Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

“A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.”

Primoria is composed of eight kingdoms; the four Rhythm and four Seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. The Rhythm Kingdoms blame the Seasons for losing Primoria's source of magic. The Seasons' land sits on top of the chasm where the ball of magic resides deep in the ground. Each King and Queen in Primoria possesses a portion of that magic in a conduit of some type to help their kingdoms. The Rhythm Kingdoms hate that this is all of the magic they can use since the Seasons Kingdoms have lost the entrance to the chasm over time. The Rhythm Kingdoms cycle through all four seasons in a year whereas the Seasons stay in one forever.

King Angra Manu of Spring broke Winter's conduit locket sixteen years earlier when he destroyed the kingdom. The Winter Kingdom “used to be home to more than a hundred thousand Winterians, and most of them were massacred in Spring’s invasion. The ones who weren’t now sit in work camps throughout Spring.”  Twenty-five Winterians originally escaped. Now only eight remain free, hidden in the barren, unwanted Rania Plains of Summer. Their mission is to find and rejoin the two halves of the conduit locket. The locket is needed so that Winter can regain their standing as a kingdom and find allies in the fight against Spring. Unfortunately, the conduit is female-blooded and the only Winter heir is male. It isn’t known if the magic will work when the conduit is put back together.

Mather is the future King of Winter and one of the eight refugees. William leads the small group in their attempts to reclaim the conduit halves. Having rescued Meira as an infant, William refuses to let her call him father so everything was yes, sir and no, sir. Sir stuck as the name she calls him. Everyone has a part to play in the group, even the young heir. Meira is not allowed by Sir to go on any of the group’s missions. She and Mather have literally grown up and trained together. Even though she has been in love with Mather forever, she knows that as heir, he must marry a princess in order to produce a female heir to wield Winter’s magic. When a scouting party returns to the camp with word that part of the locket is now in Lynia, Meira sees it as her opportunity to finally contribute to the group. William will have to send out fresh people. As she is getting ready to ask to go, William tells Mather and Finn that they are to leave immediately. William will not let her go because he doesn’t think she is ready. Meira has yet to beat Mather during their hand-to-hand combat training. Just then, Mather lies about an injury that Meira gave him when she beat him in their last fight. Meira is shocked that Mather would lie for her and she knows that Sir is skeptical but would never risk Mather’s life. Sir tells Meira to help him back to camp and then go get her chakram.

When Meira and Mather are alone, she squeals and gives him a hug. He keeps her close and gives her a piece of lapis lazuli that he found on their travels when they were children. He carries because he has always liked to think that it might contain a bit of magic and it helped him to feel stronger. Mather wants her to have it. She thanks him but Mather says that she deserves the right to fight for their home as anyone else. She “helps” him back into camp and cannot help but wonder what their lives could be like if they could actually be together. Meira is finally getting the chance to help the kingdom of Winter, something she has always wanted.

It takes Meira and Finn two days to reach the port city of Lynia. They split up in an attempt to enter the city undetected. Making her way past the guards at the gate by implying she is a prostitute, Meira heads towards the Keep where she is to meet up with Finn. She crawls up the side and finds Finn waiting on the balcony for her outside of the city master's office. Sir figures that the locket half will be hidden somewhere in the cellar, locked. The key will probably be kept in the office. Finn waits on the balcony while Meira riffles through the desk. She cannot find any keys when voices can be heard outside the office door. She is able to make out the words "Welcome, Herod." Meira meets Finn's eyes and she realizes that it is none other than General Herod Montego, a man that brings memories of fear, gore and horror. She sees an envelope under a paperweight and grabs it before hurrying out to the balcony where she and Finn hide when several people enter the office. The letter she found contains a report on the population of each Labor camp housing Winterians. They are both horrified to see how few of them remain. They are both brought back to reality when the city master asks that it be moved immediately before anymore Winterian scum descend upon the city. Meira and Finn realize the locket half is still in the Keep. There is a discussion about whether to move it or not when the city master notices that the letter is missing from the desk. Herod states that they are not alone.

The balcony curtain opens as Finn and Meira jump from the balcony. Herod sees that they are Winterians and orders the city locked down. Meira makes the decision to grab ahold of a window ledge instead of dropping to the ground. She pulls herself inside the window of a darkened room. She looks back out the window and sees Finn running. She doesn't wave to him in fear of drawing attention to herself. Their plan was to meet up outside of the city walls. Meira makes the decision to stay behind since she is so close to recovering the locket half. She knows that Finn will head back to the camp alone when she fails to return. Meira images what Sir will think. For now, Meira must figure out how to retrieve the locket half and remain undetected.

It's not long before Herod sounds the alarm and Meira unfortunately finds herself in the barracks. Running, she comes to a locked door and ends up kicking it in. She descends the steps and finds herself in the sewer. Meira also finds the locket half. She is unable to escape and Herod ties her up, grabs the box with the locket half and begins to take her to King Angra. With a knife hidden up her sleeve, Meira begins to cut through her ropes. It's not long before she breaks free as she grabs the locket. Her horse flies through the sewer and she is able to slip under the city gate before the soldiers close it. After riding two days, Meira finds her way back to camp. Sir, Finn and Mather are in the meeting tent and don't hear her enter. They are discussing a plan of action to rescue her. She is noticed and walks toward the table where she places the box with the locket down. Sir is speechless until he sees her covered in filth and sends her for a bath. He isn't going to be sending her on any more missions.

Meira is thinking about how she feels no connection to Winter now that she was successful in her mission. Mather comes to check on her. He knows something is wrong if she barely yelled at Sir. He looks over at her bruise and her heart skips. Mather tells her that Sir values her but he hates to see a world where she must be a soldier and not a carefree young lady. He tells her that she would have survived even if she didn't have the lapis lazuli. Meira asks if he thinks her success is tied to a rock when it hasn't helped him in the past. She sees him as a future King that Angra should fear. Meira withdraws from him when she thinks about the separate courses their lives will soon have to take if Mather is to have a female heir. The air crackles between them and Meira tries to pull away when she sees the shadows. Five Spring scouts come out of the trees. Weaponless,  Mather pulls Meira towards the camp while the scouts steal horses to ride back to Angra.

What happens now that their camp has been discovered? Who survives and where do they flee? Can Meira find the second half of the conduit locket? Will it restore magic to Winter? Why doesn't Meira feel a connection to the kingdom of Winter? Will Meira be able to put aside her feelings for Mather? Is the lapis lazuli just a rock or did Mather find a conduit of magic?

Book two in the trilogy will be published in 2015.

“Icicles Like Kindling is a glimpse into Meira’s life before the events of Snow Like Ashes that was originally going to serve as the prologue to the book. In it, you will get a taste of the kingdom of Autumn, meet some of Meira’s fellow refugees, and get an introduction to the wicked danger that will soon plague them…” It can be found at https://www.scribd.com/doc/241378416/ICICLES-LIKE-KINDLING or http://www.epicreads.com/blog/read-an-exclusive-prologue-to-snow-like-ashes/
It is not a necessary read but the two of the characters are mentioned in parts of the book.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

“Some hate us, some fear us, some worship us. But all know us.”

Adelina Amouteru survived the blood fever that swept through Kenettra a  decade ago. Her mother, like all infected adults, died. Her younger sister, Violetta, recovered unscathed. Adelina emerged flawed, a malfetto. Her left eye swelled so that the doctor had to cut it out with a red hot knife and a scar runs down the side of her face. She uses her hair to help conceal her scar. While her sister's hair remained black and shiny, Adelina's turned to a "strange, ever-shifting silver." Malfettos are feared and considered bad luck. Adelina's father, a struggling businessman, has had difficulty marrying her off. When she overhears her father accept payment from a businessman for her hand, she is shocked. Then she hears that she will be his mistress not his wife. He is already married and who would want to be married to someone like her. Adelina decides that tonight will be the night she finally flees her father’s house. Caught by Violetta as she is climbing out the window, she begs her to keep quiet. Adelina slips on her way out due to the heavy rainfall and drops some of the items she was taking in hopes to sell. She makes it to the stable and saddles her favorite stallion. They race through the storm until they reach the edge of the marketplace in Dalia. Her horse freezes up and that’s when she hears her father’s horse approaching. Calm yet clearly angry, Adelina’s father attempts take her home. He taunts her that she will never receive an offer any better than the one he accepted. She whispers that she hates him and he slaps her face, while still holding her by the hair. Something inside of Adelina snaps. With a rush of energy and blinding light, Adelina conjures ghostly phantoms who taunt her father. He tries to escape and she tries to stop the phantoms. Her father stumbles away, smashing into his horse before falling into the mud. The animal startles and rears up. It’s hooves land on her father’s chest, killing him.

Adelina is in shock. She never meant to kill her father, only to escape. Leaving her father’s body behind, she rides north in hopes of reaching the capital, Estenzia, where she can blend in. Five days later, she is found by a woman who offers her a place to sleep. The next morning, two Inquisition soldiers, the king’s peacekeepers, wake her up and drag her before the Inquisition. Violetta is there. She doesn’t answer that Adelina is her sister but her face gives her away. The Inquisitor charges Adelina with the murder of her father. Violetta proclaims her innocence and that she only tried to help her. Adelina is dragged to a prison cell where she has spent the past three weeks. Tomorrow, she will be executed.

Just before Adelina is set to die, the neighboring prisoner asks if she is really one of the Young Elites. He laughs as he asks her to break him out. Adelina ignores him and scoffs at the idea. She has been unable to recreate the strange illusions from the night of her father’s death. Hours later, Adelina is dragged to her execution. Once outside the Inquisition tower, she is blinded by the daylight and deafened by the shouts from the crowd who have gathered to watch her die. She is carried onto the platform when her body collapses and shackled to a stake. She is surprised to find out that the Lead Inquisitor of Kenettra, Master Teren Santoro, is a young man and he has come to see her die. Teren tells the crowd that the so-called Young Elites were demonic and will be brought to justice. Teren steps towards Adelina so they can see one another up close. He remarks to her after sweeping the mashed hair from her face that it was a shame; she would have been pretty. He signals farewell and lights the pyre. Terrified, Adelina is finally able to call forth her powers. The crowd grows quiet as the day grows dark with what turns out to be phantom locusts. The soldiers draw their swords and Adelina is unable to put out the flames. An Inquisitor draws his sword and moves towards her when she sees a figure move into her line of sight as the flames begin to die down. The Inquisitor tells him to stand aside and before she can blink, the boy sinks a dagger deep into the soldier's side. The other Inquisitors notice their fallen comrade and come to his aid. Barely missing being cut in half, the boy cuts off another soldier's hand. Adelina notices other masked figures darting around dressed the same as the boy. Teren shouts that it is The Reaper. As Inquisitors rush for him, he raises his hand and brings down his hand and separates himself from them with a wall of flame. He comes towards Adelina's and she sees his hooded face and silver mask. He melts her shackles with his flame to free her. She slumps down and he catches her. As he is carrying her away, the last thing Adelina sees is the silver dagger insignia on his armguard.

Adelina wakes up several days later in a luxurious suite like none she has ever seen before. Clean and her wounds bandaged, she is even more surprised when a servant enters dressed more elegantly than most of the merchants she has dealt with. She has brought Adelina her breakfast. The servant is about to leave and fetch someone when they hear him walking down the hall. Enzo Valenciano enters. He tells Adelina that he is the former crown prince of Kennettra. Enzo is also a survivor of the blood fever and a malfetto. Disfigured and considered bad luck, his sister’s husband claimed the crown when his father, the king, died. He is also the leader of the Dagger Society, a secret group of Young Elites who rescue other malfettos captured by the Inquisition. Adelina is shocked to find out who she is with. Everyone knows the names of the Young Elites; The Reaper, The Magiano, The Windwalker, The Alchemist. She is even more surprised to find out that her powers are of interest to them.

Enzo sends her to see Raffaele Bessette, another member of the Black Daggers. Raffaele takes her to a chamber to perform the first of several tests. This one will see what her strengths and weaknesses are and how her energy connects to the world. During the final part, Adelina reacts severely. She and Raffaele stare at one another. She asks what the last results mean. He replies hatred in one’s chest and darkness in oneself; fear and fury. Enzo will have to how decide how he feels about her and what it will mean about her training. She is not yet a member of the Dagger Society. Adelina will need to be able to have complete control over her powers. What Raffaele doesn’t say outright is that if she cannot control her powers, the Dagger Society will kill her.

What are Adelina’s powers? Why did it take so long for her powers to manifest? Can she master them? Will she become a member of the Dagger Society? Why do some malfettos have special powers? How does Enzo plan to use the Society? What happens when Adelina is unable to control her hatred?

Visit The Young Elites website.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Illusions of Fate by Keirsten White

“The only fate that matters is the one you choose.”

A fateful trip down an alley brought Finn Ackerly into Jessamin Olea’s life. He rescued her from an unsavory dockworker on her way to work at the hotel. Immediately suspicious of his behavior, she is intrigued none the less. During the time they spend over dinner, each one sizes up the other. Finn correctly guesses that she is a student from the island of Melei. Jessamin mistakenly believes that he is a lord but he is wealthy. She is fascinated by his hair and sees that he cannot be that much older than her.  They part when she refuses his offer to walk her home. at her door, she notices that she seems to be casting two shadows. Jessamin blinks and the second one disappears.

One day while strolling in a park, Jessamin heard Finn's voice calling to her. She looks up to see him sitting on a bench. He comments that she is following him. Jessamin pulls out a letter from her mother and begins to read it in hopes that Finn will leave her alone. He doesn't and they talk about children, hats and the weather. Finn shocks her when he says that he would very much like to call on her but he likes her too much to do that. He leaves saying that her hopes she can have more hatless days and stay away from unwanted suitors. Finn walks away and Jessamin finds that her heart is breaking a little. She sits down on a bench and a raven sits beside her. She comments that she had no food and it caws at her. Suddenly, the bird begins to attack Jessamin. It claws at her hair as she tries to knock it away. The raven flies off but not without a clump of her hair and the ribbon tying it back.

After Jessamin left Melei for Albion to come to school, she didn't realize how much money it would cost her for room and board. Her cousin Jacky Boy works at a hotel and he offered her a job as a servant in exchange for a small room and leftovers. The two are finishing a room service order when a boy with a delivery comes. Jessamin recognizes him as Kelen, a boy she had a crush on a few years earlier. She is glad to see a familiar face and the two hope to see one another soon. With the room service order prepared, Jacky Boy send her to deliver it and then head off for bed. It is after midnight. She knocks on the door and a man's voice says he didn't order as he opens it. He grabs Jessamin and drags her into the room. It is Finn. He backs her against the walk and she wants to know why he is there. Let her go before the staff comes looking for her. Finn knows that she is lying. He begins to question her; things like what did she know about his parents, how she got into boarding school and if she practices the arts. Jessamin is visibly shaken and Finn wonders who sent her to his room. He pulls a black feather from her hair. She wonders how it got there since she had washed her hair since the bird attack. He holds it over a candle and it evaporates. Finn realizes that she is completely innocent. He turns his back and Jessamin is burnt by the door knob trying to get it open. He tells her that if she draws a card from his deck, he will let her go. She does so reluctantly and shows it to him. Finn whispers "Wretched fates. I am sorrier than I can tell you." She looks at her hand and sees two cards knowing that she only took one. He asks her to leave. She does and once in her own room she realizes that his door unlocked on its own.

Several days later while studying in her room, there is a knock on Jesamin's door. Ma'ati, a fellow servant at the hotel and Jacky Boy's girlfriend, enters. A package has been mistakenly delivered to her that belongs to Jessamin. The girls go to Ma'ati's room and a box as tall as Jessamine is there. She opens the envelope to find an invitation to a gala for the following night. There is also a handwritten note from Finn asking her to join him. He can no longer stay away from her and he will explain the events from the other night. She keeps the note private from Ma'ati's but shows her the invitation. Inside the box, Jessamin finds the most beautiful dress she has ever seen. Ma'ati helps her get dressed the next night and sees her off. Jessamin is nervous and excited over the experience. A motor car is there to greet her and takes her to the conservatory. Once inside, she makes her way towards Finn. He acts as if he doesn't know or see her. Not one to be stood up, she makes her way over even though he is talking to three other women. In their conversation, Jessamin learns that Finn is really Lord Ackerly. She walks off determined not to be put down. In a red dress with her exotic looks, Jessamin has a full dance card for the evening. Finally, Eleanor the party planner, rescues her from her admirers and tells her to find a quiet room to rest. Her appearance will make her event the talk of the town for next several weeks. Finn finds her and lets her know that he isn't responsible for any of the arrangements for the night. She walks past him and finds her way outside. On her way home, she is overtaken by a murder of crows. They seem to be everywhere in Albion. Jessamin is knocked to the ground. She first dreams of her mother and then of Finn. She wakes up to find herself in a study with a raven perched on a chair. Jessamin sees a single window, bookcases and no door. She starts to look for a way out when a man asks her if she wants some tea. She spins around and sees an older man and the bird has vanished.

Jessamin soon finds herself a pawn in the middle of a struggle for magic and power. Where does Jessamin find herself after the gala? Who is Finn Ackerby? Why was Finn terrified when Jessamin pulled out the cards?  How did his room door unlock by itself? Who sent Jessamin the dress and why? Why is there an abundance of ravens in Albion and why do they swarm around Jessamin? 

Visit Kiersten White's website.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas (The Burning Sky book 2)

Please visit the Recaptains blog if you need a refresher on the first book in the series.

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t read the first book in the series, The Burning Sky, Stop! I don’t want to ruin the story for you.

Prince Titus of the Domain and Iolanthe Seabourne, aka Archer Fairfax, had planned to spend a simple, peaceful summer in the Labyrinthine Mountains but even the best laid plans change. Despite the numerous scenarios the two planned for, Iolanthe being alone in the mountains wasn’t one of them. During a diplomatic reception at the Citadel, Titus is approached by a woman whose beauty rivaled Lady Callista’s. She asks him about his elemental mage. Trying to cover his shock, he lets her know that Atlantis has already questioned him extensively. She tells him that she isn’t an agent of Atlantis and he wants to know why he would change his answer when he doesn’t know where she is. The woman says that they know she is the prophesied one and they want to keep her safe from the Bane. The guards discover her and she quickly takes her leave.

Titus and Iolanthe, still disguised as Fairfax, reunite back at Eton College. Their group of friends, including Wintervale and Kashkari, make plans for a visit to to Baycrest House, Sutherland’s uncle’s property in Norfolk. The house sits on a cliff overlooking the North Sea. The week before they all leave, Wintervale is called home by his mother. He doesn’t return before the boys leave. At the house, the boys spent the night drinking by a bonfire and roasting sausages. Titus and Fairfax fake drinking in case the cognac is spiked with a truth serum. Eventually, everyone retires to their rooms to sleep it off. Titus uses the time to work at the laboratory. Fairfax keeps an eye on everyone. Titus vaults back to Bayside Manor. Fairfax asks him when the new entrance will be done. Soon he replies. She tells him that he looks tired and should get some sleep. Titus falls asleep with a smile on his face that Iolanthe put there.

When he wakes up, Titus is still smiling having dreamed of Iolanthe. He hears her voice outside through the window. Titus notices that the clock reads 2:14, the exact same time from his mother’s prophecy. That prophecy states that he will witness “the feat of elemental magic that will change the lives of everyone involved.” It was that same time that he saw Iolanthe’s lightning strike. He steps onto the balcony and notices a storm brewing. He sees Fairfax and Cooper play croquet below. They invite him to join when Titus notices that his wand is warming, alerting him specifically to a nautical danger. Fairfax feels the signal too. He uses a far-seeing spell to search and sees an Atlantean vessel five miles out pursuing a dinghy with Wintervale as the only passenger. Before he can react, Titus sees Wintervale point his wand at the vessel. Suddenly, the sea calms before a whirlpool forms and pulls the Atlantean ship under. Titus is shocked. Wintervale just created a great feat of elemental magic.

Titus rescues Wintervale from the sea and brings him the the manor house. He is resting and Iolanthe knows something is wrong with Titus. Finding a moment alone, Titus tells her what he witnessed with Wintervale. He tells her that although he saw her pillar of lightning at 2:14, someone woke him up at that time as they did every day in hopes of Titus discovering the event from his mother’s prophecy. Today, he awoke on his own at 2:14 and everything was exactly as the prophecy said it would be. He cannot recall all of the details of the day he saw Iolanthe but after rereading his mother’s diary, Titus believes that Wintervale not Iolanthe is the mage from his prophecy.

With this discovery, everything that Titus and Iolanthe believe and have worked for is thrown into question. Titus is relentless that Wintervale is the mage from the prophecy. Titus and Iolanthe find their lives ripped apart. Can Iolanthe come to grips with the fact that she might not be the one to help Titus with the prophecy? Will Titus allow Iolanthe to help him with his mission against Atlantis? Is Wintervale really the great elemental mage or is it Iolanthe? What happens when Wintervale comes down with a mysterious illness? Could there possibly be two mages? Is Princess Ariadne’s prophecy true or open to interruption? Who was the woman who approached Titus at the Citadel? Can Titus and Iolanthe continue to work together?

Love, danger and mystery surround Titus and Iolanthe in their latest adventure. Fans will be eagerly waiting for the final book in the Elemental trilogy.