Tag: eARC

Mini eARC Review: Ride On by Gwen Cole

Mini eARC Review: Ride On by Gwen Cole

In the near post-apocalyptic future, the skies are always gray and people are constantly searching for the sun. Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads. Ride On Author: Gwen Cole Publication Date: May 22, 2018 Publisher: Sky Pony Press Page Count: 280 Format: eARC Genre: Young Adult, […]

eARC Review: The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer

eARC Review: The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer

In the ancient moors of Scotland, the king of Calidon lies on his deathbed, cursed by a ring that cannot be removed from his finger. When a mysterious fey stranger appears to save the king, he also carries a secret that could tear the royal […]

eARC Review: The Bone Roses by Kathryn Lee Martin

eARC Review: The Bone Roses by Kathryn Lee Martin

Sixteen-year-old Rags is the most feared Rustler in the world, and for good reason. When she’s not raiding the post-Yellowstone Kingdom’s established settlements for supplies to keep her frontier, Rondo, alive another day, she’s fending off witch hunt-happy villagers who want her rare blue eyes in an unmarked grave. 

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

The Bone Roses

Series: Snow Spark Saga #1
Author: Kathryn Lee Martin
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Publisher: Parliament House Press
Page Count: ---
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Westerns
Cover Artist: ---
My Rating: ★★★★

16-year-old Rags is a wanted rustler. In the city of Hydra, she works her magic to steal supplies for her settlement of Rondo. Rondo has suffered greatly after being cut off from the kingdom’s supplies after publicly denouncing the tyrant King Hyperion. When Rags witnesses other rustlers being tortured in the city for doing the same job, Rags experiences real fear for the first time. Luckily, her mentor Tracker finds her before she is recognized by anyone in Hydra, and the two flee back to Rondo. Little do they realize that they are being tailed by the king’s second-in-command.

Upon returning, Rags is met by another threat: Hunter, the town’s self-proclaimed sheriff. Always having hated Rags since she came to Rondo, he discloses to the townsfolk that Rags has a substantial reward out for her if she is brought in dead or alive to King Hyperion. Matthew, Jericho, and Tracker come to Rags’ aide and back her against Hunter’s accusations. Matthew, Rags’ dearest friend pleas for her to run away with him, so that she may escape whatever fate that lies before her if she continues to be a rustler. 

Before they are able to leave, Rondo is invaded by the king’s guard, and Matthew is killed before Rags’ eyes. The king’s own second-in-command Henny leads the charge and is determined to destroy Rondo in just four days. Rags is forced into difficult situations, as she must try to help her loved ones escape the town before a spectacle is made of them to the entire kingdom. 

Stakes are high and the clock ticks rapidly as Rags must not only fight an incredible resourceful opponent, but also steer clear of those who want to reap the bounty on her head. When she crosses paths with one of the Kingdom’s informant, Rags is challenged in even more ways, as her feelings try to take the reins above common sense. 

When everything comes to a head, and the town is set to be “cleansed” via live broadcast, an unexpected turn of events throws King Hyperion’s plans back in his face. While some find sanctuary, Rags finds herself on a train with the wiry luresman, bound for the Threshing Floor and an uncertain fate before her. 


The Bone Roses (Snow Spark Saga, #1)The Bone Roses by Kathryn Lee Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.



“A petite trio of gray stone roses and a tiny pewter charm shaped like a rearing stag tethered together with elegant, braided leather cords rest in it. One rose in full bloom, one still a bud, and the third caught in-between. ‘ I’ve held onto these mythical bone roses for a long time. Sort of like a good-luck charm in a way. They hold the key to rare and powerful secrets, and well, I can’t think of anyone better I’d trust with them than you.’”

In all honesty, I barely skimmed the synopsis for this book before starting it. I knew that it was a Young Adult Fantasy with a Western flare, so I immediately wanted to give it a try. Boy, am I happy that I did! While I had some issues with certain elements in the plot, I found myself loving the characters and the world they were set in.

World Building

While The Bone Roses is in the YA genre, it’s definitely geared towards more mature readers, as some of its contents are harsh and in-your-face. Considering that the world is set in a post-apocalyptic West in the United States, it comes with the territory. This book felt reminiscent of The Wolves of Winter, which I read earlier this year, and the arid isolation that the setting brought. Shockingly, even though The Bone Roses is set in the West, the climate doesn’t reflect the traditional desert hotness the West is known for. This is particularly reflected in the settlement of Rondo, where the main character Rags resides.

“People used to drive everywhere, so I’m told, but when Yellowstone erupted thirty years ago and the snow started to fall, that came to a halt.”

I’m not sure why, but portraying the West blanketed with snow instead of dust, tumbleweeds, and cacti were incredibly submersive to me.

Set in an era thirty years after Yellowstone erupts, the United States as it was once known as has been completely reformed. A cruel king known as Hyperion takes over and establishes his reign over the entire region. Small settlements situated in the surrounding area know hardship—especially those that choose to not bow down to the king. Rondo has long been cut-off from the supplies that Adonis, the capital city, has to offer. In order to survive, Rustlers (outlaws) risk their lives in order to steal supplies for the town’s survival. If caught, the punishment for rustling leads to a brutal death.

“‘Solstice.’ That settlement sits at the heart of ‘forbidden’ things in our household. Unlike Rondo’s miserable past, Tracker spared no words when warning me about the lewd settlement just outside the Kingdom’s capital city, Adonis.
Liquor flows freely. Cheap whores are plentiful. It’s supposedly so far in bed with Adonis that it’s impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.”

The old-time western towns that we are accustomed to aren’t completely lost beneath a layer of snow, however. Many of these settlements reflect those of the past and “safe” isn’t a term that’s thrown around.

Another aspect which murmurs the Old West is the presence of Christianity. While it’s something that Hyperion tries to outlaw, Rondo is basically governed by the town preacher, Jericho. While Christianity doesn’t play as massive of a role as perhaps was intended, it is worth mentioning especially when looking further into the dynamics between Rags and the troublesome Hunter. Hunter, the town sheriff, constantly accuses Rags of being a witch (off of what basis, it’s never really revealed other than her having rare blue eyes and the fact that she’s an outsider.) While is accusations felt quite random for the plot focus, it definitely created an atmosphere that felt like the people of Rondo were ticking time bombs.

Pacing & Readability

Because of the way the story is set up, the plot felt more character-driven than plot-driven. While there are events that take place, the characters stories and relationships always remain in the spotlight. Because of this, I felt that at times the plot would lose its focus in minor details for longer than necessary, and halted plot progression. While the writing style made it very enjoyable to read, these variations in pacing gave it a start-go quality.

Point-Of-View & Characters

“I am Rags, Rondo’s rustler and we will never bow to his Kingdom.”

Rags, a sixteen-year-old girl is a protagonist in The Bone Roses. The point-of-view is told from her perspective and helps the reader become acquainted with her unique character. With a somewhat quirky but strong presence, Rags’ story immediately grabs the reader’s attention. Often accompanied by her mule Nigel, she serves as one of Rondo’s main and feared Rustlers. While I really wanted to get to know more about her backstory, I appreciated how real Rags’ character came across. While she’s strong, she’s also realistic and sensitive. What she feels and experiences is very relatable for many readers.

Tracker is the mentor and the “adoptive” father of Rags. A mysterious man with a complicated past, he takes Rags under his wing when she first arrives in Rondo.

Matthew, preacher’s son is Rags’ dearest friend. While I first presumed their relationship to be romantic, it proves to be oddly platonic, as their interactions are flirty.

Jericho serves as Rondo’s preacher and is also Matthew’s father. As the town’s preacher, he often oversees how the town goes about settling issues and confronting problems. Along with Tracker, he is one of the few supporters of Rags against the rest of the superstitious townsfolk.

Sadie’s character doesn’t have a large role. However, she’s mentionable as she serves as a mother-figure to Rags.

There are more than one antagonists in The Bone Roses.

1. Hyperion, the evil king who has long since abandoned Rondo to fend for itself.

2. Hennrick Oreson aka “Henny”

“A dangerous young man, Rags. The Kingdom’s own second-in-command, Henrick Oreson, or “Henny” as some call him. You are never to cross paths with him. Understood?”

Known as the second-in-command to Hyperion himself, Henny’s job is to seek out rustlers and anyone trying to defy the king and his ways.

“I’ve been hunted before. It comes with the job. But I’ve never been hunted by someone like him. No one’s ever stupid enough to give a rustler the advantage. He’s far from stupid, though. The way he toys with me confirms that. He’s doing this intentionally, letting me turn all the tricks I know for his amusement. He doesn’t just think he can win. He knows it.”

Henny’s character as the antagonist is fantastic. While you want so badly to dislike him, there’s just something about him that makes the reader believe there is more to him than meets the eye. Is he really as bad as he seems? The dynamics between him and Rags are electric as the two are constantly trying to out-do one another.

And can I just mention…Xanthos!?


I was swooning over this horse more than anything else.

3. Lawrence aka “Hunter” serves as Rondo’s sheriff. This guy has a severe case of bad-cop to his swagger. He blatantly hates Rags because she has blue eyes and isn’t originally from Rondo. Discriminatory, much? Because she arrived in Rondo around the time that Hyperion stopped the supply trains to Rondo, he blames Rags for practicing witchcraft and being the reason why Rondo suffers so. His hatred is completely blind and is a good example of a person who fails to look deeper than the surface.

4. Colton, a character who shows up later on the scene, is another antagonist-type character that the reader can’t really peg down and who his allegiance lies with. Is he good? Is he bad? He works as a luresman–a person highly skilled in the art of negotiation. The mystery of his true intentions make his character frustrating, yet incredibly engaging throughout the entire plot.

Major Themes

⇒ Family

A strong sense of family and belonging is evident at every turn. Rags constantly worries about her hypothetical mother, father, and brother figures, and feels a strong need to protect them. While no information is given about her biological family, Rags’ relationship with her Rondonian family is strong and unbreakable, even when secrets are revealed about their pasts.

⇒ Cleansing or Purification

Hyperion doesn’t take kindly to those who disobey his commands. It’s rather ironic how he terms his punishment for rebels, especially in the sense of religion. His form of “cleansing” is allowing rebel settlements like Rondo starve, and then be brutally treated once captured by his army. His cleansing results in death, instead of bringing forth a purified life, as Christianity does. Seeing how the religion is outlawed, he transforms this term into something sinister instead of revitalizing.

⇒ Hardship

Hardship is an obvious theme in a post-apocalyptic world such as this. Each day is a struggle. Everything is fighting against Rags, the Rustlers, and the Rondonians in their survival. The king, the terrain, the climate, the lifestyle all reflect the realness of their plight.

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked:

⇒ The atmosphere and the way the “Old West” is portrayed.
⇒ Despite a few flaws, I loved the characters and the voices and personalities that developed for each one. It made character-driven plot all-the-more dynamic and enjoyable.
⇒ The author’s writing style and descriptiveness.
⇒ This is a personal preference because I’m a horse person, but Martin knows how to write scenes involving horses! In a Western book, knowing how to portray horse characters is key because they majorly influence the plot mobilization. She writes them correctly down to the swiveling of the ears.

Things that I didn’t like:

⇒ The amount of vulgarity.
⇒ The plot’s tendency to dwell on insignificant points at times.
⇒ Christianity didn’t have the best portrayal and felt more of a “fall-back-on” asset than a focal attribute for how the characters act and react.
Very little backstory for Rags is given.
⇒ Hyperion, the main antagonist is nonexistent other than the presence of Henny and the K.C.
⇒ While I loved the mythical white stag which kept appearing, I want to know why and what its purpose is!
⇒ I’d love more information on the bone roses themselves and what secrets they hold!

I really enjoyed this book and the style in which it was written. While there were a few issues that I had with it, but I cannot be too critical. A sequel has yet to be published in the Snow Spark Saga, Garden of Ashes. I am very much looking forward to seeing what happens next, and to learn more about the characters’ journeys and also some history (especially Rags!)

Vulgarity: A lot. I counted 227 words total.
Sexual content: Kissing.
Violence: Quite a bit. It is a Western…

View all my reviews

May ARCs

May ARCs

I feel like my ARC pile gets bigger each month instead of smaller… It’s funny how the opposite tends to happen of what my intentions are. I keep pledging that I’ll request NO MORE ARCs for a while, yet, I keep receiving them. Anyways, May […]

eARC Review: No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens

eARC Review: No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens

David Galloway can’t die. Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads. No Less Days Author: Amanda G. Stevens Publication Date: May 1, 2018 Publisher: Shiloh Run Press Page Count: 320 Format: eARC Genre: Christian Fiction, Speculative Fiction Cover Artist: — My Rating: ★★★ What happens to a […]

State of the ARC: April

State of the ARC: April

Wow, May is already here.

Does anyone else feel like 2018 is absolutely flying? Maybe it’s because I’m counting down to June. Either way, I really can’t believe it’s already May! Before I get into this, let’s recap what State of the ARC is all about!

The State of the ARC Meme is hosted by AvalinahsBooks. Go check out her website for further information if you’d like to join! It’s a great way to get some motivation to tackle those old ARCs that have been bogging down your TBR piles.

Rules of State of the ARC:

  • Mention that you’re linking up with State of the ARC @ AvalinahsBooks, which is a fun way to share ARC progress, challenges, wins, woes and mishaps.
  • Include the link to this post, or the current State of the ARC post. You can use the State of the ARC image Evelina created (found on her website.)
  • Be sure to visit all the other people in the link-up and comment.
  • Most importantly – have fun!

State of the ARC has a Goodreads group, called ARCs Anonymous. Join it here.

Compared to last month’s post, my numbers seem a bit worse, according to the graph. While my numbers continue increasing, I feel quite accomplished this past month. How? You ask? WELL! My overall feedback ratios have increased on all fronts! There were a few ARCs that I ended up contacting the publisher about, stating that I won’t be reviewing them because they were sequels…and I hadn’t realized that at the time I requested them. Reading all of these series is far too time consuming!

My current feedback ratios:

Netgalley: 60%

Edelweiss: 42%

Author: 50%

Publisher: 40%

Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to writing those reviews that have been sitting a while. I actually ended up adding to the list ;( Either way, I was able to read and review a total of 4 ARCs. 

Children of Daedala by Caighlan Smith

Bacon Pie by Candace Robinson & Gerardo Delgadillo

Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young

2 books I emailed the publisher back on because they were sequels. One I couldn’t read and review because the copy I had access to wasn’t working. Lastly, one was a DNF which I technically reviewed in May, so I’ll include that in next month’s post. Netgalley recently changed their feedback portion and have a specific selection now for DNFs. So, that’s how I have a total of 8 “reviewed” reads. At least it ups the ratios, right? 😛

I also had set some goals in April that I…didn’t complete. They were:

  • Complete all unwritten ARC reviews. Currently, I have 5 waiting to be written.
    • Children of Daedala by Caighlan Smith – DONE
    • Solomon’s Ring by Mary Jennifer Payne
    • The Rogue Queen by Emily R. King
    • The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross
    • A School of Dragons by Amy Wolf
  • Complete reading and reviewing all ARCs for April. I have 6 total. (I’ll post which these are in a separate blog post.) – 2 left to read and review
  • Complete reading and reviewing all ARC requests from Publishers. I have 1 review to write, and 1 ARC to read to get my feedback ratio to 100% – I didn’t even touch these
  • If I am able to complete these tasks before the end of April, my goal is to complete reading and reviewing May ARCs as well. I currently have 6. – This didn’t happen.
  • Also, I’m on an ARC requesting BAN for the next few months, until I can get these numbers under control! – Also, didn’t happen. 

So, since I drastically failed these goals, I still would like to try and set goals for each month to keep motivating me to move forward with ARCs!

May Goals:

  • Read and review all May ARCs before release dates. I now have 8 total.
    • Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope
    • No Less Days by Amanda G. Stevens
    • Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel
    • The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer
    • Onyx & Ivory by Mondee Arnett
    • Ride On by Gwen Cole
    • The Bone Roses by Katheryn Lee Martin
    • Bright Burns the Night by Sara B. Larson
  • Read and review all June ARCs. I only have one.
    • My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand
  • Complete all unwritten ARC reviews.
    • Solomon’s Ring by Mary Jennifer Payne
    • The Rogue Queen by Emily R. King
    • The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross
    • A School of Dragons by Amy Wolf
    • Traitor Born by Amy A. Bartol
I’m going to leave it at that because that’s quite a bit. I’d like to keep them somewhat reachable. 

How did you do this month?
Were you able to keep up with your ARCs?
What are some of your ARC reading goals for this next month?

eARC Mini Review: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

eARC Mini Review: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

Release Day, May 1, 2018! In the beginning, there was silence. Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads. Song of Blood & Stone Series: Earthsinger Chronicles #1Author: L. PenelopePublication Date: May 1, 2018Publisher: St. Martin’s PressPage Count: 384Format: eARCGenre: Young Adult, Fantasy, RomanceCover Artist: —My Rating: Since […]

eARC Review: Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young

eARC Review: Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young

Release Day April 24, 2018! OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE. Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads. Sky In The Deep Author: Adrienne Young Publication Date: April 24, 2018 Publisher: Wednesday Books Page Count: 352 Format: eARC Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy Cover Artist: — My Rating: ★★★½ Eeyln […]

April ARCs

April ARCs

Yeah, it's almost May...

But I thought I’d still share which ARCs I have to read and review for this month! I’ve read most of them and have been pretty impressed with the releases this month. However, since this post is quite late, I’ll keep it short and sweet! 

Children of Daedala by Caighlan Smith

Six months alone in the labyrinth has made her strong. But the search for the exit means gambling on an old ‘friend’ and going against everything she’s been taught to survive. You know the labyrinth will have yet more horrors lurking in its depths. You’ve learned few people can be trusted. But freedom is tantalizingly close. Are you ready to take the risk?

Ace Of Shades by Amanda Foody

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted. Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn't have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne's offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems. Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi's enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city… And she’ll need to play.

Beyond A Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake

The ancient land of Éirinn is mired in war. Ciara, Princess of Mide, has never known a time when Éirinn’s kingdoms were not battling for power, or Northmen were not plundering their shores. The people of Mide have thankfully always been safe because of Ciara’s unearthly ability to control her enemies’ minds and actions. But lately, a mysterious crow has been appearing to Ciara, whispering warnings of an even darker threat. Although her clansmen dismiss her visions as pagan nonsense, Ciara fears this coming evil will destroy not just Éirinn, but the entire world. Then the crow leads Ciara to Leif, a young Northman leader. Leif should be Ciara’s enemy, but when Ciara discovers that he, too, shares her prophetic visions, she knows he’s something more. Leif is mounting an impressive army, and with Ciara’s strength in battle the two might have a chance to save their world. With evil rising around them, they’ll do what it takes to defend the land they love…even if it means making the greatest sacrifice of all.

The Diminished by Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

In the Alskad Empire, nearly all are born with a twin, two halves to form one whole…yet some face the world alone. The singleborn A rare few are singleborn in each generation, and therefore given the right to rule by the gods and goddesses. Bo Trousillion is one of these few, born into the royal line and destined to rule. Though he has been chosen to succeed his great-aunt, Queen Runa, as the leader of the Alskad Empire, Bo has never felt equal to the grand future before him. The diminished When one twin dies, the other usually follows, unable to face the world without their other half. Those who survive are considered diminished, doomed to succumb to the violent grief that inevitably destroys everyone whose twin has died. Such is the fate of Vi Abernathy, whose twin sister died in infancy. Raised by the anchorites of the temple after her family cast her off, Vi has spent her whole life scheming for a way to escape and live out what's left of her life in peace. As their sixteenth birthdays approach, Bo and Vi face very different futures—one a life of luxury as the heir to the throne, the other years of backbreaking work as a temple servant. But a long-held secret and the fate of the empire are destined to bring them together in a way they never could have imagined.

Bacon Pie by Candace Robinson & Gerardo Delgadillo

Lia Abbie has the easy life—kicking it back with old school video games, hanging out with her best friend Barnabas, and alternating her living schedule between the apartments of her two dads and her mom. Kiev Jimenez is a theater geek who loves him some Shakespeare and taking care of his pet armadillo. He has one set goal in life: obtaining the role of Horatio for the Hamlet school play. When a showdown between Lia and Kiev lands them in the principal's office, they're forced into volunteer work at the cringe-worthy Piggy Palooza Festival, or risk being suspended. Lia and Kiev aren’t thrilled about the situation, especially when it interferes with Lia's relaxed life and Kiev's theater role. But by working together, they may find more than just bacon—possibly a little love in the air.

Traitor Born by Amy A. Bartol

Secondborn Roselle St. Sismode was pressed into military service to battle the rebel uprising threatening the society that enslaves her. Now, powerful factions conspire to subvert the lines of succession, positioning Roselle to replace her mother as leader of the Republic’s armed forces. But the woman who bore her would sooner see Roselle dead than let her usurp her firstborn brother’s command. The deadly war of intrigue between her new masters and her ruthless family is but one conflict challenging Roselle. A soldier for the rebellion has drawn her into a rogue army’s plot to overthrow the Republic and shatter its brutal caste system. Targeted by assassins and torn between allies, Roselle’s loyalty, love, and honor will be tested in the greatest battle of—and for—her life.

Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago. Faced with her brother's betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family. She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

That's it!
Have you heard of, or read any of these books coming out this month?
If so, what were your thoughts on them?

eARC Review: Ace Of Shades by Amanda Foody

eARC Review: Ace Of Shades by Amanda Foody

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets… and secrets hide in every shadow. Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads. Ace Of Shades Series: The Shadow Game #1Author: Amanda FoodyPublication Date: April 10, 2018Publisher: Harlequin TeenPage Count: 416Format: eARCGenre: Young […]

eARC Review: Bacon Pie by Candace Robinson & Gerardo Delgadillo and Author Interview with Candace Robinson!

eARC Review: Bacon Pie by Candace Robinson & Gerardo Delgadillo and Author Interview with Candace Robinson!

Release day April 13, 2018! When a showdown between Lia and Kiev lands them in the principal’s office, they’re forced into volunteer work at the cringe-worthy Piggy Palooza Festival, or risk being suspended. Lia and Kiev aren’t thrilled about the situation, especially when it interferes […]

eARC Review: Children of Daedala by Caighlan Smith

eARC Review: Children of Daedala by Caighlan Smith

Six months alone in the labyrinth has made her strong. But the search for the exit means gambling on an old ‘friend’ and going against everything she’s been taught to survive.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

Children of Daedala

Series: Children of Icarus #2
Author: Caighlan Smith
Publication Date: April 1, 2018
Publisher: Capstone
Page Count: 336
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror, Dystopia
Cover Artist: ---
My Rating: ★★

Finding one’s way through a maze can feel like an eternity. For the Icarii, eternity is a probability with their trek through the labyrinth surrounding Daedala. 

“Fey Bell” as the nameless main character has been nicknamed, has existed on her own in the labyrinth for six months now. Now that she has the journal explaining how to get out of the dismal place, she needs only one thing: to translate it into her language. In order to do so, she must seek out help from her former group, the Fates. 

However, she left Fates on bad terms. Collin, the group’s leader, has had it out for her since he discovered that she was faking to be his little sister, Clara. With her best friend gone, the Executioner no longer around to teacher her, and no one to help her, she much depend on herself for everything–and for getting the answers she needs to unravel the journal’s secrets. Little does she know that Fates are the least of her worries. 

Children of DaedalaChildren of Daedala by Caighlan Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

1) Children of Icarus: ★★

All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

”Six months is a long time in the labyrinth.”

There’s always a lot riding on sequels in a series. If certain aspects aren’t delivered in the first installment of a series, I hope that the sequel will shed some light on those areas that I think are important to touch on as the reader. Unfortunately, Children of Daedala simply didn’t deliver as much as I had hoped for. While some aspects were much more tolerable, the plot did not develop as much as it needed to the really engage the reader.

World Building

The entire plot of Children of Daedala takes place in the labyrinth. Little information of the labyrinth itself is given and it is difficult to get a good sense of where the characters are. I constantly felt lost, which is ideally the point (since everyone is lost), but it’s also difficult to tell a story not really understanding the surroundings.

The society within the labyrinth itself takes on a different form. The Icarii literally enter a new world when they entered the labyrinth and they must learn how to survive. The best way to survive is by strength in numbers. Several pods of Icarii are developed, where the groups’ members look after and protect one another.

But where there are people, there is treachery. Supplies are limited in the labyrinth, including hunting grounds, freshwater, medical supplies, and weapons. It isn’t uncommon for fighting to happen between the groups for these resources. These fights, however, aren’t always provision-related. Bad blood exists between Kleos and Harmonia, two groups with a long and dark history. When the main character finds herself being shoved between the two groups after Fates is ransacked, she must dig to the bottom of the mystery in order to discover who is at fault.

Within these groups exists hierarchy. Being out on her own for six months had made “nameless” a sought out legend among the other Icarii. Nicknamed “Fey Bell” (after the silent bell she wears around her neck) she tries to remain elusive as she searches for the labyrinth’s exit. However, she can only make it so far without help. She must take measures into her own hands to have the mysterious journal the Executioner left her translated. The leaders of the groups have their own agendas and are constantly taunting her when they cross paths. Wanting to remain out of the drama, she tries to limit her interactions with them, but can only succeed for so long.

Pacing & Readability

The pacing mimics Children of Icarus. It is slow, slow, slow. In three hundred plus pages, not a lot happens. Even during the climax in the final pages, nothing grabbed me. Without having many variations in the pacing, it made this a difficult read to get through because it was slow and unengaging.

Point-Of-View & Characters

The point of view is again from the perspective of the main character, who again remains nameless throughout the entire story. “Nameless'”–I’ll refer to by her nickname of Fey Bell–character grows tremendously from Children of Icarus–but only in her capabilities. In many ways, she still acts quite immature for her age, which becomes tiresome to read. Honestly, I think I stuck it out through this book just because I want to find out what her name is! Otherwise, I don’t think I would have made it this far.

There are several characters in this series, and it is difficult to keep them all straight. With little distinction between them physically, many of these minor characters blended together.

For me, Ryan was one of the more interesting characters in this series. Sadly, his character became rather flat in this sequel. I felt he could have been utilized in more effective ways to keep that initial intrigue going, but that simply didn’t happen.

Theo becomes a more prominent character in this sequel. Becoming a “sort of” love interest, he’s constantly riding the fence of being trustworthy. Because his character also suffers from flatness, I found him and his motivations to be transparent and without surprise.

Elle’s character blossomed before my very eyes. I think I didn’t recognize her in Children of Icarus because I was so distracted with all of the gore and overall treachery. While she doesn’t have a massive role in the plot, what she represents makes her all-the-more important to bring up.

The main antagonist against is the labyrinth itself, but later on shifts to other characters as well.

Major Themes

⇒ Survival

It’s easy not to take chances when the price is someone else’s secrets.

Survival is the entire point of this series. Survival in the labyrinth, survival from one another, and survival from oneself in specific instances is constantly on the characters’ and readers minds.

⇒ Mental illness

”Elle is the beautiful one. I always knew it, but at first I thought it was just her exterior. I thought what was inside Elle was cruel. And it is. Elle has a cruel side, an inhumane side, a manipulative side, but that like her physical beauty, is just something else in the way of the beauty inside. A part of Elle, deep down, is still the child she was when she entered the labyrinth. That child is inside all Icarii, but most Icarii kill that child to survive. Instead, Elle killed her sanity, and used its corpse to shelter the child. Because of that, a part of Elle will always have her innocence. A part of her will always have Prosper.”

Represented by Elle’s character, mental illness becomes a large theme throughout this installment. This theme also exists in the first book, but I think I was too distracted by everything else to really notice it. While I believe this adds an interesting addition to the plot, I’m not sure if I actually like the way Elle’s character is represented. Perhaps it is because I feel that her (and everyone else’s) character is left incomplete. In a positive way, however, I feel that Elle’s able to bring opponents together.

“But thank you. For looking out for Elle.”
“It’s easy to look out for Elle,” Risa says, then gestures to the gauze in my hand. Maybe not always easy, but it’s easy to want to, you know?”

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked:
⇒ The main character’s growth from the first book.
⇒ We finally get a little more explanation behind the Icarii.

Things that I didn’t like:
⇒ Still not having a good sense of the world or where the characters are at. Scenes blend into one another.
⇒ The slow pacing and anticlimactic end which was supposed to be a massive “cliffhanger” for the next book.
⇒ While we get a better idea as to how the Icarii started, the entire backstory needed a lot more explanation.

Overall, I wasn’t thrilled with this sequel, and found it to be without much purpose. I really was hoping for more progression, but this entire book felt like a “time filler” until the next book in the series is published.

Vulgarity: Minimal. Only five words were counted.
Sexual content: Minimal – kissing scenes only. However, there are some references to more going on between some characters.
Violence: Quite a lot. While this installment isn’t as gory as it’s predecessor, there’s still a decent amount.

View all my reviews

State of the ARC: March

State of the ARC: March

The time has come for another State of the ARC monthly wrap up… Lately, I’ve been dreading these posts, and for good reason too. I’ve just not been as motivated to read lately as I normally am. That, and I’m caught in a tug-of-war with […]

eARC Review: Dragons of Dark by Ava Richardson

eARC Review: Dragons of Dark by Ava Richardson

As both dragons and Riders struggle to return to the ways of old, from before the land fell into darkness, the evil king undermines their every move with spies and sabotage. Bower knows their efforts are doomed without a final assault against the palace, but […]

eARC Review: Reign The Earth by A.C. Gaughen

eARC Review: Reign The Earth by A.C. Gaughen

Shalia is a proud daughter of the desert, but after years of devastating war with the adjoining kingdom, her people are desperate for peace. Willing to trade her freedom to ensure the safety of her family, Shalia becomes Queen of the Bonelands.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

Reign the Earth

Series: The Elementae #1
Author: A.C. Gaughen
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Page Count: 438
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Cover Artist: Kimi Weart
My Rating: ★★★★★

Shalia, a daughter of the desert, grew up daughter to the clan chief. Her people have known war for many years. It wasn’t long ago that one of her brothers was burned in the desert by their enemy, the people of the Bone Lands. Desperate for peace, Shalia agrees to join the warring clans through marriage.

Without having ever met her soon-to-be-husband, Shalia’s anxiety is high. Yet, she only hopes for the best in her future union. Her close friend Kata, one of the few remaining Elementae, has lived with Shalia’s clan for years after her people were nearly wiped out by others who thought their abilities intimidating. Believing her to also have an ability with the elements, Kata teaches Shalia about these unique powers and how to utilize them–but also to keep them secret.

The day comes for Shalia to prepare and meet her husband. She anticipates the moment, and girlish fantasies accompany her thoughts. But when the two clans converge, everything according to custom is overlooked. Supposed to be unveiled by her husband, his brother instead proceeds with the ritual, and something deep within Shalia’s core comes to life. When she realizes that he is not her betrothed, and is introduced to his fair brother Calix, a seed of doubt sprouts within her.

”You–watching you today, dancing with our family, you can become those things to me, Shalia. A king…a king has little place in his life for emotion, for weakness. But I believe that you will make me stronger. I believe that you will save my people.”

Now married to Calix, Shalia realizes that his thirst for power may be her clan, the remaining elementae, and her own undoing. With a secret of her own to protect, her people to keep the peace for, and trust to earn from the Bone Landers, Shalia has a huge amount responsibility resting on her shoulders. 

Reign the Earth (The Elementae, #1)Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.

”A wedding is not about lust. It’s about partnership. Alliance. Faith and faithfulness.”

It’s so ironic that this book started out with such a strong sense of pure intentions and girlish hopes then turned out the way it did. I’m not sure what it is with tough books like this, but they completely draw me in. I’ll start out by saying that this book will not be for everyone, and will either be loved or hated for the topics it discusses. It is a hard read, and not the typical happy-go-lucky fantasy novel. Sometimes, a book is worthy of praise simply for the realness that it captures in its characters, and the trials they go through, comfortable or not. The characters here are real, raw, and rememberable.

World Building

The world in Reign the Earth is vast and diverse. No matter where the reader is taken, however, there is an aridness about the atmosphere, even if by the sea or in lusher regions. I believe the world itself aided in setting the tone of the entire book–the aridness it portrayed not only mirrored the relationship between Shalia and Calix, but also emphasized the harsh realities that were taking place on all fronts.

The religious system was an interesting one. The “god” position was shared by Calix, Galen, and Danae of the Bone Lands. Each sibling had their own role to play.

”My father said the Three-Faced God had told him that his three children were the God Made Human. That we would be the most powerful rulers the Bone Lands had ever seen.” She held out her hands in a triangle, pointing one of the ends at me. “With three faces, you can only ever see two, at the very most,” she told me. “The third will always be hidden. Calix, he is the face of truth and justice. Galen is the face of honor and strength. And I am the hidden face, the piece that separates honor and truth, and also binds them together always.”

While I’m not sure if it was supposed to reflect either positively or negatively (or if at all) on the Holy Trinity in the Bible, I personally feel that it stood apart from it. The fact that a man declared his children the god-made-flesh was a ploy for power. None of the three had actual powers, they were simply powerful in specific characteristics.

Pacing & Readability

The pacing of this book is consistently moderate and increases the closer it gets to the end. Due to the nature of its content, I could see how it could affect its overall readability, as the tone is dark and heavy at times. Personally, that aspect did not bring me pause and actually made me more eager to know what would happen next. The beautiful writing and description also made this read very enjoyable.

Point-Of-View & Characters

Shalia serves as the main character and protagonist, and the story is told from her perspective. Shalia’s character is rather complex–so complex in fact, that it was aggravating at some periods. While she starts out with the mentality of a young girl, her maturity rapidly shows, as she learns through difficult situations how to handle herself, and to make the right decisions. In order to do so, Shalia’s character goes through immense stages of change.

“You’re a daughter of the desert, Shalia. You have always had the ability to pierce and sting.”

The biggest struggle Shalia faces is standing up for herself. For the majority of the story, she seems rather passive, especially in regards to her husband’s character. She does try to influence Calix by her meekness, but in the end, it simply isn’t enough to turn his focus inward on the parts in himself that he needed to address.

“My hands rested over my stomach. I couldn’t feel her in there yet, but I knew in that moment she would never be raised by Calix.”

The biggest event which took place that changed Shalia’s perspective and tactics was when she discovered that she was pregnant. During this time, Calix became more erratic and abusive towards her.

“I went from being a sister and a daughter to a wife, a guarded queen. I have little idea what my life will be like if I’m free from Calix, but I don’t want to be something you protect. I won’t teach my daughter that her only choice is to be sheltered by the men around her. I want to stand beside you…I want to learn to fight with you.”

I think Shalia’s character is an unusual one in YA today. Instead of being the “all guns blazing” superwoman trope, her meekness is what made her stand out to me. Her words and actions spoke louder than her physical capabilities. While she did have bouts of passiveness, she took action when necessary, and when she was able.

Calix is a piece of work. He is the manipulative and power-hungry antagonist, who thinks he is superior to all. I’m not sure if I can blame him entirely for his character, seeing how he was conditioned his entire life to believe himself to be above others. But it doesn’t excuse his actions and reactions towards Shalia and the other people he torments.

“Your heart is soft, and that is good and right, wife. But mine cannot be. More important than love, than grief, more important than anything is power.”

Discussing his relationship with Shalia in particular, he is one of the worst types of villains. He uses emotional manipulation to get what he wants and damages Shalia tremendously in doing so.

Galen, Calix’s brother remains quite a mystery. While small chunks of his personality are revealed, I never got a good sense of him or is true nature. I wasn’t a fan of the way his and Shalia’s relationship played out in the end. (view spoiler) Despite that fact, I’d like to know more about him in the sequel(s) to come.

Danae, Calix’s sister, also serves as a partial antagonist. While her character is the least-developed of the three siblings, she becomes an encourager to Shalia during though periods in her marriage to Calix. Without the sisterly love of Danae, I think Shalia really would have struggled.

There are many other characters throughout this book, but I thought these were the main ones to discuss in more detail.

Major Themes

⇒ Face-value vs. Reality

In the opening of this story, when Shalia is on her way to meet her husband for the first time, she inwardly hopes that he is attractive. Despite the vanity of the thought, she gets what she hopes for, only to realize that beauty on the outside doesn’t mean beauty exists within. It’s a valuable theme to focus on as beauty is monotonized on in today’s culture. It teaches everyone that beauty is better, and the internal parts of ourselves can be covered up and ignored if beauty is present externally.

⇒ Steadfastness

Represented specifically by Shalia, steadfastness is a key quality in her character. While she was seemingly passive at times when she could have stepped forward, I think she actually made the more difficult choice with not stopping what was going on (specifically with Calix). She tried so very hard and sacrificed everything to keep the peace between the clansmen and her husband’s people. However, it costs her. This is the ugly truth about sacrifice sometimes–it’s painful, and it doesn’t always end in the way we hope or envision. But it’s necessary in order to try and make a situation better for others. This was what made me appreciate Shalia’s character so much. Too often are characters met with “challenges” that aren’t really challenges. They have simple solutions and take little effort to overcome. Shalia’s situation reflects what many people go through in real life, and I think she could be an encouraging figure to have in this genre.

⇒ Power

Power was a massive theme. It existed on multiple fronts; men over women (no matter the connection), leader over civilian, a people group over another. It is this desire for power on Calix’s part that transforms him into a being capable of doing anything to another person in order to get what he wants.

”Ruling cannot be about emotion, my sweet. It has to be about power and control. Always.”
“True power does not force others to make themselves smaller,”I told him. Anger simmered in his eyes.
“No, wife. You’re wrong.”

This theme is represented well, as it shows how dangerous and degenerative seeking power can be.

⇒ Abuse

While it’s not a nice topic to discuss, abuse is very real. Several forms of abuse are represented throughout Reign the Earth and show how terrible of a thing it is.

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked:

⇒ Shalia’s depth of character, especially her steadfastness.
⇒ The world building, and how well it reflected everything else developing throughout the story.
⇒ The use of elementals.

Things that I didn’t like:

⇒ Calix. Pure and simple. He was a “perfect” antagonist.
⇒ The pacing towards the middle slowed down a bit, but I didn’t notice it too much. The beginning and end made up for this deviation in my opinion.
⇒ I felt that the Trifectate needed a lot more explanation surrounding it. While the general idea was explained, I wanted to dig deeper into their role in society.
⇒ The fantasy element of this book takes a backseat to the main story. I would have liked to see more representation of the elementals throughout.

Due to the nature of this book, I would definitely caution young adult readers before picking it up. I personally believe this to be better suited for the New Adult genre, as the topics discussed don’t really reflect that of the life of an average teen. Overall, I believe this book has a lot to offer the reader. It’s real, it’s emotionally charged, it’s challenging, and it’s beautifully written. I’m thoroughly looking forward to the next installment in this series.

Vulgarity: 26 words total (based on the eARC I read – this may differ from the published book.)
Sexual content: Moderate to a lot. While nothing is graphically explained, there are a lot of “bedroom scenes.” This also was an area where a lot of content could trigger some uncomfortable feelings for the reader.
Violence: Moderate to quite a bit. There are scenes of torture and some graphic material here and there.

View all my reviews


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