Tag: Fantasy

eARC/Book Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

eARC/Book Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town. Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted […]

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Blog Tour & Author Interview: Beyond the Moon by R.J. Wood

Blog Tour & Author Interview: Beyond the Moon by R.J. Wood

Beyond the Moon The Voyages of Jake Flynn #2 By R.J. Wood This is my stop during the blog tour for Beyond the Moon by R.J. Wood. This tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 11 till 24 June. See […]

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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 family apart. The kingdom’s only hope will lie with two young men raised worlds apart. Aric is the beloved heir to the throne of Calidon; Albaric is clearly of noble origin yet strangely out of place.

Synopsis provided by Goodreads.

The Oddling Prince

Author: Nancy Springer
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Page Count: 288
Format: eARC
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Cover Artist:
My Rating: ★★★★½

Out hunting one day with his son, a mysterious ring appears on the finger of the King of Calidon. Over the next month, his health fails and he nearly dies. A mysterious stranger in white appears and removes the ring from the king’s finger, saving his life. The youth asks the king if he recognizes him, but he does not.

Perplexed by the youth’s insistence on knowing his father, Aric discovers that the stranger’s name is Albaric, and he too, is the son of King Baldric. Confused by this revelation, a fantastic tale about the queen of the fey, the king of Calidon, and an enchanted ring is uncovered. 

Learning that he has another son, the king spirals downward into a fog of shame and suspicion. It’s up to Aric and his oddling half-brother Albaric to bring the king back to his senses. 

The Oddling PrinceThe Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer My rating: 5 of 5 stars All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication. description
“What is a friend? Troth without end. A light in the eyes, A touch of the hand– I would follow you even To death’s cold strand.”
I want to jump right in and say that I think this book has been (and will be) widely misunderstood. I’ve seen a lot of reviews already that are very misleading and don’t represent this book well at all. While it has been placed into the Young Adult fantasy genre, it doesn’t really fit in well with other current titles and trends. The Oddling Prince reads exactly like an old-time fairy tale, i.e. The Lily of Life: A Fairy Tale, and reflects little upon the mantras of the genre it has been categorized under. For these reasons, I would highly suggest going into this read with an open mind. There are some very valuable topics being explored, which could completely become overshadowed by preconceived notions. With that being said, I’m so glad that I picked up this book! If you are a fan of original fairy tales, this will be a read that you will want to give a shot at.

World Building

“My father says ‘White King’ is only a mistake for ‘Viking,’ making a fairy tale of how our ancestors in longboats came to Calidon.”
Set in ancient Scotland, Calidon is the realm in which the plot is set. Only hints of the world are discussed, creating an atmosphere not as astounding as I’d hoped for. It doesn’t matter much, however, as the plot is driven by the interactions and relationships between the characters. Majority of the setting is at or surrounding Dun Caltor, the place where the royal family resides. Politics exist mainly between the station of King Baldaric and his competitors (almost exclusively Lord Brock Domberk.) Any form of religion is not discussed, as the fantastical overtake this area via the existence and presence of faeries and a faerie realm.

Pacing & Readability

The first half of this story is the main area that really pulls the reader in. While the second half is consistent, most of the content that makes this book so great is revealed earlier on. The pacing remains rather consistent, with a few lulls in plot movement and intrigue. Because it reads like a fairy tale, sometimes its length feels forced. It could have been shorter.

Point-Of-View & Characters

Before I say anything, there are three characters in this book with names that are very similar and can be the cause of some confusion. I’m not sure why these characters’ names are so similar, other than assuming it has something to do with passing down a family name. I personally didn’t have any issues with keeping these characters straight, but some might find it tricky.

“A prince I was, yes, but in looks no more than passable–no comelier or taller than most men–and in prowess, no better with sword or lance or horses or–or anything. I had quested nowhere, had wooed no true love, I was–I felt myself nothing compared to my father. I loved him.”
Aric serves as the main character and protagonist in the story. The point-of-view is directed from his perspective. A 17-year-old prince and heir to the throne of Calidon, Aric doesn’t yearn for power. A rather unusual boy, Aric’s innocence and genuineness immediately make him likable to the reader. His likeability only grows when confronted with the revelation that he has a half and immortal brother. Instead of allowing jealousy to overtake him, he eagerly embraces Albaric after (and even before) hearing his tale of woe. Not only that, he holds nothing against his father no matter how he treats him. Aric’s character possesses qualities which are truly a breath of fresh air. Selflessness, humbleness, faithfulness, honesty, innocence, loyalty are the attributes that make him so appealing. With that, Aric goes through some very real, and difficult experiences as well.
“Once I regained my strength and got up out of the bed, it would be Father and Albaric again, Albaric and Father, and the heartache and constant fear. I did not want to die, but neither did I want to live.”
The most refreshing part was how he maintained his character through tough trials. He doesn’t allow bitterness and resentment to take place in his heart, even when everyone around him was telling him otherwise. His character reminded me slightly of Job from the Bible and how he refused to listen to the bad suggestions from his friends and family.
“‘My father,’ I burst out, ‘when he set foot on the ground, his horse turned to air. When he took the ring off you, his fire went out. His light is gone. He cannot return whence he came. He has thrown in his lot with mortals now, and he will someday die, and he has made this sacrifice to save you.’”
Albaric’s character was also very intriguing to me. When he first arrived on the scene, it was hard to tell his intentions. However, it is quickly revealed that this immortal has a soft heart. Actually, Albaric experiences some very difficult feelings such as abandonment, unacceptance, and even prejudice from others to the point of where he contemplates taking his own life. While King Baldaric completely denies that he is Albaric’s father, Aric comes alongside him and develops a beautiful kinship with his half-brother. Albaric is described as “otherworldy” in a sense that his beauty is too much for the world of men. While it is the truth, he doesn’t allow his appearance to dictate his character and brings a refreshing view on beauty in general. Albaric certainly faces difficult trials. Realizing that his father doesn’t even recognize him, and becomes suspicious of him breaks him apart. Later on, the stress of his situation and being stuck in the mortal world leads Albaric to give in to his hurting. He gives spiteful advice to Aric on how to react towards their father and their failing relationship. King Baldaric, the father of both Aric and Albaric, starts out as a loving and doting father and king. He clearly loves his son Aric, but his character is deeply challenged (understandably so) when he discovers that he has another son, Albaric, with the fairy queen and has no recollection of it ever happening. This discovery is the start of a chain of events which sends the once good king into a downward spiral.
“But a king must think like a king. An oddling comes and claims to be my son. What can I think but that he schemes to take the throne?”
He becomes so bad that he even believes his once beloved son Aric wants to overthrow him and take his throne. Despite his beliefs, Aric works tirelessly to contradict his father’s beliefs. The metaphor of darkness and light are often used to depict this waging battle of Baldaric’s feelings and again, reinstill the “fairy tale” feel of the book. Queen Evalin, King Baldaric’s wife, and Aric’s mother serves as a realistic mediator. When chaos ensues, she often is the voice of reason. The main antagonist comes in the form of the ring but also shares the title with Lord Brock Domberk, (a vassal of King Baldaric’s), as well as King Baldaric himself. While the ring takes the center stage, it causes others to do things and become people they aren’t. The ring itself is an ancient thing and has the ability to enchant those who wear it. The ring, however, obeys no one and often has alternative repercussions when used for personal gain.

Major Themes

⇒ Light vs. Darkness
“I saw the invisible drawing of swords between him and Albaric; I felt the tension in the close air of the bedchamber. Dark, it was too dark in there because of the shadow of death. Father wore black.”
The theme of light vs. darkness is equivalent to good vs. evil. It is utilized regularly in context as well as metaphor. When Albaric first arrives, he’s riding a horse and they are both stark-white. As he turns out to be King Baldaric’s redeemer, it makes sense that he’s depicted in white. Darkness is equally referred to, indicating illness, death, and malice. ⇒ Kinship Kinship plays a massive role in this story. Mostly depicted by Aric and his half-brother Albaric, their relationship is one of pure love for kin. Despite the odd situation with their father, and how Albaric even came into being, Aric and Albaric immediately put the fact they are brothers at the forefront of the matter. While Aric accepts Albaric, Baldaric denies that Albaric is his son, which causes an obvious issue within the family’s dynamics. ⇒ Trust Mainly exhibited in Baldaric’s character, his lack of trust almost costs him his relationship with his son Aric. Knowing the truth of what happened to him in Elfland, Aric tries effortlessly to reassure his father of his intentions. Baldaric’s judgement becomes too clouded in his humiliation that he begins to lose trust in everyone dear to him, leading him to make some bad decisions later on. ⇒ Shame/Self-Doubt
“Yet his face reddened, and now I recognized what I saw there: shame, with which he struggled clumsily, unaccustomed to guilt, to error. Never in my memory had such self-doubt afflicted him before.”
Another theme exemplified by Baldaric, and combated by Aric, shame and self-doubt are forces that heavily impact the events of this story. Baldaric, a king, was tricked by the elf queen into staying with her and having a child with her. Granted, he didn’t know what he was doing because he was enchanted, but deep down he never loved the elf queen, and loved only his wife. When he learned of these events when Albaric appeared, he becomes so distraught by the fact that he had been bested by the elf queen that it changes him drastically. It shows how impactful one’s perspective of themselves can be on so many lives outside of their own.

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked: ⇒ The different style in which this book was written (aka writing style). It is not the typical modern YA fantasy! ⇒ The themes discussed. ⇒ The way the fantastical was woven into the story. ⇒ The lessons to be learned. Things that I didn’t like: ⇒ The world building was lacking for me, as I’d hoped to see more historical influence of ancient Scotland and the people there. ⇒ The story overall felt somewhat drawn out and could have been shorter and have been just as effective. Overall, I loved this story. I think there is something here for everyone to take away. That’s what I love most about the fairy-tale style in which it is written–it allows the story to be told in a way that is perhaps, more tangible for the reader to grasp, yet allows for a few elements to not be entirely explained. It allows for the magical element that fairy-tales possess to remain aloof. This doesn’t affect my view of the book at all, but this quote from the author was included in the acknowledgments, and I thought it was worth sharing because it is so beautiful.
“Writing fiction has always, for me, been an alchemy of turning pain into poetry, ugliness into beauty. It has been a kind of redemption.”

Vulgarity: Only 5 words were counted.
Sexual content: Minimal. There was some discussion between Aric and Albaric about the human desire for sexual relations.
Violence: Minimal to moderate.

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Blog Tour and Author Interview: Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

Blog Tour and Author Interview: Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

Song of Blood & Stone

Earthsinger Chronicles: Book One

By L. Penelope

Synopsis

From the very first pages of her debut, L. Penelope delivers as a new force in the fantasy genre. The first book in the historical fantasy Earthsinger series was originally self-published, earning a quick fan base, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Self-Publishing Award and a starred Publishers Weekly review calling it a “fantastic opening to a promising series”. Now traditionally published to kick off the new series, SONG OF BLOOD & STONE (St. Martin’s Press; May 1, 2018) is a treacherous, thrilling, epic fantasy about an outcast drawn into a war between two powerful rulers. With the world building of Brandon Sanderson, the romance of Ilona Andrews, the epic quest of Lord of the Rings, and the doomed star-crossed love of Romeo & Juliet, the start of the Earthsinger series has something to keep any reader entranced for books to come.
Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive--an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack's mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it's people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda's Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation. The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

As a reader, it’s not common to come across a truly original world, but Penelope manages to do just that in SONG OF BLOOD & STONE. In the vein of Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings, Penelope “shines a bright light into epic fantasy” (Booklist) and bridges the gap between the world of romance and fantasy. Inspired by religion and folklore, Penelope develops the start to what will be a series that will take readers by a storm.

SONG OF BLOOD & STONE
Earthsinger Chronicles, Book One
By L. Penelope
Published by St. Martin’s Press
**On Sale May 1, 2018**
Hardcover | $26.99

ISBN: 9781250148070| Ebook ISBN: 9781250148087
For more information or to set up an interview with the author, contact:
Brittani Hilles at brittani.hilles@stmartins.com or 646-307-5558

“This debut, which won the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Self-Publishing Award, shines a bright light
into epic fantasy. Battle-scarred lands and peoples, ancient powers at war, star-crossed loves and hints of racial and

refugee themes gives this a solid place on library shelves.”
—Library Journal, STARRED review

“Penelope parallels our own world, exploring a refugee crisis and race relations with emotion and nuance…Fresh,
suspenseful, and perceptive, Penelope’s first in a new series will appeal to historical-fantasy readers, especially fans of

N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.”

—Booklist

“”Penelope delivers an engrossing story with delightful characters in this fantastic opening to a promising series.”

—Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

“L. Penelope’s page-turning apocalyptic epic SONG OF BLOOD & STONE does what fantasy does best: provide epic plots,

epic world-building and epic myth. A rewarding, carefully crafted read.”

—The Root

1. What inspired you to write this series? What came first: The characters or the world? What was your inspiration for the magic of Earthsong? Were you inspired by other books? Movies?

 

When I first wrote this book, up until the time I gave it to my first editor, I thought it was going to be a
novella. It was always meant to be a fairytale-esque story of a girl’s journey from the margins of society
straight to its upper echelons. The characters Jack and Jasminda were there before the world was ever
clear in my mind. The first scene I wrote was the one where they meet in front of her cabin. I knew they
were from different, warring countries and they came from very different sorts of lives, but that was all.
Through the magic of revision (lots and lots of revision) I discovered the journey that the characters
would go on and all the conflicts they would face.

I love fantasy and there were so many inspiring series that I soaked in prior to writing the book, from
Graceling by Kristin Cashore to Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. But I think this book owes its biggest
inspiration to the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta. Her fantasy world felt well realized and
complex, filled with incredibly detailed characters, groups, nations, and settings. But I also wanted to
write a kinder, gentler fantasy novel that wouldn’t double as a doorstopper. And mix in a really strong
romance like some of my favorites Nalini Singh or Kresley Cole.

 

2. What were your favorite scenes to write for SONG OF BLOOD AND STONE? What was the
hardest scene to write? Is there a scene or moment that really sticks with you?

 

Though Usher, Jack’s valet, spends relatively little time on the page, I loved writing the scenes with him
and Jack. When two characters have known each other for a long time, it can be really fun to play with
how to show their relationship. Usher has known Jack his entire life and so the way they interact is
unique. I also loved writing the visions that Jasminda gets from the stone. They were in a different voice,
from a totally different perspective and the peeked in on a vibrant, fully formed world that’s different to
the one of the main story. Hardest to write were the ones where Jasminda is confronted with the racism
and bias of Elsirans.

The scene that sticks with me is when Jack and Jasminda are in the army base and he sleeps on the
ground beside her, holding her hand. I find it really sweet and romantic.

 

3. What advice would you give aspiring authors, especially authors or color, striving to have their
stories and truths shared?

 

I would tell aspiring authors to really investigate your goals and be frank with yourself about why you
want to do this. It’s a difficult path emotionally, creatively, and professionally and what will get you
through the low points is being very clear about your “why”. It can also be incredibly rewarding, but
knowing what you’re getting yourself into is key.

Writing and publishing are two different disciplines. Your “why” will inform whether you pursue
traditional publishing or seek to self-publish. It will keep you going through rejections, delays, bad
reviews, disappointment, and the imposter syndrome that we all go through.

The other very important thing is to have a community to fall back on. Whether that’s a chapter of a
professional organization like RWA, SFWA, SCWBI, and others, or a Facebook group, critique group, or
writer’s circle, having others to commiserate and celebrate with you makes the journey much easier.

 

4. Is there a character in SONG OF BLOOD & STONE that you most relate to? How do you select
names of your characters?

 

I think Jasminda represents various aspects of myself both as I am and as I’d like to be. She’s definitely
bolder than I am, but her struggle to feel a part of things is one that I understand.

As for naming my characters, for each nation, I asked questions about how the names should generally
work. Things like: which prefixes and suffixes are common? Which letters and sounds are prevalent?
Which letters or sounds either don’t exist or are more rare? So the Elsirans have a lot of double vowels
in their names. Qs, Vs, and Zs are prominent, but there are no hard Cs.

Lagrimari names generally don’t use Js. I set up which suffixes were for men and women and the types
of sounds the names would have. There are only 9 last names in Lagrimar, corresponding with the
Houses. Jasminda as a name is an exception. Her parents didn’t follow the naming conventions of either
country for her or her brothers. Because their interracial relationship was unique, they wanted their
children’s names to be distinctive as well.

5. What do you most hope that readers take away from SONG OF BLOOD AND STONE?

I really just hope readers enjoy the story and the characters. Jasminda is a heroine that I had been
longing to see, so I hope people get as much joy and heartache from her story as I did when I wrote it.

6. Can you tell us more about the next books in the series? What are you working on now?

Book 2, WHISPERS OF SHADOW & FLAME, follows a parallel timeline to SONG. It’s about Darvyn, a character we hear about in SONG who was the Earthsinger responsible for disguising Jack. The disguise’s failure gets Jack captured and he wonders what happened to Darvyn. So in WHISPERS, we find out. But it also pushes the story forward, showing what’s going on in Lagrimar in the days before the Mantle comes down and setting up the next challenge that Jack, Jasminda, and Darvyn will face. Book 3, CRY OF METAL & BONE picks up the story of how Elsira and Lagrimar deal with the fall of the
Mantle and the new threat facing the nations.

I’m also working on a brand-new series with dragons.

7. What are your favorite books you would recommend to readers?

Among my favorites of all time are Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay,
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover, Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor and Sheltered by Charlotte Stein. I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it there.

L. Penelope

Leslye Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She is an award-winning author of new adult, fantasy, and paranormal romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependents: an eighty-pound lap dog and an aspiring feral cat.

Fairy Tale Friday #6: The Glass Dog by L. Frank Baum

Fairy Tale Friday #6: The Glass Dog by L. Frank Baum

The Glass Dog By L. Frank Baum Lyman Frank Baum is not an unfamiliar name to many Americans. Best known for his very famous children’s book, The Wizard of Oz, Baum also wrote several other fairy tales, short stories, poems, and scripts throughout his lifetime. […]

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Mini Book Review: Prince of the South by Ava Richardson

Mini Book Review: Prince of the South by Ava Richardson

Being a Prince, J’ahalid is no stranger to the fact that his kingdom requires protecting. When he Sees the Dragon Riders of Torvald, he knows that dragons are the answer to his problems. Prince Of The South Author: Ava Richardson Publication Date: July 2017 Publisher: […]

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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 is no stranger to battle. She’s been trained her entire life to defend herself, her family, and her clan against their rivals; the Riki. The Riki and Aska clans meet in battle every five years–a bloody tradition which began with the gods Thora and Sigr themselves. Each time, the battle claims many lives–including Eelyn’s brother, Iri. 

Or so she thought.

In the midst of yet another skirmish with the RIki, Eelyn happens upon her deceased brother. Thinking the Aska god, Sigr, sent her his spirit to defend her, everyone concludes that Eelyn was in Sigr’s favor. Eelyn, however, thinks otherwise. Unable to let the thought go that her long-lost brother may actually still be alive, Eelyn stalks the Riki, only to discover a painful truth. Not only that, but she is captured and taken as a slave by the Riki.

Unable to cope with the newfound knowledge that Iri still lives, but lives and fights with the enemy, Eelyn must discover empathy within herself in order to understand how her brother could end up across enemy lines. Through her own trials, Eelyn realizes that life isn’t always as it seems, and life can change within the blink of an eye.

Sky in the DeepSky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

For a story with such a simple plot, Sky In The Deep still had a way of grabbing my attention. When I say simple, I mean that there aren’t numerous elements to remember, info dumps of world-building, or a multitude of characters to get to know. I also mean “simple” in a sense that there really is only one or two main focuses for the characters throughout the entire story. Because Sky In The Deep wasn’t overwhelmingly complex, it was easy to follow, direct, and made for a quick, yet engaging read.

I will say that I had hoped for more of the fantasy aspect to kick in (because this is considered to be a fantasy and not historical fiction) but it still had an interesting plot. The characters are the key and central focus and are what drives the story forward.

World Building

Not a large amount of detail is given on the actual location that this story takes place. The landscape shifts from a common battlefield between the fjords and the hills/mountains where the two warring tribes of the Aska and Riki reside. The climate resembles that of Northern European territory. A heavy winter season is present for the majority, if not all, of the story, and works against the main character at times. Basic political systems rule the tribes present in Sky In The Deep. Resembling an “eye for an eye” mentality, if someone wrongs another, it’s up to the people involved to settle the matter–as shone with Fiske and Thorpe.

This is supposed to be a Viking-influenced story. Considering that fact and historical evidence, the Viking age was between 800 – 1066 AD, so this is probably around the time frame that this plot is set. The lifestyles of the people are primitive and resemble that of earlier societal establishments. Comparing this book to actual Viking history is a bit of a stretch. While yes, there are definite parallels, its not like a historical fiction, where the lifestyles are described in depth and widely developed.

Three tribes or people groups are identified: the Aska, Riki, and Herja. Little information is given about the Herja, where they live, their motivations, etc., except for their cruel practices and human sacrifices they perform to their god (which remains unnamed.)

“What had started as a quarrel between the gods turned into the hunger for revenge–a blood feud. Every five years, we lost those we loved. And we spent the next five years counting the days to the moment we could make the Riki pay for our pain.”

The Aska and Riki both worship a different god. Sigr, the god of the Aska, is known as the god of the fjord. In Old Norse translations, Sigr means “victory” but shares no resemblance to any actual Norse gods.

“She’d tell the story of the Riki god Thora, who erupted from the mountain in fire and the flames that had come down to the fjord. Sigr had risen up from the sea to protect his people and every five years, we went back to battle to defend his honor, bound by the blood feud between us.”

Likewise, Thora, the god of the Riki, isn’t well defined. While it’s said that she “erupted from a mountain in fire,” it is unclear whether she is god of volcanoes, mountains, or even thunder? Thora is the female counterpart to Thor, the god of thunder in Norse mythology. However, it’s unclear what she is supposed to represent here. More information on these details would have really helped with boosting the fantasy aspect of the story, as it remained rather lacking in the department.

Both the Aska and the Riki have the same structural beliefs. When they die, they believe they travel to a heaven-like realm, referred to as Hylli (meaning “favor” in Old Norse), or Solbjørg (meaning “house of salvation” in Old Norse) depending on which tribe one was a part of. Once there, the dead are reunited with loved ones that had passed on before them. I’m mentioning this because it too, plays a large role in the plot. Eelyn, believing her brother Iri to be dead along with their mother, looks towards the day when they will be reunited. She and her father pray to idols of the two so that their souls may find their way in the afterlife. Death, in general, is a common occurrence within these tribes, as they are pit against one another every five years.

Pacing & Readability

I found Sky in the Deep easy to read. Moderately paced, the characters guide the reader through a shorter text, making the passage of time seem fluid and effortless.

Point-Of-View & Characters

The story is told from the perspective of Eelyn, the main character. This strong seventeen-year-old has grown up training for, and knowing battle. Understanding at a young age that life is tough, she’s adapted to understand and accept tragedy when it befalls her. Though, it doesn’t make it any less easy. After losing both her mother and older brother in clan wars and raids, she holds dear to her father and best friend Myra. However, when confronted by the ghost of her dead brother, she begins to second guess herself and everything that she believes she knows.

“I tried to remember who I was. Strong. Brave. Fierce. Sure. I tried to summon her to me–that Eelyn who would choose her people over anything else. I searched for her within myself, but she was different now. I was different. And it was something that was already done. Something I couldn’t change.”

Myra, Eelyn’s best friend and “sister” lost majority of her family at a young age. Because of that, her and Eelyn understand each other well. The two share a strong bond, and exemplify a beautiful image of friendship with how they support one another.

Both Iri and Fiske felt like similar characters. While they obviously played different roles, they didn’t feel as significant as they should have. I felt that their characters were underwhelming and underdeveloped. Similar to Eelyn and Myra’s friendship, I did appreciate how they too, represented a deep friendship and “brotherhood” together.

The main antagonists are the Riki (towards the beginning) and Herja clans to the Askas. To Eelyn, her own perspective and discriminations are also antagonists.

Major Themes

⇒ Betrayal

“Feeling that lighting strike in my soul. That Iri was alive. And not just alive. He’d betrayed us. All of us. The boy I’d shared my childhood with. The boy I’d fought side by side with. He was worse than any enemy. And the blood we shared was now poison in my veins.”

Betrayal is by far the biggest theme throughout Sky in the Deep. Believing her brother dead, Eelyn is dumbfounded when she comes across what she thought was her deceased brother on the battlefield. When she realizes that he’s fighting for the enemy tribe, the Riki, she follows him, but is captured and taken to be a slave with the Riki.

Not knowing how to handle his betrayal, Eelyn works through a series of emotions, trying to understand how he could do such a thing. Which leads into the next theme.

⇒ Survival/Death

Survival is the primary focus of everyone in this story. Life is harsh, battles are frequent, and the threat of the ruthless Herja constantly plague the minds of the characters.

Five years prior, Iri was thought to have been killed on the battlefield by the Riki. His body was found, but left. When the Riki returned to bring one of their own home for burial, they found both he and Iri were still alive. The Riki insisted that he be brought back and cared for, and he eventually was adopted into the clan. There, he found love, which became his reason for not returning to the Aska. Love, and the fact that his family probably wouldn’t take him back if he has returned after converting to following the foreign God, Thora, kept him with the Riki. Learning how accept where Iri now is, as well as her shameful status as a slave to the Riki, leads directly into the next theme.

⇒ Redemption

”We find things, just as we lose things, Eelyn. If you’ve lost your honor, you’ll find it again.”

For the Aska, it’s literally damning to become a slave. Once one assumed the title, they were no longer able to traverse the afterlife to be with their family after they pass away. When the Riki made Eelyn into one, she became immensely ashamed of her position. Also fearful to return to the Aska to expose the shame onto her father, Eelyn contemplated on returned at all.

It was during this time that she realized why Iri never returned to the Aska. His position, too, would bring shame to his family. It took Eelyn to experience a similar situation herself before she could understand her brother’s “betrayal” and the truth behind it. Not only that, she had to confront her own prejudices against the Riki in order to convince them and the Aska to fight together against the Herja.

⇒ Equality

While there is some credit to give in this area, I also want to point out a few things. Sky in the Deep has been highly esteemed among Young Adult readers for its strong female lead and the “equality” shown between men and women. However, slavery is very much a part of daily life in these tribes, and the fact that Eelyn is nearly raped, I fail to see this equality. If everyone wants to get caught up only in the fact that women fight alongside men in battle instead of being sheltered from it, I think they are missing the bigger picture.

While Viking women were known for their grit, life for a women during that period was also very difficult. Just because they were active warriors for their people didn’t eliminate all threats from others. Again, Eelyn is nearly raped…what does that say about “equality?” It shows that not everyone had the same definition of the word. I also think that because of Eelyn’s position–being the sister to Iri, and a love interest to Fiske–saved her from subjugation to treatment that otherwise would have been dealt to her when she was enslaved. Personally, I don’t think the theme of equality between men and women is actually portrayed as strongly in this story as people may think.

Overall Feelings

Things that I liked:

⇒ The themes and messages.
⇒ The origins for the tale.
⇒ There’s no swearing!
⇒ Even though it wasn’t well defined, I liked the setting and atmosphere that this story took place in.
⇒ Again, although it wasn’t focused deeply upon, I liked the culture this was set in. It stood out as its rather unique in this aspect.

Things that I didn’t like:

⇒ The overall lack of the appearance of fantasy. It read as a historical fiction with a few twists. But personally, I didn’t think it fit well into the fantasy genre.
⇒ The gore and torture scenes.
⇒ Incompleteness in some aspects of the world-building.

Overall, I thought this was a good read. While I had some issues with the world-building feeling incomplete, I appreciated Eelyn’s character and watching the transformation she went through. Sky In The Dark has strong messages about redemption, and setting aside differences in order to work together.

Vulgarity: None!
Sexual content: Mainly kissing. There is a scene where a Riki character nearly tries to rape Eelyn. There is also reference towards Eelyn and another character having sexual relations.
Violence: Quite a bit, including some gore and torture scenes.

View all my reviews

1. What inspired SKY IN THE DEEP? How did the idea and Eelyn come to you? Do you have any
favorite Viking stories?

The sibling betrayal was definitely the first inspiration for this story. I was driving in the pouring rain on
this country road and that first scene just hit me – Eelyn, seeing her brother on the battlefield after
thinking that he was dead for five years. I pulled over on the side of the road and scribbled a million
notes on an old envelope. I was immediately hooked to the idea and I wanted to know what had
happened. I started writing that first chapter and I just never stopped.

2. What type of research did you do for your characters and world-building? What languages did
you study to implement the languages that the Aska and the Riki speak? What was the strangest
thing you had to research for this book?

I did a ton of research for this story. I actually really love to research things so it was a lot of fun. A lot of
it was stuff like clothing, landscape, weapons, food, etc. But I did a lot of research into Norse mythology
as well to build a foundation for this world. The language used is Old Norse, but it’s a dead language so
studying it was really difficult. There is a lot of controversy about it among scholars and there’s no real
way to fully understand it, so I just did my best based on my own investigation. I’m definitely not an
expert! The weirdest thing I had to research was how to tear out someone’s eyeball. Yuck.

3. What was your writing process like for SKY IN THE DEEP?

Complete and utter obsession. When I draft, I get really buried in the world and I don’t really come up
for air until I get to the end. I write as much as I can and limit my intake of other influencers that could
mess with my mindset. I don’t watch TV or movies or listen to music that’s not on my playlist, and I kind
of don’t have a social life until it’s done.

4. What was your hardest scene to write? What was the easiest?

I really didn’t struggle to get this story on the page the way I have with other books so I really don’t
know what the hardest scene to write was. But the easiest was the first chapter. I wrote it so fast and it
just clicked in so perfectly.

5. Which of your characters are you the most like? Who was your favorite to write?

Eelyn! We have so much in common and she really inspires me. But I think Halvard was the most fun to
write. I really, really love him.

6. Do you have a soundtrack for SKY IN THE DEEP? Can you share a couple songs? What would
Eelyn’s favorite song be?

Yes! Music plays a HUGE role in my writing process and I have a playlist for every project. The ones I
probably listened to the most while drafting SKY are To the Hills by Laurel, Bare by Wildes, and Rise Up –
Reprise by Foxes. But a link to the whole playlist is on my site!

7. What books have inspired you to write? What books are you looking forward to reading this
year?

The ones that inspired me to write are nothing like my books. One of the most influential ones for me was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, because the human element is so beautiful and the author explores so many things in that book that really took my breath away. I wanted to write stories that went deep like that, but I love fantasy so I try to it within that realm.

8. Any advice on querying? Or writing advice for aspiring writers?

Querying – do not just sign with any agent who will take you. Make a dream agent list of qualified agents
who have good reputations and make consistent sales. Query them. If they don’t bite, then write
another book that they might want. Believe me when I say it is worth waiting for the right agent!


9. Any details about the companion novel?


I can’t say anything about the companion novel yet! But I’m hoping that we can start talking about it
soon because I am really excited about it!

Adrienne Young

Adrienne Young is a born and bred Texan turned California girl. She is a foodie with a deep love of history and travel and a shameless addiction to coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her on her yoga mat, scouring antique fairs for old books, sipping wine over long dinners, or disappearing into her favorite art museums. She lives with her documentary filmmaker husband and their four little wildlings beneath the West Coast sun.

Cover Reveals for Wheel Gone Cats & Of Stars and Monsters!

Cover Reveals for Wheel Gone Cats & Of Stars and Monsters!

Wheels Gone Cats PUBLISHER: PARLIAMENT HOUSE PRESS Synopsis In a future where violence is encouraged and duels are required by law, Dathin Long has the answer: devolution. He proposes a medical procedure that will restore humanity to the state of primal bliss—to pure reptilian instinct, before […]

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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 […]

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Cover Reveals for The Garden of Ash & Cursed: The Hunter Inside!

Cover Reveals for The Garden of Ash & Cursed: The Hunter Inside!

Garden of Ashes (Snow SPark Saga #2)

PUBLISHER: PARLIAMENT HOUSE PRESS

Synopsis

It’s the one place no rustler ever wants to end up. Having survived Rondo’s destruction, sixteen-year- old Rags has been taken captive by the Kingdom and sentenced to ‘rehabilitation’ at the Kingdom’s Threshing Floor, a notorious prison camp for hardened criminals.Those who refuse to serve the Kingdom go in…no one comes out.   Faced with this nightmarish reality, Rags is forced to use everything she knows as a rustler to survive against starvation, a cruel ward master, and torture at the hands of the Kingdom’s ruler, Hyperion. Given only two options—death, or conformation to the Kingdom’s ways—she’s forced to play the Kingdom’s twisted game. With the help of the Kingdom’s second-in- command, Henrick Oreson, and its charismatic luresman, Colton Caelan Fieldson, Rags must find a way to play a convincingly false role she was never meant to play and show the Kingdom she can be ‘rehabilitated’ to its standards. But with the deciding evaluation rigged in the Kingdom’s favor, failure is imminent…unless she can find a way to turn lies into truth and achieve the impossible: actually, escape the Threshing Floor.

Find Out About Other Books by Kathryn Lee Martin at https://www.rynleewrites.com/

Kathryn Lee Martin, known as 'Ryn' by friends and colleagues, spends her days saddling up the literary horse and hitting the “what if” trails on a quest to tell the outlaws’ and underdogs’ stories. Not one to shy away from the darker side of stories for the older young adult audience, her works often explore impossible odds and dire futures, falling into a fusion of post-apocalyptic science fiction meets the gritty lawlessness of the old west with a dash of fantasy and steampunk. Putting her unfortunate characters in situations where faith and fighting often go hand in hand, she’s not afraid to make things difficult for them and when she’s not corrupting society on paper, she’s usually leading the rebellion to save it.
An avid outdoors woman at heart, Kathryn spends her days living a quiet, faith-filled life on her family’s small farmstead where she can usually be found working in her vegetable garden, spending time with her family, and playing the role of ‘critter mom’ to a border collie, several cats, three goats, and a donkey. Prior to choosing to follow her dream of becoming an author, she spent almost a decade joyfully working at a small town, local gourd farm as a parts maker, part of the finishing department, and a proud member of its seasonal field crew.

Website: https://www.rynleewrites.com/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rynsagequill/ Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/RynSageQuill/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/RynSageQuill Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RynSageQuill/

Cursed: The Hunger Inside

PUBLISHER: PARLIAMENT HOUSE PRESS​

Synopsis

A war rages between kings and clans for centuries, nations split and kingdoms fallen. Caught in the midst of poverty and bedlam, twenty-year- old Aldor faces a choice: leave home and start anew, or stay and protect what little he has?   Aldor has only made one friend in his life and has never seen a legendary creature before. As soon as he steps beyond his door, he finds himself an outlaw, hunted by ghosts, dragons, and bandits. Forced into joining a team of misfits in a race to recover a sacred, lost artifact—Haran’s Stone—Aldor finds unexpected friendships and adventure with a huntsman, a smuggler, a scientist, and a princess. Just when their quest begins to appear promising, disaster strikes, wielding the unexpected—and the terrifying!   Aldor’s life will never be the same as he struggles with fear, loss, love for the very first time. As the roots of his world crumble to dust, Aldor and company mustn`t lose themselves in a fury of cannibals, monsters, and illusions; their greatest challenge yet.

Find Out About Other Books by Casey Millette at http://www.caseymillette.com

Casey M. Millette, sixteen, has been into writing since she was five. Her love of The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia has inspired her to write the Cursed series. Casey lives just outside Atlanta, Georgia with her family and cat, Hudson. You can follow her on the Casey M. Millette Facebook page, Instagram, and her website: www.caseymmillette.com.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/warriorcasey5/

Auto-Buy Sci-Fi & Fantasy Authors

Auto-Buy Sci-Fi & Fantasy Authors

This week’s TOp 5 Wednesday prompt was a difficult one to narrow down. –which I think is a good thing! That means that there’s no shortage of great authors out there! Seeing how Fantasy is the genre I most commonly read, it’s easy to want to […]

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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: […]

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Mini Book Review: The Oracle Queen by Kendare Blake

Mini Book Review: The Oracle Queen by Kendare Blake

Release Day April 3, 2018!

Triplet queens born on the island of Fennbirn can be many things: Elementals. Poisoners. Naturalists. If an oracle queen is born, however, one with the gift of sight, she’s immediately drowned, extinguishing her chance at ever taking the throne. But that’s not how it always was. This cautionary practice started long ago, with Queen Elsabet—the legendary, and last, oracle queen—whose reign was tinged with blood and horror.

Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.

The Oracle Queen

Series: Three Dark Crowns #0.1
Author: Kendare Blake
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Page Count: 120
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Novella
Cover Artist: ---
My Rating: ★★★

The three queens of Fennbirn, Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Katharine, had grown up on the tales of the previous queens. One tale in particular always stood out–the last Oracle Queen Elsabet. Known for her madness and ultimately bloody reign, the truth behind her tale is more devious and tragic that one can imagine. 

The Oracle Queen (Three Dark Crowns Novella)The Oracle Queen by Kendare Blake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Was it not also me who warned you that a queen is only as good as her advisers?” “Yes.” She crooked her mouth at him. “But you were wrong. That may be true of other queens, but an oracle queen is only as good as her gift.”

I’ve been anticipating this novella for quite. The Oracle Queen, mentioned several times throughout the Three Dark Crowns series, has remained an aloof point of intrigue. So, I dove into this story, devouring each page, and looking for…something more than I found.

Politics have always played a big role in this series–and the politics are often muddied with deceit and corruption. 500 years earlier…nothing has changed. While there are five abilities represented instead of the three prominent abilities between Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Katherine, there is all-the-more treachery at work between the groups. While I expected this aspect to play a role in this story as well, I was also hoping for more of a fantasy element to be at work as well. Honestly, I felt a bit let down with the way everything panned out, and the truth is revealed behind Queen Elsabet’s story.

Despite that fact, the interworkings between the different groups were interesting to see. There was a lot more openness between the groups in terms of friendships and working together. Elsabet, a Sight-gifted queen was close friends with the War-gifted Rosemund. Whereas, 500 years later, friendships between people of different gifts was taboo.

Handsome, they called her. She was a queen of presence, they said. She hoped it was true. With such a homely face, it was all she could aspire to.

Queen Elsabet wasn’t what I was expecting. Although, I’m not really sure what I was expecting. While she was a queen, and a young one at that, she was constantly worried about her vanity–to the point of paranoia. This was her weakest quality that guided her to not always make the best decisions.

While this was a decent short story, I was just hoping for it to have more to it. The way everything happened was much more predictable than I had expected.

Vulgarity: None.
Sexual content: There are references, but nothing in detail.
Violence: Minimal.

View all my reviews


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