The Bloodsworn

**Copy of The Bloodsworn by Erin Lindsey graciously given by Literary Agent Lisa Rodgers in exchange for an honest review**

“Not for you.” 

*commence endless screaming*

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I realize you have no idea regarding the significance of that line, thrown in out of context like that. But oh is there significance and feels attached to it, as there are many, many feelings attached to this entire book, not to mention the whole series. So I’m just being cruel and teasing you. Trust me, you wanna find out why that line makes you want to fist-pump the air into oblivion (but you can’t because you work in a public library, so you satisfy yourself by whispering, Fuck yes” instead).

If you’ve read either of my reviews of the previous two books (The Bloodbound and The Bloodforged), you know I have some opinions (<– understatement of the year).

The first in the trilogy, The Bloodbound, gave me a feeling of nostalgia and home I haven’t felt in ages, as I returned to a story focused in a realm and time of knights; a time period that I adore and is so close to my heart, as it was these types of stories that fueled me during my youth. There, I met Alix Black, who inspired me and encouraged me in a time where I desperately needed both of those things. By the end, I wanted to be a little more like her.

Hell, I still do.

In The Bloodforged, I couldn’t even properly describe how many emotions I experienced, so I forced to try and express myself through a lot of nerdy GIFs. It has been a while since I read a book where I kept telling myself, “There is no way this can get any worse,” only to be proven wrong.

Over.
And over.
And over again.

It was, honestly, quite fantastic, even if the ending resulted in me abusing my paperback as I threw it harshly against the ground in protest. At such a plot twist, I was both wary and excited to read The Bloodsworn; excited because I had to know what happened next, yet wary because I had a sinking feeling that the events to come would make the events in The Bloodforged feel like child’s play.

And I was right.

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You know the advice writers get about being ruthless to their characters? How the best stories are formed by creating the worst possible conflict for your character to conquer? Yeah, Lindsey is obviously a master at this, because holy shit. Similar to book two, every time I dared to hope that the situation couldn’t get any worse, I was proven sorely wrong. More impressively, it wasn’t just one character going through some shit. It was multiple characters dealing with multiple problems, all of which were the most extreme circumstances where the worst possible thing that could happen usually did. But not only that, all of these situations affected and depended on the outcomes of the others. Oh, and with multi-POV, these events were revealed with expert pacing, so the tension continued to build and build until you finally reached that point where you had to know what happened to Alix, only to be shifted to Rig. Or Erik. Or Liam.

Rinse and repeat for 300+ pages.

Friends, this shit is gold.

Complete with twists and turns, political plots of epic expectations (and endings) and threads that were woven since book one and sewn together neatly (even if a little scarred with all the shit they were forced to go through) here in book three, The Bloodsworn was exactly what I wanted–and honestly, have come to expect–to end this fantastic trilogy. This entire series was such a refreshing and needed read. The characters are some I am not eager to leave behind and I’m so glad Lisa pointed this series my way. I have a feeling Lindsey will be an author I’ll be stalking admiring for a long time to come.

Oh, and as an author whose goal has been to write the perfect summer vacation novel, I’m pretty sure Lindsey’s already achieved that. I can’t wait to see what she comes up next.

Read on!

PS: I might have a crush on Rig. Maybe a really big one.

PPS: Can we get a spin-off story just on the adventures of Rudi? Talk about most underrated character.

The Bloodforged

**Copy of The Bloodforged by Erin Lindsey graciously given by Literary Agent Lisa Rodgers in exchange for an honest review**

Last night, I was sitting in the living room while my friend was building a project for work. I had a little more than 100 pages of The Bloodforged left to devour and boy, did I devour them, to the amused concern of my friend. More than once, I made a frustrated grunt or whispered, “What the shit?” as page by page, my mind was blown, repaired and then blown again.

Here are some GIFs to properly showcase exactly what I went through finishing this book:

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This one.

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Or this one.

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Or this one.

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Yeah, this book puts you through some shit.

I won’t exactly describe what that shit is, because you need to read this book–and this series–for yourself. It seriously is fantastic. This series draws you in with the wonderful, inspiring and realistic characters in the first book, The Bloodbound, and then leaves you utterly speechless by the time you finish the second, leaving you desperate for the third (which, luckily for me, I already have and will be reading as soon as I get off work. Oh Lisa, do I owe you some chocolate).

Actually, the events in The Bloodbound were so gut-punchingly wowing that I literally threw the book to the ground, I was so pissed and awed. My friend, bless him, just snorted, not understanding the turmoil I just went through at the hands of a paperback (if you’re confused, please see GIFs above as reference). Oh boy, was I pissed.

Pissed, but also super impressed.

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This book made me feel a lot of things. Frustration and anger at some of the choices characters made, which in turn made me question how I felt about some of those characters (Alix, in particular, had me questioning, which was difficult, considering how much I admired her in the first book; difficult, but also great, because it just made her that much more real to me, that much more human and made me connect with her that much more). I experienced suppressed giggling (thanks, Liam). Empathy. Sorrow. And most of all, after taking a day to reflect on what just bloody happened, being completely, totally and utterly impressed.

With The Bloodforged, I think we got a wider view into the world Alix navigates. We got a few more perspectives we didn’t get previously, which made my liking for Rig turn into a fierce, protective love. We were introduced to new cultures and government structures that reflected just how complicated the war they are fighting truly is. I found myself having conflicting emotions about the characters involved, which adds a layer of depth I love to find in books.

But what impressed me the most was how this entire book continued to baffle me on how difficult every decision was; how felt the consequences were of every action, choice or hell, even inaction. Just when I was lured into a false comfort that aid for the war was coming or that Eric, Alix or Liam had made the right call, I’m thrown back into the fray of despair and questioning as something else gets thrown at them, making their already dark and hopeless situation even worse.

And then you introduce the twists in the last 100 pages…

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I wasn’t kidding. This book makes you feel some shit.

Now, I’m left as a really weird middle ground. I need to know what happens next. You can’t just drop Bombs A, B and f-ing C and not be aching for closure. Yet at the same time, if I thought shit was going down in this book, I feel like I’m not even remotely prepared for what I’ll have to go through in The Bloodsworn. And there is only one way to find out…

*stares at the clock on the wall waiting for the weekend to start and the epic conclusion to begin*

Read on!

The Bloodbound

**Copy of The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey given by Literary Agent Lisa Rodgers in exchange for an honest review**

Sometimes, the best books you don’t discover. Instead, they find you.

Like The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey, for instance. I had no idea this book existed. It had never slipped onto my radar and I had no idea the author existed. I might have never discovered it, if I hadn’t happened to be introduced to Lisa at WorldCon last year and the topic of my book review blog hadn’t been brought up. A few months later, a box of Jabberwocky goodies arrived at my door, courtesy of Lisa. Amongst them was The Bloodbound. It took me a while to actually get to reading this book (and considering Lisa’s kindness, I really should have read this sooner), but perhaps I was meant to read this book at this moment. Because wow, did I need to read this book right now.

I am so thankful for it.

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When I started reading The Bloodbound, it immediately felt like coming home. I’m not exactly sure how this is, considering this book was literally dropped in my lap as a surprise. Perhaps it was because I haven’t read something with a historical feel in quite some time, even though stories about knights were my bread and butter growing up. Perhaps it was because I’ve always been a sucker for writers who give attention to the details and aren’t afraid of the gruesome ones–and The Bloodbound was filled with both. Perhaps it was because there was a complicated love triangle that mirrored ever so slightly to what I am dealing with currently in my life, so I was desperate for any sort of guidance of what I should do or solace that love would win out in the end. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these things.

Or perhaps it was simply because of Alix Black.

Our heroine, a lady and scout who moves up the ranks in surprising ways, I immediately latched onto Alix’s strength. Mostly because I wasn’t shown only her prowess in battle, her resistance against gender limitations, her fierce tongue or how she carried on and made tough choices despite what she struggled with personally. I also saw her vulnerability. Her nervousness, her doubting her own skills and decisions, her mistakes, risking her heart and being confused. In her, I saw pieces of myself and admired pieces that I’m lacking, yet Alix exemplifies, to the point where it emboldens me to want to emulate her a little bit more; be a little braver, take a few more risks, have confidence in my voice and trust my heart. Alix was so much more than just a simple character in a story that you read and enjoy, then promptly forget about.

To me, Alix was real. And she’s bloody inspiring.

Needless to say, I enjoyed this book thoroughly and devoured it. Especially once I reached the end. I’d be lying if I said I had to make a microwavable meal for dinner the night I finished the book, as it distracted me from reality so well that I missed my eating window before work and had to scramble to get something into my stomach. It was beautifully written, the characters are fantastically complex and realistically three-dimensional, and the warfare and political schemes were a delight to get lost in.

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I’m pretty sure that Lisa, the kind aforementioned literary agent who sent me a copy of book, knew that I would fall so hard for Alix and the world she lives in and is trying to save…as she also sent me copies of books two and three in the trilogy. *bows down in gratitude* She might not have known how much I needed this book when I finally found time to read it, but I am seriously thankful for it and the courage–and hope–I found reading it.

Read on!

PS: I also included both versions of the cover, because holy goodness, they are both so gorgeous.

Warlock Holmes: The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles

** I was given an early copy of the book by the G.S. Denning, because he’s merciful and knows how eagerly I have been awaiting this book. He’s also horrible. Read on to find out why.**

So, friends.

Warlock Holmes: The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles.

Holy shit.

If you read my review of Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone, the first book in this series, you know how hard I’ve fallen for this retelling. How well the characters captivated my mind, captured my heart and did their best to give me abs (thanks to laughter–in case you had any idea that Warlock and his wacky impropriety or Watson and his esteemed passion for being properly English somehow encouraged me to work out. I confess that you are sadly mistaken and I’m still ab-less–but I might have laugh lines when I get older, just from this series alone).

I had really high expectations for this book. It does contain my favorite Holmes story, after all. And as I became, dare I label it, friends with the author, I became even more invested and my expectations continued to rise.

I’m delighted to report that those expectations were not disappointed.

(I would like to offer a little caveat real quick and let you know that being friends, per say, with the mind behind the madness does not taint the outcome of this review at all–which you might find hard to believe, considering this one is glowing. Nor does getting surprised with an early copy of the book. If you don’t trust my word that is positive review is unbiased, why don’t you check out the book and let me know what you think? I promise the story will speak for itself.)

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First off, I absolutely love the way the book was organized. You get a couple, shorter sections covering various cases/stories before you get to the meat and potatoes of the book (which, in this case, involved the most interesting hell-hound I’ve ever encountered and a very unfortunate family). The stories before the main event were no filler or fluff, either. All of them were a joy to read and I actually read all four cases in one sitting, they were that un-put-down-able (because that’s a word).

(I would like to take this moment to also formally deny that the lack of productivity at work last Thursday had absolutely no correlation to that reading-binge. None. At all.)

I actually annoyed one of my coworkers because I kept switching between giggling and suppressed snort-laughter for the entire two hours I read those first four cases. But I couldn’t help it. You try and read about Grogsson’s SPOILER SPOILER or Warlock SPOILER sneeze SPOILER or Watson SPOILER SPOILER dang Canadian SPOILER SPOILER or Mrs. Hudson SPOILER that smut did what? SPOILER and try not to laugh. It’s practically impossible.

Mix in all of that humor, the clever one-liners and fantastic references, and you already have a recipe for a seriously awesome book. But then you read the tale of the Baskervilles and you get another element that you didn’t see as much of in the first part of the book, yet it also didn’t feel out of place sneaking its way into this case. Instead, it complemented this retelling and fulfilled all expectations.

The element of darkness.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of grotesque details that threads throughout the series that is utterly fantastic (and sometimes makes me question my decision to eat while reading), but the darkness that surrounded the twist in Baskervilles surprised me. And I immediately loved it, even if reading about it made my heart hurt a little. It gave the story even more depth than it already has and complicated Warlock’s complexity. I finished the book feeling absolutely content.

Well, almost content.

I know what you’re waiting for. Nicole, you mentioned that the author was horrible in the first paragraph. I’m dying to know why. Oh, I’ll tell you why.

The ending.

That single bloody line.

How dare you, sir. *stares straight at Denning* That’s right, I’m talking directly to you, now. You know what you did. You know exactly what. *grumbles about book three’s unknown publication date and other spoiler-y unmentionables*

Now I realize that you, dear reader, have no idea what I’m talking about. Luckily, I have the perfect remedy for you. (Hint: it’s reading the book, which could actually be pre-ordered (before May 16th) or purchased (after the 16th) here or here or here. You’re welcome.)

Read on!

PS: Also, that cover art? *drools*

The Desert Spear

So, I have some mixed feelings about this book.

Second in The Demon Cycle, I was so jazzed to read The Desert Spear after tearing through The Warded Man. I fell in love with Arlen and his intense, moving journey–not to mention the other characters we followed through this vivid, fantastic world tainted by corlings. So infatuated was I by Arlen that when the The Desert Spear started out with Jardir and his story, I just wanted to skip ahead and get to the characters I really cared about.

It didn’t help that it took roughly 100 pages for me to remember who Jardir was.

Boy, did that revelation hit like a thunderclap. It wasn’t because Brett did a poor job at reorienting the reader back into this world and Jardir’s role in it. I honestly think it’s because I read a couple books in-between this book and the first in the series and I just completely forgot his significance. These books are jammed packed with events and characters and interlacing plotlines, so I’m not surprised that I forgot a debatable “minor” character who suddenly became a very big deal. Personally, I didn’t see Jardir as a major player in the first book, so I didn’t make any effort to remember him (obviously). So the book started off a little slow to me and I think, had I realized his connection and importance earlier, like I should have, I would have enjoyed the first part of The Desert Spear a lot more than I did. Hence the disservice I feel I did to an otherwise really awesome book.

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Yet once I did remember and we were reunited with some of our main players from The Warded Man, I was certainly hooked.

And that ending.

One of my favorite aspects of The Demon Cycle so far is the interlacing of narratives. I love how the books are formatted into parts, focusing on a certain character or time period, before moving on. And sometimes, particularly in this book, I wasn’t sure how everything was going to come together, or if it would. Yet the second half of the book was just a constant barrage of epiphanies as the connections between characters and events gained clarity and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I am sill blown away of how everything came together–and still pissed how the book ended right before the explosion I knew was coming actually went BOOM.

I also really enjoyed how different Jardir and his people’s culture was and how that difference was brought to light within the book, complicating the plot. It did get a bit confusing, trying to keep all of the titles straight, but I really enjoyed having my own comfort zone challenged in this way.

However, there did feel like there were a lot more instances of rape in this book that made me a bit squeamish. There was one scene I remember distinctly that caused me to stop reading entirely for a few days, I was so uncomfortable. And I don’t get uncomfortable easily. I’m not saying this was necessarily a bad aspect of the book, but it was one that made it difficult to read, at times.

If you read my reviews, you might have noticed that I don’t have a lot of mixed or negative reviews. I usually just fall in love with a book and rave about it until my fingers come off. But The Desert Spear definitely challenged me. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t fall in love like I did with The Warded Man. Yet I most certainly am very eager to read The Daylight Spear and see what happens next.

Read on!

The Lies of Locke Lamora

1.

I read a lot of books. I read a lot of good books. Hell, I usually rate most of the books I read 4+ stars because, as a reader, it doesn’t take a lot to please me and it takes a helluva lot to make me think a book isn’t enjoyable. That being said, The Lies of Locke Lamora deserves a category all of it’s own. This book…it is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. And considering I got made fun of in middle school for reading like it was the only way I could breathe, that statement says a lot. To read something so…refreshing, is an experience I don’t usually get to undergo very often. And it wasn’t just the story itself, that I enjoyed immensely, that made this book so enjoyable and so difficult to put down. It wasn’t the fantastic world and its rich depth. It wasn’t the beautiful banter, heart-wrenching one-liners or the wide array of tone that constantly awed me. It wasn’t even the amazing chemistry between the characters, who I got ridiculously attached to (to the point that I unconsciously wrote my short story with my protagonist named Lanora and named my four cannibal characters on board game night after the four Gentlemen Bastards). No, what made this book so damn enjoyable and refreshing was the beautiful, expertly unique way it was written.

2.

It all went downhill on page 466.

You see, when I first started reading this book, I was constantly in a state of tension. As the world and the characters were being introduced and I immediately fell in love with Locke Lamora and his knack for antics (and his natural genius), I was constantly waiting for something to go wrong. Especially as we were thrown into Locke’s most recent brilliant thieving scheme. I knew, without a doubt, that I couldn’t be lured into a sense of false security. I couldn’t trust that things were going to continue going right. I wasn’t that lucky and neither was Locke, even though he thought he was. I had to be ready for everything to go downhill.

The first one hundred pages went by.

Then the next.

And the next.

Suddenly, without even realizing that I had fallen into the false comfort that I was so determined to avoid when I first started out, I wasn’t nervous at all. I had the utmost confidence in Locke and the rest of the Gentlemen Bastards. They were going to pull of their scheme. They were going to continue twisting everyone to their rules and whims. They were going to evade the Grey King. They were going to continue weaseling out of Barsavi’s fingertips. I had no doubts. No fears.

And then I reached page 466.

3.

I’m not talking about simple ways to stand out, writing wise, like vocabulary usage or expert sentence crafting (both which were still present within this novel). I’m talking about the actual way it was written. I think the book incorporated three main elements that shaped this: chapters set in the present, set in the past (usually told through Interludes) or focused on worldbuilding. We would start reading in one of these elements–let’s say the present, to make things simple–reading about Lukas Fehrwight planning to steal from Don Lorenzo Salvara, for example. Then, at a very pivotal moment, the chapter ends and the next chapter is set in the past, when Locke is but a mere boy trying to past another of Chain’s tests. We’re angry that we just got taken away from what we really cared about, yet we are suddenly engrossed at what is happening “now”, in the past. I’m sure you can guess what happens next: at that pivotal moment, when our emotional investment is at its peak, we are ripped away into another element. That’s been done in books before, this playing with time. I’ve always been impressed by this. Yet then you incorporate the worldbuilding–entire chunks of chapters thrown in, interrupting the narrative to describe how a certain game is played or how one culture has these quirks–and suddenly, you’re not just playing with time, but you feel like you’re getting a crash course in Camorr history. These interruptions feel like exactly that, these random insertions of knowledge that usually aren’t written so bluntly, so encyclopedia-esqe. And you would think that the natural reaction would be to blink in confusion at these interruptions to the main narrative. Yet that was never the case. Every break, every switch in time or character, every history lecture…it always tied back together and made the utmost sense. Every single time.

4.

I had the unfortunate luck to not read through The Lies of Locke Lamora as quickly as I wanted to (translation: in one sitting). Life, as it does, would get in the way, causing me to go days without reading. Thankfully, the story was never difficult to get back into and always easy to re-engross myself exactly where I left off.

One evening, at work, I innocently picked it back up and decided to sneak in a few chapters before we closed the library. It’d been a few days since I got to read and I really needed to get back into Locke’s life. I opened the book and began reading the last paragraph on page 465.

My coworkers stared at me in startled surprise when I threw the book down against the desk, inhaling rather sharply, after barely dipping into page 466.

My trust had been broken. The realization that I had built up a false comfort at all finally dawned. I reread sentences, trying to piece together the reality of what I just read. And I forced myself to continue for a few more pages before work got in the way.

Three deaths.

Three pages.

Three days without reading in protest.

How could you?

5.

I was blown away by Lynch’s mastery. How he could interweave so many threads at once and never make me feel lost. How I slowly learned how to pick up on how different threads would connect to the main narrative before reaching the obvious connections. I will never fully understand how purposefully every chapter must have been placed, every clue and hint dropped, in order to make this book as unique and fantastic to read as it was. How any author could be so talented to purposefully create this almost seems unfair. And brilliant. And completely jaw-drop worthy. And he standards that the rest of the series has now risen to, after reading The Lies of Locke Lamora? Lynch has skyrocketed to hang amongst the top of my favorite authors’ list, but he will have to pull a very Locke-like stunt to surpass the book that made me fall in love with said character with his other works.

I’m very, very eager to find out if he does.

Read on!

Waiting On Wednesday: The Olympian Affair

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine where we readers salivate over the books we wish were on our bookshelves yesterday.

I know we’re supposed to highlight books that we’re stoked are being published, but this week, I’m taking it a step further and highlighting a book that hasn’t even been written yet, but still is definitely going to be published…we’ll just be waiting a long time.

But based off how much I adored the first book, it’s going to be worth it, I think.

I’m waiting on Jim Butcher’s The Olympian Affair, the second installment of The Cinder Spires series. In his steampunk debut, Butcher absolutely rocked it. From his fantastic characters (particularly men like Captain Grimm and Benjamin, who raised the bar as to what I expect from a gentleman), the vivid world and the ultimate dominance of a cat named Rowl, The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a book where the only times I put it down was to pause and wipe my eyes from laughter. It was funny, it was moving, it was such a joy to read and ever since I turned the last page, I’ve been itching for the sequel.

Which hasn’t been written yet.

Hasn’t even been started yet.

Butcher is writing Peace Talks (The Dresden Files, #16) first and then he’ll write The Olympian Affair. (I also must say that I’m eagerly awaiting Peace Talks, as I’m a huge Harry Dresden fan, so I’m not complaining about this in the slightest). So really, this post could just be titled: “Waiting (Gladly) On Jim Butcher” and it would be just as apt. Because I’m eager for everything he’s working on and while no publication dates are in sight, you know I’ll be the first one in line to pick up either of his books once they grace the shelves.

So, until we can read the next fantastic work by Butcher, let’s just enjoy him cosplaying as the fantastic Captain Grimm, shall we?

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Read on!