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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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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Review: Realms of Fae and Shadow

Hello fantasy fans, are you ready to discover your next favourite author?

I read the exclusive short story collection Realms of Fae and Shadow recently, and I loved the concept so much. A collection of short stories that all prequel a series of novels, to give you a taste of the stories before you commit to the full series (because, come on, who of us can give up on a series halfway through once we’ve started, even if we’re not loving it? Not me).

So if you’re a fae lover and you’re looking for a new series to get stuck into, keep reading for eight incredible options…

  1. Night Bringer by Stacey Trombley
  2. Heir of Bitter Thorn by Kay L. Moody
  3. Fae Bargains by Clarissa Gosling
  4. To Rule a Fae Throne by Tessonja Odette
  5. Exiling a Fae Queen by Joanna Reeder
  6. Crown of Darkness by Alison Ingleby
  7. Marked by Fae by Valia Lind
  8. The Wolf Gate by Hanna Sandvig

Night Bringer by Stacey Trombley

A terrible bargain.
An impossible choice.
Kill my soul mate or lose my life
.

This is #0.5 in Trombley’s Wicked Fae series, which currently has 4 published books and more to come.

Caelynn is from the Shadow Court, one of the weakest in the realm, but when she overhears her parents’ plan to send her to another court for an arranged marriage, she takes matters into her own hands. And that’s where things take a very dark and deadly turn.

This story has everything you could want – fae, a coming-of-age trial, one of the creepiest monsters I’ve ever read, a ball, soul mates. I could go on. I’m super intrigued by this set up for the full series, Caelynn’s magic is barely hinted at and I can’t wait to see the relationship between the two fated mates develop.

Heir of Bitter Thorn by Kay L. Moody

A mortal girl is tired of her bland existence.

When a dryad offers her the chance to rescue a fae prince from the clutches of an evil queen, Elora immediately agrees.

But Faery is full of more dangers than beauty. 

This is a prequel novella to the Fae of Bitter Thorn series, which has 4 full length novels plus another novella in between. The story has a brave heroine, an animal sidekick, twisted magic and lots of political intrigue.

The fourth and final book is coming out in September, so it’s the perfect time to dive into this series, ready for the conclusion.

Fae Bargains by Clarissa Gosling

Faerie punishments usually spell death.
⁣For Evan, it could offer freedom.⁣

The hero of this story reminded me of Cardan from The Cruel Prince – a young fae male with a good dose of cruelty (he enjoys feeding mortals to a boggart), but deep down he has a bigger heart than he lets on.

There’s only one full length novel in this series so far, but a sequel is coming in 2022, so it’s definitely one to stick on your TBR. I enjoyed this origin story of the Guardian of the Gates, and I’m intrigued to find out more about the relationship between the Huntsman, Prince Evan and his mother, Queen of the Moonlight Court in the Lost Princess of Starlight series.

To Rule a Fae Throne by Tessonja Odette

There are Fae far worse than me lurking in the woods…

King Aspen of the Autumn Court is sent to the the human realm to retrieve the names of the two human tributes that will be sent to marry fae royalty as part of a centuries old pact, called the Hundred Year Reaping. On his way home, he has an eye-opening exchange with a human woman in the woods.

This prequel novella tells the first meeting of Aspen and Evelyn, the main characters from the Fair Isle trilogy, from Aspen’s POV. The series is complete, so it’s ready to binge to your heart’s content.

I adored the gorgeous descriptive writing in this story, it was probably my favourite for writing style, I found myself wishing it was longer when I’d finished, which is always a good sign with a prequel!

Exiling a Fae Queen by Joanna Reeder

I’m the heir to the throne.
My birthright comes with a dark legacy.
But to save Faerie, I must betray my sister.

Aria is one half of a set of twins, two half-fae sisters who are both destined to rule the Raven Court as joint queens. Except she’s never spent a day learning the role or speaking with her subjects, unlike her sister Carys. Instead, she rides her water horse and hangs out with her best friend, Sterling.

When she finally decides to take an interest in the role she’s destined (or doomed) to take on when her father dies, she discovers that all is not as rosy as it seems on the surface in Faerie.

I was completely sucked into this story from the start. This was my favourite story for plot and characters, I loved Aria and the twists and turns just kept coming. There are 2 books and one other novella in this series so far, and I can’t wait to read them and find out what happened after THAT big twist!

Crown of Darkness by Alison Ingleby

I am darkness. But I dream of the light.

As the heir to the Unseelie throne, I have everything I could want. Apart from the one thing I long for—freedom.

Ciaran is deep-earth fae, prince of the Unseelie Court, and half human on his mother’s side. He battles with his conflicting humanity and resists the dark magic of his fae side, refusing to wear the crown his father had made for him that seems to sink it’s teeth further into him with every wear.

But trouble is brewing under the surface in the courts, and there’s a prophecy that could threaten both realms. Soon Ciaran may have to decide between the human side his mother would have wanted him to honour, and the fae side his father expects of the heir to the Unseelie throne.

This was the longest story in the collection, and I loved getting a more in depth look at the incredible world-building and the characters’s story arcs than in some of the shorter stories. It was great to see Ciaran’s growth and how his motivations changed over the course of events.

I’m really excited to read more in this series, which I really hope is coming soon! You can follow the author on Instagram @alisoningleby to be the first to know when this series will be released.

Marked by Fae by Valia Lind

They say nothing bad has ever come from reading a book. I guess it depends on the book…

This story was more paranormal/urban fantasy, with a half-witch, half-shifter MC attending a magical academy and learning to harness her growing powers. Avery finds a book that unlocks her abilities, dragging her into the middle of an ancient war and making her a target for all of Faery.

Marked by Fae is a prequel short story to The Fae Chronicles, which is set in the same world as Lind’s Hawthorne Chronicles and Thunderbird Academy series, but you can start with any of these series and enjoy them individually. There are 2 full length novels in the series so far, with more to come, so plenty to sink your teeth into if you love a vast world with all manner of fantasy and paranormal creature, not just fae.

The Wolf Gate by Hanna Sandvig

My…what big teeth you have!

Audrey is a pretty average teenage girl, living in Canada and having a boy trouble. Until she’s given a beautiful red cloak by her school’s librarian and takes a short cut through the woods to get home one night. Chased through a faerie portal by a mysterious wolf, she finds herself in the icy tundra of Faerie and on the run from the Unseelie Queen’s right-hand-wolf. Even worse than that, she’s accompanied by her ex-boyfriend whose secrets tore them apart – but can they find their way back together and escape their pursuers?

This story is a standalone retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, set in the same world as Sandvig’s Faerie Tale Romances series, all of which are sweet YA romantic fantasy retellings of well-known fairy tales. There’s currently one full length novel and two short stories (including this one, and one you can grab for free when you sign up for Sandvig’s newsletter!) in this series.

This one also gets extra points for inclusivity, as Audrey wears glasses and I’ve never read a fairy tale where the main character wore glasses (like me!), so I’m a big fan.


Hopefully you’ve added a few new series to your TBR and discovered a new-to-you author who’ll become an auto-buy. Let me know which of these stories sounds right up your alley! My favourites were Crown of Darkness, Exiling a Fae Queen and To Rule a Fae Throne. I can’t wait to jump into the rest of these series.

Lyndsey

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