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17406847From Goodreads: A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king’s army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince’s guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can’t prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

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If you’re a fan of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series and/or Mulan, then you will definitely enjoy this novel. There are many similarities to both–magic, a sexy prince, an evil empire, the best fighter in all the land is female (unbeknownst to many), and I’m sure the list goes on. Some may say there are too many similarities, and yes, it crossed my mind as I was reading, however, it is vastly different as well, and I just love the idea behind it. It’s very well written; you can’t help but fall in love with the characters and their plight, and the story itself is intriguing. So, even if you’re a little worried that it will be too similar to Sarah J. Maas, I suggest you read it anyway, because it’s epic.

Alexa, or Alex, as it were, is my favorite.  She’s a strong female lead stuck perpetrating a male in an empire that would otherwise cast her to the breeding house.  Forced to hide her identity in order to survive, she has become the top fighter on the prince’s guard.  Those loath to protect the empire that took everything from her, her fierce loyalty to her twin brother and those she’s friended on the guard make her a fierce defender of the crown, if nothing more than to protect her friends and family in protecting the prince.

As the story unfolds, we learn much about Alexa and her life in the guard, but the novel really takes off when the resistance comes to capture the prince.  Captured and taken far from their country, it quickly becomes seen that not all is what it seems, and Alexa is not the only one with a secret.

There is a bit of a love triangle in this novel, but this one is not overbearing, for which I was very thankful.  While I was afraid it would take over the novel, it’s more on the sidelines as Alexa, Ryland, and Damien attempt to figure out how much they can trust one another and those who have kidnapped them.  Truthfully, I thought the characterization was superb, and the story itself was action packed, keeping me glued to the pages.  There were many fight sequences that helped spur the reader on, but just enough romance to also keep it interesting.  I really enjoy this novel, and can’t wait for the sequel. Five stars.

5 stars

Scholastic Press has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel prior to its release on January 7, 2014.

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18043896From Goodreads: Nidad Reik, the last mundane king of Verneece has fallen to the treachery of the sorcerers who once served him. Now the usurpers have gathered from the four corners of the kingdom to divide the spoils of victory. Among those in attendance are the Puppeteer and his ward, the Fortune Teller; the Sword Prince and his latest trollop; the Lady of Perfumes and her guards and lovers; finally, there is the fearsome Stonegrinder, master of earth and stone. The night is filled with feasting, entertainment .and gaming. In the wee hours of a long, winter night there is also murder.

The survivors look upon each other with suspicion of treachery. Who committed the murders and why? Or is there an outside agency moving against them to lay claim to their victory?

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“Set in the Blackstone universe, the history of Verneece before the coming of Queen Spiral is revealed” in this novella by Jason Beineke, a prequel to the Blackstone series.  This imaginative fantasy series expounds on sorcery and world dominance, but for those of you who haven’t yet read the masterful Blackstone novels, then I highly suggest you begin with this novella, especially if you’re intrigued by world building, sorcery, and fantasy—this series is not one to be missed!

Complete with engaging characters able to bend the elements and wills of others, readers are introduced to a band of strong and able sorcerers come to divide the spoils of the conquered Verneece.  Although a tad vulgar and disturbing in places—drinking wine from a skull makes me shudder—this novella truly sets the scene for the murders and betrayal that takes place between the pages, and continues throughout the series, as the gifted magicians begin to suspect and fight amongst themselves.  Showing the vast corruption that pervaded the land prior to the seizing of power by Queen Spiral, a vicious queen readers will get to know in more depth in Drawing the Circle, this novella gives readers a taste of what is to come with its imaginative world, deceptive characters, and jarring situations.  It’s a great read that I enjoyed very much, though I do wish it was longer.  However, a longer read would defeat the purpose, as this novella is meant to whet the appetite for more, and that is exactly what it does.  Had the characters been a little more pleasant, I do believe their plight and overall fate would have left me feeling bereft.  As it is, however, these vile characters gain no sympathy from me.  Three stars.

3 stars



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