Tag Archives: YA romance

Book Review of The Beauty of Darkness by Mary Pearson

BeautyofDarknessThe Beauty of Darkness is the third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles by Mary Pearson.

SUMMARY (from back): Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous – what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I loved how Mary Pearson wrapped up this trilogy for the most part. In the third book we see more growth in Lia, the main protagonist, as she must overcome disbelief of those around her and assert herself as the leader of Morrighan even though it assuredly means she will die.

Driven by an ancient prophecy, Lia wrestles to overcome the neigh-sayers around her, says “no” to her heart, and plants a stake in the ground that she would save her people.  The courage of conviction that would take speaks volumes about this character who teens can look to as a role model.

Pearson does an awesome job managing the tender relationship between Lia and Rafe. The two sovereigns are stuck in a political conundrum, both their countries needing their leadership, yet as the reader, I felt for them. I longed to see them together.

And with that, I loved how Kaden and Pauline came to love each other. I was cheering duringteh last chapter when Kaden is holding Rhys and he kisses Pauline. Ah… be still my heart. A great ending/beginning for them.

There were two parts I didn’t like about this book. First, I didn’t like how the last battle was resolved. As with epic battles, Lia finds herself between a rock and a hard place, but Pearson extricates her too conveniently for my liking. I hate it when that happens. Lia should have had to dig her way out, not be rescued by the nebulous extraneous third party that does play much of a role at all in the book. I wanted more.

My other gripe was, I didn’t understand why Lia, during the final battle, had to fall off that cliff. It seemed an unnecessary add-on. But this isn’t a major issue.

Overall, this was a great conclusion to this series and I was satisfied. I give this a 4.5/5.0!

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FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and the award winning Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Would you leave a review on Amazon after you read them? Thanks so much!

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Cover Reveal for Crystal Crowned by Elise Kova!!

From time to time I get to help one of my favorite authors, Elise Kova, reveal the cover for her next completely amazing novel. This time it’s for Crystal Crowned, the last book in her Air Awakens series. I have mixed emotions about this cover reveal because it marks the end of this completely amazing series. I have found it to be a rare series that never fails to send me on an emotional roller coaster then leave me with a book hangover…And I don’t want to see it end. But the cover is so beautiful and you can’t help loving it….

CrystalCrowned

Release Date: July 12th 2016
Crystal Crowned Synopsis

Long live Solaris.

One bloodthirsty ruler has been overthrown by another, casting the shadow of death over the Solaris Empire. Vhalla Yarl stands upon the stage of fate, prepared to do battle one final time. Fragile alliances will be tested and new bonds will be formed as the world is reshaped. She fights as the champion of peace, but when the night is darkest will she be able to pay the price of a new dawn?

PREORDER LINKS:

    

About the Author

3f36c-elise2bkovaElise Kova has always had a passion for storytelling. She wrote her first novella, a high-fantasy, in sixth grade. Over the years she’s honed her love of literature with everything from fantasy to romance, science fiction to mystery, and whatever else catches her eye.

Elise lives in Saint Petersburg, Florida, where she’s currently working on the next installment in her debut YA fantasy series: Air Awakens. She enjoys video games, anime, table-top role playing games, and many other forms of “geekdom.” She loves talking with fans on Twitter (@EliseKova) and Facebook.

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My Website: http://www.EliseKova.com

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Review of The Affiliate

The Affiliate CoverEngaging plot. Complex world. Scintillating romance. This is how I summarize The Affiliate by K. A. Linde.

SUMMARY (From back):  On the day of her Presenting, in front of the entire Byern Court, seventeen-year-old Cyrene Strohm’s lifelong plans come to fruition when she’s chosen for one of the most prestigious positions in her homeland—an Affiliate to the Queen.

Or so she thinks.

When Cyrene receives a mysterious letter and an unreadable book, she finds nothing is as it seems. Thrust into a world of dangerous political intrigue and deadly magic, Cyrene’s position only grows more treacherous when she finds herself drawn to the one man she can never have…

King Edric himself.

Cyrene must decide if love is truly worth the price of freedom.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I’m a sucker for a believable romance and this book definitely had that in spades. But there’s more. Linde introduces us to the complex world of Byren that is filled with numerous factions vying for their own gain and thus not friendly to each other…it’s the stuff great stories are made of, right?

The writing flowed and drew me in to the world. One thing I can’t stand is when I notice the writing, for it detracts from the narrative. This was not at all the case in this book. The prose hid behind the scenes and carried the story along.  I do have one complaint though and it’s purely one of style, but all the description of a new place/person was always in a large paragraph as the author introduced the “thing.” I prefer to have the details spread throughout several paragraphs so I can more easily “see” rather than be “told.” But as I say, that is more  a matter of preference.

The characters were a good mix of the best and worst of Byren and I enjoyed them. We start with the main protagonist, Cyrene who is a young woman whose selection has determined her path in life. Throughout the book we see her grow from a naive girl who has been raised in a privileged household into a young woman who catches the eye of the king, introducing her to a host of challenges I dare say her upbringing never prepared her for. We see her wrestle with inner conflicts about “knowing” the king but at every turn she holds firm to her values and principles. *claps* Good for her! I hate characters who are push-overs!

We also meet Cyrene’s best friend growing up, Rhea, and what a great friend she is. I loved her humility but helpfulness. She’s the best friend everyone wishes they had. And then there’s the bad boy, Ahlvie who flirts with trouble, keeping it as a close friend who definitely pushes the plot forward.

But we also have the folks of royalty before whom Cyrene must adapt in her new role: the king of course who surprises her senseless as she catches his eye. So naive is she that she doesn’t initially understand he views her more favorably than others. But of course the king’s affections can’t be left unchallenged, for that would make for a rather boring narrative. So, Cyrene ends up reporting to the queen… yes, exactly… And said queen is very aware of her husband’s interest in Cyrene. You see the conflict.*Rubs hands together and grins*

As for the plot, the narrative is well-paced with sufficient action and reflection sprinkled throughout. One objection I had to the plot is one of the initial scenes, that of a hazing-like ritual that happened completely unexpectedly and almost seems out of place. I believe I understand why the scene is there, but I would say it was too sudden as to make it seem strange and out of place.

That aside, I thought the author also did a good job planting two central mysteries to keep readers interested: the meaning of the Presenting letter and the book that no one but Cyrene can see writing in. And this is where Linde leaves us at the end of book one, going off to search out the meaning of both. I’ll bite. And now I can’t wait until book two comes out!!

I give this 4.5 stars!

Buy The Affiliate on Amazon

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FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and the award winning Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Would you leave a review on Amazon after you read them? Thanks so much!

Cover Reveal for Water’s Wrath by Elise Kova!!

I have the distinct honor of helping one of my favorite authors reveal the cover for her next completely amazing novel, Water’s Wrath! I’m so excited about this next book in the Air Awakens series. This has been a rare series that never fails to send me on an emotional roller coaster then leave me with a book hangover…Yes, it’s that good. So I’m super stoked to show you the cover for Book 4!!! It’s so beautiful….

Continue reading Cover Reveal for Water’s Wrath by Elise Kova!!

Review of Earth’s End

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This book touched my emotions in so many ways! Earth’s End by Elise Kova made my emotions soar, just to turn them raw. Rarely have I felt a book so deeply.

SUMMARY (from back): A woman awoken in air, a soldier forged by fire, a weapon risen from blood.

Vhalla Yarl has made it to the warfront in the North. Forged by blood and fire, she has steeled her heart for the final battle of the Solaris Empire’s conquest. The choices before Vhalla are no longer servitude or freedom, they are servitude or death. The stakes have never been higher as the Emperor maintains his iron grip on her fate, holding everything Vhalla still has left to lose in the balance.

WHAT I THOUGHT (WARNING THERE ARE SPOILERS!): Elise Kova is proving to be a master storyteller! I wanted to believe in the fairy tale relationship of Vhalla and Aldrick. I longed to.  At the beginning of the book the narrative picks up resolving the angst left at the end of Fire Falling where we didn’t know if Prince Aldrick perished in his fall or not. I sweated three long months refusing to believe he could have died. And I was right- woohoot!! This discovery shortly into book three eased my heart’s trepidation and I was off on another adventure, happy as a lark.

Vhalla and Aldrick grow much closer and even intimate during the middle of the book, causing my skin to tingle and sending my heart a thumpin’ . I saw the trust they shared and rejoiced for them – could life get any better for the pair??? Yet Kova couldn’t let us live in a fantasy realm, for there is a deeper narrative to be told and she began sprinkling hints that Vhalla was glossing over Aldrick’s faults…starting with his drinking. I will admit I, too, glossed over the prince’s faults in my hunger to view him as Prince Charming.

But even after Vhalla fulfills her vow to the Emperor, gaining the respect of everyone in camp in the process, things come to a head. Oh how I loathed the power-hungry dictator. Very few authors have created villians that get under my skin like this man, but when the emperor asserts himself, we are clear that he controls everything and the lives of everyone within his domain–I cringed. We in America take our freedom SOOO for granted–I was not made to live in subjegation to anyone but the Law, but everyone in the Solaris empire knows a very different truth. Kova did a brilliant job of revealing more of this antagonist throughout the book.

And then the end, the last third of the book, arrived. The first time I read it I kept saying “No! No! This can’t be happening!” I wanted to plug my ears and squeeze my eyes tight and make the upheval stop! I mourned what unfolded and found myself devastated and nearly screaming out in anguish alongside Aldrick.

So I read the book a second time after a day of decompressing…yes it was that good…and found more perspective as I was less emotionally charged. Amidst the chaos, Kova shows us that Vhalla and Aldrick’s relationship is toxic for they are the world of the other and neither has formed a foundation upon which to build something lasting…yet.  Vhalla comes to this realization first and it is only her courage that plunges the pair into a time of learning and personal growth.

This end to the book is very different to the panic from book two. It is a sober recognition that we must each become our own person before we can truly love another. While I resisted “going here,” I’m thrilled Kova is leading the way and I’m anxious to see what the pair learn about themselves in book four.

I gave this 5 stars with no reservations!

Buy Earth’s End on Amazon

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Elise Kova’s Air Awakens Series Music Playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWGY9OSRPT3-n8zGyprDx9EWmZk2JSL22 

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FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and the award winning Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Would you consider leaving a review on Amazon after you read them? Thanks so much!

 

Review of Girl of Fire and Thorns

GirlofFireandThornsCover How do we really know what to believe? This summarizes The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

Summary: Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king–a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young. Most of the chosen do.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I have to say I don’t usually like reads that focus on a religious belief system, but I’m glad I stayed the course because this is a well written series.

In the first book of the trilogy, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, we meet Elisa, second in line to the throne, and in her mind, second in everything–she’s overweight, politically inept and expendable, therefore she’s married off to a foreign magistrate to strengthen the bonds of peace with that land.

What Elisa doesn’t fully appreciate, however, is the godstone that appeared in her navel as an infant on her naming day, something that occurs only every 100 years. She’s confused and frustrated by what it means for her and her life and she struggles to invent an identity for herself that satisfies her.

But other nations have plans for her as the Bearer and they kidnap her. Through her ordeal trekking through barren dessert, the soft girl begins to toughen up and question what she has always been taught. The questioning is where Carson’s brilliance shines, for we all question what we believe from time to time and that questioning usually changes us…at times significantly.

I won’t offer any spoilers but suffice it to say, if you love a good mystery that changes and grows the main protagonist, you’ll love this first book in the series.

I give this 4.5 stars.

Get Girl of Fire and Thorns at Amazon

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FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and the award winning Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Would you consider leaving a review on Amazon after you read them? Thanks so much!

Review of Snow Like Ashes

Snow Like Ashes I loved Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch! From the well-constructed prose to the riveting storyline to the examination of how to always remain “yourself”, no matter the situation.

SUMMARY (from the back): Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics—and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I must begin my critique with the world Raasch built. At the beginning there seemed to be so many kingdoms that it felt overwhelming, but the author sorted out how they came to be. While this first book fleshed out only three of them, I presume Raasch will bring the others in to play in defeating the major conflict as we move into book two.

Another thing I love about this book is where the story picks up…not with defeat looming, not with an enemy attacking, but completely and utterly defeated with only impossible hope spurring on the Winterians. And after hopes have been dashed so many times, few dare to hope again. How many world’s have been built thusly? Not many that I can remember. I love the author daring to rise up, daring to consider the possibility, daring to hope again…awesome…

Raasch also did a masterful job of unveiling a major plot twist three quarters of the way through that made so much sense but took me completely by surprise. I’ve read a lot of epic fantasy and it takes a lot to “pull one over on me” but she did it and thrilled me. Well done.

The main heroine, Meira, is a believable 16-year-old complete down to her impulsiveness and lack of confidence. I admire that she loves her country so much that she is willing to act for what she believes even if it means her own life is forfeit. That commitment makes her someone I could support and root for. The other theme I appreciated for Meira is her wrestling with how she can remain true to herself when those in authority over her dictate so much of her life. I enjoyed her search for answers that work for her. How true that is for each of us…we must seek to always be ourselves despite peer pressure or those in authority over us.

As for a budding love triangle, we definitely have one between Mather and Theron, but I appreciate how Raasch constructed it…not whiny, but testosterone driven guys who will clearly come to blows at some point. Personally, I’m rooting for Theron as he seems deeper and able to appreciate more deeply. Will that relationship be possible though? Hard to say.

I gave this 5 stars.

Buy Snow Like Ashes at Amazon

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FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and the award winning Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Would you consider leaving a review on Amazon after you read them? Thanks so much!

Review of Ignite

Ignite Cover Action. Vulnerability. Suspense.

This is how I summarize Ignite (Book 2 in the Defy series) by Sara B. Larson, the sequel to Defy. Read my review of Defy

SUMMARY (From back): Murder, kidnapping, and forbidden romance abound in this thrilling sequel to Sara B. Larson’s acclaimed YA debut, DEFY.

Alexa continues to harbor a secret love for the newly crowned King Damian, yet she remains by his side as his guard and ever committed to helping him rebuild Antion and reclaim the hope of Antion’s people. However, when a new threat to Damian and his kingdom emerges, and blame is cast on the once friendly nation of Blevon, Alexa knows things are not what they seem. Once again the fate of her country hangs in the balance. Will Alexa be able to protect her king and uncover the true enemy — before it’s too late?

WHAT I THOUGHT: Larson expands what she began in book one in this engaging tale. Prince Damian is as charming and beautiful as ever and the love triangle with Rylan gets no easier for Alexa. She vascilates between the two men she loves, knowing Rylan is the “sensible” choice for her husband for she is “just” a member of the king’s guard without privilege or honor as befitting the queen of a nation. Yet her heart knows better…

Meanwhile, a band of strange sorcerers visits Antion–sorcerers undetectible by Damian–and begin a campaign to overwhelm the monarchy and citizens, with mind control. Larson did a good job of painting a very bleak situation that I couldn’t easily see how it would resolve. And what’s more, she put the characters through their paces and did not make it resolve easily (good job)! I hate books where an author backs the characters into a corner, then makes the conflict resolve so easily as to make it annoying. Larson did not commit that sin 🙂

In fact, I LOVED how the author used the climax of the central conflict to force Alexa to at last confess her deep, deep love of Damian, getting her logic out of the way and laying bare, in a very vulnerable way, her heart for the man. I still remember the scene…Damian asks, “Did you mean what you said?” and Alexa confesses, “Yes.” Oh, be still my heart…

One thing I still don’t understand…why was Alexa chosen? And why does a nation want her so badly that they send a sorcerer to apprehend her? I guess this is to be explored in the next book in the series…hope…hope.

Which brings me to my one complaint. Larson leaves you hanging at the end. So much is left open and while I understand she wants us to buy the next book to see how it all works out, I felt dissatisfied and empty at how she left us after such a gripping rollercoaster ride. Nonetheless, I plan to read the next installment 🙂

Overall, I give Ignite 4.5 stars.

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FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and the award winning Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Would you consider leaving a review on Amazon after you read them? Thanks so much!

 

Review of Defy

DefyCoverRomance. Mystery. Twists. This is how I summarize Defy by Sara B. Larson.

Summary from back: 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?

WHAT I THOUGHT: I will say up front I’m a sucker for a messy love story set against a fantasy world. I enjoy love sprouting in a barren wasteland, or though the cracks in the sidewalk where it’s impossible for it to thrive, but it does–it persists and refuses to give up. You kinda have to be this way to fully enjoy this book because a love triangle is a central theme throughout. If you despise this type of conflict, this book is probably not for you.

The book starts with an intriguing premise–there are breeding houses established by the maniacal king to produce warriors to support his long-term and unending war efforts. They are painted in sufficient depth as to create revulsion and disgust and set up a central part of the conflict, namely that Alexa Holden masquerades as a boy (aided by her twin brother) to avoid said houses and their abuse.

Of course Alexa can’t just be an ordinary “boy”…that would never do in a fantasy story. She discovers she has traces of a gift for sword-fighting passed down from her father who we find out was a sorcerer, in a land where sorcerery is frowned upon and made to be a crime punishable by death.

I liked the setting Larson situated the book in, a jungle, which added creepy crawlies and jaguars that aren’t in most YA fantasy. It was a nice change.

A few issues I had with the plot: We never understand why King Hector, the maniacal monarch, is the way he is. We also don’t understand why he is at war. He trumped up a bogus reason to get the people to fight against a neighboring kingdom, but we never understand why. We also don’t come to understand why certain people are sorcerers. What’s the background narrative about how sorcerers came to be in the land. We also never understand how so many folks knew Alexa was a girl masquerading as a boy. Perhaps that is yet to come in book two, but it’s certainly a question.

One other thing, Larson needs to expand her repetoire of ways to describe a character’s “inscrutible” look. She mixed in a few but way too many “inscrutible”s for my liking.

Overall, I enjoyed the read and give it 4 stars. I’m curious to see what book 2 has in store

Buy Defy at Amazon

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FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and the award winning Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Would you consider leaving a review on Amazon after you read them? Thanks so much!

Review of The Black Mage

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Intrigue. Magic. A Dark Prince.

This is how I summarize a series I did not want to see end… I highly recommend The Dark Mage series by Rachel Carter.

SUMMARY (from back cover): Before the age of seventeen the young men and women of Jerar are given a choice –follow tradition, or pursue a trial year in one of the realm’s three war schools to study as a soldier, knight or mage…

For 15-year-old Ryiah the choice has always been easy. Become a warrior and leave the boring confines of her lowborn life behind. Set to enroll in the School of Knighthood on the eve of her next birthday, plans suddenly shift when her twin brother discovers powers. Hoping that hers will soon follow, she enrolls with Alex at the Academy instead –the realm’s most notorious war school for those with magic.

Yet when she arrives Ry finds herself competing against friend and foe for one of the exalted apprenticeships. Every “first-year” is given a trial year to prove their worth –and no amount of hard work and drive will guarantee them a spot. It seems like everyone is rooting for her to fail –and first and foremost among them Prince Darren, the school prodigy who has done nothing but make life miserable since she arrived.
When an accidental encounter leads Ryiah and Darren to an unlikely friendship she is convinced nothing good will come of it. But the lines become blurred when she begins to improve –and soon she is a key competitor for the faction of Combat… Still, nothing is ever as it seems –and when the world comes crashing down around her, Ry is forced to place faith in the one thing she can believe in –herself. Will it be enough?

WHAT I THOUGHT: You’ll notice I am doing a review of all three books at once. There’s a reason for that, namely, once I got going in the series, I didn’t want to stop to think about the first book, or even the second as I finished it…I wanted to keep reading! I was hooked.

Book One started out a bit slow for my taste, but I kept thinking I’d give it a chance and see where the author took me. Obviously, I was not disappointed. I thought each book built nicely on the next and the storyline compelled me forward.

I loved the protagonist, Ryiah. She began as a regular girl of 15 and through her first year studies at the school, was torn down by a prejudiced instructor as well as her own insecurities as well as second guessing about a certain boy prince. But she grows stronger and in book two, we see her continue to evolve in her magic as well as personally. SPOILER ALERT – I absolutely loved Darren’s marriage proposal at the end of book 2. What a guy! Then in book 3, coming to understand the king, his expectations, and how he raised his sons, Ryiah grows stronger still. I can’t imagine fighting all out against the love of your life, regardless of the circumstance. It truly took a lot of courage on both her and the prince’s part.

That said, I did not appreciate the lack of editing. I found several places where the wrong word was used. I always hate it when that happens for it draws attention to the craft and distracts from the narrative. For this, I always deduct 10% from the rating. That aside, I would recommend this book if you’re looking for a good plot and dynamic characters.

Overall, I give book one 4 stars, books 2 – 4.5 stars and book 3 – 4 stars.

Buy The Black Mage book one (at Amaozn).

PLEASE NOTE!  If you enjoyed this post, be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you thought and then sign up to be notified the instant a new post goes live. Scroll back to top of this page and enter your email.

FREE EBOOKS: I also invite you to download the free ebooks of the Prequel and the award winning Book one in the Andy Smithson epic fantasy series. Would you consider leaving a review on Amazon after you read them? Thanks so much!