Author: Tamora Pierce
Title: Cold Fire
Series: The Circle Opens 3
Genre: High Fantasy
Rating: Three Petals
On the Author's Website:
Daja and Frostpine expect to have a peaceful winter's visit with old friends in Kugisko, a port in the vast empire of Namon. But there is no peace when mysterious fires begin to blaze across the vulnerable city. Daja assists Bennat Ladradun, a local firefighter with a tragic past, to fight the flames. The two become fast friends-until they realize the fires have been deliberately set, and their relationship is deeply tested. Daja's magic helps her track down the firestarter, but no magic can protect her or Ben from the effects of madness and betrayal.
Daja has traveled a long way to the north where snow and ice cover everything and she has to be bundled up in front of the fire most of the day. Except, someone is starting fires that are killing people and to find the arsonist, Daja must learn to step out on her own, even when she might be the next victim.
This book was a turning point in Pierce's writing ability. Suddenly the books in this series went from being very juvenile in writing style, to very adult. The plot and the characters were fully fleshed out, including the two students Daja takes on (which was a nice change from the previous two books where the students were annoying afterthoughts). The mystery of the arsonist combined with Daja's real growth as a person made me want to love this book, but unfortunately there's something missing.
I think my issue is with the bad guy. As a character, they appear to be fully realized, however, the motives that led them to do bad--while certainly real--just didn't feel like they fit. The bad guy's interactions with Daja also made me uncomfortable in a way that reminded me just how young and inexperienced Daja is. The way the bad guy took advantage of her makes me cringe every time I reread this book, and I don't think Pierce meant to evoke that much of an unpleasant feeling on her readers.
As I said for all the previous books in this series, yes, I recommend them, but I don't recommend this book as strongly as the others. While I liked the more adult writing style Pierce used for this book, the bad guy's interactions with Daja made me very uncomfortable in a bad way, which is why this is my least favorite story in this quartet.
Children of the Night
Authors: Christi Snow, Joanna Chambers, Maris Black, and Tinnean
Title: Children of the Night
Rating: Two Petals
On the Publisher's Website:
Wishing and Hoping by Tinnean—It's finally the day of Ioan's eighteenth birthday, and all that he's been waiting for will finally be his—including the love of the man he's secretly been in love with all these years. Everything is perfect. Until the love of his life shows up to his birthday party with a wife.
Lamb to the Slaughter by Joanna Chambers—There is very little Lucien enjoys more than the hunt of young men: beautiful, innocent, eager to learn all that a mature man like Lucien might be able to teach them...
Smolder by Christi Snow—All Zack wants is to be left alone. When Marissa, his boss, calls with orders that he take care of a new vampire in her area because she can't, he's absolutely certain this assignment is going to go any way but well.
Lilac and Leather by Maris Black—Halloween night, and Matt would prefer to be anywhere but in an over-crowded club, especially when an old lover shows up, and he finally has to admit he's gay. But the night takes a turn for the strange—and hot—when he meets the beautiful, mysterious Nicky...
All proceeds from this anthology will be donated to the Rainbow Railroad.
I received this book as an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
These four erotic tales of vampires figuring out their lives and loves is particularly positive because all proceeds go to a good cause. Check out the Rainbow Railroad for more information.
Wishing and Hoping by Tinnean: Three Petals
Ioan's got wonderful plans of what to do with the man he loves now that Ioan's of age, but when that man shows up married and uninterested, suddenly Ioan must realize that his true love has been with him all along. Overall I did like this story, particularly Ione's interactions with his twin and the characterizations throughout. Unfortunately, the story felt incomplete, as if it were only a few chapters pulled from a larger work. There were hints of an escalating political situation, and issues they might encounter in the U.S., but the story ended before any of the plot--aside from the romance--was fully realized.
Lamb to the Slaughter by Joanna Chambers: One Petal
Lucien loves his men young and inexperienced and this time he's picked out the perfect man for his bed, except Marcus turns out to be everything Lucien didn't know he really wanted. This story made me uncomfortable to read. There's a lot that in this story that comes across as just this side of not consensual, including Lucien's rather twisted plans and Marcus' even more twisted reaction. I have to say that I didn't guess the surprise at the end, but at that point I was so eager to be done that it didn't really matter.
Smolder by Christi Snow: Three Petals
Zack is a loner by choice, so when his boss forces him to take care of a baby vampire, Zack can't help being unhappy, that is, until he actually meets the man in question. I thought this was the best story in the anthology. I liked the world building of vampires fitting into modern society and how Nash is able to eventually figure his own life out. This story did suffer from lack of depth, particularly in the characters' backstories which were glossed over. It was hard to believe in the romance when I didn't have an emotional connection to, or any real understanding of, why Zack was initially so reticent. This book is part of a series, so I'm hoping more will be explained in a future story.
Lilac and Leather by Maris Black: One Petal
When Matt is dragged to a club he doesn't expect to out himself or to find a man he could love, but that's what happens and now he has to figure out his new life. I thought this was the weakest story in the anthology. The author appeared to have a number of good ideas for the story, but was never able to flesh them out properly. What was left was a jumble of scenes and emotions that never connected, leaving me as a reader to struggle through. Matt's coming out was painful to read in a bad way and the story never improved from there.
I'm not going to lie, I don't recommend this anthology. Overall the stories were weak, not well plotted, and lacked in depth. However, all proceeds from the anthology go to a good cause, so even if you're not getting good a quality story for your money, it's still worth it.
Author: Grace Draven
Title: Sunday's Child
Rating: Three Petals
On the Author's Website:
The holiday season has arrived, and museum archivist Claire Summerlad envisions a lonely Christmas for herself and her autistic son...until she meets a mysterious new co-worker who seems strangely familiar.
The memory of a Christmas past is brought back to life when Andor Hjalmarson is introduced to the woman he once called Sunday’s Child. A thousand years of exile has made Andor a nomadic wanderer, but is a future with Claire possible with a centuries-old punishment hanging over his head?
Andor's punishment is banishment and being forced to work with Father Christmas every year to deliver presents to children around the world. He doesn't mind it too much, especially when he meets little Claire, who can see through his glamor. She's what's known as a Sunday's Child and Andor can't help feeling protective of her. Still, he doesn't see her again for approximately twenty years and that child has grown into a fine woman, a woman Andor can't help having forbidden feelings for.
Overall I found this to be a sweet holiday short story. It ticked all the right buttons with a little bit of magic augmenting Santa, a love story, and a touch of conflict to make the true love feel all the more special. It was well written and interesting, but I've read stories like this before that were better than this one.
It wasn't just that this plot was cliche and overdone, because dozens of them come out every year around the holidays and I still enjoy them. It was that this story didn't bring anything new. I've read about a spoiled fae prince having to work with Santa and falling in love with one of his charges before. I also didn't appreciate the romance, which I felt was rushed and therefore lacked depth. Plus, the fact that this story and the characters purposefully chose to lose their magic made me sad, when the story was supposed to be uplifting instead.
The story was well written and sweet, but I've read it before and I found those versions to be more interesting. This story didn't bring anything new to the holiday genre, the romance lacked depth, and the magic was disappointing. I therefore cannot recommend this story.
Author: Holly Evans
Title: Ink Bound
Series: Ink Born 3
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Rating: Three Petals
On the Author's Website:
I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a noose tightening around my neck.
Fein is pushing me further into the criminal underground with each passing day. I’m supposed to be helping free slaves. It’s a noble cause, but every step I take is one step further from tattoo magician and one step closer to something else. Something darker.
The ink network is playing games I want no part of, and there’s a bounty out for the ink magician.
I never wanted to a hero, but I fear I have no choice.
I received this book as an ARC via the author in exchange for an honest review.
Dacian's fight against the forces of evil on behalf of Fein is continuing to get more and more dangerous. All he wants is to tattoo, but instead he's learning to fight with his fists and with his magic. Yet, even as he gets stronger the enemy does too and everything he and Fein are working towards might just fail in the end.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: the magic in this series is amazing. The intricacy of Dacian's ink magic and his connection to the ink network only grew more complex in this book. Plus, we were introduced to someone with connection to the blood magic network, which expanded just how intricate all the magic in this world really is.
Unfortunately, Dacian's emotions were all over the place in this book. Some of it was purposeful, like when he was confronted with his ex while trying to build his relationship with his current boyfriend, but most of it felt totally out of control. His emotions are up, and down, and everywhere in between constantly in this book, which greatly hurt his overall characterization. So much focus is spent on his emotions that details on the battle he happens to be fighting at that moment--be it a physical or mental one--get completely lost. There was one moment where Dacian's literally in a hand-to-hand combat situation and he's so lost in his emotional state that when Evans returns to the actual fight it's written that the bad guy's "blade caught my eye" and I'm literally going 'why isn't he screaming in pain since his eye just got cut out?', only to realize it was an expression rather than an action. Basically what this all boils down to is Evans needed another round of serious content editing before this story was published.
I would recommend this series just based on the intricacy of the magic systems, but I have to say the overall plot held my interest too. I did have some issues with how the emotional state of the main character was written.
Maggie reviews paranormal and fantasy novels and novellas. She also interviews authors and hosts giveaways.