Review: INTO THE DIM by Janet B. Taylor

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Series: Into the Dim, #1
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Genre(s): Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Synopsis from Goodreads:

When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.

Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.

my rambles

Special thanks to HMH BYR for providing me with an advance copy of the book for review! All quotes are taken from the ARC and are subject to change with the final printing.

Into the Dim had been so hyped up for me, I was a bit nervous that it wasn’t going to live up to that hype, and in turn my high expectations. But man was everyone singing it praises spot on! It had everything I could ever want in a book, and was written beautifully.

The very first line hooked me:

Everyone in town knew the coffin was empty.
-ARC, page 1

That’s a pretty amazing first line! The beginning did start off a bit slow, but once it picked up, it didn’t stop.

I’ve read very few books centered around the idea of time travel, so this was a refreshing and different storyline for me. There’s lots of interesting theories about ley lines, ancient historical places with strong currents, and other scienc-y stuff that has to do with time travel in the book. Also talk of famous inventors and scientists that all make the possibility of time travel seem convincing and real when you read it. I also loved the way that Janet B. Taylor weaved all the history into the story. The scenes set in the past were my favorites by far. The descriptions were vivid and rich, bringing you right into the past with the characters. Some of the characters in the book were real historical figures, too. I always find them super interesting, and end up researching tons about them after the fact. That happened with me and Eleanor of Aquitaine in this book. I hadn’t learned much about 12th century England prior to this, and I always love it when I can widen my knowledge of history! I also really liked seeing Hope’s reaction to actually meeting the people she’d been studying for so many years. It’s kind of twisty thinking about all of the rules of time, time travel and paradoxes. Hope actually poses the question: Did history play out the way that it did because I went back in time? Or would it have been the same anyway? It’s quite an interesting theory to ponder…

The characters were also a bunch of fun! Hope was a relatable character, although I haven’t been through many of the same things. There was just something about her that made you like her, feel for her, and root for her to succeed. Her actions, and reactions, to the crazy situations she was thrown into made the story seem that much more real. Phoebe and Collum were two others that I absolutely loved! Phoebe was so bubbly and fun, the polar opposite of her brother Collum who was strict, serious, and loyal. The friendship that formed between Phoebe and Hope was sweet, and even Hope’s relationship with Collum was a banter-y, but adorable one. I also loved the historical characters: sweet little Rachel, wise Sister Hectane, and strong Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. There’s also Bran, who I quite liked. He’s cocky and confident, but with a brooding, dark side. What’s not to love?! The one character that I didn’t like was, unfortunately, Sarah, Hope’s mother. Her actions and conversations with Hope didn’t seem natural. I mean, come on Sarah, your daughter just travelled through time to save you and you don’t really help her out that much… But we don’t get to see too much of her in this book, so maybe we’ll get some more mother/daughter love in the next book.

And yes of course, there’s romance. I hate to say it, but I wasn’t a huge fan. The introduction is hinted at very early on, and it’s a common thought in Hope’s head ever after that. I really, really loved how Hope actually rationalizes with herself when she catches herself thinking about a boy instead of her mom after learning about the whole time travel thing. It’s not often you see that in YA. The romance did grow on me throughout the book, though. The more information you learn about Hope’s past, the more it makes sense. I just felt like it developed a bit too fast to seem realistic. She was also a little naive at points, when concerning said love interest. This was the only thing that kept me from giving Into the Dim a full five star rating! But here’s the real reason I couldn’t completely jump on board with the whole romance: I ship Hope with someone else! There will be minor spoilers ahead, highlight to read! I shipped Hope with Collum so hard!! And I thought that maybe there would be a love triangle because I caught some subtle hints that Collum was developing feelings for Hope. But, alas, not in the first book at least. Maybe it was more a brotherly protection vibe I was getting? But the way he is so loyal in protecting her, and warning her about falling for Bran… I don’t know, maybe it was just me. Spoilers are over now!

Romance aside, Into the Dim is a fantastic read. It’s filled with excitement, tons of detail, and a story like none other! Wonderfully written, no small detail is left out. It’s clear tons of research went into crafting this incredible and magical story.

I cannot wait to read the second book! The ending provided some closure, but there is a lot more I want to learn about in this world!

8

xo

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Review: Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: August 18th, 2015
Series: Blood of Gods and Royals, #1
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre(s): Alternate History, High Fantasy, Historical Fiction/Fantasy
Synopsis from Goodreads:

Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

my rambles

Special thanks to Harlequin Teen and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of the book for review!

First of all, can we take a moment to appreciate that incredible cover and amazing synopsis? Just from looking at the cover and then reading that blurb I had a feeling Legacy of Kings was going to be a new favorite of mine, and I was right! After reading this book I’m not going to lie, I’ve become significantly more interested in Alexander the Great and all of the history surrounding him and the other real historical characters that Eleanor Herman was sure to incorporate in the book.

Like many other historical fiction and fantasy books, Legacy of Kings is filled with clever, sly, intelligent and sometimes evil characters that lead to one of my favorite things lately in books: POLITICAL INTRIGUE! The book switches to the stories of many different characters, allowing the reader to view all sides of the action, and see how characters who haven’t even met will become intertwined. While there are many different characters’ stories happening throughout the course of the book, Eleanor Herman did a wonderful job of keeping them completely distinct and creating personalities for these characters that are entirely their own.

While I would have been totally happy with just the “normal” conflicts and action that ensues in a historical fiction book, Eleanor Herman adds fantasy and superstition which was the icing on the cake for me! Legacy of Kings begins to delve into the different kinds of Blood magic that some characters have been gifted with, but also the effects that the said magic has on everyone in the kingdom, and abroad. The main conflict of the book is a major result of magic, and I am eager to learn more about it and see how the battles will end in future books!

I can’t forget the romance, because there is definitely a complicated and tangled web of relationships. Just when you think you like a couple together — think again! But there are some super steamy scenes that I did enjoy!

When I got to the end of Legacy of Kings, I didn’t even realize it, which is my only complaint! I could have kept reading on and on. There are a bunch of characters who we don’t see as much toward the end of the book, which left me hanging and desperately wanting to know what happened to them!

I could go on gushing about just how detailed and incredible Legacy of Kings was. Fans of high fantasy and historical fiction will be extremely pleased by the action, intrigue, romance, and characters that Legacy of Kings brings to the table. A fantastic and must read!

xo

I’ll have some political intrigue with a side of sexual tension, please!

historical fiction and fantasy recs

I wanted to start out this post by noting that I recently finished Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman, which is the book that sparked the idea for me to write this post. After I finished it I realized that I read a lot of historical fiction and fantasy books, and a common thread in all of them that I just adore is political intrigue and romance with sexual tension. I’m pretty much a sucker for that combination. I really needed to gush about Legacy of Kings, but since it’s still a bit to early for me to post my full review (check back August 18th!) I wanted to write a recommendation post of sorts, with some of my favorite books that include this perfect combination!


Be sure to check back on August 18th for my full review of Legacy of Kings, and pick up your copy as soon as it’s released on AUGUST 25th! You won’t regret it!!

About the Book:

Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.


9 Books to read while you wait for Legacy of Kings

1. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Grave Mercy is set in France and is filled with not only tons of political intrigue and sexual tension, but also has lots of fantastical aspects that are amazing! I talk about this book all the time, and it’s one of my go-to recommendations for those seeking an incredible historical read. Like Legacy of Kings, Grave Mercy incorporates real historical figures into the mix, which is really cool too!

2. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
While this one isn’t a historical novel, it definitely reads like one. It’s filled with wonderful fantasy aspects, an amazing and unique female lead, and everything you could ever ask for in a high fantasy book!

3. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
For the amount that I talk about this book, you should already know about it and have read it (shame on you if you have not)! I feel like I’m always talking about this book, but The Winner’s Curse totally deserves every recommendation I make. It’s the epitome of a clever and ingenious book. Again, not really a historical but it reads just like one. [Read my review]

4. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
Gosh, this book was awesome. Again, not historical (okay, maybe I should have thought of a different title for this post…) but it reads like one. The Kiss of Deception is the epitome of political intrigue AND the sexual tension. I couldn’t put this one down, despite for its size. [Read my review]

5. Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini
Alternate history with salem witch trial reminiscent themes? I think yes! Such a cool and unique historical fantasy, but let’s not forget the loads of sexual tension with a totally hot and swoony love interest… [Read my review]

6. The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter
This one is adult, but I found it to read like a rich and beautifully written YA. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s definitely a less action, but great characters and storyline! [Read my review]

7. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
A no-brainer recommendation from me. I’m reading the second book in the series right now and I could see lots of similar and amazing characters traits that were in Celaena and the girls in Legacy of Kings. Start here! [Read my review]

8. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
I feel the same way as I do with Throne of Glass in regard to the same kind of tone as Legacy of Kings. There’s a similar mysterious aspect with magic, and you see the story from many character’s perspectives as well! [Read my review]

9. Rook by Sharon Cameron
SO MUCH POLITICAL INTRIGUE GOODNESS. That is all. 😛 [Read my review]

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Review: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Release Date: April 2nd, 2013
Series: His Fair Assassin, #2
Pages: 385
Format: eBook
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre(s): Historical Fantasy
Synopsis from Goodreads:

When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge – but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.

But her assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for…

my rambles

Special thanks to Houghton Mifflin Books for Children and NetGalley for providing me with a copy for review!

Oh. My. Goodness. Everything that I loved about the first book, Grave Mercy, was elevated and taken to a whole other level in Dark Triumph. The title is ever so fitting in that this book was definitely dark. But it was also perfectly emotionally and even more personal than the first book.

At first I wasn’t sure whether I was going to love Sybella as much as I did Isame, and in the beginning I didn’t. She was a character that really grew on me throughout the book, and her story is one of such sadness (and I have a feeling I’ll be using the word quite a lot in this review) and darkness that you can’t help but feel for her character and root for her! The way in which Robin LaFevers weaves Sybella’s history into the current one was perfect. It made many of the revelations and events that happened to be even more exciting and surprising! There was of course lots of action, and Sybella didn’t disappoint as another amazingly strong female heroine and assassin.

The relationship between Sybella and Beast was adorable, but extremely well-written and fitting for everything that was going on. The development between the two characters was strong and the events and history that tied them together made them a perfect match in my eyes!

The ending had the perfect amount of closure for me, but there were also hints at where book three may take us with it’s new heroine, Annith.

All in all, Dark Triumph did not let me down, even with my extremely high expectations. Robin LaFever’s is a master at writing historical fantasy that will entertain and enthrall you up to the very last page!

xo

Review: The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Publisher: Ace Trade
Release Date: September 2nd, 2014
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read
Series: Noctis Magicae, #1
Genre(s): Adult, Historical Fantasy, YA Crossover Appeal
Synopsis from Goodreads:

In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented—and highest born—sons of the Kingdom of Britain are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover…

Gray’s deep talent for magick has won him a place at Merlin College. But when he accompanies four fellow students on a mysterious midnight errand that ends in disaster and death, he is sent away in disgrace—and without a trace of his power. He must spend the summer under the watchful eye of his domineering professor, Appius Callender, working in the gardens of Callender’s country estate and hoping to recover his abilities. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.

Even though she has no talent of her own, Sophie Callender longs to be educated in the lore of magick. Her father has kept her isolated at the estate and forbidden her interest; everyone knows that teaching arcane magickal theory to women is the height of impropriety. But against her father’s wishes, Sophie has studied his ancient volumes on the subject. And in the tall, stammering, yet oddly charming Gray, she finally finds someone who encourages her interest and awakens new ideas and feelings.

Sophie and Gray’s meeting touches off a series of events that begins to unravel secrets about each of them. And after the king’s closest advisor pays the professor a closed-door visit, they begin to wonder if what Gray witnessed in Oxford might be even more sinister than it seemed. They are determined to find out, no matter the cost…

my rambles

Special thanks to Penguin’s First to Read for providing me with an advance copy for review!

Where do I even begin in reviewing The Midnight Queen? There were so many things about it that I thoroughly enjoyed and that made the book such an enthralling and magical story! I was first drawn in by the cover and then again by the synopsis, but after I actually started reading this book I knew that it was for me.

Although this book is shelved as Adult and is written in a more Adult style, the characters and storyline are definitely suitable and can be enjoyed just as much by those who prefer the Young Adult genre. Fantasy, no matter the “age group” tends to be slower paced in the beginning. And while some have said that The Midnight Queen was a little bit too slow going for their liking, I completely disagree. I found that the author’s writing style drew me in and kept me hooked until the real exciting and faster paced events began to occur.

One reason I feel pacing was no issue to me was that the world building and characters were so developed, but not in a boring way at all. You really got to understand this world with magic and I felt very attached to the characters early on. Not only that, but the whole beginning of the book has an air of mystery and intrigue to it that definitely kept me turning pages.

As I said before, the characters were so individually developed that you really got a feel for their personalities separately, along with the string of side characters. But my favorite character of all was Sophie. In this time period women were considered “lesser” and I loved Sophie’s determination and want to be different, and actually do something worthwhile. She was such a refreshing and headstrong girl that I couldn’t help but love and root for throughout the entire book!

I very rarely find myself giggling and smiling as largely with Adult books as I did at the romance in The Midnight Queen. Sophie, and the main character Gray’s relationship was quite possibly one of the most adorable, tender, and true relationships and I was definitely a fan of these two. They treated each other as equals, and I won’t say much as to not spoil, but there’s a chapter where they are pushed to realize their feelings for each other and their conversation is just the best! It wasn’t a picture perfect scene like in some books, but it was written to seem so real and from the heart. If you couldn’t tell, I love Sophie and Gray!

As for the main storyline, it focuses on more intrigue and mystery than the magic itself. I love that about this book, and “world.” Magic is present, and is used as a tool, but it’s in the background, which was something different that I hadn’t really seen before.

But all in all, The Midnight Queen was such a well crafted and magical story that kept me hooked until the very last page! I cannot wait to read more by this wonderful debut author, and I of course cannot wait to see where she takes this series!

xo