Book review: Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass, Book 7)

I’ve been waiting for this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. KINGDOM OF ASH was a great Epic Fantasy adventure!

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I loved this story. Finally after 6 installments, the adventure concludes. And what a conclusion!

There’s everything here for those who love high fantasy adventure, battles, love-stories, and magic. It had all the elements I adore in fantasy, plus it brought three yet to be resolved romances to their emotional conclusion. Maas seamlessly includes ALL the major players from previous stories in for the grand finale, and she does so in the way that had me caring about all the threads, and all the characters. Quite an achievement!

The fantasy world is richly drawn, with sweeping settings. This story truly was epic in scale in every sense, and the battle scenes were fantastic. I particularly enjoyed the witch towers – terrifying!

It’s a big book (and the concluding chapters could have been shortened a tad, in my opinion, without losing any impact) that has a lot of questions to answer, and many subplots to tie up – but like I said, Maas does a great job of it. This is definitely a book I’d read again. Here were my highlights (hopefully none of these should be spoilers):

– Aelin’s imprisonment and torture … no I’m not ghoulish but I thought this section was incredibly well done.
– Dorian’s trip to Morath …. this section had me on the edge of my seat. Nail-biting!
– The conclusion of Aedion and Lysandra’s, and Elide and Lorcan’s love stories. These were highly emotional!
– Dorian and Manon’s developing relationship … two conflicted souls who are actually meant for each other.
– The final showdowns with the Valg, Erawan and Maeve. Great baddies in this series!

There were plenty of other parts of the story that I loved (too many to go into here) and the writing was fluid and engrossing. I can’t wait to see what new series Sarah J Maas has in store for us next!

Five stars!

Check out the book on Amazon.

More Epic Fantasy with great romance!

One of my most popular posts on this blog is Looking for Epic Fantasy with great romance? This being the case I thought it was time I did an update post … as I’ve read some more Epic Fantasy Romances since then.

Over the last year, while working on my own Epic Fantasy Romance series, I’ve read three romantic fantasy adventures which were really stand-out for me. I’d like to share them with you (along with my reviews) here.

Epic Fantasy Romance is a sub-genre of Epic Fantasy, but one where the romance and developing love story needs to be ‘as important’ as the adventure story. Many Epic Fantasy novels have love interests or romantic subplots. However, Epic Fantasy Romance takes the romance one step further. Although these stories often have plenty of high-stakes adventure, magic and the forces of good and evil, they are also hugely character driven—which is what makes them so much fun to read (and write!).

Here are three Epic Fantasy Romances you don’t want to miss:

515gDyrTZ8L._SY346_Blade and Rose (Blade and Rose series, Book 1) by Miranda Honfleur

An excellent start to an exciting Epic Fantasy Romance series. It’s often hard to find good Fantasy Romances which aren’t Young Adult or Paranormal. But there’s nothing better than a sword and sorcery adventure with an emotional love story woven through it!

Definitely a five-star read. Here’s what I loved about it:

Blade and Rose is an epic novel – both in size (it’s over 700 pages long!) and in scope. Miranda Honfleur builds a credible world built on European civilisations and an exciting magic system. The characters are well-drawn and with enough flaws to make them seem real. Rielle is a complicated heroine, a mix of strong kick-ass sorceress and painful insecurity. She doesn’t have any trouble attracting men into her life, only she has been terribly hurt by them. When she meets Jon, a man she has sworn to protect, she struggles between her attraction to someone she can’t have, and her own fears of being hurt or hurting those she loves.

My favourite character in the book though (and I’m not sure if the author intended this) is the werewolf, Brennan. He’s a really mixed-up guy, and does some dispicable things during the story, yet we never totally lose sympathy for him. He is conflicted and as the story progresses starts to gain a little self-knowledge. As the series progresses, I imagine he will have a pivotal role … well, I hope so.

The writing flows smoothly and is highly readable. The author doesn’t get bogged down in lengthy description but at the same time manages to create a richly-drawn world that fantasy readers expect!

Any niggles? Only a couple of tiny ones that didn’t detract from my rating. The book was very long … and could have been trimmed in a couple of places without affecting the story. Rielle and Jon’s relationship sometimes felt a little bit like ‘instalove’. I would have liked to have seen a bit more angst and conflict between them in the beginning. However, their emotional journey was depicted well and leaves plenty of scope for the next book in the series.

An engrossing Epic Fantasy Romance read!

Check out this book on Amazon.com.


41181130Eye of Truth (Agents of the Crown #1) by Lindsay Buroker

A fun, lighthearted Epic Fantasy Romance read!

This is the first book I’ve picked up by Lindsay Buroker. I really enjoyed her fluid, fast-paced writing style and the humor that’s laced through the book. The main characters, Jev and Zenia are both fun, flawed and interesting. They kept my attention throughout and the chemistry between them was great.

Although this is definitely a romance, the actually romantic story (sorry, Spoiler!) doesn’t get resolved at the end of this book. We’ll have to read the next one to find out how the relationship develops. I thought I’d be irritated by this but I think that it works as the two leads aren’t ‘ready’ yet to take the relationship further. Although there’s a lot of witty banter between them, they’re both very emotionally guarded and have both had difficult pasts, despite their different backgrounds. I particularly liked Jev; he’s a handsome charmer who came back from war with both physical and psychological scars.

This story has elves and dwarves – the first I’ve read of this type in a while. I cringed initially, but soon realized that Buroker’s elves and dwarves are original enough to to make weigh the story down in stereotype. They are actually a lot of fun in this story.

I absolutely loved the fantasy world: the warm climate surrounded by mangrove swamps and crocodile infested waters. I also enjoyed the magic system, which I imagine will be developed further in the next books.

Loved the cover too!

A fun read for those who like a bit of romance with their Epic Fantasy!

Five stars

Check out the book on Amazon


51gOcfERQoL._SY346_Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

I really wanted to give this novel five stars … as I’m a huge Grace Draven fan. Radiance and Master of Crows remain two of my favorite books!

However, although there were things I absolutely loved about this novel, it fell short of the mark in a couple of areas. That said, it’s a really good read and well worth the (long) wait for!

Firstly, here’s what I loved about it:

The start is great. Draven drops you straight into the drama. A gladiator planning his escape, and a young woman who makes a yearly journey that takes a terrible toll on her. Azarion is the gladius prime, and also the empress’s pet. But he’s the only one who sees through Gilene’s yearly illusion when she joins the other ‘Flowers of Spring’ who must burn. He blackmails her into helping him escape and then abducts her.

I loved the scenes where they take refuge in a haunted city, after just escaping the capital. The city is eerily depicted and the scene where they have to run for their lives from a horrifying creature is really well done.

I liked the shades of LOTR with the barrows—complete with a barrow wight—where our hero and heroine take shelter on the ride to his homeland. I also liked the influence of Game of Thrones in the Savatar (Azarion’s people). Their customs and gods reminded me of the Dothraki a bit.

I loved the ending—really high action and edge of your seat stuff. Gilene finally takes action … and it was worth waiting for!

Now, here’s what I thought it lacked (and I only note these things because I liked the book so much but wanted to love it!):

Gilene is a bit too passive for my liking. For most of the story she’s a captive, and it’s only at the end we see her show some true spine. For the rest of the novel she seems at the whim of others. She complains a lot at the beginning, and it was a relief when she finally changed her attitude toward the hero.

Gilene was also a bit two-dimensional. Out of the two main characters I had more sympathy and understanding for Azarion. We find out about the ordeal of his life as the empress’s plaything but I never really ‘felt’ the hardship of Gilene’s upbringing. She’s described as sour and angry at the start of the story, but she comes across (to me at least) as a little cold.

The love story lacked the sizzle and emotional intensity of Grace Draven’s earlier works. Now, this is something that she excels in so it surprised me. I enjoyed the romance but it didn’t wow me the way Radiance and Master of Crows did.

Even these gripes withstanding, I still really enjoyed the book. Grace Draven is a masterful writer who knows how to bring a richly detailed fantasy world to life. I look forward to more in this world!

Four solid stars

Check out the novel on Amazon.com


So those are my three top Epic Fantasy Romance reads of the last few months—how about you? Please share your discoveries in the comments below. 🙂

Book review: Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven

51gOcfERQoL._SY346_I really wanted to give this novel five stars … as I’m a huge Grace Draven fan. Radiance and Master of Crows remain two of my favorite books!

However, although there were things I absolutely loved about this novel, it fell short of the mark in a couple of areas. That said, it’s a really good read and well worth the (long) wait for!

Firstly, here’s what I loved about it:

The start is great. Draven drops you straight into the drama. A gladiator planning his escape, and a young woman who makes a yearly journey that takes a terrible toll on her. Azarion is the gladius prime, and also the empress’s pet. But he’s the only one who sees through Gilene’s yearly illusion when she joins the other ‘Flowers of Spring’ who must burn. He blackmails her into helping him escape and then abducts her.

I loved the scenes where they take refuge in a haunted city, after just escaping the capital. The city is eerily depicted and the scene where they have to run for their lives from a horrifying creature is really well done.

I liked the shades of LOTR with the barrows—complete with a barrow wight—where our hero and heroine take shelter on the ride to his homeland. I also liked the influence of Game of Thrones in the Savatar (Azarion’s people). Their customs and gods reminded me of the Dothraki a bit.

I loved the ending—really high action and edge of your seat stuff. Gilene finally takes action … and it was worth waiting for!

Now, here’s what I thought it lacked (and I only note these things because I liked the book so much but wanted to love it!):

Gilene is a bit too passive for my liking. For most of the story she’s a captive, and it’s only at the end we see her show some true spine. For the rest of the novel she seems at the whim of others. She complains a lot at the beginning, and it was a relief when she finally changed her attitude toward the hero.

Gilene was also a bit two-dimensional. Out of the two main characters I had more sympathy and understanding for Azarion. We find out about the ordeal of his life as the empress’s plaything but I never really ‘felt’ the hardship of Gilene’s upbringing. She’s described as sour and angry at the start of the story, but she comes across (to me at least) as a little cold.

The love story lacked the sizzle and emotional intensity of Grace Draven’s earlier works. Now, this is something that she excels in so it surprised me. I enjoyed the romance but it didn’t wow me the way Radiance and Master of Crows did.

Even these gripes withstanding, I still really enjoyed the book. Grace Draven is a masterful writer who knows how to bring a richly detailed fantasy world to life. I look forward to more in this world!

Four solid stars ****

Check out the novel on Amazon.com

Update on THE LOST SWALLOW

THE LOST SWALLOW launched on August 14th and the novel has had a good response to far. Reviewers have enjoyed the book too, which is always a bonus!

Here’s what one reviewer had to say about the novel:

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If you’re keen to know more about the story, you can watch me talking about THE LOST SWALLOW prior to its launch.

Work has now begun on Book #3 in the series, PATH OF THE DARK—and I’m really excited to get stuck into it. Things get really dark in this novel (as the title suggests!). The romance focuses on Ryana (an enchanter) and Elias (the prince of Anthor) as two kingdoms clash.

More updates on Book #3 coming soon!

Book review: Eye of Truth (Agents of the Crown, #1) by Lindsay Buroker

41181130A fun, lighthearted Epic Fantasy Romance read!

This is the first book I’ve picked up by Lindsay Buroker. I really enjoyed her fluid, fast-paced writing style and the humor that’s laced through the book. The main characters, Jev and Zenia are both fun, flawed and interesting. They kept my attention throughout and the chemistry between them was great.

Although this is definitely a romance, the actually romantic story (sorry, Spoiler!) doesn’t get resolved at the end of this book. We’ll have to read the next one to find out how the relationship develops. I thought I’d be irritated by this but I think that it works as the two leads aren’t ‘ready’ yet to take the relationship further. Although there’s a lot of witty banter between them, they’re both very emotionally guarded and have both had difficult pasts, despite their different backgrounds. I particularly liked Jev; he’s a handsome charmer who came back from war with both physical and psychological scars.

This story has elves and dwarves – the first I’ve read of this type in a while. I cringed initially, but soon realized that Buroker’s elves and dwarves are original enough to to make weigh the story down in stereotype. They are actually a lot of fun in this story.

I absolutely loved the fantasy world: the warm climate surrounded by mangrove swamps and crocodile infested waters. I also enjoyed the magic system, which I imagine will be developed further in the next books.

Loved the cover too!

A fun read for those who like a bit of romance with their Epic Fantasy!

Five stars


Check out the book on Amazon

Book Review: Blade and Rose by Miranda Honfleur

515gDyrTZ8L._SY346_Blade and Rose (Blade and Rose series, Book 1) by Miranda Honfleur

An excellent start to an exciting Epic Fantasy Romance series. It’s often hard to find good Fantasy Romances which aren’t Young Adult or Paranormal. But there’s nothing better than a sword and sorcery adventure with an emotional love story woven through it!

Definitely a five-star read. Here’s what I loved about it:

Blade and Rose is an epic novel – both in size (it’s over 700 pages long!) and in scope. Miranda Honfleur builds a credible world built on European civilisations and an exciting magic system. The characters are well-drawn and with enough flaws to make them seem real. Rielle is a complicated heroine, a mix of strong kick-ass sorceress and painful insecurity. She doesn’t have any trouble attracting men into her life, only she has been terribly hurt by them. When she meets Jon, a man she has sworn to protect, she struggles between her attraction to someone she can’t have, and her own fears of being hurt or hurting those she loves.

My favourite character in the book though (and I’m not sure if the author intended this) is the werewolf, Brennan. He’s a really mixed-up guy, and does some dispicable things during the story, yet we never totally lose sympathy for him. He is conflicted and as the story progresses starts to gain a little self-knowledge. As the series progresses, I imagine he will have a pivotal role … well, I hope so.

The writing flows smoothly and is highly readable. The author doesn’t get bogged down in lengthy description but at the same time manages to create a richly-drawn world that fantasy readers expect!

Any niggles? Only a couple of tiny ones that didn’t detract from my rating. The book was very long … and could have been trimmed in a couple of places without affecting the story. Rielle and Jon’s relationship sometimes felt a little bit like ‘instalove’. I would have liked to have seen a bit more angst and conflict between them in the beginning. However, their emotional journey was depicted well and leaves plenty of scope for the next book in the series.

An engrossing Epic Fantasy Romance read!

Check out this book on Amazon.com.

Book review: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson

 

I’ve been trawling Amazon and Goodreads for Epic Fantasy Romances to immerse myself in, but have had difficulty finding those I like. Many are too YA for me. So … in the meantime I picked up this book—and I’m glad I did. It does have a touch of romance in it … but for the most part it’s an Epic Fantasy coming of age story.

68428Loved this novel. Everything worked for me in this story. Great setting and world building, memorable and sympathetic characters, and a strong plot with enough twists and turns to keep me guessing. The magic system – whereby allomancers use different metals to enhance their strength, perception, vision and other senses – was highly original and believably drawn.

However, it was the premise of the novel that drew me in first: what if the dark lord had won?

What if Sauron had succeeded in taking Middle Earth? I mean … you have to read the story now, right?

Hundreds of years after the Lord Ruler siezes power, we see a world where ash falls from the sky, where the masses are enslaved and hopeless. In this brutal world lives a girl named Vin. Abandoned by her brother, she lives with a group of thieves, waiting for the day her ‘luck’ will run out. But when the leader of a band of thieves, an allomancer named Kelsier, saves her life and takes her into his band of men who now plot against the Lord Ruler – her life changes forever.

Both Vin and Kelsier are fantastic characters. We really get a feel for what motivates them, and what their weakness and demons are. Vin’s transformation from a frightened child, to a strong gifted woman is great to see. There’s a touch of romance in this story – and I must admit I would have liked to see more – however, there’s also a lot of emotion. I really felt for what was at stake for Kelsier, and what had driven him on his path to bring down the tyrant responsible for the death of his wife.

Highly recommend this novel. It’s well-written, brilliantly paced, with a magical vivid world I can’t wait to return to.

Five stars!

Check it out on Amazon.

Book review: RED SISTER by Mark Lawrence

It’s not until you’re broken that you find your sharpest edge

51lnAAPhJjLI really enjoyed RED SISTER, even though I don’t tend to go in for fantasy novels where the character spends large amounts of time training or studying. As such, I found the middle of the story a little slow. However, Mark Lawrence’s superb writing style more than makes up for this!

This novel follows the story of Nona, a girl ‘convicted of murder, guilty of worse’, who ends up training with the deadly nuns of ‘The Sisters of Mercy’. Along the way, Nona tries to hide a deadly secret about the past from her friends and the sisters of the order, while she hunts for the truth about who she really is.

The thing I loved the most about this book was the world building. This is a unique, gritty and beautifully drawn fantasy world – a land locked in an advancing ice-age under a dying sun, and a moon that will soon drop from the sky. The inhabitants have found ways to keep the ice back for the moment but they all know they live under the shadow of approaching doom. This knowledge colours their entire world. This was defnitely the most exciting element of RED SISTER for me, and I will pick up the sequel for this alone!

I also love the way Mark Lawrence writes, he has a lyrical, easy-to-read style that sucks you in.

The magic system and the Sisters of Mercy are credible and uniquely drawn, and I enjoyed Nona’s journey of discovery. The plot was good, with a few twists and turns to keep the reader on their toes, although as I mentioned earlier the long sections where we follow Nona during her training did slow the pace of the book (for me).

You’d think a story about a group of girls training to become killer nuns would place this novel in the YA category, but this novel most definitely is not Young Adult. Dark, edgy, violent, and compelling, RED SISTER is an absorbing read.

Check this novel out on Amazon.

Looking for Epic Fantasy with great romance?

I know I am! The problem is, these books aren’t often easy to find.

This issue lies with how some online bookstores and bloggers define Epic Fantasy Romance. These books tend to get confused with, and put in the same category as, other types of fantasy romance: alternative history, vampire, werewolf or shifter paranormals. Epic Fantasy Romance can also get lumped with Young Adult Fantasy Romance, and although some of these do span genres, many aren’t actually Epic Fantasy Romance.

What is Epic Fantasy Romance?

They’re set in a fantasy world that’s not our own, has extensive world-building and features magic and/or fantastic beasts and monsters. So, this means you have a big book with the scope of the classics such as The Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones … but you also have a dominant central romance story that centers around the developing love between a couple that always ends in a HEA ‘Happily Ever After’.

Readers of Epic Fantasy Romance love the tropes of epic fantasy (e.g. coming of age, quest, darkness threatening the world etc.), but they also love the tropes of romance (e.g. friends to lovers, enemies become lovers, love triangle, HEA etc.)

How to find good Epic Fantasy Romance for adults

Goodreads is a great source for hunting down these novels in this genre. I’ve found many news reads this way:

There are a number of good sites, which feature Epic Fantasy Romance novels, or forums where readers suggest great books they’ve read in the genre:

  • Epic Fantasy Romance – a website where authors of this genre can list their books.
  • SFF World – a forum where readers suggest and discuss their favorite Epic Fantasy Romances
  • Best Fantasy Books – a guide of the best romantic fantasy novels.
  • Library Thing – a discussion about romance plots in fantasy novels that are actually good!

What are the best Epic Fantasy Romances I’ve read?

I’ve got a my favorite Epic Fantasy novels (I wrote a blog post about them), but here are those that are specifically Epic Fantasy Romances that I’ve really enjoyed.

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Poison Study (Study series) by Maria V. Snyder

Fantastic, character-driven fantasy about a young woman sentenced to death but given a second chance as a food taster. The only problem is it’s for a commander trying someone’s trying to kill!

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Daughter of the Forest (The Sevenwaters Trilogy) by Juliet Marillier

This isn’t strictly Epic Fantasy (as it’s a Historical Fantasy Romance set in our world), but I just had to include it! The story of a brave young woman, who sets out an epic journey to save her brothers.

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Radiance (The Wraith King series) by Grace Draven

An arranged marriage between a man and woman of vastly different races and cultures, set against the backdrop of political treachery.

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Master of Crows (Master of Crows series) by Grace Draven

The enthralling, passionate story of Martise and Silhara – she’s a spy and he’s a mage – and together they fight to stop a god who risks destroying their world.

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Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass) by Sarah J. Maas

The exciting first book of a gripping series, about an assassin and a world under threat.

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A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses) by Sarah J. Maas

An emotional Epic Fantasy romance series that takes unexpected directions. Feyre, a huntress, accidentally kills a beast in a forest, and starts off a chain of events that will change her life forever.

I’m constantly on the look out for more Epic Fantasy Romances to dive into – so if you have a suggestion, please let me know!

Update: Check out Part #2 to this blog post, with more of my favourite Epic Fantasy Romances.

 

 

Some of my favorite Epic Fantasy reads

I love writing … but I’m also an avid Epic Fantasy reader too. I’ve recently started reading more Fantasy Romance – as I’ve made a shift to that genre as an author – but still have a passion for the classics!

Aside from The Lord of the Rings, and The Song of Fire and Ice series – true epic fantasy classics that need no introduction – here are a few other good reads from the last couple of years, that I’d recommend.

Name of the WIndThe Kingkiller Chronicle (Patrick Rothfuss)
The Name of the Wind (Book #1)
The Wise Man’s Fear (Book #2)

Truly ‘epic’ fantasy, the Kingkiller Chronicle series is a great read for anyone who loves traditional epic fantasy. Both books are ‘door-stoppers’ – immersing the reader in a richly drawn world. It’s the story of a talented young man, with a great destiny. I must admit I preferred the first book, to the second. That said, it’s a gripping series that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy.

Read my reviews for these books on Goodreads to find out my thoughts on this series:
The Name of the Wind
The Wise Man’s Fear

Emperor of thornsThe Broken Empire Series (Mark Lawrence)
Prince of Thorns (Book #1)
King of Thorns (Book #2)
Emperor of Thorns (Book #3)

This epic fantasy is a compelling, ‘dark’ series that’s a little different from others in the genre. The main character is an ‘anti-hero’ – a damaged, violent and immoral young man named Jorg. I don’t usually go in for dark fantasy, but this series is so well-written and beautifully crafted that I would highly recommend this series as well.

Although I didn’t review the first two books (I did rate each of them 5 stars), you can read my review for Book #3 on Goodreads:
Emperor of Thorns

Prince of foolsThe Red Queen’s War (Mark Lawrence)
The Prince of Fools
The Liar’s Key
The Wheel of Osheim

In many ways, I enjoyed Mark Lawrence’s second series – set in the same world as the Broken Empire series – even the first. It follows a feckless, playboy prince on an incredible adventure.

Read my reviews on Goodreads
Prince of Fools
The Liar’s Key
The Wheel of Osheim

Blood songRaven’s Shadow (Anthony Ryan)
Blood Song (Book #1)
Tower Lord (Book #2)

Traditional epic fantasy adventure that’s fast-moving and beautifully written. It’s the story of a young man, abandoned by his father in a harsh order, where he must become a great warrior – or die trying. I enjoyed both novels in the series so far, although the story hasn’t taken the direction I’d expected…

Read my reviews on Goodreads, for more details about these books:
Blood Song
Tower Lord

I could go on… Being a voracious reader, I have chewed my through many more books than these! However, if you love epic fantasy, and are looking for some good books to get lost in, why not give one of the above a try?