Joint Review: Seasons of Sorcery

Reviewed by Jen & Sara

Jen: I read all the shorts in this anthology, as I am familiar with all of the authors. (Sara will jump in for Grace Draven’s story.

Winter’s Web by Jennifer Estep – This is classic Elemental Assassin and in just small novella, fans of the series will find just about everything they would get in a full length book, minus the progression of the larger story arc. Gin and her buddies are attending a Renaissance fair and volunteering to help out the guy that runs the thing (and also works for Owen.) While there, Gin realizes something is amiss and ends up facing a plot targeting one of our main characters.

Delicious food references? Check. On page shout out to the title? Check. Sophia’s Goth fashion? Check. Finnegan rougishness? Check. Owen’s violet eyes and Gin’s grey ones? Double check. We even get the obligatory line on her birth control. Speaking of which, I did feel like the sex scene at the end was out of place. I love a good on-page tumble as much as the next girl, but this one didn’t advance the story. And for what it’s worth, it felt like the longest/most in detailed love scene I’ve read from these characters. (But hey, depending on your tastes, that could be a positive or a negative.)

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Review: Warrior of the World by Jeffe Kennedy

Reviewed by Jen

I picked this up right on the heels of Jeffe Kennedy’s novella in Seasons of Sorcery. That Harlan short really primed me to continue the series. (You would be fine reading the book without it, but why would you want to?)

Anyway, this picks up immediately after the conclusion of Exile of the Seas. Jenna/Ivariel is recovering both physically and emotionally from her husband’s attack in the last book. It’s a struggle. She fears that a monster lives inside of her, one capable of killing without compunction. And she doesn’t want to harm the makeshift family she has grown to love.

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Jen’s Favorites of 2018

I read some amazing books from old favorites and made at least one new favorite this year!

The Sins of Lord Lockwood by Meredith Duran. Tortured heroes are my jam and Lockwood fits the bill in spades. The man was kidnapped right after his wedding and sent to a penal colony under a false name. The wife he left behind is heartbroken, but instead of seeking the answers she wants, she asks only for an heir. Lots of feels in this one.

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs. As much as I love the Mercy Thompson books, I adore the Alpha and Omega spinoff books even more. Here, Charles has been put in charge of the pack in Bran’s absence. We get to spend some time with the Wildlings in this one and get a peek behind the curtain of Leah’s character. Anna and Charles are so great together. I can’t get enough of them.

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Review: Exile of the Seas by Jeffe Kennedy

Reviewed by Jen

When I tackled the first installment of this trilogy, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about it. All of the other books I’d read from Jeffe Kennedy were fantasy romance and Prisoner of the Crown was… not. It chronicled the Princess Jenna’s early life and descent into an hellacious marriage to a sadist who reveled in abusing her. Then it followed her as she made her escape and sailed away from the only life she ever knew. It was the first act of her story and it was very difficult to read.

This second act is something different altogether. It is Jenna’s journey as she reinvents herself and becomes stronger. It was extremely well-done and perhaps the best thing I have ever read by this author.

The book picks up right where the last one stopped, with Jenna on the ship, a bundle of fear and ignorance. Women in Dasnaria are purposely uneducated about the world, forced to stay in the little boxes where they’re kept. But then Jenna meets Kaja, a priestess of Danu, who changes everything. She teaches Jenna the most basic skills… how to understand the Common Tongue, how to count, and how to hold a knife. And she helps her adopt a new identity, a priestess with a new name –Iveriel— with vows of both silence and celibacy. [Read more…]

Review: Prisoner of the Crown by Jeffe Kennedy

Reviewed by Jen

Let me start by saying what a huge fan I have been of the 12 Kingdoms series. When I heard the next book would feature a Dasnarian princess, I figured this was Jenna’s story and I was pretty excited. What I didn’t expect was a set-up for a trilogy on her story. (For fans of the series, remember, Jenna was the older sister who Harlan helped escape from an abusive husband. It was quite the mystery and now we are finally learning what happened.)

Here’s the thing, though. This is not a romance. This is the story of Jenna’s life leading up to the point in which her infamous escape took place. We have seen Dasnarian culture before. It is highly unfavorable to women and that is in full force here. Jenna, just like every other woman, is a commodity. She has no rights. She is not allowed any knowledge or opinions of her own. And when faced with unimaginable cruelty, there is nothing she can do but take it. [Read more…]

Review: The Shift of the Tide by Jeffe Kennedy

Reviewed by Jen

As much as I’ve enjoyed this series –and I still do– this was probably the weakest installment for me at this point. This was primarily for two reasons: the hero and the heroine.

Wait. Wait. Stay with me. Let’s talk about the heroine first. This is Zynda’s book. She’s the Tala cousin to Ursula, Andi, and Ami. (If you don’t know who those women are, now seems like a good time to direct you to start this series at the beginning. I can’t imagine this sixth installment would be a satisfying standalone.) Anyway, Zynda has always been a character who has played her cards close to the vest, and in this book, her secrets are finally revealed. She is looking to meet up with the dragon freed in Dafne’s book in order to learn how to shift into a dragon herself. She believes this Final Form will give her the ability to guide her people into better fertility and healthier babies. [Read more…]

Review: The Edge of the Blade by Jeffe Kennedy

Reviewed by Jen

I have to say that I was very curious about what kind of heroine Jepp was going to be. One of Queen Ursula’s Hawks, she has been part of the Twelve Kingdoms since the very beginning. The only thing we really knew about her was that she was a great scout out and really, really enjoyed having sex. Unfortunately for her, she jumped into bed with Harlan’s brother, Prince Kral, without understanding the consequences. In the Dasnarian culture, there is no such thing as a one night stand. Either you become a man’s wife, his concubine, or his bed slave; Jepp has no interest in being any of those things. Therefore, it was totally awkward when Kral found her in bed with another guy. Even more awkward than that, was when she was tapped to go back to his home country with him to be a spy for Ursula.

All of that is backstory. This book follows Jepp as she and Kral sail into Dasnaria and attempt to navigate this society that oppresses women in ways Jepp has never even imagined. For goodness sake’s, this culture doesn’t even let women wear shoes. And Jepp is this fiercely independent, firecracker of a woman. She is a fish out of water in every way possible. [Read more…]

Review: The Pages of the Mind by Jeffe Kennedy

Reviewed by Jen

I wasn’t sure how much this spinoff trilogy to the Twelve Kingdoms would tie into the original books or if I would enjoy them as much without the focus on the original sisters. I’m happy to report that while this book clearly kicks off a new arc, it feels very much like a continuation of the original installments. Not only that, Ursula has an important part to play here. After all, the heroine of this story is Dafne, her closest friend and advisor.

Jeffe Kennedy does a good job making the transition smooth. The first third of this book is all about Dafne still serving Ursula and helping her navigate through the early days of her rule. We don’t even meet the hero for several chapters. But it’s ok, because once we do, this is a romance, through and through. [Read more…]

Review: For Crown and Kingdom by Grace Draven and Jeffe Kennedy

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve really enjoyed Jeffe Kennedy’s Twelve Kingdom books, and it was an anthology that led me to it. Imagine how excited I was to see this story nestled in another anthology with one of the same authors who took part in Amid the Winter Snow! I was already a Grace Draven fan, thanks to Wraith King series, so I’m always down to read something else from her.

Let’s start with the Kennedy short. The Crown of the Queen is a novella told from Dafne’s point of view, but be forewarned, this is not a romance. (I think that comes in the next book.) Instead, this is like an extended epilogue to The Talon of the Hawk. It takes place immediately after Ursula took the life of her father, the king. Dafne has been hanging out in Annfwn for the past few weeks, but when she gets to Ordnung, Ursula still has not been crowned High Queen. The entire story follows Dafne’s efforts to guide Ursula through the process of taking the throne. [Read more…]

Review: The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy

Reviewed by Jen

Oh wow. Jeffe Kennedy really takes it to the next level with this third book in her Twelve Kingdoms series. I didn’t realize that I needed Ursula’s book until I started reading it and I’ve got to tell you, this book is not for the faint of heart.

So far, we’ve only seen Ursula through the eyes of her younger sisters. We know she is strong and powerful, almost masculine. The heir to their father’s throne, she leads armies, she eschews relationships, and she demonstrates unwavering loyalty to the king. All of those things are true, but what we could never see through the first person POVs of Amelia and Andromeda is that her power and strength have come at a very steep price.

The King has grown wilder and more power hungry with each book. Or maybe, it would be more accurate to say, it’s become more obvious with each book. What’s also obvious now is that the journey each sister has taken has been in tandem with each identifying with one of the three goddesses. As they each come into their power, they come closer to balancing the gifts each goddess represents. Ursula is the sword. [Read more…]