Book Review – Air Awakens

Title: Air Awakens (Air Awakens #1)
Title: Elise Kova
Published: August 2015
Genre: High Fantasy, Romance
Goodreads

Rating: 5 stars
Cover: Love it

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Synopsis:

A library girl with a secret. A dark and fiery prince. When he awakens her magic, there’s no going back.

The Solaris Empire sone conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war.

Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all–the Crown Prince Aldrik–she finds herself enticed into his world. Now chemist decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined…

 

“You can read all the books in this library, be wiser than the master himself someday, and  then you will die having never really done anything. You will have only ever lived through everyone else’s experiences” (page 52)

I recently discovered that this series, which has been on my radar for a while now, is on Kindle Unlimited, and when I say I couldn’t put it down, I mean I devoured it! I’m not usually able to get into high fantasy. I usually find even the descriptions and covers to not be engaging to me, and the world building is daunting. I typically am much more drawn to low fantasy, because frequently we are introduced to the magical parts of the world with the main character, which makes it much more of an exciting adventure to me. In Air Awakens, magic is a norm on the Crescent Continent, but it is widely feared because it is strange and unusual. So there still is an introduction to the history through the main character’s discoveries because she is being thrust into the magical parts of her world, when before she feared even being around a sorcerer.

I read some reviews after I finished to help myself formulate my many thoughts, and was surprised to see many people disliked it. So in efforts to articulate why I think it’s a great piece of literature, and since my thoughts refuse to formulate in a nice pretty essay, we’ve got bullet points today:

  • The crown prince is thought to be cold and unapproachable, which is a reputation he built himself because so many people fear magic. He also has a guard on his emotions because magic is heavily influenced by emotions, and he does not want to accidentally cause harm in a slip of his emotions. Any crack in his shield could be fatal. Those that do not understand and fear magic can’t understand this, and instead judge him to be cold and harsh. I feel like there is so much depth here.
  • Deals a lot with economic inequalities, specifically how differently people live within the walls of the palace depending on their status. The economic classes are evidently so important to some people in this world, that when Vhalla starts crossing boundaries, there are those who will do everything they can to not only retain order, but to keep the feared unknown far away.
  • The themes in this book honestly complement the storyline very well and add depth that kept me thinking long after the book was finished.

I finished reading at 1:30 in the morning and immediately turned to my husband and told him I wanted to start the second book instead of sleeping. He looked at me and laughed, as I’m usually unable to stay awake past 10pm.

Book Review – Plains of Sand and Steel

Title: Plains of Sand and Steel (Uncommon World #2)
Author: Alisha Klapheke
Published: June 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Goodreads 

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: Don’t like it

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Synopsis:

A ruler’s young bride with a body to conceal, a mercenary bent on revenge, and the Fire magic that will alter their story forever. The Wrath and the Dawn meets Truthwitch in the second standalone, full length novel of the Uncommon World series. When her new royal husband dies at the beginning of an invasion, Seren must hide his body and use the visions the Holy Fire gives her to save the Empire from itself and its enemies. But if the high-ranking general who hates her discovers her secret, he’ll have her put to death.

When invaders slaughter Ona’s family and shatter her artist life, she joins Lucca, an experienced mercenary and her exact opposite, and heads into war. She just knows the “chanting” she can do—imposing one’s will on the world and watching it come to life—will break the invaders and give her sweet vengeance.

Both want to save the Empire but with tangled histories and new passions swirling around them, their divided motivations turn a possible victory into a deadly storm. Join the battle today.

“Ona could smell her own fear and rage like vinegar and blood. Her hands had never vibrated with this kind of power. She was going to kill so many people today.” (Chapter 7)

Happy book birthday to Plains of Sand and Steel by Alisha Klapheke, book two in the Uncommon World series. You can check out my review of the first book Waters of Salt and Sin HERE. I just want to say thanks to the author for giving me an eARC to read. PLUS, she just released the map of the world and goodness, I love book maps, don’t you?

This book goes straight into the action and conflict in the first chapter, resulting in a total emersion into the character’s lives instead of a building up of their stories. We get a chance to hear more about each character’s backgrounds, desires, fears, etc as the story continues. This is different than the first book, but I felt it appropriate for these characters (how many times can I say characters in one paragraph?). Similar to Waters of Salt and Sin, Plains of Sand and Steel deals with some conflict between different classes and roles, however, it was not as much of a focus.

Let’s take a minute to talk about these strong females Klapheke has given us! Seren has found herself in a role she’s completely unfamiliar with after her husband, the Kyros, dies. Her family has been working their way upward in the class system for generations. Seren’s father was hired as the high-ranking general, which brough Seren into the scene to be married to the Seren. After his death, she finds herself in a unique position where she has to decide whether or not to fight for the position of Kyros, a position she believes she deserves but others don’t because of her blood. And fight she does. With encouragement from her friends, she recognizes the unique power she has and the desire she has to lead her people. She not only stands up and demands her title of Kyros, but she stands by her people’s side to fight with them. Of course, it’s a process. She learns to overcome her fear and that nagging voice telling her she’s not good enough, but the journey is inspiring. Just look at this badass line she even gets in chapter 24:

“Never seen a woman with,” he made a flourishing kind of motion with his hands, “these…type ideas.”
“It’s the Holy Fire that gives me these ideas. And perhaps if you asked more women about their thoughts, you’d hear more good ideas.”

On the flip side, we’ve got Ona. Ona is badass from the get-go, she’s already gone through the character development to get her there. But she’s quite different than Seren. Her only goal in life is to kill every last invader because of the wrong they’ve inflicted in her life. She is a passionate fighter and throws herself at everything she does. Ona is ruthless. Her care for the people close to her is the only evidence that her heart isn’t rock solid. And to wrap it all up, she is vulgar and sassy. It’s like night and day, yet both are badass and strong. The only difference is that Seren knows her limits.

Okay, I should probably let you get to know the other characters by actually reading the book, but I just got so excited about these strong females! That being said, there’s some other great characters, like my dear Lucca, but you should just get the book to get to know them yourself.

There were some slower parts that were difficult to get through when life got in the way, but once you got through them, the plot picked up with vengeance. My other disappointment was the cover. I know some people love them, but artistically it’s hard to completely support them.

It was a fun and exciting read. The entire book is basically a battle: a battle with the invaders, a battle for the role of Kyros, a battle with self-discovery, and a battle of secrets. If you like action, what are you doing? Go read it for yourself.

Did you count how many times I said “characters?”

Book Review – Waters of Salt and Sin

Title: Waters of Salt and Sin (Uncommon World #1)
Author: Alisha Klapheke
Published: April 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Goodreads

 Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: It’s Okay

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Synopsis:

When seventeen-year-old salt witch Kinneret learns of a lost island of silver, she sets out to find it, raise her status, and finally have a chance to wed Calev, the high-caste friend she secretly loves.

But when a madman enslaves her sister, Kinneret must make a deal with the local ruler: Find the island to secure the ruler’s place in history. In return, the woman’s fighting sailors will rescue Kinneret’s sister.

Using Salt Magic to navigate cursed waters, Kinneret and Calev struggle to hide their taboo, caste-breaking feelings, knowing if the ruler witnesses the attraction, she will cancel the agreement. But when Calev makes a terrible mistake, Kinneret must choose between the life of her only remaining family member and saving the boy she loves from a traitor’s death.

“Courage isn’t not being afraid,” Calev said. “It’s standing and fighting through your fear. Protecting those you love” (chapter 7).

Waters of Salt and Sin was such a fun read. I found myself captivated, unable to stop worrying about the characters and their safety. That’s one thing you need to know about this book—it is dangerous. No one is safe. However, not only do we get some kickbutt fighting scenes and many encounters with death, but we also get lovey dovey butterfly feelings and the fight for a non-traditional family. Plus, everything happens on the sea! You can’t get more excitement than this.

One theme that is engrained in the whole plotline is the tension between class statuses. More than anything, Kinneret just wants the safety and security that comes with a higher class status (or caste) than her own. Though this is a fictional world, this specific theme holds true to our world today. By putting such a focus on the quality of life between classes, Klapheke is commenting on the prejudices in our own society. It was such a bold commentary that no reader can come away from this book without considering how our own world handles these very issues. Kinneret even makes remarks that make it hard to ignore: “Caste meant nothing when it came to death” (chapter 40).

The world Klapheke created is so immersive, filled with beauty, ugliness, sorcery, and tales of treasure. The characters are even better! Kinneret is a badass who is loyal to the bone and won’t let anyone tell her she can’t do something. I love this about her. This quality makes her worth rooting for. But, where Kinneret can be a hothead, easily worked up about things, Calev is more grounded and rational. They are the perfect mixture, each having strengths that help the other person’s weaknesses. Be careful, you might get so connected with these characters that you can’t put the book down—don’t worry. There’s more books to come!

Hold on to your hats because Kinneret and Calev are about to take you on a trip across the seas that you’ll never forget!

“If we kept to safe things forever, we’d have no kind of life at all” (chapter 40)