Lenni Reviews: “Defiant Revival” by L. Rockwood

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+.

Prince Michah is dead but the kingdom doesn’t know it. But Billiam, who has been in love with the prince for years, devises a plan to resurrect him and retake the kingdom from a power-mad despot.

Hooooo boy is this book filled with some exposition dumps! We get the tale from Leeke, a warrior who is somehow able to recount events she wasn’t there for in exacting detail. And as the narrative goes on we get so many characters and they tread the line between flawed and unlikable in a way that I don’t want to deal with them anymore and this book has the absolute gall to end on a cliffhanger! Even though this is a dark fantasy, one of my favorite genres, and the fight scenes are well written and interesting, it just was not enjoyable. It felt like work. And that stinks because the premise is amazing and when it’s on topic, the writing is good! 2.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Deep” by Rivers Solomon

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Yetu is the historian for her people, the wajinru. For this mermaid-like species, historian means she holds all the memories of her people right from the very first of them so the other’s don’t have to deal with the pain of the past. But the memories frequently overwhelm Yetu, leaving her sickly and tired so when the time comes to share the memories with her people in a grand ceremony, she takes the chance to flee so she can finally be alone in her own mind. But in the throws of their history, the wajinru create a terrible storm that threatens to destroy land and sea.

This is a great concept and it’s written beautifully. There is a lag in the middle where it just sort of meanders about until Yetu finally makes her decision but I like how the book turned out. It’s an interesting take on memory, history, and shared pain. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Queen of Zazzau” by J.S. Emuakpor

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is recommended for mature readers.

Princess Amina is heir to the throne of Zazzau and desperate to prove her worthiness to be queen. But a prophecy concerning her and the God of War combined fierce enemies hounding her country thrust Amina into a whirlwind of intrigue in which the fiercely independent Amina grapples for control of her destiny.

Ok, so lemmie start off by saying this is a fictionalized tale of a real Amina of Zazzau and the writing is fucking amazing. The battle scenes are edge of your seat tense and graphic, and you really get a sense of the world these fantastically detailed characters live in. But the main character made me wanna facepalm so many freaking times. Some mild spoilers here but aside from being a diplomatic nightmare, she comes off as kind of a thoughtless brat too often for my taste. Sometimes she’s so impetuous and irresponsible, leading to people getting hurt, and it was hard to read. But then I put it in the context of Greek and Norse mythology; where your heroes are not perfect and can also be complete jerks while the tale is still epic, and I can accept Amina for what she is. But dear gods, she made me mad! 3.8 out of 5 for the fantastic writing and story but infuriating main character.

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Lenni Reviews: “A Treason of Truths” by Ada Harper

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+

Empress Sabine is invited on a diplomatic mission with some other leaders to a place called The Vault; a technological marvel self sustained by nanotechnology and an archive of an unfathomable amount of human knowledge. But what seems to be an olive branch quickly becomes a deathtrap and Sabine’s former bodyguard, Lyre, must face the secrets she’s been keeping not only from her queen but the woman she loves.

Although I didn’t read the first book, A Conspiracy¬†of Whispers, this story stands well on it’s own. The world building gives the story weight and doesn’t get bogged down in the previous book’s events while still making them understood in relevance to what happens in this book. The action is well paced and tense, making this a fun page turner.

This also doesn’t disappoint in the romance department. Even without too many explicit love scenes, Sabine and Lyre’s relationship is touching and sweet and it’s great to see a lesbian relationship with women of color. As a romance and a science fiction novel, it succeeds on nearly every level except for a lack of development with the main villain and the societal mess behind his motivations, which I won’t spoil. I felt he needed more time to get to know all the details. 4.5 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Bones and Bourbon” by Dorian Graves

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

*This review is cross-posted to Otakus and Geeks.

Retz is tasked with bringing some escaped exhibits for Lady Delight, a lamia who runs a menagerie of captured supernatural creatures. Lady Delight is a former acquaintance of Nalem, an entity who shares Retz’s body and mind so he agrees to the mission not knowing his Retz’s brother, Jarrod, has been hired by the escaped funaribi to protect them from Lady Delight. Retz and Jarrod have been estranged for 10 years and their reunion occurs under the pall of their conflicting missions as well as a horde of homicidal unicorns.

With all the stuff going on, this book is difficult to pin down. I get some¬†Supernatural vibes (I haven’t watched more than a couple episodes of that but even I could see the similarities) but it is a superficial connection that didn’t take away from the story as a whole.

The characters are lively, well written, and have some great chemistry; particularly Retz and Nalem. The dynamics of having to share a body with some ageless entity of dubious morals is conveyed very well. Jarrod and his boyfriend Ferris have a great relationship and Jarrod is a great character who happens to be transgender instead of being transgender being the entire focus of this existence; as it should be. And with a relentless army of killer unicorns in the mix, this is a cool dark urban fantasy. I really enjoyed it. 3.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Storm Lords” by Ravon Silvius

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*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+

Rowen lives in scorched and lonely life in a village ravaged by heat storms. After losing her parents and his voice, the final straw is his fellow villagers leaving him exposed in the sun for a crime he didn’t commit. Before the heat can claim him, Rowen is rescued by Kristoff, a Storm Lord who came to break the heat storm with his powers and sensed Rowen has some abilities as well. Jumping at the chance to prevent the same sort of heat storms that claimed his parents, Rowen throws himself into his training but when his abilities flummox his mentor, Kristoff doubts he can be the man Rowen needs in every sense of the word.

Even without the romance, this would be a cool fantasy novel. The best parts are the world building and the magic, as well as Rowen himself as a sympathetic and determined character. From there this book wanders into mediocre territory where not much development is given to other characters, even Kristoff. Overall this balances out to a 3 out of 5 for me; good but not great.

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Lenni Reviews: “The World Weavers” (Desert Rising 3) by Kelley Grant

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*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review

The gods, now determined to regain their lost power, wage war in order to find the Obsidian Temple. Kadar gathers fighters while his twin, Sulis, works with her Masters to remerge the gods and their sealed powers back into The One. Bust at the armies of the greedy gods ravage the land, time may run out before the Chosen can fulfill the prophecy of the gods becoming one again.

Loving the cultural representation and the battle scenes are awesome but the training and marching and preparing made the middle part of this book drag terribly. But when the story got down to business, it was amazing with a satisfying conclusion. If you like sprawling fantasies, this trilogy is well worth your time. 3.7 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Obsidian Temple” (Desert Rising 2) by Kelley Grant

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*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

*This review is cross-posted to Otakus and Geeks.

In the sequel to Desert Rising, Sulis travels to the Obsidian Temple to fulfill her destiny as part of a group charged with rejoining the gods with The One. Along with her friend Ava, she must learn the complicated moves and energy work to perform the ritual. Meanwhile, her twin brother, Kadar, is drawn up in a revolution as the Forsaken cast is fed up with being treated like slaves or worse. But the gods are not willing to let the Forsaken go or give up their power and are willing to wage war to keep what’s theirs.

Sulis continues to be a strong character but to be honest, this book spent too much time on the training parts only to get to the good stuff towards the ending. I understand this was meant to be a trilogy and plot-wise, it is more realistic for the chosen ones to need to practice rather than to just be perfect from the beginning; but it made for a slow read. The inter-cutting of the Forsaken rebellion did bring up the pace, however.

Overall a great read. I’m ready to jump right into the next one. 4 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “Markswoman” by Rati Mehrotra

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*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

*This review is cross-posted to Otakus and Geeks.

After her first mark, newly initiated Markswoman Kyra lives to avenge the death of her clan. But her duties to the order of Kali take precedence as she tragically loses her mentor to what is obviously murder. Kyra embarks on a quest to expose the traitor in her order and bring them to justice.

I am honestly shocked this is marketed as YA but I loved reading this book. Kyra manages to be both determined but inexperienced without pandering or getting annoying. The fantasy world building is tight without a bunch of info dumps and the action is badass. I especially liked that Kyra’s journey is chosen instead of forced. She elects to go; not cast out.

The ending kinda felt a little bit of a copout as well as a cliffhanger but I am SO down for the sequel. 3.9 out of 5.

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Lenni Reviews: “The Guild Conspiracy” by Brooke Johnson

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*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review

In the six months since Petra Wade destroyed one of her dangerous inventions, her life has been picked apart by a twisted man named Jullian who is determined to coerce her into building an even deadlier machine. With her life on the line under accusations of treason, Petra is in a race against time to delay a war in which her own inventions would be used to destroy human lives.

I love the protagonist’s enthusiasm. Even though Petra faces some dire consequences for her actions and, like Sinless – we are again treated to the “capture – freedom – capture” cycle; as if the character can’t get anywhere without someone picking her up and dropping her there. But Petra is smart, determined, and naive in a way that doesn’t seem annoying. She is genuinely trying to save lives and have her intelligence taken seriously instead of being used as a tool or sidelined because she’s a woman. A great lead with some awesome steampunk elements? I’m absolutely sold. 4.9 out of 5.