Blog Tour Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Today is my stop on the Wicked Saints blog tour!

Title: Wicked Saints
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Genre: fantasy
Series: Something Dark and Holy #1
Pages: 385
Published: April 2 2019
Source: publishers for review
Rating: 4.5/5

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

Without doubt, Wicked Saints marks the arrival of a new talent on the fantasy scene. With her debut and the launch of a series, Emily A. Duncan ably crafts a tactile and immersive world, full of monsters and magic, gods and girls. From atmosphere to characterization, Wicked Saints is a finely-tuned work of fantasy/horror. The author clearly illustrates a keen eye for detail and a dab hand at plotting; this novel proves a good harbinger of things to come for fans of intricate, morally grey stories.

The slowly revealed world and central conflict at the root of Nadya's story is loosely based on the Hundred Years' War and is also vaguely Slavic in nature and tone. Despite these real-world influences, Duncan's countries of Kalyazin and Tranavia come across with a unique sense of place and history; their ongoing and escalating conflict is rooted in recognizable territory and feels as senseless as any real war. There's a solidity to the world that Duncan has fashioned for her characters to live within and it anchors not only Nadya but Serefin and Malachiasz as well. The verisimilitude of each of these countries is slowly built, by Nadya's stories and experiences and by Serefin's journey across both in pursuit of her. It's a world worth exploring and bursting with potential.

The characters in Wicked Saints live up to the high expectations wrought by comparisons to Bardugo. Duncan's characters are complicated and conflicted -- they may not always be likeable but they are always interesting and hard to predict. Nadya, Serefin, and Malachiasz are more than they appear to be and are more connected than it might seem. Their slowly revealed relationships make for another layer to the interactions between them.  This author has shown herself to be quite adept at uncovering and exploring the hidden facets of people.Even the secondary characters feel three-dimensional and real, though I could have done with more time spent with Parji in particular.

Wicked Saints stands out. It's unapologetic and angry; Nadya's emotions bleed out from the page and so does Serefin's. It leaves a mark when you're finished because it's memorable and harsh. A dark fantasy filled with blood magic, power, and an endless struggle. The magic systems could stand to be fleshed out some more but signs indicate that more on the front will be present in the sequels. Emily A. Duncan knows to leave her audience hungry for more and this brutal, reckless read does exactly that.

Book Tour Review: Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd

Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Title: Lady of a Thousand Treasures
Author: Sandra Byrd
Genre: historical fiction
Series: Victorian Ladies #1
Pages: 480
Published: October 9 2018
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 3.5/5

Miss Eleanor Sheffield is a talented evaluator of antiquities, trained to know the difference between a genuine artifact and a fraud. But with her father’s passing and her uncle’s decline into dementia, the family business is at risk. In the Victorian era, unmarried Eleanor cannot run Sheffield Brothers alone.

The death of a longtime client, Baron Lydney, offers an unexpected complication when Eleanor is appointed the temporary trustee of the baron’s legendary collection. She must choose whether to donate the priceless treasures to a museum or allow them to pass to the baron’s only living son, Harry—the man who broke Eleanor’s heart.

Eleanor distrusts the baron’s motives and her own ability to be unbiased regarding Harry’s future. Harry claims to still love her and Eleanor yearns to believe him, but his mysterious comments and actions fuel her doubts. When she learns an Italian beauty accompanied him on his return to England, her lingering hope for a future with Harry dims.

With the threat of debtor’s prison closing in, Eleanor knows that donating the baron’s collection would win her favor among potential clients, saving Sheffield Brothers. But the more time she spends with Harry, the more her faith in him grows. Might Harry be worthy of his inheritance, and her heart, after all? As pressures mount and time runs out, Eleanor must decide whom she can trust—who in her life is false or true, brass or gold—and what is meant to be treasured.

With her keen eye for time, detail, and scenery and a talent for crafting realistic and likeable characters, reading a Sandra Byrd book has yet to disappoint me. Her historical novels are well-drawn forays into the past, using the lives of disparate people during interesting times. Her latest, Lady of a Thousand Treasures, is a slowly spooled-out historical mystery; one that also has a strong romantic plotline to complement the meticulously built series of questions that surround middle-class Miss Eleanor Sheffield and her work in antiquities.

Eleanor is a deceptively mild, self-effacing woman; outwardly demure but possessing a keen mind, self-confidence, and abundant personal drive. She's relatable without being anachronistic for the time within which she lives. Her need to protect her family is pivotal but it's also refreshing that she likes her job, she likes to work and use her brain to provide. Always, she takes time to consider, think, and decide before taking action-- a benefit to her profession but one that leads to romantic complications when her longtime love acts rashly. The circumstances that keep Harry and Eleanor apart can feel a bit contrived -- one real, substantial conversation could have cleared things up -- but the author makes their interactions shine. There's chemistry and an easy camaraderie between them. His charm and her carefulness work well together.

The story in Lady of a Thousand Treasures is an involved one, tying together antiquities theft, murder, the Italian Wars for unity, a vengeful father, debtors' prisons, and a thwarted engagement. There's a lot of plot fodder and for the most part, the story covers it all and then moves along well and quickly. Eleanor is sorely tested from a wide array of antagonistic forces but she's stalwart and resourceful from start to finish.

There is also a slight religious element to the story in Lady of a Thousand Treasures. I rarely reach for anything in that realm of fiction but with Sandra Byrd, the more religious moments aren't heavy-handed and nor do they detract from the real plot being set up. They are incidental to what is happening; faith is part of Eleanor's life but the book isn't preachy. It can be bypassed or have  the reader's attention; it is not necessary. The real focus of the novel is Eleanor and her internal decisions -- first about the collection and then about how to save Sheffield Brothers.

First in a new series, Lady of a Thousand Treasures is an auspicious beginning.


Book Blast: The Jinni's Last Wish by Zenobia Neil

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

by Zenobia Neil

As a eunuch in the Ottoman Imperial Harem, Olin has already lost his home, his freedom, and his manhood. Olin’s only wish is for a painless death, until he meets Dark Star, a beautiful odalisque who promises to give him his deepest desire. He scoffs at her offer, not believing her claim to possess a jinni in a bottle. But when Dark Star is accused of witchcraft, Olin rubs the bottle in desperation and is astonished to find she’s told the truth.

Olin becomes the jinni’s master to save Dark Star, but it's not enough. In the complex world of the Topkapi Palace, where silk pillows conceal knives, sherbets contain poison, and jewels buy loyalty, no one is safe. As each wish brings unintended consequences, Olin must risk his life, his body, and his sanity to break the bonds that tie them all.


Published: September 2018

Genre: historical fantasy

Pages: 283




About the Author

Zenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She writes about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun. Zenobia spends her free time imagining interesting people and putting them in terrible situations.
She lives with her husband, two children, and dog in an overpriced hipster neighborhood of Los Angeles. Visit her at


Book Blast Schedule

Monday, August 27
Passages to the Past
Tuesday, August 28
Creating Herstory
Wednesday, August 29
Friday, August 31
A Chick Who Reads
Sunday, September 2
Clarissa Reads it All
Monday, September 3
Historical Fiction with Spirit
Tuesday, September 4
Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, September 5
Pursuing Stacie
Friday, September 7
Donna’s Book Blog

Cover Reveal: War King by Eric Schumacher

Saturday, August 25, 2018






Publication Date:
October 15, 2018
Publisher: Creativia Publishing
Series: Hakon’s Saga #3
Genre: Historical Fiction

 It is 954 A.D. and a tempest is brewing in the North. Twenty summers before, Hakon Haraldsson wrested Norway’s throne from his murderous brother, Erik Bloodaxe, but he failed to rid himself of Erik’s family. Now the sons of Erik have come to reclaim Erik’s former throne and avenge the wrong done to their father and their kin. But they do not come alone. With them marches an army of sword-Danes sent by the Danish King, Harald Bluetooth, whose desire to expand his realm is as powerful as the lust for vengeance that pulses in the veins of Erik’s brood. Like storm-driven waves, the opposing forces collide in the thrilling finale of Hakon’s Saga, War King; and when they do, Hakon is left with no choice but to face the tempest and resist.

Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

Sunday, August 19, 2018
Title: The Clockmaker's Daughter
Author: Kate Morton
Genre: historical
Series: N/A
Pages: 608
Published: expected September 2018
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4.25/5

My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe's life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist's sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker's Daughter is a story of murder, mystery and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker's daughter.

Kate Morton has long been a favorite, even amongst my top authors. As I have said before, her novels are masterpieces of narrative fiction.  They are intricate and executed with aplomb. I know an author is highly-prized to me when my reaction to their work is anything less than five-stars because it feels like both a surprise and just intrinsically wrong, somehow. But I have to admit that while The Clockmaker's Daughter contains nearly all the classic Morton hallmarks of a great read, this particular set of interwoven stories didn't resonate with me as much as almost all of her previous novels did. I still fell into her intricate style of storytelling eventually, but it wasn't as complete of an immersion; for once, this is a Morton that could stand to use a bit of editing down. In a six hundred page book, especially one so dependent on the slow reveal of authorial sleight of hand, the underdeveloped aspects of the story stand out in retrospect.

The tale of Birdie and Leonard and Elodie and Tip and all the others connected to the manor at Birchwood is by no means a "bad" book -- Morton isn't even capable of that with her weakest effort to date, 2015's The Lake House -- but the beginning of this lags, one of the POVs is rather dull and underdeveloped each time it's visited, and the addition of the supernatural elements detracted from the novel's other various strongpoints. Dense and slow-moving as is the author's usual style, the plot to The Clockmaker's Daughter takes a long time to engage the reader and even Kate's undeniable and present talents for atmosphere and mystery can't entirely compensate for it.

The cast is a myriad of characters with tangential connections to one another across time and distance. Their slowly revealed relationships make the pages spent interesting for the most part; Morton's quite adept at uncovering the hidden facets of people, this time those related to the mysterious photograph whose discovery incited all the ensuing revelations. Leonard is the exception to the rule; his chapters have emotional resonance but his voice is dull and the events he narrated aren't the most pivotal. Despite his relevance to both plot and other characters, he is a charisma void on the page. The supernatural additions of <spoiler>the 'Night of the Following' (maybe??) and even Birdie herself, charming as she was</spoiler> didn't work and also felt unnecessary. One could have been excised completely and the other could have featured in a more mundane sense. They felt like a rare misfire from an experienced author.

The Clockmaker's Daughter is the author's sixth to be so centered on dual timelines across history and connected to a mysterious house/manor/castle and each is unique gothic tale of secrets, family, and how the past lives on in the present.Though not the complete Morton experience possible and not without a few missteps in its hundreds of pages and several rotating POVs, The Clockmaker's Daughter is still a solidly good novel and with well-rendered characters, an enveloping atmosphere, a intriguing set of mysteries, and creative plotting tying it all together. It's a decent idea of what this author is capable of doing even if it left me craving a reread for the more polished The Distant Hours and The House at Riverton.

Review: The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani

Thursday, August 16, 2018
Title: The Storyteller's Secret
Author: Sejal Badani
Genre: historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 411
Published: expected September 2018
Source: ARC received for review
Rating: 3.5/5

From the bestselling author of Trail of Broken Wings comes an epic story of the unrelenting force of love, the power of healing, and the invincible desire to dream.
Nothing prepares Jaya, a New York journalist, for the heartbreak of her third miscarriage and the slow unraveling of her marriage in its wake. Desperate to assuage her deep anguish, she decides to go to India to uncover answers to her family’s past.

Intoxicated by the sights, smells, and sounds she experiences, Jaya becomes an eager student of the culture. But it is Ravi—her grandmother’s former servant and trusted confidant—who reveals the resilience, struggles, secret love, and tragic fall of Jaya’s pioneering grandmother during the British occupation. Through her courageous grandmother’s arrestingly romantic and heart-wrenching story, Jaya discovers the legacy bequeathed to her and a strength that, until now, she never knew was possible.

A finely-tuned dual timeline novel centered on memorable women, both modernish America and India in the 1930s - 1940s. A rather dense book and one that can move the plot rather slowly, The Storyteller's Secret is very much character-driven in both its past and the present timelines. The two seemingly-disparate plots are intricately linked to one another, and though the reveal of how that is so is easily guessed, Badani's talent for characterization compensates for any lost surprise later on. She is able to evince genuine interest in the people involved, from Jaya and her "modern" problems, to Amisha's quiet determination in the rigid culture of the past, and that makes reading this historical fiction a satisfying experience.

The characters and world of her novels are where this author truly shines. Some of the novel's plotting is a bit blunt and predictable for anyone paying attention, but her characters are well-wrought and realistic and her settings are vibrantly realized. It's easy to envision both sets of plotlines but especially so when set in the lively, colorfully described India of Badani's pen. Likewise, the American Jaya is a character easy to understand and care for but it is Amisha that truly captures the heart of the novel. She lives a far different life than her modern counterpart but it's easy to see the echoes of one another across the decades that divide them.

There is perhaps just a shade too much perspective changing in The Storyteller's Secret. Each plotline has its merits and its problems, but jumping between first-person to third, so rapidly can highlight the artificiality of fiction. That, combined with the easily-predicted reveal, detract slightly from the story's conclusion. The Storyteller's Secret is a comprehensive, detailed novel, that does a lot right when it comes to character and setting. But though the good points outnumber the negative by a fair margin, it must be noted that overall, it was weighed down by a few too many chapters and a rather overt plot resolution.

Blog Tour Review: Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi

Monday, August 13, 2018
Title: Star-Touched Stories
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: fantasy
Series: The Star-Touched Queen #2.5
Pages: 304
Published: August 7 2018
Source: ARC via publishers for review
Rating: 4/5

Three lush and adventurous stories in the Star-Touched world.

Death and Night

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Poison and Gold

Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Queen Gauri and King Vikram's new reign presents itself, she is thrown into the path of the fearsome yet enchanting Spy Mistress. To help her friends, Aasha will have to battle her insecurities and perhaps, along the way, find love.

Rose and Sword

There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?

These three short stories, set in the same magical and dangerous world as the author's full-length novels The Star-Touched Queen and its successor A Court of Wishes, are another window into the fertile imagination of Roshani Chokshi. Each is replete with the vibrant imagery and vivid writing that readers have come to appreciate in Chokshi’s verbose style. The writing itself can approach purple prose at times, but without ever crossing over; this is a flowery book full of ornate writing and Chokshi has the talent to pull it off with aplomb.

Though all the additions to Star-Touched Stories are creative, well-written and plotted, it is the first,‘Death and Night’, that is the best, and the sole one rated at a full five stars. All three make for a solid selection but Chokshi's clever, and often darkly humorous or just plain silly, look at the courtship between the god of death and goddess of night is the standout. A familiar story, and a prequel for the first novel, played out in fresh hands and with fresh eyes, there's inventiveness from start to finish as Chokshi weaves her unlikely but impossible to resist love story. It doesn't follow the expected path or fall into overdone tropes; watching Amar and Maya is still genuinely fun and seeing them meet is satisfying.

The second, 'Poison and Gold', is another strong offering; one a bit shorter but focused on flawed and yet likeable characters, relatable despite their less-than-mundane situations and abilities. The writing itself remains a standout throughout the pages, but Aasha's struggle to control her gift, control her fate is vividly rendered and easily empathized. 'Rose and Sword' is a another good short story, but even with the talents of varied Roshani Chokshi, felt a bit shortchanged in comparison to the sweeping romance of the first and the heartfelt emotion of the second. It was too short, too rushed of an ending. The unexpected glimmers of humor, usually unexpected, were another highlight of the entire collection.

An anthology that further explores the world that Maya introduced us to and Gauri further expanded on her own adventures, Star-Touched Stories is a glimpse at smaller lives within a large world. Key figures are shown and feature into the plots, but even the newcomers and side characters make an impression. The author's vivid storytelling, which is often so descriptive it verges on tangible, is ably suited to short-form as well as full-length novels. It was fun to revisit such a fantastical and unique world, even for a short time.

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