#SpotlightTour Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

Today it is my turn to turn the spotlight on Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova. It is the second book in the Bruja Born series which started off with the fast-paced and volatile Labyrinth Lost. It’s a powerful premise with plenty of potential.

About the Author

Zoraida Córdova is the award-winning author of The Vicious Deep trilogy and the Brooklyn Brujas series. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, and Toil & Trouble: 16 Tales of Women and Witchcraft. She is a New Yorker at heart and is currently working on her next novel.

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Buy Bruja Born

About the book

Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…

Review

This is the second in the Brooklyn Brujas series, which deals with the fallout of the dark volatile and life-changing events of Labyrinth Lost (the first book in the series). Lula spends the majority of the time trying to control a bellyful of anger and taking her lack of control out on her loved ones. She resents her sister for putting her in danger and for destroying her physical appearance.

When you’re equipped with more power than you can handle the danger is not being able to control it or possibly using it for the wrong reasons. As a witch one of the golden rules is what you put out into the universe you get back tenfold, especially when it is something negative. I think trying to intervene in life or death scenarios fits into this category. Lula doesn’t hesitate to use her power to take back what Death has already claimed, which sets a series of dangerous events in motion.

Córdova likes to explore the emotional and physical limitations and boundaries of magic. What happens when you break the written and unwritten rules? Does Lula really feel as if she is above the rules and immune from the possible consequences of breaking them. There is also a focus on the tight relationship between the sisters, and why they are willing to risk their lives to satisfy the selfish needs of their sister.

The Brooklyn Brujas has a lot of potential, especially when it comes to the sisters developing their skills and powers, so it will be interesting to see where the author takes the series. Brujas aren’t a common feature in urban fantasy, there tends to be an overall focus on bog-standard witches. This allows for a more in-depth look at the cultural meaning and myths surrounding them.

What I really want to know is whether something else other than fate or the auto-schedule of Death happened on that bus. Was it just a coincidence that Lula was in the middle of an emotional upheaval? Just putting that out there into the universe.

Buy Bruja Born (Brooklyn Brujas #2) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Kindle pub date 5th June 2018, Hardcover pub date 1st July 2018

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Excerpt of Bruja Born

They say El Corazón has two hearts:the black thing in his chestand the one he wears on his sleeve.

—­Tales of the Deos, Felipe Thomás San Justinio

This is a love story.

At least, it was, before my sister sent me to hell. Though technically, Los Lagos isn’t hell or the underworld. It’s another realm inhabited by creatures, spirits, and wonders I’d only read about in my family’s Book of Cantos. The place where I was kept—­where my whole family was imprisoned by a power-­hungry witch—­that was as close to hell as I hope I’ll ever get.

But that’s another story.

“Lula, you ready?” my sister Alex asks.

I stare at my open closet and can’t find the socks that go with my step team uniform. I riffle through bins of underwear and mismatched socks and costume jewelry.

“Lula?” Alex repeats, softly this time.

For the past seven or so months, Alex has been extra everything—­extra patient, extra loving, extra willing to do my chores. She means well, but she doesn’t understand how suffocating her attention is, how the quiet in her eyes drives a sick feeling in my gut because I’m trying to be okay for her, for our family and friends. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at faking it. But sometimes, like now, I snap.

“Give me a minute!”

I don’t mean to snap. Honestly. But everything that’s come out of my mouth lately has been hard and angry, and I don’t know how to make it stop. That’s not who I am. That’s not who I was before—­

Rose, our younger sister, walks into my room wearing long sleeves and jeans even though there’s a heat wave and it’s mid-­June. Rose has the Gift of the Veil. She can see and speak to the dead. Spirt magic runs on a different wavelength than the rest of our powers, and being so tuned-­in to that realm means she’s always cold. Rose takes a seat on my bed and picks at a tear in the blanket.

“Can I go to the pregame with you and Maks?” she asks me. “I’ve never been to one before.”

“No,” I say.

“Why not?” When she frowns, her round face gets flushed. Sometimes I forget that underneath all her power, she’s just a fourteen-­year-­old kid trying to fit in.

“Because,” I say, digging through my dirty laundry. “It’s just for the team. You can drive to the game with Ma and Alex.”

“And Dad.” Rose’s voice is a quiet addendum.

Right. Dad. After seven years of being missing and presumed dead, he’s in our lives again. It’s an odd feeling having him back, one we all share but haven’t talked about. He has no memory of where he’s been, and even if we can’t say it out loud, maybe we’ve moved on without him. Alex was always the one who said he was gone for good, and perhaps deep down inside, I thought that too. But I always corrected her. I was the one who believed he’d return, because sometimes false hope is better than being completely hopeless. I believed in lots of things once.

“And Dad,” I say.

The three of us exchange a look of unease. There are too many things that are unsaid between us. I wish we could go back to being loud and rowdy and something like happy. But it’s taking longer than I thought.

So here are the things we leave unsaid:

One, we’re brujas. Witches. Magical BAMFs with powers gifted by the Deos, our gods. A house full of magic is bound to cause some friction, and after what Alex did, there is plenty of friction.

Two, my sister Alex cast a canto that banished our entire family to a realm called Los Lagos. She got to traipse across its magical hills and meadows with Nova, the hot brujo we never talk about, and her now-­girlfriend, Rishi.

Meanwhile, I was trapped in a freaking tree. A big, evil tree. I was surrounded by all-­consuming darkness, and even though we’re home and safe, I still feel that pull, like something is sucking at my soul and my light, and this house is too small and crowded, and I don’t know how to make this fear stop. I don’t know how to get over it.

Three, I can’t stand looking at my own reflection anymore.

I took all the mirrors in my bedroom down, even the one that was on my altar to keep away malicious spirits. They don’t need it. One look at my face, and they’ll be scared off.

“Ready when you are,” Alex says again, her guilt radioactive.

Technically, technically, the attack that left my face hideously disfigured with scars was Alex’s fault. I’m a terrible sister for thinking it. Forgive and forget and all that. But the maloscuros that came looking for her attacked me. Their vicious claws raked across my face. Sometimes, when I’m alone, I can smell the rot of their skin, see the glow of their yellow eyes, feel their presence even though they’re long gone and banished.

To be fair, Alex has scars from the maloscuros too. Right across her heart. But she can cover them up. I can’t.

Not naturally, anyway.

Having a sister who is an all-­powerful encantrix has its benefits. There are a million problems going on in the world, and here I am, worrying about scars. But deep down, I know it’s more than the scars. I’ve been called beautiful my whole life. I’ve been aware of the way men’s eyes trailed my legs since I was far too young. The way boys in school stuttered when they spoke to me. The way they offered me gifts—­bodega-­bought candies and stolen flowers and handwritten notes with yes/no scribbled in pencil. My aunt Maria Azul told me beauty was power. My mother told me beauty was a gift. If they’re right, then what am I now? All I know is I left fragments of myself in Los Lagos and I don’t know how to get them back.

So I turn to my sister, because she owes me one. But before we can get started, my mother knocks on my open door, Dad trailing behind her like a wraith.

“Good, you’re all together. Can I borrow you guys for a minute?” Ma asks. She rests a white laundry basket against one hip and waves a sage bundle like a white flag. “I want to try the memory canto on your father before we leave. The sun’s in the right—­”

“We’re busy,” I say, too angry again. I don’t like talking to my mother like this. Hell, any other time I’d catch hands for speaking to her like that. But we’re all a mess—­guilt, anger, love, plus a lot of magic is a potent mix. Something’s got to give, and I don’t know if I want to be here when it does.

Mom throws the sage stick on top of the clean laundry, scratches her head with a long, red nail. Her black-lined eyes look skyward, as if begging the Deos for patience. She makes to speak, but Dad places his hand on her arm. She tenses at his touch, and he withdraws the hand.

“We all have to pull our weight around here,” Ma tells me, a challenge in her deep, coffee-­brown eyes that I don’t dare look away from.

“Dad doesn’t,” I say, and feel Rose and Alex retreat two paces away from me. Traitors.

“He’s trying. You haven’t healed so much as a paper cut since—­”

I widen my eyes, waiting for the her to say it. Since Los Lagos. Since the attack. But she can’t.

“You have Alex,” I say, turning my thumb toward my sister. “She’s an encantrix. Healing comes with the package.”

“Lula…” Ma pinches the bridge of her nose, then trails off as my father tries to be the voice of reason.

“Carmen,” he whispers, “let them be. It’s okay.”

But my mother doesn’t fully let up. “How much longer will you keep having your sister glamour you?”

Alex looks at her toes. All that power in her veins and she can’t escape being shamed by our mother. I might be just a healer, but I match my mom’s gaze. We share more than our light-­brown skin and wild, black curls. We share the same fire in our hearts.

“Until it stops hurting,” I say, and I don’t let my voice waver.

We share a sadness too. I see it in her, woven into the wrinkles around her eyes. So she just hands me a black bundle—­my uniform socks—­and says, “We’ll see you at the game.”

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#BlogTour Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

Today I am really pleased to take part in the BlogTour for Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody. It is an exceptional dystopian tale with elements of urban fantasy woven into the intricate world-building and fascinating plot. Definitely an author to watch out for!

About the Author

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

Daughter of the Burning City was her first novel. Her second, Ace Of Shades was released in April 2018.

Follow @AmandaFoody @HQStories @HQYoungAdult

Visit amandafoody.com

Buy Ace of Shades

About the book

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…and secrets hide in every shadow.

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

Review

Enne is thrown into the deep end of the big city dirty world of New Reynes when she sets out to search for her mother. Her search leads her to some surprising secrets about her own identity. All those years of being mediocre and sub-par at her inherited talents makes sense, because she isn’t who she thinks she is or who her ‘mother’ told her she was.

Unfortunately her real identity not only makes her one of the most hated people in the city, it also makes her one of the most wanted. This would be enough trouble for any innocent in a cruel, harsh and ruthless environment, and should put her in a permanent state of fear, but something strange is happening to Enne. She feels herself rising to each challenge.

Instead of fear she feels a natural instinct to survive, instead of backing down she defends herself and attacks. Her natural born instinct and talents are slowly but surely taking over, which also means other people will start to realise the truth too.

This reminded me a wee bit of The Lies of Locke Lamora, in a big city gang sense, but with a focus on elemental magic and talents. The characters are strong, memorable and the plot is provocative and innovative. I really enjoyed it.

Foody combines a dystopian world with an element of urban fantasy, and she does it exceptionally well. I am also glad the author didn’t feel the need to meld fantasy and dystopia with the en vogue teeny romance aspect we often see in the YA sub-genre. It is usually detrimental to an intricate fantasy with complex world-building. So kudos to Amanda Foody for steering clear of that particular overused storyline.

Amanda Foody is definitely an author to watch, an emerging talent on the YA scene and building quite a fan-base as we speak. I was intrigued by the reading of the blood in regards to genetically inherited talents, and the association of talents through both maternal and paternal name-giving. I am looking forward to King of Fools (Shadow Games #2). This series has a lot of potential.

Buy Ace of Shades at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

#BlogTour The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

Today it is an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for the sequel to The Bone Witch. Rin Chupeco does not disappoint, The Heart-Forger is absolutely a must read for YA Fantasy and Fantasy readers.

About the Author

Despite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She’s been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living.

Follow @RinChupeco @SourcebooksFire on Twitter or @rinchupeco on Instagram

Visit rinchupeco.com

About the book

In this dark, engrossing sequel to The Bone Witch, Tea has mastered resurrection—now it’s time for revenge.

Tea, a bone witch who can resurrect the dead, is done with her self-imposed exile. She now possesses all seven bezoars she needs to revive the powerful daeva. With the help of these terrible monsters, she can finally enact her revenge against the royals who wronged her and took the life of her one true love.

Alliances and allegiances are shifting, and danger lurks in and out of the kingdom. But Tea’s heart is set on vengeance, even if it turns her against her now-estranged brother, who supports her enemies. War is brewing, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.

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Excerpt from The Heart Forger:

He does not look so formidable, I lied to myself, staring at the warped, decaying body before me. I can defeat his will. I will break him. It is a wonder what Mykkie had ever seen in him.
It was not the first time I had deceived myself in this manner. Neither was this the first time I had raised King Vanor from the grave. But if I repeated that mantra enough times, I thought I could finally believe my words.
The dead king refused to look at me, his eyes distant. The royal crypts were built to strike both fear and awe in those who visited, but I had grown accustomed to the stone faces looking down at me with quiet scrutiny from their high precipices. But King Vanor’s continued silence unnerved me every time—more than I cared to admit.
“A wise philosopher once said,” Fox drawled from the shadows, “that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the mark of a fool.”
“Why do I bring you along?”
“Well, a wise philosopher once said—”
Read More here…

Review

In both The Bone Witch and The Heart Forger Tea has a so-called bard, who accompanies her on her path to personal justice. It is important to Tea that there is someone to hear the truth, her truth, and for that person to tell future generations what really happened. To an outsider she appears to be violent, irrational and capable of extreme actions, and that is why she needs the bard to see and experience beyond the lies of her enemies. Then again perhaps she has just been driven insane like all the other dark asha before her.

The bond between Fox and Tea started to unravel slowly but surely in The Bone Witch. The siblings, who once fought side by side are now on opposite sides. As far as Tea is concerned this is unforgivable, how can her brother support the very people who killed her true love. Fox on the other hand has always been concerned about the darkness inside his sister. Now she is on the warpath and is preparing for battle, it seems as if his instincts just might have been right.

The beauty of this series isn’t just the immaculate world-building, strong characters, the fascinating plot and the intricate descriptive writing, it is also the metamorphosis of Tea. The inquisitive young girl, who is filled with immense power and lives by a strong sense of wrong and right, morphs into a dark vengeful being driven by anger and a need to punish those she perceives to be the guilty.

Chupeco is an extremely talented writer. Her creativity knows no bounds, and her characters evoke empathy even when they are bent on destruction and revenge. I would like to see the author expand beyond the restrictions of YA, her thought processes are complex and her plots compelling. A true gem of the genre, and perhaps still a wee bit underrated. The Heart Forger is a fantastic read.

Buy The Heart Forger at Amazon Uk Goodreads Amazon com Barnes & Noble BooksaMillion Indigo IndieBound

Buy The Bone Witch at Amazon Uk  Goodreads Amazon com Barnes & Noble  BooksaMillion Indigo IndieBound

Buy The Suffering at Amazon Uk  Amazon com Barnes & Noble BooksaMillion Indigo IndieBound

Read my review of The Bone Witch

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Excerpt from the Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

Excerpt from The Heart Forger:

He does not look so formidable, I lied to myself, staring at the warped, decaying body before me. I can defeat his will. I will break him. It is a wonder what Mykkie had ever seen in him.

It was not the first time I had deceived myself in this manner. Neither was this the first time I had raised King Vanor from the grave. But if I repeated that mantra enough times, I thought I could finally believe my words.

The dead king refused to look at me, his eyes distant. The royal crypts were built to strike both fear and awe in those who visited, but I had grown accustomed to the stone faces looking down at me with quiet scrutiny from their high precipices. But King Vanor’s continued silence unnerved me every time—more than I cared to admit.

“A wise philosopher once said,” Fox drawled from the shadows, “that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the mark of a fool.”

“Why do I bring you along?”

“Well, a wise philosopher once said—”

“Shut up.” My brother had no need to tell me my quest was hopeless. Numerous Dark asha, all more experienced than me, had made the attempt. But I had to do something.

“You’re in a worse mood than usual. Did Kalen chew you out at practice again?”

“If you don’t like it here, why not find some women in the city to flirt with instead?”

“Not in Oda—” He caught himself. “None of your business. Can we get this over with?”

I turned back to the corpse. “Where are you keeping Mykaela’s heartsglass?”

No answer. The colossi statues guarding the catacombs were likelier to respond than this infernal sod of a king.

“Answer me! What have you done to her heartsglass? Where did you keep it? Why do you hate her so much?” My headache worsened. Somewhere in the back of my head, I was aware of a shadow thrashing about, sensing my anger. I saw a vision of water, green and murky, before it faded out of view.

I took a deep breath and let it out carefully. The ache lightened and the shadow retreated as I recovered my calm.

“This is a waste of time.” Fox folded his arms across his chest. My brother looked to be in peak physical health, though he was no more alive than the royal noble standing before us.

Their similarities ended there; there was barely enough skin and sinew clinging to Vanor to pass for human. That was my doing. The first few times I resurrected him, I had been respectful, taking great pains to restore his body to how it appeared when he was alive.

Now I allowed him only enough muscle and flesh to move his jaw.

“He’s not going to talk, Tea. You know that, I know that, and he definitely knows that.”

“I will make him talk.” Many years ago, my sister-asha had fallen in love with this wretched excuse of a ruler. In exchange for her unwavering devotion, he had taken her heartsglass and hidden it so well that no one had been able to find it.

And now, more than a decade later, Mykaela was dying. She could no longer return to Kion. Her health had deteriorated to the point where she had to remain near her heartsglass, still hidden somewhere within Odalia, here in the city of Kneave. It was hard enough to be a bone witch; that she’d survived for this long was a miracle in itself.

I grabbed what was left of the king’s shoulders, pulling him toward me. He reeked of death and obstinacy. “Answer me!” My voice echoed off the columns. “Didn’t you love her even a little? Or are you so petty that you’d allow her to suffer for the rest of her years? She’s dying. What grudge do you harbor to hate her this much?”

“Tea.”

I froze. So did Fox.

I had told no one else about my weekly excursions to the royal crypts. Not my friend Polaire, who would have boxed my ears if she’d known, nor Mistress Parmina, who would doom me to a life cleaning outhouses. Only Fox was privy to my secret, which he had agreed to keep despite his own misgivings. And Mykaela was the last person I wanted to find out.

She had aged more rapidly during the last few years since she had taken me under her wing. There was more gray in her golden hair, more lines on her face. Her back stooped slightly, like she struggled under a heavy burden. She had taken to using a cane everywhere she went, unsure of her own feet.

“Mykaela,” I stammered, “you’re not supposed to be here.”

“I could say the same for you,” she answered, but her eyes were fixed on King Vanor, her pain obvious. He watched her gravely, without shame or guilt, and my anger rose again. How many raisings had my sister-asha endured, forced to watch while this king refused to speak?

I raised my finger to sketch out the rune that would send Vanor back to the world of the dead, but Mykaela lifted a hand. “Vanor,” she said quietly, “it’s been a while.”

The decaying figure said nothing. His eyes studied her, savage and hungry and ill suited for such an impassive face.

“I apologize for my wayward apprentice. She has been willful and intractable since her admission to my asha-ka and has shown little improvement since. Please return to your rest. Tea, let him go.”

Mykaela’s words were a steel knife through my heart. Stuttering apologies, I completed the spell and watched as King Vanor’s body crumbled back into dust in his open coffin. Even as his features dissolved, King Vanor never once looked away from Mykaela’s face.

“Close the lid and move the stone back in place,” she said. I could detect the anger behind her calm. “I would tell King Telemaine to seal his coffin, but even that might not stop you. Whatever possessed you to let her do this, Fox?”

Fox shrugged, grinning like an abashed schoolboy. “I’m her familiar. It comes with the territory.”

“Being her familiar is no excuse for being an imbecile! And you! What possessed you to summon dead royalty in the middle of the night?”

“I wanted to help.” The excuse sounded weaker when made to Mykaela than to Fox. “I thought that I could control daeva now! You said no Dark asha’s ever done that before! That’s why…why I…”

Mykaela sighed. “And so by that logic, you think you are different from Dark asha of the past? What you have in ability, Tea, you lack in wisdom. You cannot compel the dead if they are not willing. Wasn’t that the first lesson I taught you after you raised Fox from his grave? Arrogance is not a virtue, sister.”

I looked down, blinking back tears. Was I arrogant to want to save her? Unlike Fox, Dark asha and all those with a silver heartsglass cannot be raised from the dead, and that permanence frightened me. “I’m sorry. I want to help. But I feel so powerless.”

I heard her move closer, felt her hand on my head, stroking my hair.

“It’s not such a bad thing, to feel powerless sometimes. It teaches us that some situations are inevitable and that we should spend what little time we have in the company of the people that matter most. Do you understand me, Tea?”

“Yes.” I wept.

“Tea, I’m not dead yet.” A finger nudged at my chin. “I would appreciate it if you stopped acting like I was. I do not give up so easily, but we must adopt other means.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It is only an apology if you mean it. This is the last time you will be summoning anyone in the royal crypts, no matter how noble you think your actions are. Promise me.”

“I promise,” I mumbled.

“The same is true for you too, Fox.”

“I promise, milady.”

“Good. Now help me up the stairs. My legs aren’t what they used to be.”

Fox reached down and scooped Mykaela into his arms. “It’s the fastest way,” he explained. “You’ve expended enough energy yelling at us.”

The older asha chuckled. “Yes, that’s always been rather tiresome now that I think about it. Perhaps you should direct your energies toward more productive tasks so I can tire less.”

“How did you know we were here?” I asked.

“I’ve taken to wandering at night. I looked in on Tea, but her room was empty. I detected a shifting of runes nearby and merely followed it to its source.”

“I didn’t mean to make you worry.” The staircase led back to the Odalian palace gardens. For the past two months, Fox and I had been King Telemaine’s guests, traveling the kingdom and tending to the sickly. Most of the people here fear and dislike bone witches, though with lesser fervor than before. It is not easy to hold a grudge against someone who has nursed you back to health.

At the king’s invitation, Mykaela had taken up residence in the castle indefinitely. But every day finds her weaker, and I feared the palace would serve as her hospice.

“There are many other concerns, Tea. Likh has a new case pending, hasn’t he?”

The asha association had rejected Likh’s appeal to join, but Polaire had dredged up an obscure law that permitted Deathseekers to train in the Willows until they turned fifteen, which was Likh’s current age.

Mykaela glanced over Fox’s shoulder, back at the catacombs, then turned away.

She still loves him, I thought, and fury burned through me like a fever. “I’m really sorry, Mykkie.”

She smiled. “As I said, only if you mean it, Tea. Get some rest. We’ve got a busy day ahead.”

* * *

I listened until my brother’s footsteps faded before sneaking out of my room a second time. I opened the doors of my mind to welcome the hidden shadows; they wrapped around my core, creating a barrier that had for many months prevented Fox from discovering the other sentience I hoarded away, like a sweet vintage I had no intentions of sharing. I couldn’t. Not yet.

Chief waited for me at the stables. A lone woman on a horse caused no outcry, and we rode undisturbed out of the city, into a copse of trees that hid us further from view. I climbed off my stallion, told him to await my return, and moved deeper into the forest, into a small clearing that served as a rendezvous point.

I reached out once more to the moving darkness. The scar on my right thigh was hot to the touch. It burned in the cold air, but I felt no pain.

Despite its size, the beast was made of stealth and shadows. Where there was once nothing, it now stood beside me, as if summoned from the air. Three pairs of hooded eyes gazed down at me, forked tongues dancing. Its wings extended, and twilight rolled over me, soothing and pleasant.

Master? It was a voice but not in the manner we think of voices. Our bond gave us an understanding that went beyond language.

I reached out. Its scaly hide was a combination of coarse bark and rough sandpaper.

Play? It sat, unmoving, as I climbed up its back.

Yes.

In the blink of an eye, we were soaring across the sky, rolling meadows and fields of green passing below us. Turn, I thought, testing the limits of my control, as I have over the last several months. The azi complied, wings curving toward the horizon. I laughed, the sound joyous and free against the wind, and one head dipped briefly to nuzzle at my cheek, purring.

This is not selfishness, I told myself, but a responsibility. Mykaela was partly right; I was arrogant and overconfident, but I was not like other Dark asha. No other Dark asha had been able to tame the azi. And riding with it on quiet nights meant it was not rampaging through cities.

But I also knew I had to keep my companion a secret. Raising a dead king was a far lesser sin than taking a daeva as a familiar. I shall conquer this, I thought and, in doing so, sealed my fate.

Why are we at Daanoris?” I asked again when she paused. “Why won’t you tell me?”

“Because I need you as a witness as well as a storyteller, Bard. You will not remain unbiased for long if I supply you with foresight.”

“You summoned me. I travel with you. My opinions will make little difference.”

“You have a reputation for impartiality, Bard. I trust your judgment and my prudence. And here in Santiang, there is someone I would like you to meet.”

“Who?”

“They call him the Heartforger.” She flashed me a quick mischievous grin. “I find it difficult to believe you will be so eager to rule in my favor after the endless stretch of corpses I summoned in my wake. Or after informing you of my intentions to take Daanoris. It is not easy to mask your repugnance. Why have I come to Daanoris? Perhaps simply because I can. Has that not crossed your mind?”

“Tea,” Kalen admonished, his voice low and amused.

She laughed. “Let me continue my story while we still have the luxury.”

The shadows grew across the trees. The daeva melted slowly into the forest, moving silently despite their sizes. No other sound passed through the woods—no chirping of birds nor chatter of squirrels. There was only the wind whispering through the leaves, the crackling of fire, and the sound of the asha’s voice.

Return to the #BlogTour The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco to read my review…

Buy The Heart Forger at Amazon UK

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Later today it is my turn on the BlogTour for The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco, the second part in The Bone Witch series. I absolutely adored the first part, The Bone Witch, which is why I decided to feature a pre-taste of Chupeco’s talent.

About the book

When Tea accidentally resurrects her dead brother, she learns she is a different from the other witches in her family.  Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in her community.  But she finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training. There Tea learns to wield her magic in the face of dark forces and the deceit of those who would plot against her, including the ruling royals, who are waging their own war for control of the land.

Told from Tea’s perspective while she waits in exile, collecting the strength and force to combat those who killed her one true love, and a visiting Bard’s perspective, this is another magical tale woven by The Girl from the Well author.

Review

I loved the writing and the descriptive style, it fits well with the flow of the story. Chupeco takes the reader to the past, the present and also Tea in the future. The future speaks of darkness and vengeance, the past of pain and death, and the present of uncertainty and discovery.

The parallels between the asha and Geisha’s are an interesting element of the story. Women are considered entertainment for the men, and yet the asha are also revered at the same time. Tea finds it difficult to reconcile her inner turbulence with the dainty and effeminate skills her peers excel at.

She finds a home thanks to Lady Mykaela, who intends to train her as a dark asha, but first she is asked to follow all orders blindly and instead of exciting learning opportunities she becomes nothing more than a skivvy.

The ability to read a person via their heartglass is such an interesting concept. It leaves doors open for discrimination, judgements and exclusions. Mykaela can see the potential in Tea, but has no idea just how much power she has, and neither does Tea. Unfortunately the power also escapes on occasion, which is code for loss of control.

One of Tea’s lighter dark moments is raising her beloved brother from the dead, which binds them in a way they both find it hard to cope with, especially when he starts to defy the strange connection they have.

Throughout the story the reader is given a glimpse of what Tea becomes and is heading towards, and it isn’t pretty. Which event or betrayal turns her into the powerful bone witch with an axe to grind? The dark being intent on destroying those who have wronged her.

This was hands down one of my favourite reads of 2017. Chupeco is incredibly talented, has masses of potential, and deserves to be right up there with the big names in the Fantasy genre. This is YA, so I would really like to see the author let loose beyond the borders and restrictions of young adult.

Buy The Bone Witch at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @RinChupeco @SourcebooksFire

Visit RinChupeco.com

Come back a little later for the BlogTour for The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch #2), the sequel to The Bone Witch!

A Summer of Witches by M. Ganendran

About the Author

M. Ganendran is the author of three books; The Song of the Mermaid, The Guardians of Rainbow Tower and A Summer of Witches. She enjoys writing stories that are suitable for children and young adults, yet which could captivate anyone.

Work is in progress for a new novel to be released in 2018. Sim’s Magic Windmill will tell the story of a twelve year old girl who finds herself a reluctant heroine in a quest to save Scotland from evil forces intent on destruction. Throughout her journey, Sim must contend with her own personal struggles with Crohn’s Disease, and comes to terms with her condition.

Follow @m_ganendran

Buy A Summer of Witches

About the book

Wartime witches, ghosts and smugglers abound in this dual-time supernatural mystery story.

In the summer of 1940, twelve year olds Lawrence and Rachel are evacuated to the village of Burley in the New Forest. One night, they witness a group of people dressed in strange clothing creeping into the woods. Before long, they find themselves drawn into an adventure while the very future of their country is at stake.

In 1990, teenagers Nick and Molly uncover a diary in the attic which belonged to Molly’s grandmother who was evacuated to Burley 50 years before. The diary hints at extraordinary events but creates more questions than answers before coming to an abrupt end. As they are drawn further into danger, can Nick and Molly find out what really happened in 1940?

Review

The story is split into past and present, the reader follows Lawrence and Rachel in the 1940’s, as war refugees evacuated to the countryside, and Nick and Molly in 1990 in the same village. Nick and Molly discover her grandmother’s diary she wrote as a child evacuee. It hints at a mystery, so the two them start snooping around to discover the truth.

Lawrence and Rachel experience the trauma of being separated from their parents, friends and family members. They are thrown together due to a mix-up, but eventually learn to support and depend on each other. The constant fear of being left an orphan is balanced out by the almost mundane problems they experience in their new home and school. The village children and the evacuees are at odds with each other, and not everyone is happy about having to take strangers into their homes. The children not only have to deal with the difficulties of dealing with their peers, growing up and family secrets, they also discover their own hidden potential.

The four children find themselves drawn into a world of vengeance and witchcraft. A world of supernatural power that has been hiding in the depths of the forests waiting to make a move. A secret coven is the only thing standing between the lurking evil and a viable threat against the country. What can they do to curtail the evil that is waiting to pounce and destroy anyone in its path?

This is suitable for middle-grade, YA and of course older readers. The author wants readers of all ages to be able to read and enjoy her work. What seems like an emotional read turns into a wild adventure, the kind of exciting adventure that will thrill young minds. Wild powers, secret gatherings, mysterious forests and the fact two twelve-year-old children have to try and save the world, are what make A Summer of Witches an entertaining read.

Buy A Summer of Witches  (Kindle- also available on Kindle Unlimited) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Buy A Summer of Witches (Paperback)

Buy The Guardians of Rainbow Tower

Buy The Song of the Mermaid

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

thirteenDespite what people may have heard or read this book doesn’t encourage teenage suicide nor does it romanticise the idea of suicide. I can’t speak for the popular Netflix series inspired by this book, simply because I haven’t watched it.

It’s important to bear in mind that teenage brains aren’t fully developed until they reach a certain age in adulthood. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of the brain, which isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. This is why a teen is more likely to make rash, illogical, dangerous and impulsive decisions. Everything is overly dramatic and every slight is the end of the world as we know it.

In the mind of  teenager every insult, imagined or real, is a reason to make a decision you can’t just undo.

The reader meets Hannah after she has made the decision to end her life. After she has convinced herself that there is no other way out of her situation other than killing herself.

Ultimately in the midst of all the drama and overhyped teenage interactions Asher is trying to deliver an important message. When someone reaches the end of their tether, and leans towards jumping off the nearest cliff, they will send out subconscious signals. The signals are there for us to see, hear and read, we just need to acknowledge them. Instead of ignoring the changes in behaviour, appearance or the almost indiscernible cries for help, we need to open our eyes and try to help.

The story starts with Clay Jensen receiving a box full of tapes, a spoken testimonial from a dead girl. A girl he knew, a girl he kissed, and a young girl who somehow thinks he belongs on a list of people who pushed her towards suicide. He has to deal with the emotional upheaval caused by this unexpected accusation and the experiences Hannah has been through. Clay also has to deal with the fact he will eventually come face to face with the other people on the list. The people who ignored her, turned her away, ridiculed and assaulted her.

Suicide brings an element of desperation with it, but also one of selfishness. Suicidal thoughts are all encompassing, especially when depression is part and parcel of the equation. There is no room for thoughts of what those left behind will have to deal with. The why, the who and the fact they didn’t see it coming and couldn’t stop it. Even when there is light at the end of the tunnel Hannah is already so enveloped by her own darkness that she chooses self destructive behaviour instead of choosing a path other than death.

I could go on and on about this book. It isn’t just a straightforward ‘everyone was mean to Hannah and that’s why she is dead’ scenario. Hannah isn’t exempt from criticism. She makes mistakes and some dodgy choices, especially in regards to Jessica and Bryce.

Hopefully this read will make someone reconsider their actions and behaviour towards their fellow humans. Teens really need to take on board that actions have consequences, rumours ruin lives, bullying is destructive and suicide is a one-way ticket with no return.

Buy Thirteen Reasons Why at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @jayasherguy @PenguinRHUK