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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Interview: urban and steamy high fantasy author Shana Vernon

Hello lovely folks, I’ve got a real treat for you today! I had the immense privilege of interviewing the incredible Shana Vernon, author of The Hybrid Chronicles.

I recently read an early copy of Shana’s new release Of Shadow and Ember, and it’s my favourite book of the year so far (a review is coming soon). So let’s see what Shana had to say when we chatted!

Hi Shana, it’s so lovely to have you with us! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am originally from Baltimore Maryland, USA, but I moved to Israel at nineteen years old. I love to travel around the world, cook and eat delicious food, create and write new worlds, read, drink wine, and play with my twenty-one-month-old triplets and our frenchie, Lola. 

We could be best friends, because those are all my favourite things! Say hi to Lola for me!! So, when did you start writing?

I’ve been writing since I was about twelve, but I only took it more seriously during my pregnancy when I was stuck on bedrest. Two years later, I have three books and one novella published, with another on the way!

Wow, that’s an incredible achievement in just two years. And especially when I know that your pregnancy was with triplets who are now eighteen months old! I’ve got one 3.5 years old, so I can only imagine the fun and chaos of having three baby boys to deal with. What’s your favourite genre to read and write?

Fantasy.

Me too! And your favourite tropes?

  • Found family
  • Enemies to lovers
  • Slow burn romance
  • Kick-Ass heroines

Those are definitely some of my faves too, especially enemies to lovers. But I have to admit, I’m a sucker for royalty and the chosen one trope. Tell us about your upcoming release.

My newest release, Of Shadow and Ember, is now available for pre-order and comes out 15 September, and everyone who orders will get two freebies!! 

Claim your preorder goodies here:

https://forms.gle/qK5w3UWMVCm2KTEB6
https://forms.gle/zYCcFE4vAkRp8Utn9 

Add it to your TBR on Goodreads.

Awesome, I can’t wait to see what the preorder goodies are! I loved the book and found the world building incredible. Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings? 

Each kingdom in Elaerys has a unique magic system and culture that were inspired by different lore and legends. Kalamia was inspired a bit by my own ancestry. 

When I originally began outlining and writing OSAE, there was only one main character. After the story started, I really fell in love with the other two sisters and made them both MCs as well. 

I really enjoyed seeing inside all three sisters’ heads, I think it made the story more three-dimensional and layered. You’ve made me want to write a multi-POV story next! Do you consider yourself a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

Hard core plotter. I outline the entire book, including the characters, before I even start writing. 

I’m a big plotter too, although I do leave room to find my way, but I need a chapter by chapter breakdown to keep me on the right track. What are you working on right now?

I just got started working on two different WIPs. One is the second book in the “Heirs of Elaerys’ series, and the first in a new urban fantasy series. 

I’m so excited for the second Heirs of Elaerys book! What one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

Don’t give up. Just keep writing – sung in the ‘Just keep swimming’ tune. 

Perfect, thank you so much for chatting with me today! It’s been an honour. Before you go, how can we find out more about you and your books? 

Shana’s website:    www.shanavernon.com

Sign up to Shana’s email newsletter: https://www.shanavernon.com/newsletter 

Follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorshanavernon/ 

Join Shana’s Facebook group:   https://www.facebook.com/groups/shanavernonssupernaturalsquad 

Shana will also be featured in the upcoming anthology, Season of the Witch!


I cannot recommend Of Shadow and Ember highly enough, and I’ll be impatiently waiting for book two, Of Earth and Bone, until March 2022 when it comes out. I’m definitely adding the Hybrid Chronicles to my TBR! How about you? Which of Shana’s books are you reading first?

Lyndsey

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Interview and happy release day: epic fantasy author R.S. Williams

Happy release day to Kingdom of Lies by R.S. Williams!

If you move quickly, you can still win an ebook copy, along with a bundle of other fantasy ebooks by fabulous authors, in the Kingdom of Lies Facebook scavenger hunt! Click here to go to the Facebook group and enter the giveaway.

I had the absolute privilege of meeting Rhianne recently, and interviewing her for this blog, and she’s just as lovely as she comes across online. Fancy getting to know her better? Keep reading…

Hi Rhianne, it’s so nice to finally meet you in real life after over a year of online frienship! Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I write under R. S. Williams, but you can call me Rhianne. I live in the south west of England in Somerset with my husband and two cats. Soon to have a little sproglet running around as well. Which is my way of saying I’m pregnant – yay! Although my cats are very much like two babies too – I spoil them rotten! 

I love music and dancing, watching crime and fantasy TV shows and films. If you can’t find me – usually look in one of three places, my office, the lounge or my bed. I’ll probably be reading or playing video games! 

Congratulations on your pregnancy! My little boy just turned three and definitely keeps me on my toes! Plus we have two dogs, so it’s a little crazy over here. But you’re going to love being a mum! When did you first start writing and what inspired you? 

I actually starting writing very young when my school asked everyone to write a poem and they were all published in a book parents could buy! Then as a teenager I thought I was going to make millions by writing songs, but that was short lived, and then at 18 I started writing novels. 

Oh wow, that sounds so adorable, I’d love a book with a poem by my son and his schoolmates. My origin story is quite similar, we had to write a poem in the style of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and I chose Red Riding Hood. The Ofsted inspector came around the same time and she loved my poem so much she took it to show around all of the other local primary schools. I still have a copy tucked away somewhere, it’s my prized possession. So, what are some of your favourite books?

Always a hard question to answer because I can guarantee you I will forget something and possibly change my mind tomorrow. However my staples have always been Vampire Academy, Graceling, Throne of Glass, Harry Potter and A Touch of Power.

I love fantasy, which is why I write it, but I also have a HUGE soft spot for contemporary romance – always a good pallet cleanser too. 

Graceling and Throne of Glass are two of my top favourites too, and Harry Potter is what originally got me into fantasy books as a teen. That and Artemis Fowl. Tell us about your first published book, or your most recent release.

Can I do both?

My first published book was The Collective. I brought together two things which I loved at the time. Pirates and time travel. I had also just watched The Adjustment Bureau and was obsessed with the idea that someone controlled the timeline and had to set it back on course. So, my story was born. The Collective – a secret society that protects history. Jenny – my main character who wants to prove her worth and find her missing parents, and Tilly – the girl who was at the wrong place at the right time. 

My most recent release is titled Kingdom of Lies and is the first book in my fantasy trilogy The Kane Saga, which I have been working on for at least four years. I LOVE this story. I have poured my soul between the pages and, it’s funny, because at the time I was seeing post about ‘powerful female protagonists’ and I suddenly realised all the books I read had female leads… so I chose to write a male one. Bonkers when you think about it, that way. But its about a teenage boy whose parents’ assassins come back for him. Oh and he’s hidden royalty 😉 

I don’t even know where to start. First of all, I LOVED The Adjustment Bureau so your The Collective series sounds like my cup of tea! Second, hidden royalty? Assassins? Yes please! I’m so glad Kingdom of Lies hit my Kindle today so I can devour it! Where do you find inspiration for your characters or settings? 

Anywhere really. Sometimes they just come to me randomly and I start jotting down notes. Other times I’ll be watching a TV series or a film and want to change things or see something I like and add them to the idea bank then when inspiration hits I put them all together and see what I pull out. It’s a fun experience.

It sounds fun, I definitely watch enough TV and movies to find inspiration, I just need an idea bank to put them in! Are you a plotter, pantser or plantser? 

Somewhere between plotter and plantser. I love to plot but also diving off the edge is fun too!

I love that description. As a fellow plotter-leaning plantser, it does feel a lot like free-falling when I let myself veer off track while drafting my stories. But I always land somewhere unexpected and amazing. What are you working on right now?

I am writing an exclusive story for my patrons, plotting a vampire standalone and editing books 2&3 of The Kane Saga.

Crikey, that’s a lot of irons in the fire! I’ll let you get back to your WIPs soon then. First though, what one piece of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

Never give up. Some of my favourite authors didn’t make it the first try. James Patterson was rejected 31 times before his first book got published. Victoria Schwab had written 13 books before she got noticed. It takes time, but you will get there. The world needs your story too. 

That’s really encouraging, it just shows that art is so subjective and it only takes one yes to cancel out all of the nos. Thank you so, so much for being here today Rhianne, I’ve loved chatting to you. And congratulations on the release of Kingdom of Lies! Where can we find out more about you and your books? 

Rhianne’s website https://www.authorrhiannewilliams.com

Sign up to Rhianne’s newsletter https://www.authorrhiannewilliams.com/members 

Follow Rhianne on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/authorrhiannewilliams

Like Rhianne’s Facebook page   https://www.facebook.com/authorrswilliams 

Join Rhianne’s Readers on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/rhiannesreaders

Add Kingdom of Lies (The Kane Saga #1) to your TBR https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58380471-kingdom-of-lies 

Read the prequel novella to KoL, Tournament of the Elite, when you sign up to Rhianne’s email list!


How stunning are Rhianne’s covers? I’ve been desperately waiting for Kingdom of Lies to release for months, and now it’s finally here, I’m off to read way past my bedtime.

Happy reading folks!

Lyndsey

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