate relationship and then suddenly they yanked that out from under us. I would have preferred that the author not tease us in that manner, as it quite put me off when the reality was revealed. The actual romance was one of those instalove from hate kind of relationships that I don’t care for and it damaged the story a bit in my mind.

The author created a very distinct new world that did take a little bit of work to keep track of, but it is worth diving into and will invite the reader to return to learn more about this story.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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The Alchemists of Loom
Elise Kova
(Loom Saga #1)
Publication date: January 10th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Her vengeance. His vision.

Ari lost everything she once loved when the Five Guilds’ resistance fell to the Dragon King. Now, she uses her unparalleled gift for clockwork machinery in tandem with notoriously unscrupulous morals to contribute to a thriving underground organ market. There isn’t a place on Loom that is secure from the engineer turned thief, and her magical talents are sold to the highest bidder as long as the job defies their Dragon oppressors.

Cvareh would do anything to see his sister usurp the Dragon King and sit on the throne. His family’s house has endured the shame of being the lowest rung in the Dragons’ society for far too long. The Alchemist Guild, down on Loom, may just hold the key to putting his kin in power, if Cvareh can get to them before the Dragon King’s assassins.

When Ari stumbles upon a wounded Cvareh, she sees an opportunity to slaughter an enemy and make a profit off his corpse. But the Dragon sees an opportunity to navigate Loom with the best person to get him where he wants to go.

He offers her the one thing Ari can’t refuse: A wish of her greatest desire, if she brings him to the Alchemists of Loom.

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Author Bio:

Elise Kova has always had a profound love of fantastical worlds. Somehow, she managed to focus on the real world long enough to graduate with a Master’s in Business Administration before crawling back under her favorite writing blanket to conceptualize her next magic system. She currently lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and when she is not writing can be found playing video games, watching anime, or talking with readers on social media. She is the USA Today bestselling author of the Air Awakens Series as well as the upcoming Loom Saga (Keymaster, 2017).

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BOOK TOUR Review: “A Lady Never Lies” by Stephanie Burkhart

A review by Domoni.

I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

A Lady Never Lies is the third story in The Windsor Diaries series. I have not read the previous stories, this did not seem to be a problem in following this tale. The Windsor family are the adult children of the modern day British Royal family. With the permission of the government they use a time machine to travel back to Victorian England. This story centers on a young woman from the Victorian time period named Jocelyn Dunkirk. She is a noble lady of unconventional character who is more interested in tinkering and inventing with her father and trying to help clean the air of coal dust and smoke, than with sticking with expected protocol and gender roles. Richard Windsor is the modern day Prince of Wales and next in line to the throne. During his travels through time, he fell hard for Jocelyn but duty required he leave her, and now he is returning to her time to capture her heart.

The story opens on the night of the wedding of Edmund Windsor, Richards brother, and his new bride Keira, a woman from the Victorian time. Like Richard, Edmund fell for a woman out of his time. He chose to stay with her in her time and marry her. While at the wedding, the ring Richard left Jocelyn with to prove his affection, began acting strange and heating up. When she removed it from her fingers, her father noticed it sparking. As he leaned over the ring to inspect it, ash from his cigar fell on the ring and it causes a massive explosion. The ballroom is rocked and Jocelyn is thrown backwards, injuring her ankle. When she recovers her wits, she finds her father badly injured and burned. Festivities are halted as the Lord Ridgecroft, Jocelyn’s father, is carried from the room. At this moment Richard Windsor returns in time to see the woman he loves, terrified and angry that the ring he gave her caused this event, rushing out after her father.

The Lord Ridgecroft’s injuries are severe, but there is no time to dwell. The coal miners of England are on strike and the country is quickly starting to suffer. Parliament assigns Jocelyn to help convince the miners and the bosses to settle and she must be off to handle this business in her father’s place. What she did not expect to learn is that an unknown male cousin will be set to inherit her father’s title and lands if he were to succumb to his injuries. Due to a condition in her grandfather’s will, only males may inherit. So now Jocelyn must meet this cousin and take his measure while he accompanies her on the mission to settle the coal miners strike. During all of this stress, Jocelyn must decide where her heart lies. Can she be with Richard? He cannot stay in her time, but she cannot leave her father behind.

This book was described as steampunk, though I don’t find it to be so. Yes Jocelyn tinkers with a couple of items, which don’t get much description, and there seem to be steam engines, it is more like a time travel story with a small nod to steampunk. I was hoping for more on that front.

The bones of the story were good. Though I felt it lacked the support to be great. It was a quick read with little atmosphere or description. The love scenes were short and lacked description or heat. The personalities of the characters were not developed, nor were the relationships. To me it felt very rushed and I could have used much more detail to get me invested. I was never able to latch onto a character’s motivation for why they behaved the way they did and in the case of the main character, was conflicted in her behavior. She repeatedly said nothing mattered but being with her father, but didn’t argue or second guess the trip to deal with the strike. I suppose duty to country is important, but without enough insight to understand the characters, it made little sense.

I loved the idea of the story, but I just wanted more from it. It does end with a tie-in to bring the reader back for the next story and I may start from the first and read the series to see if the characters get more fleshed out with time.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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Follow the tour here—the more you comment, the higher your chances of winning!

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Review: “Goldenfire: A Darkhaven Novel” by AFE Smith

Review of Goldenfire (The Darkhaven Novels, Book 2) by A.F.E. SMithA review by Vanessa.

First of all I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to continue reviewing this fantastic series. Goldenfire is the second installment of the Darkhaven series, the first of which I reviewed last year in July.

Spoiler alert! If you have not read the first book I strongly suggest it!

Ayla Nightshade has ruled over Arkannen and all of Mirrorvale for the past three years since the death of her father and brother. Her rescuer and lover Tomas Caraway is Captain of the Helm, leader of the guard that protects her. As a Changer creature, Ayla has strength unlike any human being. But with the recent discovery of firearms and their deadly effects, threats to the Nightshade line have become palpable. Despite that, Ayla is determined to live her life and rule her land in a fair and just way, and undo the cruel reign of her father. Most of all she wants to enjoy her new found freedoms to do as she wants, and to love whom she wants. Even so, the tragic and terrifying events of three years past are still with her. Tomas plays surrogate father to Ayla’s young nephew Marlon, but to her he is a painful reminder of her older brother. Ayla, who refuses to be at the mercy of anyone ever again, has convinced Tomas to train her in fighting and combat so that she can defend herself even in human form. Every day Ayla wonders about her young half brother, if she will ever see him again, and what will become of the Nightshade line.

Tomas Caraway never wanted to be the hero of Darkhaven. But he believes his desire to serve the Nightshade line, and to protect the woman who holds his heart, makes him the best man to Captain the Helm. When he receives a message from an old mercenary friend that tells of a real threat of assassination for Ayla, he knows in his gut that it is real. He will doing anything necessary to protect Ayla, whether she wants it or not. In Arkannen, a ragtag band of miscreants have arrived at the fifth ring to try their hand at becoming Helmsman. As the Captain this means Tomas will be busy with training, and a few surprises from the group. As Ayla’s protector he also knows that group is the perfect place for an assassin to try to infiltrate Darkhaven. And if the assassin finds a way to bring a gun to that fight, Ayla might not stand a chance.

Once again Smith delivers a wonderfully varied cast of characters to fall in love with, root for, and distrust. It’s a delightful mix of new characters, and repeat characters, as well as the chance to get to know some previous characters more thoroughly. The addition of the new recruits gives some significantly more in depth understanding of the people of Mirrorvale. Each of the young trainees is there for their own reasons, and readers will be able to dive into and enjoy their experiences and perspectives as much as those of the main characters. The leading romantic couple, Ayla and Tomas, have grown so much and still maintain an interesting point of romantic entanglement without dragging down the movement of the story. Even the adventurous mercenary Naeve Sorrow carries some of the action in the story and her part is woven into the rest in seamless intrigue. New characters to love, new mysteries to solve, and even more to learn about the fascinating city of Arkennan. Well done!

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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