Review: Of Shadow and Ember by Shana Vernon

I’ve been waiting forever (OK, two weeks) to be able to fangirl over this book with you all. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy, and I’d already preordered it because it sounded amazing, but now I’m going to need it in paperback too so I can admire it on my shelf on a daily basis.

I interviewed the author, Shana Vernon, last week, so when you’re done reading this review pop over and have a read about Shana’s other books and the upcoming sequel!

Right, let’s get into it.

Review

Title: Of Shadow and Ember (The Heirs of Elaerys #1)

Author: Shana Vernon

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Ember-Heirs-Elaerys-Book-ebook/dp/B092TF6196/

Rating: 5/5


Where do I start? This book had my jaw on the floor at several moments, and kept my pulse racing from start to finish, whether it was a fierce action scene, a steamy sex scene or a shocking plot twist. I read Of Shadow and Ember quicker than any other book this year, I just couldn’t put it down!

The story follows three sisters, heiresses to a desert kingdom, as they each face the very different expectations of being a princess. Calida is the eldest and heir to the throne, with all of the responsibilities that entails. Zari is the spare and lives a life of luxury and boredom while waiting to see if she’ll be needed. Arianna is the youngest and has been trained as Sentinel, the kingdom’s secret assassin who takes care of any threat under cover of darkness, so as not to spark war.

The kingdom of Kalamia is in a precarious position and in order to sign peace treaties with its neighbours, the two younger daughters are to be sent away to marry foreign heirs. But moments after Arianna – the only one trained for battle – has left, the kingdom is invaded by brutal fae from a kingdom long forgotten, the home of beasts that are responsible for the murder of Arianna’s lover years earlier and whom she’s on a warpath to seek revenge against. Except, she’s on the other side of the world with no idea what’s happening at home, while her sisters try to save their kingdom.

I loved all three of the sisters, but Arianna definitely became my favourite, with her total self-confidence and strong sense of what’s right and wrong. She also had a wicked sense of humour and was a complete badass. The story is told from several POVs, including Arianna’s new mate and one of the brutes who invaded the kingdom of Kalamia (although everything is not as it seems and there are secrets and truths that we discover through his internal monologue).

When I first saw the contents page with several names, I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to keep track of who was who, but the author was able to set the scene in each change of POV so quickly and smoothly that I never found myself struggling to keep up. Even though the story was one of the most fast-paced I’ve read in ages. It swept me away and kept me turning the pages until the very last one, desperate to know what happened next in each POV.

There wasn’t one POV that I found boring or didn’t want to see at the top of the next chapter. If I had to choose a least favourite it would probably be Calida’s, but that’s only because being kept prisoner in your own castle isn’t quite as exciting as adventuring on the high seas or being far from home in a kingdom with completely different values as you search for information on the beast that killed your lover – whilst also slowly falling for the man you’ve been sent to marry, despite his reputation as the Scourge of Vale.

The world building was fantastic, I loved discovering more about each place and the people who inhabited it, and the romance was a real slow burn in one case, and a sort of ‘fated mates’ irrepressible collision in another. The steamy scenes all took place after the 75% mark, which I really appreciated as I prefer to see the build up of tension towards a love scene, it feels more credible to me – there’s definitely no insta-love here!

I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book if you like any of the following:

  • fae,
  • elemental magic,
  • strong women (not just physically strong, these sisters are three very different types of strong),
  • winged fae males,
  • sexy shifters,
  • arranged marriage,
  • fated mates,
  • sass, snark and banter,
  • incredible world-building,
  • excellent character development,
  • a complex, fast-moving plot with lots of action,
  • steamy romance with actual meaning,
  • CLIFFHANGERS. Because I’m still reeling from that last chapter!!

It’s perfect for fans of Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood, or anything by Sarah J. Maas really, and Jennifer L. Armentrout. Can book two be out now please??

Happy release day to Of Shadow and Ember! Buy your copy now, and then preorder book two, Of Earth and Bone, coming March 2022!

Lyndsey

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YA SFF blog launch and FREE anthology!

Hi there! I’ve got something really exciting to announce today – I’ve joined the incredible team of book bloggers over at YASFF.com. I’ll be writing regular blog posts over there as well as here, and you can already check out my first few posts:

Bingeworthy boxsets and series to devour (and we don’t mean on Netflix)

Book review: Songs of the Piper series by Alice Ivinya

Cover reveal: The Solitary King, a dark YA romantic fantasy


I’ve also teamed up with some of my fellow YA SFF authors to create a limited edition collection of eleven fantasy stories, free to subscribers of the YA SFF blog! Click below to find out more about the authors and stories included, and to download your copy:

My prequel novelette, A Fair Deception, is included in this anthology, so if you’re yet to read King Lonan and Queen Daya’s love story then make sure you grab your copy! You’ll also get your hands on stories by some of my favourite authors, including Alice Ivinya and Astrid V.J., so it’s a no brainer for fantasy fans!

The website and blog are run by the same awesome team as the YA Sci-fi & Fantasy Addicts group on Facebook. Come and join us for books recs when you’ve got an itch and aren’t sure which book or series will scratch it, bookish chat, fun games and giveaways, and so much more!

See you over there,

Lyndsey

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Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a huge true crime fan, and a podcast addict. As soon as I heard about Sadie, the story of a teenage girl on a journey of revenge, told via a serialised podcast in addition to her own POV, I knew I had to read it.

Not only that, but I chose to listen to the audio book for the full podcast experience, and if you take one thing from this review it’s that the audio book is the absolute best way to experience Sadie (in my humble opinion).

Review

Title: Sadie

Author: Courtney Summers

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sadie-Courtney-Summers-ebook/dp/B079DVQG97/

Rating: 5/5

Sadie is a relatively quick read, especially when you’re used to 800 page epic fantasies that convert into 30 hour audio books. At just under 8 hours, it’s definitely one of the quicker listens in my Audible library, but that might also be because it was so damn gripping and fast-paced, I found myself listening at all hours because I just needed to know what happened next.

The audio book is presented by not just one or two voice actors, but a full cast, so it genuinely felt like a podcast with every character/interviewee having their own voice. If I’m honest, I almost wish there had been more chapters from Sadie herself as I loved the voice Summers gave her titular character. And that’s without discussing the ending, which we’ll come to later. (No spoilers, but if you’ve heard anything about this book I’m sure it’s that the ending is a shocker).

We need to talk about trigger warnings, because Sadie touched on some of the darkest and most horrific things humans do to each other. If you’re at all triggered by child abuse, including sexual abuse, grooming, rape and molestation, then I wouldn’t recommend reading unless you’re prepared.

I would say that, as someone who has fortunately not experienced any of the above, it isn’t gratuitous and is handled with the seriousness that it deserves. But I wouldn’t want to tell you what someone who has been through those things would feel on reading this book, so I’ll just let you make the decision whether to read it for yourself.

The ending tore my heart out as I checked and rechecked that I hadn’t missed something and it was really, truly over. It wasn’t a happy or uplifting ending, it wasn’t even particularly hopeful, but it was real. And in the end, Sadie did what she set out, just perhaps not quite like she

Sadie is a book about revenge, about hunting monsters with human faces, and finding pure evil in some of the darkest and some of the brightest places. But beneath all of that, Sadie is a book about a girl who loved her sister with her whole, entire heart and only ever wanted to protect her. She didn’t always succeed, and sometimes she failed spectacularly, but she didn’t stop trying. Ever. Not until the very end.

If you like true crime, podcasts, really strong voice, quirky formats and stories about sibling relationships and unexpected endings, then you’ll love Sadie.

Lyndsey
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