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Review – The Duchess of the Shallows December 14, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4.5 stars, Fantasy.
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Title: The Duchess of the Shallows

Author: Neil McGarry & Daniel Ravipinto

Publisher: Peccable Productions

Publication Date: March 2, 2012

ASIN: B007HTUXWC

Available at: Kindle   Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

A game is played in the fog-shrouded city of Rodaas, and every citizen, from the nameless of the Shallows to the noblest of the Garden, is a player or a pawn. And no one is as he appears.

Not Minette, brothel-keeper and obsessive collector of secrets. Not Uncle Cornelius, fearsome chief of the gang of brutes and murderers known as the Red. Not the cults of Death, Wisdom, and Illumination, eternally scheming and plotting along the Godswalk.

And certainly not the orphaned bread girl known as Duchess.

Yet armed with nothing more than her wits, her good friend Lysander and a brass mark of dubious origin Duchess will dare to play that game for the most coveted of prizes: initiation into a secret society of thieves, spies and rumormongers who stand supreme in a city where corruption and lies are common coin.

The Grey.

Review: *I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Grey is a network of thieves and spies as well as secret traders. Duchess believes her entrance into their society will give her the answers she seeks about her family. Entrance into The Grey is hard to come by and her task is dangerous to say the least. She needs to rob a nobleman’s house while he’s having a party.  Not easy.

Duchess is very ambitious and she’s driven by a need to know what exactly happened to her family when she was a small child. She’s also extremely resourceful and smart. I grew to admire her as the book went on.  Not only that, she was handy with a  knife. Duchess had a good network of people in the Shallows to rely on. There was Minette, the brothel-keeper and there was Lysander.

Lysander was disarming with his sweet charm. I really enjoyed reading about him. He is a ganymede or a male prostitute. He’s made his living on his looks and his wits for more years then Duchess can count. They’ve been friends since they were young children. Best of friends. Lysander taught Duchess much about the way of the Shallows.

This book was fast paced and I was easily absorbed by the well developed plot and characters. The world building was exceptional. There are layers of social classes and religious sects, including criminal elements. I was disappointed when the story ended purely because I wanted to keep on reading about Duchess and Lysander. I look forward to the next book in the series!

4.5 Stars_Star Rating System

Review – Anumal Empire: Lazarball December 4, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy.
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Title: Anumal Empire: Lazarball

Author: David Ayres and Darren Jacobs

Publisher: Lazarball LTD

Publication Date: April 12, 2012

ASIN: B007VIGNW8

Available at: Kindle

From Goodreads:

The race of man is extinct…
A new breed has risen…
Anumalkind shall inherit the Earth…

After merging human and animal DNA together, the Anumal race turned against their creators…and wiped them out.

Now, millennia later, an ancient pact between warring clans has been broken. Dark powers are surfacing, threatening the survival of this hybrid race…and the fate of the Anumal species lies in the paws of a single lion…Clinton Narfell.

Hailing from the desert village of Wooburn, Clinton’s meager life is catapulted out of control the day he steals food to feed his younger brother. As an extraordinary chain of events begins to unfold, Clinton is forced to use skill and cunning to keep himself alive…and is hurtled towards a destiny he did not realize he was born to fulfil…

Facing savage scavengers, vicious anumal clans, and worse, Clinton soon realizes that power does not come from books or spells, but from something far deeper within us all…

Review: *A free copy of this book was provided in exchange for an honest review

Clinton and his brother have been orphaned and turned out of their homes. The Narfell name is dirt. Clinton is doing all he can to feed the two of them. Yet still he dreams of not only restoring the family name by winning the Lazaraball tournament but winning the prize money.

I was surprised by this book. I thought it would be quite juvenile with animal figures in it and it was a little, but it was much better then I thought it would be. The writing is engaging and smooth. Clinton is easy to like and he’s very appealing. In fact all the “good guys” were very likable. This was a feel good book.

Dallas was a relatively complex antagonist giving the book more depth. The more I found out about him, the more I thought that he could have been saved there or there or there. But that’s not how the story goes. I got shivers reading about the Seeress. She was a very spooky entity.

The dynamics of Wooburn were intriguing. The different anumals all had their place. I especially liked the giraffe court. It was easy to immerse yourself into this world and go along with Clinton on his adventures.

The one flaw this book has was how it ended. There’s a terrible cliffhanger. On one hand, you know it had to end that way. On the other hand, you really wish it had more resolution, you really wish it left you feeling more satisfied. It’s still very much worth the read. I look forward to the next book in the series.

4 Stars_Star Rating System

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Review – Don’t Be a Hero October 26, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy.
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Title: Don’t Be a Hero

Author: Chris Strange

Available on: November 2nd, 2012

From Goodreads:

It’s a bad time to be a superhero.

When the world turned its back on metahumans, the golden age of superheroes came crashing down. But now a mysterious supercriminal is making one final bid for power, and with no one else left to protect the world, ex-hero Spook must risk everything to take him down. There will be no reprieve, no negotiation. War is coming.

Put on the mask. There’s work to be done.

Review:

Spook isn’t a classic hero. She’s not out to save the world. In fact she doesn’t like the world very much. What she wants is to go to the lunar colony that the metahumans have and the job she takes guarantees the money to get there. All she has to do is find a missing boy. Except it’s not so simple as that. It turns into something much more sinister.

Spook did have a classic sidekick in the hero named Carpenter. Carpenter has an affinity with wood as his superhero name would suggest. He can communicate with trees and manipulate wood to do what he wants. He’s also a prefect foil to Spook’s cynical outlook. He’s an idealist who believes that the world will always need superheros. Carpenter also believes it’s their duty to protect the normals from villains and criminals alike no matter how society views him.

Quantra is a complex supervillain. He is multi-layered and has many facets to his character. His motives were manifold and varies, too many to really penetrate and delve into in one review. It gave the story a lot of dimension and depth. I became very invested in finding out what made him tick and what his true objective was.

The world the story takes place in is a contradiction in itself. It has rocket ships yet it doesn’t have advanced computers. It has dirigibles and helicopters yet doesn’t have things like cell phones. I found it intriguing and different. It gave it a Sam Spade feel with a technological or “steampunk” edge.

Don’ t Be a Hero was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting it to be as great as it was. I thought it would be passingly entertaining. Instead it captured me and held me in its grips. I wasn’t completely sold on the concept of superheroes in a novel versus an action movie but I am now. I consider this book a win.

Review – Don't Be a Hero October 26, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy.
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Title: Don’t Be a Hero

Author: Chris Strange

Available on: November 2nd, 2012

From Goodreads:

It’s a bad time to be a superhero.

When the world turned its back on metahumans, the golden age of superheroes came crashing down. But now a mysterious supercriminal is making one final bid for power, and with no one else left to protect the world, ex-hero Spook must risk everything to take him down. There will be no reprieve, no negotiation. War is coming.

Put on the mask. There’s work to be done.

Review:

Spook isn’t a classic hero. She’s not out to save the world. In fact she doesn’t like the world very much. What she wants is to go to the lunar colony that the metahumans have and the job she takes guarantees the money to get there. All she has to do is find a missing boy. Except it’s not so simple as that. It turns into something much more sinister.

Spook did have a classic sidekick in the hero named Carpenter. Carpenter has an affinity with wood as his superhero name would suggest. He can communicate with trees and manipulate wood to do what he wants. He’s also a prefect foil to Spook’s cynical outlook. He’s an idealist who believes that the world will always need superheros. Carpenter also believes it’s their duty to protect the normals from villains and criminals alike no matter how society views him.

Quantra is a complex supervillain. He is multi-layered and has many facets to his character. His motives were manifold and varies, too many to really penetrate and delve into in one review. It gave the story a lot of dimension and depth. I became very invested in finding out what made him tick and what his true objective was.

The world the story takes place in is a contradiction in itself. It has rocket ships yet it doesn’t have advanced computers. It has dirigibles and helicopters yet doesn’t have things like cell phones. I found it intriguing and different. It gave it a Sam Spade feel with a technological or “steampunk” edge.

Don’ t Be a Hero was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting it to be as great as it was. I thought it would be passingly entertaining. Instead it captured me and held me in its grips. I wasn’t completely sold on the concept of superheroes in a novel versus an action movie but I am now. I consider this book a win.

Review – Flicker October 23, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy, Young Adult.
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Title: Flicker

Author: Kaye Thornbrugh

Publisher: CreateSpace

Publication Date: May 26, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1477479292

Available at: Amazon Kindle

From Goodreads:

When sixteen-year-old Lee Capren is spirited away to Faerie, she is forced to serve capricious faeries as a prized portrait artist… and live as their prisoner.

A chance encounter with the charming Nasser grants Lee a chance for freedom—but what felt like mere days in Faerie spanned years in the human world, and Lee no longer has a home to return to.

Nasser is a Seer—a human with magical powers—and Lee is quickly plunged into his world: a sprawling city teeming with magic and mystery, where supernatural creatures walk hidden among humans. With the help of a rag-tag group of teenage Seers, Lee must master her newfound magical talent and outwit a cunning faerie determined to destroy her.

Review:

After reading the premise for this book I had high hopes for this book, I was not to be disappointed. The writing was smooth and breezy. The characters were well developed and the plot was well paced.

Lee in particular reacted just like any other 16-year-old would react when confronted with the sudden knowledge that shape-shifting faeries existed. She reacted badly. One part of me wished she had shown more mettle, another part of me realized that she was only sixteen! She’s just a kid! Naturally she’s going to freak out a little.

The character I liked the best was Filo, which may come as a surprise. He was bristly and moody. Yet he was badly used by the fae so there was just cause for his behavior. He had to harden himself to the abuse he had suffered. He also felt he had been abandoned by everyone he had ever cared about. Bottom line was he was damaged.

Jason was a bit of a wild card. He was unruly and impetuous. He really was spontaneous, but I also wished he would grow up a little. I also wished he’d be more understanding of his brother, Nasser. Of course he acted just like any teenager would though. Once I had that understanding I was able to tolerate him a little better.

Nasser was like a rock. He was steadfast and comforting. I really responded to him. He had a gentle, caring nature. I liked how he’d show Lee how he felt in little ways. I really liked the romance between Lee and Nasser. It was sweet and very romantic. I thought it might have been a bit like insta-love? But the explanation that went into it made it seem acceptable.

All of the teenagers in the book had qualities that were endearing. I took to them well. It was fun reading about them and by the end of the book I had a lot invested in them. The antagonists were equally fleshed out. None of them were shallow, cardboard cut-outs. Byrony in particular was well-rounded and that gave the book a lot of depth.

The empathy with the characters was great. You could really feel the tension the characters felt when they were in danger. That added a lot of excitement. Except there was one point when the characters were bored. I felt the pace slow down considerably at that point. I did think that served a point though. When the action revved back up again, it was even more exciting then it was before.

This was a very strong debut novel. I was sorry to see the book end. I hope there are more adventures with the Seers from Flicker in the future!

* A free copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review – The Crown of Embers October 9, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4.5 stars, Fantasy, Young Adult.
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Title: The Crown of Embers

Author: Rae Carson

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Publication Date: September 18, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0062026514

Available at: Amazon Kindle Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

She does not know what awaits her at the enemy’s gate.

Elisa is a hero. She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country’s ruler should be secure. But it isn’t.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from both foreign realms and within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears once and for all, Elisa must follow the trail of long-forgotten–and forbidden–clues from the deep, undiscovered catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her goes a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man who–despite everything–she is falling in love with.

If she’s lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.

Review:

Elisa is now trying to consolidate her power as Queen of Joya d’Arena. She’s undermined from other members of her quorum. There’s also a threat of Invierne spreading across the land once again. She sets out on a holy mission to seek a magical power to once and for all give her all the strength she’ll ever need.

If anything, this second book in the Fire and and Thorns series was even better then the first and I loved the first. Elisa character evolved as you read on. You have to remember, she’s the queen of her country and a war hero at the age of seventeen. That in itself is remarkable. So if she’s malleable and pliable at first, it’s understandable. But by the end of the book she manages to find the will to stand up for what she believes in and become the queen her country needs.

One of the things that I still love about Elisa in this book is that she’s still a normal girl. Although she might have lost some in the previous book, she’s still a little overweight. In fact her predilection for pastries is well known at court. She’s still not a drop-dead gorgeous beauty. Elisa became even more real to me because of those qualities and I loved her for it.

Elisa is also falling in love with Hector, the Captain of her Royal Guards. The romance is natural and it progresses slowly. No insta-love here! I loved reading about Hector and Elisa! I think I’ve become a romance fan. If you’ve read my blog for a long time then you know I wasn’t always a fan, but for this book it was my favorite part.

The story ends in a stupendous cliffhanger. It was well done though. I thought it was one of the best cliffhangers I’ve ever read. You could tell the book was just about to end and that you’d have to wait for the next book even though you were desperately hoping it wouldn’t happen. At least that’s how I felt. I’m desperately hoping the next book publishes sooner rather then later.

Review – Stormdancer October 5, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult.
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Title: Stormdancer

Author: Jay Kristoff

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Publish Date: September 18, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1250001405

Available at: Amazon Kindle Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger—a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

Review:

This was a strong debut novel from Jay Kristoff and I loved it! I loved the Asian influence that reeked of Japan. I loved the complex world building. I loved the rich culture he infused throughout the book. I also loved the elaborate technological inventions he inserted in the book here and there.

What I really loved or rather, who I really loved was Buruu, the thunder tiger. He was magnificent! Buruu had a strong primal voice in the book as a main character. His bond with Yukiko was something I was particularly jealous of.

I did like Yukiko though. Yukiko was someone you felt for because her father became such a wastrel. She had to grow up before her time. Yet at the same time she cried out to be just a sixteen-year-old. She was capable and she could really fight well.

The shogun was the best villain. He was maniacal and evil. I truly felt hatred for him and his careless callous ways. The Lotus Guild was even worse. The way they were polluting the land and in turn, killing the people and the animals? Atrocious.

Even the finale of this book was strong. It left me feeling satisfied as far as knowing everything there was to know. The only problem I had was the the book had to end. I was left with a book hangover and with nothing more to read of Buruu and Yukiko’s adventures.

Review – Vessel October 3, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 3.5 stars, Fantasy, Young Adult.
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Title: Vessel

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publish Date: September 11, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1442423763

Available at: Amazon Kindle Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

In a desert world of sandstorms and sand-wolves, a teen girl must defy the gods to save her tribe in this mystical, atmospheric tale from the author of Drink, Slay, Love.Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. The goddess will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But Liyana’s goddess never comes. Abandoned by her angry tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. For the desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice: She must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate—or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

Review:

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I really loved it. The desert culture. The girl raised to be the vessel for her goddess. The trickster god! On the other hand, Liyanna was too obeisant to Korbyn in the beginning of their relationship and I felt no spark of kinship with her. In fact, I didn’t really connect with her until much later in the book. The only female character I really connected with right off the bat was Raan, another vessel from another village. She had a streak of rebellion in her that I could relate to.

The pace of the book is methodical. I didn’t have too much of a problem with it but some readers found it slow. In fact, I enjoyed the pace of the book. What I did have a problem with was the Emperor. I thought the way his story was inserted was jarring and incongruous. I also didn’t find it very interesting. There’s also a romance in the book that I didn’t find very romantic. There’s a love triangle in the book, but it came off all wrong.

I did love Korbyn, the trickster god. He was enigmatic at times yet open and available as a child at others. He was so multi-layered, you could continually peel back the layers like an onion and discover more facets to his character. He was sexy and charming. He was wise. He was definitely my favorite character.

This is most likely a stand-alone book as most questions are sufficiently answered in the end of the book. Sarah Beth Durst is an author I will definitely look out for as she’s written other books in this genre.

Review – The Blinding Knife October 2, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 3.5 stars, Fantasy.
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Title: The Blinding Knife

Author: Brent Weeks

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: September 11, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0316079914

Available at: Amazon Kindle Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

Gavin Guile is dying.

He’d thought he had five years left—now he has less than one. With fifty thousand refugees, a bastard son, and an ex-fiancée who may have learned his darkest secret, Gavin has problems on every side. All magic in the world is running wild and threatens to destroy the Seven Satrapies.

Worst of all, the old gods are being reborn, and their army of color wights is unstoppable. The only salvation may be the brother whose freedom and life Gavin stole sixteen years ago.

Review:

As the Color Prince marches onward, Gavin loses another color. He sends Kip to the Chromeria. As Gavin tries to ready the Seven Satrapies for war, Kip begins to train for life as a Blackguard.

Let me just start by saying this was a long book and it felt like a long book. It had a complicated plot that was hard to keep up with at times. In the end it was worth it though. There was a lot of scheming on both war fronts. The plotting on both sides was worth keeping track of. If you read the first book, then you were already familiar with the elaborate magic system in place. It was still another complicated web to keep in order.

There were a myriad cast of characters and it could have become confusing but Weeks manages to pull it off successfully. The story was written from a lot of different perspectives yet it still comes together seamlessly. The action picks up towards the end of the book which is a relief.

Kip was resilient and despite being overweight and out of shape, he perseveres through his Blackguard training. He’s insecure but manages not to show it. He also manages to get lucky which is key to his success.  He really won my heart in this book. The way he didn’t quit despite being on the bottom of his class showed how tough he was.

Kip did make a friend in Teia. I really liked Teia. She accepted her life as a slave yet she also fought for her freedom. How she managed this juxtaposition was puzzling but she still managed to convey this. Teia remained optimistic despite her harsh life. She had a lot of brains and she could fight. If anyone deserved to be a Blackguard it was Teia.

I’m not sure I liked Gavin in the beginning of this book. He was pig-headed and a bit too slick for me. He had a tendency to look at the big picture and ignore the people close to him. I guess it proved what a complicated character he was.

I think the reason the book was so long was because there was a lot of things that needed to culminate. It was worth it in the end yet at the same time there were points in the book that seemed to drag on.  Another thing that left a bad taste in my mouth was the abrupt end. There are cliffhangers and then there are cliffhangers. I felt like this one was one of those that deliberately left the reader hung out to dry.

This book is still a good read and worth the time to take. The characters and plot are engaging. The magical system is unique and intriguing. I’m still interested enough to keep on going with this series. I guess the cliffhanger worked!

Review – Defiance September 25, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Young Adult.
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Title: Defiance

Author: C.J. Redwine

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Publish Date: August 28, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0062117182

Available at: Amazon Kindle Barnes and Noble

From Goodreads:

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan–the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same one who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but a fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

Review:

I have to admit, I’ve been looking forward to the release of this book for awhile. To my consternation I found that it was written in alternation points of view, Rachel’s and Logan’s.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out, but to my surprise it worked out well and I came to enjoy it.

Rachel is a sixteen-year-old girl who has suddenly come under the protection of Logan. I didn’t take to her immediately. She seemed a bit too petulant and sulky. The more I read the more I liked her though. What I took to be petulant and sulky was actually humiliation. She had professed her love to Logan when she was fifteen and he had rejected her. Who wouldn’t be humiliated? As the book went on, there were moments I became impatient with her but I think she was just acting like any sixteen-year-old would have done in such impossible situations.

What I loved about Rachel the most was how she was such a kick-ass warrior in such an oppressed misogynistic society. She was a fiercely independent woman in a culture that stressed that women were nothing more then chattel. I think it spoke volumes to have such a strong heroine. And she showed a lot of soft emotions as well showing you don’t have to be a one-dimensional person.

I loved Logan! He was absolutely gush and crush-worthy. He’s smart and kind. He takes his responsibilities seriously and he always tried his best with Rachel despite the animosity she felt and showed towards him in the beginning of the book.  I loved Logan’s inventions. The mix of inventor and warrior was too sexy to resist.

What I loved about Rachel and Logan the most was how their love evolved. It grew from mutual circumstances and time spent together. No insta-love here! There was a lot of give and take too. Although there was one point I felt Logan got a bit too needy. Maybe that’s just me. That was towards the end of the book. I don’t want to give too much away.

The Commander was one of the most evil tyrants I’ve come across. He made a great bad guy. He was just someone you love to hate. The Cursed One was a fantastic monster. It reminded me of a wyrm. Together they added some great tension to the book.

There’s enough resolution to leave you satisfied in the end. Yet there’s also an opening for more books in the future. It’s a well done ending to a very good book. I did have one pet peeve. Only I can’t mention it without giving away a spoiler. Needless to say something was repeated endlessly and I got tired of the repetition. That’s all I can say. It was something I was able to brush off though.

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