A Golden Fury

This book has a pretty explosive opening, one that hooked me in immediately.

Theosebia “Thea” Hope is a young alchemist living and working with her mother, Margeurite, also an alchemist, in revolutionary Normandy, France. Her mother seems to be on the hunt for a new patron, but seems to want to send Thea away. Her reasons for doing so become a little clearer when she assaults Thea after creating the White Elixir, a substance that turns any base metal into silver, and descending into a mysterious madness.

Thea has a rocky and competitive relationship with her mother, but she also wants to cure her mother’s madness, so she decides to follow her mother’s former apprentice Will to the UK, and first lands in Oxford, where her estranged father lives and works.

Her initial relationship with her father doesn’t fare much better, and after meeting his patron and assistant, all hell breaks loose when said patron, an Italian noble, steals Thea’s notes and attempts to make the White Elixir. The apprentice, Dominic, kills the noble in self defense. Feeling defeated, Thea and Dominic flee Oxford for London, where Will is staying.

Turns out that Will had sold her out to a German noble, who wants the Philosopher’s Stone for himself. But, as Thea and Dominic soon discover, there’s a curse, or something that causes every ambitious alchemist to succumb to madness in their quest for the Stone, and that there may be a *heavy* price to pay for creating it.

So the bulk of the novel from here on out takes place at the German noble’s London residence, and while Will suffers from consumption and Dominic succumbs to the mysterious madness, Thea’s the only one who can actually make the Stone. So she does, under the watchful eye of the German noble’s hired henchmen, who are not all entirely evil themselves. This part is pretty exciting, as Thea ends up in the grip of the mysterious madness while she attempts to create the Stone.

At first, I thought this was going to be another annoying “men are all evil” feminist novel, but it’s not. Yes, the narrative is first-person perspective, told by Thea, and yes she is understandably upset when her father hesitates to claim her as his daughter when they meet, so we do get a lot of “men suck” thoughts from Thea, but she realizes that not all men are bad. The head henchman, Valentin, is rough, stern, mostly loyal to his employer but also quickly learns to respect Thea and repeatedly tries to keep her from losing her mind to the madness. He also has a grudge against Will due to Will’s treatment of one of his employer’s daughters, who he was in love with.

Dominic is consistently a decent character throughout the story, and is pretty much Thea’s only real friend, right up until the end, so she remains very much motivated to use the Stone to cure him of the madness.

You can tell Thea’s father, Professor Vellacott, is a decent guy who has been blindsided by the fact that he actually has a daughter, one nearly grown, and is unsure as to what to do or how to handle it. But Thea is pretty resistant, believing (with some justification) that all he wants is the work she and her mother had done to make the White Elixir, which is the final “step” to getting the famed Stone.

I also kind of had to roll my eyes at Thea’s assertion that the Europeans disdained the writings of an Arab alchemist that had gotten further along in creating the Stone than any other alchemist. It does serve as a handy explanation as to why alchemy didn’t get very far in Europe, but it still bugged me. It’s a minor part of the novel and I got over it as the story went on, but I can’t help myself – I have to mention it.

As I said, this is told via a first-person perspective, and the novel is at its strongest when Thea’s in the grips of the mysterious madness. We do eventually discover the true nature of the madness and of the Stone itself. I don’t want to spoil the novel, so I’ll leave you with this: Thea and the others learn that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Thea makes the right decision in the end.

So I highly recommend this, and I am so grateful to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for letting me review the book!

The Lost City

The Lost City - Cover Art

This review is part of a blog tour.  Thanks so much to the publishers for letting me read it!

I had heard of Amanda Hocking’s Trylle Trilogy but hadn’t read it. It was originally self-published and then she got a book deal, and has been writing ever since.

Now she has started another trilogy in the Trylle universe, called The Omte Origins and The Lost City is the first installment.

The author has noted that you can read The Lost City without having read the original trilogy, but that you might miss some of the references in the story. I can concur with this, as the story was enjoyable and fascinating, even though I had not read the Trylle trilogy. It left me wishing I had, though.

Before I continue, let me explain that the Trylle and Omte are two tribes of trolls, and that there are five altogether. The trolls seem to have originated in Scandinavia and made their way to North America along with the Vikings, so their culture is very Scandinavian with dashes of Native American culture. Since I am totally obsessed with Skyrim, I was, and am, especially excited to delve into the world of these trolls, who secretly live among modern day humans. Some troll tribes, such as the Kamin, have special magic abilities. Other tribes, such as the Omte, have distinctive appearances and incredible strength.

This story is told from the perspective of an Omte orphan named Ulla Tulin, who had been abandoned at an inn as a baby. Once Ulla turns nineteen, she’s ready to find out just exactly who she is, where she’s really from and the identity of the woman that had abandoned her at the inn.

Ulla drives from her small town of Iskyla, Nunavut to the hidden troll city, Merellä, of which is in Oregon, along with one of the daughters of her employers, Hanna (she is their nanny, I guess, but they all seem like family). There is an institute called the Mimirin, where a project called the Inhemsk Project being conducted there, and its purpose is help mixed-race trolls integrate into troll society, to try and save some of the troll tribes from going extinct, and, of course, to preserve their history and culture.

Ulla and Hanna make it to this city and quickly meet a strange trollian girl named Eliana, who has plenty of questions of her own. Eliana and Hanna become fast friends, and a lot of the story involves Ulla doing research as an intern, along with Pan, a fellow intern (I think) who is kind of hot and does as much as he can to help Ulla discover her identity and get settled in the city.

Amanda Hocking’s writing is really good, and the city comes alive as Ulla describes it, including the delicious food that Hanna and Eliana make (I thought it was cool that a tween like Hanna was already so good at cooking…sadly, I’m not as great a cook as my mom, and I really hope to get started someday).

Ulla also helpfully fills us in on every relevant aspect of troll history and customs, so newcomers to the series won’t be too lost.

I kind of liked that most of the troll tribes were kind of dark-skinned and dark-haired, like me, along with the two fair-haired tribes, the Omte and the Skojare. No one tribe is better than the other, which should keep the overzealous SJWs off of the author’s back. The inter-tribal politics are also very fascinating.

This is meant to be a trilogy, exploring the origins and history of the Omte tribe, so it does end in a cliffhanger, and I was surprised at the point in which it ends. I was already really into it and ready for the next chapter when it just ended. Fortunately, we readers won’t have to wait too long for the next installment, as it will be released in August.

In the meantime, my copy came with a history of all five tribes and a helpful glossary, and an excerpt from the next installment. I finished the novel while on a long flight, and it’s a pretty quick and easy read.

It’s also appropriate for the target audience, as it’s pretty innocent and Ulla’s main focus is her internship, taking care of Hanna, Eliana and her roommate Dagny, and, of course, her research into her own origins.

I do highly recommend it, especially if you need a quick modern—day fantasy fix.

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

wicked saints

Wow, that was one very interesting book. It starts out rather slowly, but the end is fantastic.

So anyway, this is about a girl, Nadya, who is the last cleric of Kalyazin. Her nation is at war with neighboring Tranavia, and up until now her life has been uneventful but full of dread, for she has been raised in a monastery, learning to use the power bestowed upon her by the gods.

Then the Tranavians invade the monastery and Nadya flees, meeting up with a guy and a girl from another country, and a mysterious Tranavian soldier. Together they decide to head to the capital of Tranavia to assassinate their king, and hopefully end the war.

Meanwhile, the Tranavian High Prince, who had invaded Nadya’s monastery, wants to catch her and bring her back, but his father the King of Tranavia calls him home for a tournament designed to find him a bride. When he gets home, things are suspicious, and he soon realizes that his father wants to get him out of the way.

I liked that the main character, Nadya, had such a close relationship with the gods. She prays to them, and they answer. Sometimes she has brief conversations with them, and they all have their own personalities.

I also liked the vast and rich world-building, especially the little quotes from the book of saints that preface every chapter. The use of blood magic is kind of gory – blood mages, of which are all from Tranavia, basically have to cut themselves and bleed on pages of their spellbooks. This kind of magic is forbidden in Kalyazin, and to Nadya, blood mages are heretics. Tranavia is a nation that has turned its back on the gods, complete with a blood magic powered veil to keep their influence at bay.

I also think the book has a fantastic villain, one that kept me guessing, as you don’t realize he is the villain until late in the book. At first, I thought, oh maybe he’s going to be a good guy and we’ll get the old Crisis of Faith trope, but no.

Nadya does get cut off from the gods, and she does do things that defy their will, and she also ignores the warnings they give her, which culminates in that brief Crisis of Faith. She does not turn away from the Gods, even after she’s tainted with dark blood magic, but her relationship with them, and her regard for the people of Tranavia is changed.

I think this is the first of a series, so it does have a satisfying ending, but still ends on a cliffhanger. Serefin, the High Prince that burned her monastery might just become an ally, and that will be interesting.

I want to thank the publisher for providing me a review copy through NetGalley, and I am sorry for taking so long to review this.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Warning:  Salty language ahead.

I already knew that this was left-oriented before I read it.  However, I am currently on a big fantasy kick, so I decided to read it anyway, since I have already read lefty fantasy (Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm trilogy) before.

Anyways, so far I agree with the negative reviewers – the setting is confusing.  I had assumed it was your typical European medieval fantasy, set in the past, on some planet in another universe, but as it turns out, it’s set in the future.  I had thought it might have been alternate history, like Melissa de la Cruz’s The Ring and the Crown (another one I’m currently reading) but it’s not.  The setting is one of the many problems I have with this little slice of propaganda.

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