Review: “The Faithless Hawk” by Margaret Owen

Title: The Faithless Hawk
Series: The Merciful Hawk #2
Author: Margaret Owen
Publication Date: August 18, 2020
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Court intrigue, secrets, and betrayal abound in this thrilling series ending.

As the new chieftain of the Crows, Fie knows better than to expect a royal to keep his word. Still, she’s hopeful that Prince Jasimir will fulfill his oath to protect her fellow Crows. But then black smoke fills the sky, signaling the death of King Surimir and the beginning of Queen Rhusana’s merciless bid for the throne.

With the witch queen using the deadly plague to unite the nation of Sabor against the Crows – and add numbers to her monstrous army – Fie and her band are forced to go into hiding, leaving the country to be ravaged by the plague. However, they’re all running out of time before the Crows starve in exile and Sabor is lost forever.

As desperate Fie calls on old allies to help take Rhusana down from within her own walls. But inside the royal palace. The only difference between a conqueror and thief is an army. To survive, Fie must unravel not only Rhusana’s plot, but ancient secrets of the Crows – secrets that could save her people, or set the world ablaze.

The Merciful Crow was one of my most favorite titles to come out last year. I loved its world, its story and characters; I loved the romance and the found family element of it but above all I loved Fie. She’s feisty and sharp and so, so, so righteously angry. I loved her every thorny bit and her hidden soft side. So when the chance to read its sequel early came up I grabbed it with both of my greedy, impatient hands. (I might have used my feet, too. That’s how much I wanted it!)

And, all the merciful gods and goddesses, this book was everything!

The Faithless Hawk solidified TMC‘s place as one of my forever favorite series. It tied the whole duology neatly, picking up the threads left over from the first book for a most satisfying ending.

But not without putting Fie, Tavin, and Jasimir through the grinder first.

The story hits the ground running, loaded with explosive revelations even from the very first chapters. Fie, now chief of her band of Crows, meets one of the old Crow gods and receives some very cryptic stuff about the Crows’ birthright, the oath she thought she’d already fulfilled, and, most important of all, about herself — who she was, is, and her possible future self. With the knowledge that more rides on her making good on her part of the bargain and with Queen Rhusana becoming bolder and more ruthless in her quest to grab power, Fie reunites with Tavin and Jasimir to save the Crows and, in turn, the whole of Sabor.

Switching up from TMC‘s quest-type adventure where she took us on a trip throughout Sabor, Margaret Owen seamlessly takes readers deeper into the more intricate parts of the world she has created, exploring the complexities of court politics and social class workings. It was an interesting change, one that I enjoyed very much as it made me understand Fie’s world better — how it worked from the inside, why things were the way they were. Coupled with what had been already laid out in the first book, the new insights TFH gave me made me appreciate Owen’s worldbuilding work and plotting even more. I was detailed, well-planned, and executed with careful precision.

Amazing worldbuilding and plotting aside, what I loved most about this whole series were its characters. Having been thrown together in book one and going through some really tough stuff, Fie, Tavin, and Jasimir formed a strong bond. That bond, however, was tested throughout TFH. I don’t want to go into details because I might accidentally spoil something, but the trio do come through it — bruised and battered, but also a little bit wiser and a whole lot tougher and stronger.

Looking back to the start of their stories, Fie, Tavin, and Jasimir have all grown so much, Fie most of all. While she’s pretty much the same Fie we’ve known and loved from the first book, she’s more vulnerable in this sequel, unsure of herself, and, behind the tough exterior, scared for everyone she loves. But she’s also more open, more in touch with her powers as a Crow witch, and still as relentless as ever in fighting against the injustices done against her people. Of course, though the trio often find themselves in some very dangerous situations in this book, everything is not all doom and gloom all the time. Owen generously injects much-needed levity and humor throughout TFH. Honestly, she got me cackling my head off a lot of times while I was reading this book.

The Faithless Hawk is a gem of a sequel and ending to an amazing series. It tackles issues that hit too close to home sometimes, especially given the state of our own world. Margaret Owen shines as a writer in this one. With her expert plotting and worldbuilding, and especially her characters — from the mains to the secondary ones — she breathes life to such a special story, one that I will be coming back to again and again.

m-owen-headshotBorn and raised at the end of the Oregon Trail, MARGARET OWEN first encountered an author in the wild in fourth grade. Roughly twenty seconds later, she decided she too would be an author, the first of many well-thought-out life decisions.

The career plan shifted frequently as Margaret spent her childhood haunting the halls of Powell’s Books. After earning her degree in Japanese, her love of espresso called her north to Seattle, where she worked everything from thrift stores to presidential campaigns. The common thread between every job can be summed up as: lessons were learned.

Fortunately, it turned out that fourth-grade Margaret was onto something. She now spends her days wrestling disgruntled characters onto the page, and negotiating a long-tern hostage situation with her two monstrous cats. (There is surprisingly little difference between the two.) In her free time, she enjoys exploring ill-advised travel destinations, and raising money for social justice nonprofits through her illustrations.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

AUGUST 23

TBR and Beyond – Welcome Post
Lost Girl in Bookland – Review
Ideally Inspired Reviews – Review, Favourite Quotes & Playlist
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AUGUST 24

Kait Plus Books – Promo Post
The Bookwyrm Den – Review
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AUGUST 25

Confession of a YA Reader – Review
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Starlight Reads – Review & Moodboard

AUGUST 26

Books with Joy – Interview
In Between Book Pages – Review & Favourite Quotes
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AUGUST 27

Tales Of Dreams And Nightmares – Promo post
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AUGUST 28

Stuck in the Stacks – Interview
Young at Heart Reader – Review & Moodboard
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AUGUST 29

Allisa White’s Book Blog – Review
Lore of the Books – Review & Favourite Quotes
Levicorpvs Blog – Review & Favourite Quotes

WIN FINISHED COPIES OF “THE MERCIFUL CROW” AND “THE FAITHLESS HAWK” BY MARGARET OWEN (US/CAN ONLY)

Giveaway ends August 29.

Author Q&A + Sneak Peek: Candace Ganger (Author of “Six Goodbyes We Never Said”)

I’ve always believed that stories are great vehicles to open discussions especially for topics and issues most people often shy away from. Mental health, a topic close to my heart, is one of those so any time a book that promises any representation of this issue comes out I make sure to pay attention.

Six Goodbyes We Never Said, which releases today, tackles death, grief, and mental illness in an introspective and sometimes heartbreaking way. Author Candace Ganger draws from her own experiences and creates a story that’s realistic yet still sensitive, never downplaying the everyday effects of mental illness. I was lucky enough to have had the chance to have her answer a few of my questions about her new book and to be able to give you a little preview of it in this post.

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What inspired you to write “Six Goodbye We Never Said”? 

I wanted to showcase the way my disorders present to help others understand. I’ve written about my struggle with identity and loss as long as I can remember so this novel was a way to finally say goodbye. I’m still struggling with loss, so this was a way to navigate my own grief. That aside, my brother was a U.S. Marine, I have close friends who have fostered and adopted their children, and Six Goodbyes felt like the best place to tell all of these stories at once.

As an author, how important is it to tackle mental health in YA? 

It’s not only important, it’s *the most* important. If we can’t develop empathy for those suffering in silence, are we even human? My teen years were rough because I kept so much of my pain hidden to, what I thought, protect myself. I didn’t want people getting inside my head–I didn’t want to be vulnerable, fear of my pain being used against me. Writing YA helps me tell teen me, “Hey, I see you, girl. You’re not as alone as you think you are so open up a little about what you’re going through to find out how much people care about you.” If I’d heard that then, I’d have endured far less pain, isolation, and loneliness, in the years to come.

What would you like readers to take away from your story after reading it? 

To treat others with kindness and compassion. Our first reaction is usually to anger when someone attacks us or hurts us (because they don’t understand), but nothing is ever solved in hurting others when we’re hurt. You never know what people are going through behind closed doors so take a mi finite to try and understand the reasons why someone is treating you a certain way on any particular day. Kindness matters. It really really does.

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Check out the link below to read the first chapter of Six Goodbyes We Never Said.

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Title: Six Goodbyes We Never Said
Author: Candace Ganger
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her.

Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects.

about the author

Candace Ganger AP_Credit Candace GangerCANDACE GANGER is the author of Six Goodbyes We Never Said and The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash as well as a contributing writer for HelloGiggles and obsessive marathoner. Aside from having past lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and world’s worst vacuum sales rep, she’s also ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike. She lives in Ohio with her family.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

 

 

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Special thanks go out to Sarah Bonamino and Wednesday Books for inviting me to this tour and giving me the chance to read Six Goodbyes We Never Said in advance.

Review: “A Treason of Thorns” by Laura E. Weymouth

A Treason of Thorns (Laura E. Weymouth)Title: A Treason of Thorns
Author: Laura E. Weymouth
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC access provided by the publisher through NetGalley as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

A young girl must decide between duty and heart in this enchanting and haunting YA fantasy.

Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest of nights to keep her warm.

Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.

When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.

Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house – before her house destroy’s everything she’s ever known.

With the hectic thing that was 2018, I missed Laura E. Weymouth’s debut A Light Between Worlds so I’m coming into this new book of hers as a total newbie to her words and worlds. If A Treason of Thorns is anything to go by, however, I think I might just have found a new auto-buy author.

Ultimately a novel about family – of inherited responsibilities and the ghosts of the ones before us – and the bonds that bind us, A Treason of Thorns was a thing of beauty. It was poetic and haunting, lush and dark, atmospheric and almost Gothic. I quickly fell in love with this imagined version of an older England fueled by the magic of six great houses.

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Solid world-building and Weymouth’s almost lyrical writing are two of this book’s many aces. The magic system was a fresh one for me. The thought of old, sentient houses running on ancient magic was such an intriguing idea and I gobbled it up. I had so much fun visualizing what was being described: fireplaces lighting up on their own when you enter a room, moments from the past featuring your forebears playing like scenes from a movie right in front of you. The story’s world is fully alive ready to pop up from the pages.

But, as strong as the world-building and as beautiful as the writing, these elements weren’t what kept me reading.

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A Treason of Thornscharacters remains its strongest suit. I found a compelling protagonist in Violet Sterling. Caught up between duty and the desires of her heart, her dilemma was entirely relatable and very human. She started out the story certain of her purpose and goal – to be Burleigh House’s caretaker, to restore the only home she’d ever known and in turn heal the West Country – her duty having been ingrained in her by her father since her childhood. Uncovering hidden truths, though, Violet quickly realizes that things are not as cut-and-dry. Her situation is made even more complicated when she starts to want things for herself, things that aren’t to Burleigh’s benefit.

I loved Violet. Even from the first few chapters, she made a connection to my heart. She’s stubborn, strong-willed, naive and fallible. Her struggle between what she needed and wanted – family and love, home and heart – was something familiar. I think it’s a bridge we all must cross as we come of age, having the power to choose your own way if only you’d be brave enough to claim it.

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Wyn took his time with me, but eventually, I grew fond of him. He was sort of gray at first, gaining depth as the story progressed. He, like the rest of the secondary characters, added more texture to Violet’s story because, in the end, this is still about her.

In all honesty, I am just floored by how the women in this story were written. They embody strength in different ways, one not less than the others. Mira, the Sterling’s longtime housekeeper who stood as Violet’s mother-figure, showed her strength in the form of loyal and her steadfastness. Frey, the owner of Red Shilling where Violet worked and her father’s lover after her mother left them, showed it in her quiet defiance. Esperanza, the Princess of Wales and King Edgar’s heir, navigated the royal court armed with her cunning, wit and resourcefulness. She was one of the nicest surprises in this book for me as I thought she was going to be an antagonist. It was great being proved wrong.

This review will never do justice to just how good A Treason of Thorns was. It was spellbinding, enchanting. It’s one of the best books I read this year and will surely stay in my head for a long, long time. Teen readers and adults alike will all find something they can relate to in this book. YA fantasy readers will surely eat this story up just like I did. This comes with my wholehearted recommendations. (Also, I’m going to finally pick up A Light Between Worlds after this.)

about the author

Laura E. Weymouth

LAURA E. WEYMOUTH is a Canadian living in exile in America, and the sixth consecutive generation in her family to immigrate from one country to another Born and raised in the Niagara region of Ontario, she now lives at the edge of the woods in western New York, along with her husband, two wild-hearted daughters, a spoiled cat, an old soul of a dog, and an indeterminate number of chickens. She is represented by the inimitable Lauren Spieller of TriadaUS.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

 

Giveaway

Win signed copies of Laura E. Weymouth’s book: The Light Between Worlds and A Treason of Thorns (US/CAN only)

Giveaway ends 24th September.

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SEPTEMBER 10TH

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Utopia State of Mind – Review  + Favourite Quotes
The Book Bratz – Review + Favourite Quotes
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SEPTEMBER 12TH

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Guest Post
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Synopses by Sarge – Review

SEPTEMBER 13TH

Kait Plus Books – Interview
Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
Books of Teacups – Review
Chrikaru Reads – Review
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Morgan Vega – Review + Playlist + Favourite Quotes
Luchia Houghton Blog – Review + Favourite Quotes
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NovelKnight – Guest Post
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SEPTEMBER 16TH

Wishful Endings – Interview
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Review: “Kingdom of Souls” by Rena Barron

Kingdom of SoulsTitle: Kingdom of Souls
Series: Kingdom of Souls #1
Author: Rena Barron
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Content Warnings: Blood magic, self-injury for a ritual, challenging familial relationship, psychological torture, death of children, mind manipulation, animal possession, animal sacrifice (mentioned), violence
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC access provided by the publisher through NetGalley as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

Built on a world based on West Africa, Rena Barron debuts with a compelling story about a girl with no magic in a world teeming with it.

Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.

With all intents of being forthright, I will tell you that I have very complicated feelings about this book. There were definitely parts that I loved and parts that I didn’t. Writing this review took just as much time as reading it with me having to parse through said complicated feelings. This post is an extension of that dissection.

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When this book is at its strongest, it doesn’t only put its best foot forward – it goes all out. Nothing is done by half-measures, which works well half the time playing up strengths to a maximum. It’s brave and something that I really admire in this story.

A world built as strong as it is vast

Kingdom of Souls is an ambitious work and its larger-than-life world attests to it. With West Africa at its foundation, Barron’s world is a lush, colorful one with unique characteristics that’ll separate it from other stories in its genre.

I love how clear the story’s world was described – the dynamics between its peoples, the Five Tribes and the Almighty Kingdom: their belief system, the gods they worship, political hierarchy, and general way of living. They are fully alive within the pages of this story, even the Northerners and Kefu, though I have a feeling there’d be a lot more from those last two in the coming books as they’ve only been discussed in relation with the former.

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Mythology weaved into the narrative

I love mythology and I love that many books have a bit of it included in their narrative. I most especially love when the mythology and lore in a book go outside the usual Greek and Roman ones that have already inspired a handful of earlier YA titles.

But, that’s not the case with Kingdom of Souls.

Mythology and lore are not added as a mere layer to Arrah’s story – it’s tightly woven into the narrative with a life and purpose of its own independent from Arrah. Heka – the god of the peoples of the Five Tribes – and the Orishas – the gods of the Almighty Kingdom – all add something to the whole story. Powerful but fallible and unpredictable, their intentions are not entirely pure and their actions aren’t always for the good of everyone. They are the wild cards of this story and I just have a feeling they will continue to serve up surprises in the coming sequels, which will be really interesting especially given the way things ended in this one.

A compelling heroine

This is one of the biggest selling points of this book for me. Kingdom of Souls is a character-driven story, and it needed a strong character to carry its weight through.

Arrah proved to be more than capable for the part.

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She is a compelling heroine, one that you will root for from beginning to end. She’s tough, fierce, and determined but she’s also plagued with frustration, disappointment, and feelings of inadequacy at her lack of magic, at her mother’s disapproval and condescension. Arrah is loyal and dedicated to her family and her friends, unhesitatingly making sacrifices – crossing lines she set for herself – in the belief that it will save those she loves.

With a solid cast of characters behind her – the charming Rudjek, steadfast Sukkar, and Hassana, her loving father Oshe and her paradoxical mother Arti – Arrah grow by leaps and bounds within the pages of this book and it was such a joy reading about her. I found it easy to empathize with her, despair with her – basically to feel whatever it is that she is feeling. It takes a special kind of character to do that and, if anything, I will be reading the sequels just to find out what happens to Arrah.

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As it is with any book, I had a number of issues with Kingdom of Souls. Some of these I would have easily overlooked but, in the case of this book, they just greatly affected my enjoyment that I had to take note of them.

Too much

I appreciate complex stories, I really do. Sometimes though, when you add one thing after another, it just gets to be too much. This was my main problem with Kingdom of Souls.

Barron served up plot twists like dishes on a banquet, and it became too much, too hard to digest. All the plot threads she pulled into this book alone could easily write a trilogy. It created an imbalance that in turn affected the story’s pace.

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Wonky pacing

This is probably my biggest issue.

Being a character-driven story, I already expected the pace of this book to run a bit slower. But, with all those blocks of story pieces thrown into the plot, the pace just crawled.

This problem was most prevalent in the book’s middle parts. It just sagged, felt unbalanced and repetitive. Characters would go on about something one chapter only to repeat talking about the same thing a few chapters down. I put down the book a handful of times because it just got too exhausting. It was a good thing that the first and last parts of the book were more even-tempered.

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Kingdom of Souls is an imperfect but still sets the beginnings of what sounds like a really promising series. Its strength lies deeply in its character and Barron’s rich world-building. I would definitely come back for the sequels because I’m just too curious (and, honestly, too attached to the characters.) YA SFF readers will find something to love in this book, and hopefully, the whole series.

about the authorRena BarronRENA BARRON grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school.

Rena loves all things science fiction, ghosts, and superheroes. She’s a self-proclaimed space nerd. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French.

Website | TwitterInstagram | Tumblr

 

Giveaway

WIN A KINGDOM OF SOULS VIP SWAG BAG: ONE (1) COPY OF KINGDOM OF SOULS BY RENA BARRON & SWAG (US ONLY)

Giveaway starts September 4th and ends September 18th.

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Phannie the ginger bookworm  – Review + Favourite Quotes
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In Between Book Pages – Review + Favourite Quotes
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Frayed Books – Review
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Luchia Houghton Blog – Review + Favourite Quotes
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Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
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Wishful Endings – Review
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The Reading Life – Review + Favourite Quotes
Devouring Books – Review
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Review: “Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon” by Mary Fan

Stronger than a Bronze DragonTitle: Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon
Author: Mary Fan
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Imprint: Page Street Kids
Publisher: Macmillan
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC access provided by the publisher through NetGalley as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.

An epic, adventure-filled steampunk fantasy, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is sure to take readers on a hero’s quest full of magic, danger, and action.

When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as godssend. They agree to give him their sacred, enchanted River Pearl in exchange for permanent protection – if he’ll marry one of the village girls to solidify the alliance. Anlei is appalled when the viceroy selects her as a bride, but with the fate of her people at stake, she sees no choice but to consent. Anlei’s noble plans are sent into a tailspin, however, when a young thief steals the River Pearl for himself.

Knowing the viceroy won’t protect her village without the jewel, she takes matters into her own hands. But once she catches the thief, she discovers he needs the pearl just as much as she does. The two embark on an epic quest across the land and into the Courts of Hell, taking Anlei on a journey that reveals more is at stake than she could have ever imagined.

I must admit, steampunk is one of the subgenres that I haven’t been exposed to much. So when I saw this book, I took my chance. And boy, it was more than worth it.

From plot to setting to characters, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon was and had everything I wanted in a Fantasy. It threw together a mix of elements I never thought would go so well together – magic, lore, machines – all played in a backdrop inspired by Qing dynasty China. Mary Fan’s careful plotting shone throughout, all the twists and turns making the adventure joyride that was this book even more enjoyable.

But it didn’t start out that way for me.

While they ultimately ended up growing on me, for the first few chapters of the book Anlei and Tai seemed too troupe-y: Anlei playing the strong female character card who can and will kick anyone’s ass and Tai taking on the role of the charming but arrogant love interest. As the story progressed and their backstories were spilled though, I began to understand their motives and their nuances. Yes, Anlei is a tough girl, stubborn and incredibly capable but she’s also a daughter and a member of their small village’s community. She craved glory and adventure the same way her blood called for her to avenge her father’s murder, to protect her family, her village, and her people.

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon quote #1

Tai, meanwhile, has a complicated history. Half-yueshen (pure spiritual beings who has free reign over the moon) and half-human, I think he doesn’t really know his place in the world. The yueshen won’t accept him into their realm because he’s half-breed, while his father hid him, foisting his care onto his servants. He likes to think the best of the family left to him and uses laughter and humor as both an armor and mask to hide behind.

It was wonderful watching Anlei and Tai grow close to each other. Even though they started out as begrudging allies (more from Anlei’s side rather than Tai’s,) the two eventually discover that they have more in common than they first thought. Both have noble causes, and the subsequent trials and hardships they faced together only served to peel back more and more layers of their characters. I couldn’t help but like them.

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon quote #2

Though this was a mostly solid story, there were still a few details that could have been improved. The villain, Viceroy Kang, comes to mind immediately. As the main antagonist, he was typical – power-hungry and cruel – and unimpressive. It was a shallow rendering of a character that’s supposed to provoke our protagonists into taking action. His motivations were only briefly touched, and it left me with a few unanswered questions: Had he always planned the things he’d done even before he married Tai’s yueshen mother? Is that why he caught her and married her in the first place? I can live with these questions, but they’re just pesky enough to bug me.

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon quote #3

The quick pace combined with the number of plot threads Fan tossed into the story could also sometimes be overwhelming. There were just too much happening at one single time, and, admittedly, I had to put the book down a couple of times to catch my breath and gather my thoughts.

Overall, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon was an exceptional stand-alone that blended together steampunk and fantasy. This was one of the most vividly and creatively imagined stories I’ve read in a while. Though there were a few parts that could have been improved, they were minor and didn’t hinder me from enjoying the book. This one comes with high recommendations from this self-confessed fantasy lover.

about the author

authorMARY FAN is a hopeless dreamer whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now, she tells them through books – a habit she began as soon as she could pick up a pencil.

Mary lives in New Jersey and has a B.A. from Princeton University. When she’s not scheming to create new worlds, she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and blogging about everything having to do with books.

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