ARC Review: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

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synSubhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.

review4/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Disney-Hyperion

Sometimes a great book is balm for the soul, and other times, a book wakes you up. Sometimes the darkness in this world is too much that it’s easy to look away and selectively forget the atrocities that happen every single day to people who seek nothing but peace and a place to call home. The Bone Sparrow reads like a folktale. With a blend of lyrical storytelling, startling bursts of horrific reality, and two children from different worlds even though they live footsteps apart, The Bone Sparrow brings those who don’t have a voice and are cast aside like a dirty little secret to vibrant life. 

Subhi is dreamer. Caught up in his world of stories and a father he’s never met, his hope is a burst of light and longing that fights hard against the injustice that surrounds him. Cushioned by his child-like wonder at the simple magic of dreams, words, and legends, Subhi is a captivating character. His words are innocent and full of loyalty. He holds those he loves so high as protectors and the good. What others see as negative, he sees as okay because he’s never known any different being born in the refugee camp. Kids find truths and say them with such simplicity that it’s both profound and enlightening. So many times, I had to pause and reread. What initially seems light and offhand is actually jarring in its insight. After witnesses something truly despicable and triggering, Subhi’s world is no longer Night Seas and whales who sing to the moon, it’s starvation, pain, and abuse. It’s a letdown he never expected. This awakening is heartbreaking and crushing. This perfect little spirit who lived the world on a cloud and reveled in simple happiness broken and downtrodden. Seriously, it sucks the life right out of you. So powerful and emotional.

Friendship is everything in this story. It’s a hero, it’s a savior, it’s hope and longing and love. This unlikely pairing between a motherless girl with just as much yearning as Subhi, clinging to a past that she refuses to let go, is so special. 

Some parts of this story are graphic and dark. This book is categorized as MG on some sites and I’d really consider it before sharing with young kids. Though the protagonists are 10, the subject matter is more mature. The violence might be a bit much, especially one scene in particular. 

The pacing was so-so. The build up far less and later than I would have hoped for to create the right amount of tension and anxiety. 

Jimme is an outside oblivious to what is really going on behind the fence or to how detention centers work. She’s heard rumors of how lucky the refugees are, how much food they get, and her curiosity makes her fearless. Jimmie doesn’t have a care in the world besides her desperation to preserve the last vestiges of her mother through her mother’s journal. Like Subhi, she doesn’t understand what she’s looking at and no one takes the time to explain. Those who are part of the situation and don’t explain the gravity are just as culpable as those who ignore. Jimmie’s ignorance is hurtful, but full of heart. She adores Subhi and their friendship is cute and full of instance love. Through stories, they grow to trust and rely on each other. 

The story of Burma, the conditions in refugee camps, detainment centers, how those seeking asylum are treated are all brushed under the rug unless it is brought to international headlines and even then it disappears after a while. What happens to these people? How are they living? Who is helping them? Are they getting help at all or are they worse off? These questions and many more are addressed and examined in this book. They shouldn’t be forgotten and unfortunately, it takes perseverance and willingness to care, and compassion to make change. 

Insightful reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

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Pub. Date: November 1, 2016

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Format: Hardcover, paperback, eBook

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The action-packed, thrilling sequel to Ryan Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf.

There would be blood.

Blood for blood.

Blood to pay.

An entire world of it.

For the resistance in 1950s Germany, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun.

Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against the New Order, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths, and one question hangs over them all: how far can you go for the ones you love?

This gripping, thought-provoking sequel to Wolf by Wolf will grab readers by the throat with its cinematic writing, fast-paced action, and relentless twists.

bfb-preorderauthor4fa9e-ryanWebsite | Twitter |Tumblr | Goodreads | Pinterest | Blog

Ryan Graudin grew up in Charleston and graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Creative Writing in 2009. She is the author of All That Glows and The Walled City. She resides near Charleston with her husband and wolf-dog. You can find her online at http://www.ryangraudin.com.

Review of Wolf by Wolf 

***FIVE STARS***

From the first page, Wolf by Wolf is an addictive, compelling, whirlwind of a story. The history nerd in me reached Nirvana. Wolf by Wolf is one of the best books I’ve read, and those of you who follow know that I read hundreds a year. From the sweeping historical rewrite to the adrenaline rush of the motorcycle race that spans continents, Wolf by Wolf has something for everyone and will leave you with an unshakeable book hangover. 

PROS:

  • The opening page. There’s beauty in simplicity. Ryan Graudin jam packs so much into short, compiled sentences that each word hits like a sucker punch. I fell in reader and writer love with that first paragraph and immediately knew that this book would be one of the greats. 
  • Yael is as fierce, brave, and calculated as the wolves she has inked on her body. The trauma and pain she has suffered seems insurmountable but we learn that through memory and determination that we can overcome even the most horrific of pasts. Yael’s time in the camp, the incredible losses she’s went through, everything is ingrained into her very soul and marked on her body, she’ll never forget and it’s through these reminders that she finds the courage and strength to rebel and take on a task more risky than any other. Yael doesn’t let any setbacks break her down, she’s come so far and has been broken but never beaten. She is a lesson in inner strength and perseverance. 
  • The historical rewrite is ingenious, mainly because it could have been. So many elements of the story are bold and brutal, historically on target and put you right in the mad frenzy that was Hitler’s reign. The policing, the camps, the politics, and the terrifying roots of Hitler Youth become a stark reality that is much more real than what you read in history books. One of the sentiments that stayed with me from this story is the coldness of historical memory, the need to reduce people down to numbers so much that we forget the individual. Through Yael, you see every person, every memory, present and memorialized in her tattoos. 
  • Each character, no matter how small, leaves an impression and has their own unique background. The stories of the wolves added levels to Yael’s character, you see how she was built through her union with others and how their experiences changed her life. 
  • THE moment. The critical seconds when Yael meets Hitler face to face. My heart stopped. The anticipation built into an overwhelming and all-consuming beast of anxiety. The emotion is astounding and poignant, every memory, every ounce of pain culminates in a few short seconds.
  • Motorcycles, nefarious tactics, and honor all reign supreme during the Axis Tour. It’s not simply a race but a legacy of political propaganda and competition. The race is full of perilous terrain, vindictive components, and deadly situations. Though it’s stressful and in some part horrifying, there are scenes on the road that are light and playful, it’s a nice balance. 

CONS:

  • The twist was sort of predictable for me but the sheer rush of the scene itself more than made up for it. Even when you know what’s coming, the actual occurrence is more fierce and tense than you could ever imagine.

giveaway

Enter for your chance to win a finished copy of WOLF BY WOLF, US Only. (5) winners!

Ends on November 15th at Midnight EST!

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Intense reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

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There never was a story that was happy through and through.

When writer Arthur Ransome leaves his home in England and moves to Russia to work as a journalist, it is with little idea of the violent revolution about to erupt. Unwittingly, he finds himself at its center, tapped by the British to report back on the Bolsheviks even as he becomes dangerously romantically entangled with revolutionary leader Trotsky’s personal secretary. Both sides seek to use Arthur for their own purposes…and, as he struggles to find autonomy, both sides grow to suspect him of being a double agent. Arthur wants only to elope far from the conflict with his beloved. But when he attempts to extract himself and Evgenia from the complicated politics and politicians that he fears will lead them both to their deaths, the decisions he faces are the most dangerous and difficult of his life.

review

3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

For the life of me, I’m always puzzled how Marcus Sedgwick’s books are classified as YA. I’ve only read two or three, but every single time I’m more perplexed. But I digress…I had an extremely hard time rating this book; this is probably the most difficult time I’ve had putting a star average on a book for a variety of reasons. For those of you who don’t know (I’ve shared some information about myself and if you’ve read the bio on here this will come as no surprise) I’m technically what would be considered a Russian historian/analyst/policy expert. Yes, insane right? If I see anything even remotely related to Russia, the Balkans, the Baltic region, or historical interactions/culture, I latch on.

When I began this book, I was immediately transported back to the time of Bolsheviks and fairy tales (if you haven’t read Russian or Slavic fairy tales, seriously get on it and I’ll have a review coming for you in November on a Russian YA retelling). The story begins in that ultra precise and whimsical way most Russian tales do, in the vein of Tolstoy. The prospects are bleak, the chance of a happy ever after slim, but there’s an air of magic and anticipation that will capture your attention, if not your heart. 

The introduction to the story is fantastic. The smoky, enchanting mood of a fairy tale told by the comfort of a warm fire, and at the bedside of a loved one is there in full force. The tale of the grandfather and two children in a cabin the woods, the bear on the prowl, the metaphors and analogies. It’s beautiful, dark, twisted, everything you could ever want in a fairy tale. 

And then the shift happens. The structure is interesting. Facilitating a historical retelling through folk framing was intriguing and definitely livened up the atmosphere, but then a hyper realistic but super boring journalist protagonist comes in. Arthur Ransome may be based on a historical figure and in the mix of truly astounding and world-changing historical events, but that certainly doesn’t make him interesting. For the life of me, I couldn’t invest in him. I was bored out of my mind with his narrative. Despite the dangers of his interactions with the Bolshevik leaders, working as a spy, traveling through Russia in this time of peril, the anxiety, the fear, the TRAUMA of the Cheka (чрезвыча́йная коми́ссия) was absent. There were a few scenes that seemed on the border of becoming the dark and sadistic reality that was Russia at the time, but then they disappeared. It’s possible that some imagery was tamed for the YA audience but it’s just not real. 

The romance was secondary and while Arthur placed a huge importance on this romance, it was hardly romantic. 

The portrayals of Lenin and Trotsky were lively and gripping, but lacked the forboding that normally accompanied interactions. The paranoia and terror were high at this point and meeting with Bolshevik heads was not something taken lightly and this just read so nonchalant. I tried to step away from my academic background for this review and to solely critique as a YA reader, hopefully that worked. 

RASPUTIN. YES. This was perfect. The legendary man was grotesque, creepy, and made so much larger than life than he actually was. These scenes are AMAZING. 

I was also disappointed by the Romanov slaughter. 

I absolutely adore this cover. It’s breathtaking and mysterious and gloomy. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Fantastic reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Spindle by Shonna Slayton

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In a world where fairies lurk and curses linger, love can bleed like the prick of a finger.

Briar Rose knows her life will never be a fairy tale. She’s raising her siblings on her own, her wages at the spinning mill have been cut, and the boy she thought she had a future with has eyes for someone else. Most days it feels like her best friend, Henry Prince, is the only one in her corner…though with his endless flirty jokes, how can she ever take him seriously?

When a mysterious peddler offers her a “magic” spindle that could make her more money, sneaking it into the mill seems worth the risk. But then one by one, her fellow spinner girls come down with the mysterious sleeping sickness—and Briar’s not immune.

If Briar wants to save the girls—and herself—she’ll have to start believing in fairy tales…and in the power of a prince’s kiss.

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review

3/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Entangled and NetGalley

Briar is determined, nostalgic, and responsible. She adores her siblings and will do everything and make insane sacrifices just to keep them close. Briar is so unlike the original sleeping beauty; she’s a fighter and constantly on the lookout to improve her situation. She cares so deeply-she’s a heroine anyone can get behind. 

Henry Prince. He’s attentive, thoughtful, playful, and always a joy. Every time he came around the world was a better, brighter place, not only for Briar, but for the reader. BUT there’s nowhere near enough of him. His family history is a shocking and pleasant surprise. THAT story needed a more prominent place in the overall narrative, but it gets a quick summary that does not do it justice. 

Romance is an afterthought and it works well. Briar spends quite a bit of time mulling over a guy that’s all wrong for her and misses what’s right in front of her face. It may drive you crazy that she’s so blind, but it’s believable and sweet how oblivious she is. 

There’s a lot going on in this story. So much, that it gets a bit lost. Between the fairy tale elements and woman’s suffrage, the focus is skewed and it becomes less like fantasy, more historical. At the same time, there’s not enough in either arena to make a connection with the secondary characters. There are fleeting moments that give you some insight into their personality but then it flips to something new. 

The pacing was moderate to slow for the most part and then super slow. It takes forever to pick up from that introductory fairy tale feel. The Sleeping Beauty retelling kind of lurks in the background. Towards the end, the fairy tale magic explodes off the pages and sucks you right in. It’s dark, it’s twisted, and the toxic power of the spindle is unexpected. I wish these elements would have picked up sooner. 

Overall, Spindle is an enjoyable read that will keep you guessing and hoping for that happily ever after. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Charming reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken Twitter Oneand iGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

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NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL.

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

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review

3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Random House Children’s Delacorte

+++On the mature side of YA for violence and sexual situations

I wanted to love this story. Mainly because I am a historian and this area is of particular interest to me. PLUS a gender-bending version of Vlad the Impaler? Come on, who wouldn’t want to read that? This book took me a LONG time to read. It takes place over the span of years and the pacing is fairly slow up until late in the book. Most of what takes place is political maneuvering and everyday life. 

Sweeping depictions of the Ottoman Empire, the diversity there, the role of Islam, and the gorgeous scenery. Everything is painted in painstaking detail. You feel the holy glory in every landscape and sprawling city. For anyone who is interested in what the Ottoman Empire was like in its infancy to establishment, this is definitely for you. It’s informative without being too historical, while sticking to accuracy. Some scenes are brutal and graphic, particularly the ways that treason was punished, etc. BUT historically on par! 

Lada, I wasn’t entirely sold on her. A first, she’s this beastly, violent little thing with so much desire and determination in her heart that it hardens her against true emotion. She believes in tough lessons and pain. To have others fear her is to be respected. When Lada hits puberty, it’s a slap in the face that allows her to realize that she is a woman and she does have limitations in Ottoman society, but she refuses to give into their rules. Lada is fiercely herself and that self is not always likable. Sometimes, you might hate her. However, and take this with a grain of salt, when Lada falls in love and accepts her sexual power (I know), she becomes more human. She’s confused and has no female influence to help her through it. She has feelings and emotions and is totally startled and sickened by them, because she doesn’t know what to make of them. At the same time, Lada becomes so consumed by these feelings that she loses sight of her goals and the second half of the story becomes more like a romance than anything else, and as much as I love romance, I feel like part of the story was lost when that shift in focus happened. Part of Lada, her most defined part, was diminished. I think that we can be more than one thing, that Lada’s goals aren’t all she is, but she needed to learn to balance, and she struggled to do so.    

Radu (the story shifts between Lada and Radu’s perspective) is a fascinating character. There are so many layers to who he is. He wears masks, wears his heart on his sleeve, becomes the Ottoman darling, but hides a secret that could destroy him. Radu’s moment of discovery, when he realized that his love for his best friend was more that pure friendship, wow, just incredibly well written. That epiphany is made of terror and honesty, of repercussions and love. It’s bold and beautiful and laced with feels. Radu’s story is poignant and moving. He is undervalued and easily dismissed. He is seen as weak and less than. Radu is insecure, but he’s smart. He wishes people would really see him and recognize that he has things to offer to the world. Islam becomes a safe haven for him and a place to come into his own. It saves him and is the foundation with which he becomes the amazing person he does. 

Radu and Lada’s sibling relationship is complicated and becomes more so as they mature. Their love is a prickly, violent thing that is not always easy and they often resent each other, but when it counts, they’re there for each other. 

Mehmed was a big letdown for me. I kept waiting for him to become more, to be someone I could respect, could root for, but I struggled to find anything that made me want to follow him as a ruler or even a friend. It astounded me that both Lada and Radu put so much of their faith and focus on him when his personality was kinda blah (sure he was hot but…) and his choices were pretty terrible at times. I feel like more scenes to get at the heart of Mehmed, to see exactly when they loved him so much would have helped build up the emotions and shown what was at stake during battles. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Fierce reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead


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The Selection meets Reign in this dazzling trilogy of interwoven novels about three girls on a quest for freedom and true love from #1 internationally bestselling author Richelle Mead.

 

“Brilliant and original, Mead’s new series starts off with a bang and will leave readers on the edge of their seats until the very end.”

—School Library Journal

 

For a select group of girls, the Glittering Court offers a shot at a life they’ve only ever dreamed of, one of luxury, glamour, and leisure. To high-born Adelaide, whose wealthy family is forcing her into a loveless marriage, the Glittering Court represents something else: the chance to chart her own destiny, and adventure in an unspoiled, prosperous new land across the sea.

 

After a chance meeting with the dazzling Cedric Thorn, Adelaide poses as a servant to join the crop of impoverished girls he promises to transform into proper ladies. But her familiarity with upper class life comes with a price: she must hide her identity from her new friends, mysterious refugee Mira and fiery former laundress Tamsin, and most importantly, from Cedric himself—even though she’s falling in love with him.

 

Everything begins to crumble when Cedric discovers Adelaide’s ruse, and she catches the eye of a powerful young governor, who wants her for a wife. She didn’t leave the gilded cage of her old life behind just to become someone else’s property. But nothing is as daunting—or as wonderful—as the potent, forbidden attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. One that, if acted on, would make them both outcasts in a wild, dangerous, uncharted world, and possibly lead them to their deaths.

Excerpt

authrichelle
Website| Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads 

Richelle Mead has written over twenty-five novels for teens and adults. She is the author of the international #1 bestselling Vampire Academy series and its spinoff series, Bloodlines. Her recent standalone novel, Soundless, draws upon Chinese mythology and history, and her forthcoming series, The Glittering Court, follows the adventures of girls destined for arranged marriages in a fantasy world inspired by colonial America. A lifelong reader, Richelle has always had a particular fascination with mythology and folklore. When she can actually tear herself away from books (either reading or writing them), she enjoys bad reality TV, traveling, trying interesting cocktails, and shopping for dresses to wear on tour. She is a self-professed coffee addict, works in her pajamas, and has a passion for all things wacky and humorous. Originally from Michigan, Richelle now lives in Seattle, Washington, where she is hard at work on her next novel.

giveaway1 winner will receive a hardcover of THE GLITTERING COURT & a $25 Sephora Gift Card. US Only. Ends on April 15th at Midnight EST!

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Magical reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor

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synWhen fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing. Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.

review3.5/5 Stars 

***I recieved this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & HMH Books for Young Readers.

I was crazy excited for this story. Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of my favorite historical figures, so naturally when I saw this time travel set in the 12th century, I zoomed in on my favorite lady and HAD to have it. That being said, Into the Dim is an enjoyable read. Full of phobias, secrets, intrigue, danger, Tesla science, and romance, Into the Dim will keep you captivated and wanting. 

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You’re into historical fiction but the light kind. Diet edition. 
  • You’re intrigued by the science behind time travel.
  • You love accents.
  • Mysteries are your playground.

PROS:

  • Despite the first section of the book, I couldn’t forget the story. I wanted to know what happened, if Hope would rescue her mother, the budding relationship with Bran, the reason behind Celia’s vengeance, etc. There were questions that needed answers that propelled me forward. 
  • Diversity. I LOVED LOVED LOVED Phoebe and Doug. Their characters NEED to be explored. Phoebe is outspoken, crazy, wonderful, and Doug is a genius, a little nerdy, and all around adorable. Their romance, man, I lived for those scenes. Swoon. Collum. Why, oh why, wasn’t there more of him? I had my fingers crossed that the tiny spark brewing between him and Hope would manifest because, well, he’s strong, determined, passionate, and oh so serious. Heavy sigh. 
  • Hope is interesting. She’s bursting with knowledge, at little bit of a know it all because of her perfect memory, but still insecure and sheltered. Hope doesn’t know how useful and strong she can be because she gives into her phobias. She definitely grows on you. As she adjusts to her new life, she gains courage and opens up. She becomes stronger because of her troubles. Sometimes, there’s a wisp of lighthearted comedy between her and Bran that is engaging and endearing, though not often enough. 
  • The concept itself is wonderful. Rival time traveling families, Tesla science, artifacts, learning the times to collect bits of history. The tragedies. Oh, the earth-shattering, heart-breaking tragedies. 
  • The danger is heart-stopping intense. Sword fighting, anxiety, foreboding, it’s all there, keeping you on edge. 

CONS:

  • The balance is off. There wasn’t enough establishment of life in the 12th century to get a full picture. It was more about the actions of others. While there are threads of what it was like during the time, poor treatment of Jews, rise of the church, crime, etc., the magnificence that was Eleanor of Aquitaine was muted. 
  • Explanation of ley lines, Tesla science, and lodestones was weak. If I didn’t already know about ley lines and lodestones from other time travel novels, I would have been pretty confused. 
  • “Twists” were predictable. There are so many clues pointing to them that they feel obvious and it’s frustrating how long it takes the main characters to figure it out. 
  • Secondary characters were intriguing, unique, and I wanted so much more from them but their time was taken up by Hope’s obsession with Bran and her internal struggles with the “curse” of her eidetic memory and claustrophobia. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan