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#BookReview : The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon #ThePrioryoftheOrangeTree #BooksTeacupnReviews #HighFantasy

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The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Publication date: February 26th 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: High Fantasy / LGBT + Magic and dragons
Pages: 830
Stars: ★★★★★

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door. Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tane has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel. Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

*** Note: I purchased this book ***

The Priory of the Orange Tree was fantastic high fantasy that revolved around the world fearing the big bad dragon that was stirring from his thousand years long sleep to bring chaos and destruction in the world and characters trying to save the world from him. It was about magic and mages, royal politics, religion and hypocrisy, legends with its truth and lies, love and friendship, good vs bad dragons, and putting away differences to fight the darkness of the world and changing mindset for great good.

Wow! This book is simply awesome. It was 800 page long book and there wasn’t a single page I didn’t enjoy. The writing was beautiful, flawless, and mesmerizing. The author is a brilliant storyteller who chained me to this huge tome from the very beginning and transported me in the world of Virtudom, dragons, dragon lovers and dragon slayers, legends, pirates and outlaws.

The Priory of the Orange Tree was written in third person narrative, divided into six sections with alternative chapters mostly from East and West and some chapters from South, telling the story of main characters living in kingdoms and queendoms in cardinal points of this world. Thank goodness, there was a map or I would have lost directions in this world.

The plot was amazing and it was more complex than I thought. The world and the characters were vast and were equally balanced. The first section was all about world and character building. The story followed Ead and Queen Sabran in West, Tane and Professor Roos in East, and Lord Arteloch Beck (Loth) in South.

“No woman should be made to fear that she was not enough.”

In the west, Ead Duryan was set in Inys court to protect the Queen, Sabran Berethnet. Her duty was to ensure her safety as it was said Berethnet line kept the Nameless One (our bad dragon) tied to the abyss. Ead had secrets. She was a mage of the priory, one of the best handmaiden, born to slay dragons. She kept a watchful eye on the queen for 7 years but she was away from priory for too long, her magic is fading, and to keep queen safe she must get close to the queen. She discovered somebody was trying to harm Sabran. The question was who? And then high western dragons (high-rank dragons of Nameless One’s army and equally dangerous) were rising. I was curious to see how Ead was going to save Sabran from the threat flying towards Inys without revealing her true identity.

I loved every part of this narration. I loved reading western culture and their blind faith in this part. Court of Inys and castle was also described wonderfully. The politics and legend was the heart of this narration and then sizzling f/f romance.

In the East we are introduced to eastern culture and the life of Tane and Professor Roos. Tane’s only dream was to become a dragon rider but arrival of a stranger changed the course of life. She hid him instead of reporting him to officials so her selection ceremony didn’t interrupt. Doctor Roos got involved in this web of hiding stranger and it made things even worse for Tane. I liked how events unfolded. I was curious to find out what role she was going to play in the whole story and what will happen to her dragon.

I loved reading about different islands in the East, the empire of twelve lakes, harsh Eastern law, pirates and their journey, and the story of the second mage in this narration.

In South, Lord Arteloth Beck (Loth) was carrying out a spy mission. But he wasn’t a spy! he was sent away from Inys so he couldn’t be in way of Queen Sabran’s marriage. There were rumors he and Sabran were lovers but actually they were best friends. Night Hawk of Inys court sent him to his doom without notifying the Queen. On arriving in Carscaro, he discovered the reality of the castle and person sitting on the throne and many other secrets. I was curious to see if he could ever find his way back to Inys.

In this I enjoyed reading about wyrms, other creatures of the south, about Priory and the real legend, and customs of the south.

“Piety can turn the power-hungry into monsters,’ Ead said. ‘They can twist any teaching to justify their actions.”

Ead (26 yrs old) was my most favorite character in whole book. She was everything I would want in heroine. Badass, smart, clever, a warrior and a killer. She also had a broader perspective who not just cared for her home but also for Inys and whole humanity. She never feared anything until she fell in love. Lot of things changed and it got really exciting. She was the only person who was unfazed by the appearance of high western and even the Nameless One in the end battle. She found a lot of secrets and truth behind stories and every mystery. The more I read about her, her act and reaction and her adventure, the more I admired and loved her.

“All stories grow from a seed of truth,’ Truyde said. ‘They are knowledge after figuration.”

Sabran (27 yrs old) was headstrong, imperious, and orthodox woman at first. I even said her a fool but once I knew more about her, her secrets and fears, her childhood and her dreams, like Ead, I warmed to her. She had a face of steel and heart filled with compassion and love. She surprised me when she got to know the truth about her religion and legend and later the biggest shocking secret. No one can endure so much but only Sabran. She was one true queen and I loved her at the end.

“I do not sleep because I am not only afraid of the monsters at my door, but also of the monsters my own mind can conjure. The ones that live within.”

Loth (30 yrs old) was another favorite character. It took more than one adventure for him to change his belief. He got so many shocks throughout the book. I loved him for his loyalty and friendship. His sister was braver and broad minded than him. I loved Margret throughout the book.

Tane (19 yrs old) was young and naïve and little flawed. She was ambitious. Her dream and her best friend were only one she cared about and when that was taken away because of her one mistake she became weak and hollow. She kept feeling guilty for breaking law, even when her dragon assured her she didn’t do wrong. It was so sad and tragic to see everything falling apart for her. But I loved her determination and the way she changed things in second half of the book.

I thought at first Doctor Roos (64 yrs old) will not be important character but I was wrong. He was one flawed character and not likable. He was opportunist and selfish. Shadow of the past was seeped deep in him and his exile only served to fester the dead in him. One thing was, he didn’t deny his flaws and who he was. He knew he was not honest and righteous person and what he did was wrong and I liked how his adventure, encounter with pirates and dragons, and hope changed his view.

“I realized, that she had been spoon-fed a story from the day she was born. She had been taught no other way to be. And yet, I saw that despite everything, some part of her was self-made. This part, small as it appeared at first, was forged in the fire of her own strength, and resisted her cage. And I understood…that this part was made of steel. The part who she truly was.”

Mysteries, actions, adventure, and surprises were in abundance. There was so much going on throughout the book.Each chapters and section revealedso many stories, myths, legends and tales of this world that was set in CE 1005. Two legends were center part of the story. One was from west and sounth of Gallian Berethnest and the damsel and another from the east about another mage and dragons that was revealed in second half of the book.

My most favorite part of the book was these legends and the two sides of it, how Ead and other characters found the evidence of the truth in this legend and about magic, about mage of east, and how both legends connected at the end and provided a key to fight the Nameless One.

Climax was exciting and tense. When the final battle started it got even more excited. It was not narrated like battles we read in other fantasy. It was exactly the way it should be, all chaos broke free and all fighting the common enemy. It ended a bit earlier than expected but it was amazing. The end also showed what happened to each character and what they did after the battle. I was bit confused by what happened to Tane, I must admit it was weird and unclear. I had to go to Goodreads and the reader’s discussion about this. The answers were satisfactory and like them I hope this might be a link to other book author is planning to write in this world.

“Some truths are safest buried. Some castles best kept in the sky. There’s promise in tales that are yet to be spoken.”

Overall, The Priory of the Orange Tree was fantastic, mesmerizing, fast-paced, and mind-blowing fantasy with complex world and amazing characters. As said in the praises, “it was epic fantasy at its finest”. Even after reading 800 pages, I didn’t want it to end. It was that good. I highly recommend this book. I’m surely getting other books by Samantha Shannon.

Book Links:

Goodreads

Affiliate Link: Amazon.in | Amazon.com | Amazon.UK | Book Depository

What do you think about the book and my review? Have you read this book already or any books by the same author? Are you going to add it to TBR? Which is your favorite high fantasy or book with dragons?

Happy Reading!

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#BookReview: The Queen’s Assassin (Queen’s Secret #1) by Melissa de la Cruz

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The Queen’s Assassin (Queen’s Secret #1) by Melissa de la Cruz
Publication Date: February 4th 2020
Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Pages: 384
★★★★☆

Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Red Queen, this is the first novel in a sweeping YA fantasy-romance duet about a deadly assassin, his mysterious apprentice, and the country they are sworn to protect from #1 NYT bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz.

Caledon Holt is the Kingdom of Renovia’s deadliest weapon. No one alive can best him in brawn or brains, which is why he’s the Guild’s most dangerous member and the Queen’s one and only assassin. He’s also bound to the Queen by an impossible vow–to find the missing Deian Scrolls, the fount of all magical history and knowledge, stolen years ago by a nefarious sect called the Aphrasians.

Shadow has been training all her life to follow in the footsteps of her mother and aunts–to become skilled enough to join the ranks of the Guild. Though magic has been forbidden since the Aphrasian uprising, Shadow has been learning to control her powers in secret, hoping that one day she’ll become an assassin as feared and revered as Caledon Holt.

When a surprise attack brings Shadow and Cal together, they’re forced to team up as assassin and apprentice to hunt down a new sinister threat to Renovia. But as Cal and Shadow grow closer, they’ll uncover a shocking web of lies and secrets that may destroy everything they hold dear. With war on the horizon and true love at risk, they’ll stop at nothing to protect each other and their kingdom in this stunning first novel in the Queen’s Secret series.

*** Note: I received this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to @PRHGlobal for free copy. ***

The Queen’s Assassin was YA Fantasy that revolved around Queen’s secret and her assassin. It was about forbidden magic, romance, royal politics and saving kingdom from incursion and evil mages.

First of all that cover is awesome and so apt. Writing was gripping and addictive from the very beginning. I finished this book in 2 sitting and couldn’t put it down until the end. I loved author’s storytelling ability. World, characters and plot was great. It was narrated from Shadow and Calendon’s perspective. That synopsis says it all.

Worldbuilding was fantastic. Initial chapter gave the overview of world. It told about the history of kingdom Avantine, its rulers, how it was broken into four kingdoms, Renovia, how the sect of evil mages called Aphrasians and secret guild who fought against Aphrasians beside Renovian throne was formed, what was Deian scroll and how it was lost to Aphrasians, how all this lead to the current situation of Renovia, and how important it was to get the Deian scroll to save the kingdom and restore the magic and peace.

I thought it was all I would need to know about the world but as I read more I got to know more about political unrest, rise of Aphrasians, and rumors of incursion by assault on princess Lilac- the sole heir of Renovia. I loved excerpts from the Diean Scroll before beginning of all three sections. It that told the history and origin of magic, how magic came to Avantine and story of Queen Lilliana, regent queen of Renovia. Those were the best characters in the book.

Story was divided in three parts- Renovia, Montrice (Renovia’s neighbouring kingdom) and Assassin and Queen.

First part introduced characters. Queen Lilliana, her assassin- Calendon Holt and Shadow. As soon as I read epilogue I knew who Shadow was. Now that is not really strong for book but I tell you, the scenes were well written it mislead me and made me question what I was so sure about. I was curious to see how much she knew or if she doesn’t when and how she will know.

Shadow was a farm girl living with her aunts who were part of guild and trained her well to be part of guild. It was her dream to be part of guild and to be Caledon’s apprentice. But her mother who was courtier and on higher rank in guild had other plans. When a sudden attack brought her and Caledon together, she was adamant to thwart her mother’s plan, impress Caledon by rescuing him and convince him to take her on his mission. The way she carried out her plan was both reckless and impressive. Most of the time she was headstrong girl who acted like she knew more, eager to prove herself but that put her and Caledon in lot of danger. She wanted to be his apprentice but always took lead defied and argued whatever he said. That made me both laugh and irritated. It’s not like she wasn’t skilled or smart but what’s the meaning of apprentice if you don’t listen to a person you’re supposed to work under? Anyway, her development was good. As she worked with Caledon, she knew being assassin and part of guild is not easy, it required sacrifices and understood its seriousness.

Caledon was great. He was my favorite in the book. Now that might be unpopular as all reviews I read, reader didn’t like Cal and loved Shadow more. He was ruthless, merciless assassin. He obviously was not used to work with somebody and it made him look like arrogant but at the same time he was gentleman, man of word and restraint. Even though he was frustrated by working with Shadow and her suggestion he went along with her whims. I loved his story about his father and mother. He faced lot of pain and grief. His work left him alone and loveless but working with Shadow he experienced friendship, love and companionship.

Second part was about Montrice, its people and tradition, finding out if the nation was involved with Aphrasians. It also showed growing friendship and chemistry between Shadow and Caledon. I loved narration of aristocratic life style, gown and balls in this part.

I liked romance between Shadow and Caledon. They didn’t get along well initially but as they got to know each other, it blossomed into a beautiful flower. I was curious to see how they were going to voice their feelings and if they could commit to a relationship.

This unexpected love and all the feeling came along with it distracted them from their main plan. I was so glad for the turning point and what a turn it was. Many things happened from here till the end of this part. When they finally found about the evil Aphrasian, there was little action and some unexpected revelation.

I knew Shadow was hiding things from Caledon but oh boy, what was revealed in third part was a bit more than what I guessed. Queen’s play and secret was shocking. I liked Shadow’s confession and the way story ended. I definitely sided with Caledon and admired him for his decision but at the same time loved Shadow and how she grew with her responsibility. I can’t wait to see what is to come next in this series.

Why 4 Stars-

Now I haven’t read Sarah J Maas books but I have read stories that have somewhat similar outline. The world was original. I love mages and magic and blood vow, but rest of things was not fresh. Characters, queen’s secret and the end was a tad too predictable.

Overall, it was fast paced, interesting fantasy with addictive writing and refreshing world. It gave same vibes as Children of Blood and Bone while reading this, so if you liked that book, you’ll enjoy this.

Book Links: Goodreads
Affiliate Link: Book Depository | Amazon.in | Amazon.com

Let’s discuss!

What do you think about the book?
Have you read this books or any book by the same author?
Is there a character or book that most readers disliked but you liked/loved?

HAPPY READING!!

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#BookReview : The Age of Akra (Starchild #1) by Vacen Taylor

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The Age of Akra (Starchild #1) by Vacen Taylor
Publication Date: March 8th 2013
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Genre : High Fantasy / Middle grade
Pages: 142
Stars: ★★★★★

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The foreshadowing of a dark future threatens the seven nations of Sahas. Mai is selected to train with the mysterious elemental master Sah Dohba, who will prepare her to become the protector of the desert lands. Her brother Long steps forward to travel with her as her chaperone to the Valley of a Thousand Thoughts.

A mysterious encounter brings them together with Akra, the Starchild. The trio travels on into a battle with the elements. Sandstorms. Deadly creatures. Starvation. Then a chance meeting with powerful earthfollower sets them on a new path where they must each find the strength to face a terrifying foe from the Underworld.

*** Note: I won this book in giveaways. ***

The Age of Akra was fantastic first book in the Starschild series. It was middle grade fantasy that revolved around Mai’s journey that turned into thrilling and dangerous adventure. It was about hope, friendship, bravery, and kindness.

Characters-

There were 3 main characters- Mai, Long and Akra. Mai was 13-years-old brave and kind hearted girl who was chosen to go on arduous pilgrimage to train under master thoughtbanker. She was smart, talented thoughtbanker and was filled with courage, kindness and hope. She didn’t hesitate to take risk for others, even for those she hardly knew, to do right thing.

Long was 15 old, Mai’s elder brother and her chaperon on her journey. He was not as smart as Mai but he could morph into animal. He was timid but when the time came he showed courage and developed confidence by the end of the book. He made this tough journey and their dangerous adventure entertaining.

Akra was 10-year-old starchild, destined to save world when he can master all the elements. There was more to this kid. In the beginning he didn’t remember much about his life and purpose but he was smart, kind, wise and lovely. He was fascinating throughout the book and I’m curious to know more about him and his powers.

What I Liked-

This is my first book by author and I can tell she is great story teller. Writing was fabulous. Desert setting and the world of elemental magic was vividly described. I loved characters specially kids. They were smart and wise for their age.

It started with middle child Mai’s tests by ministers of 8 elemental magic and being selected to go on pilgrimage to the Velley of Thousand Thoughts where she would be trained and become part of the prophecy. When minister asked one person to chaperon Mai on this journey, one of her elder brother, Long, instantly volunteered. Both were bonded with each other more than with any other siblings but they hardly agreed on one thing. On their first day of the journey only, they started showing their polar thoughts that lead disagreements. On their way they encountered mysterious light. The prophecy that looked just stories till now turned into reality when they found a starchild, Akra.  Together they travelled through scorching desert, came across a wounded dying man, deadly creatures, and met some mysterious and powerful people that diverted them from their journey to the mountain of dark magic.

It was interesting, dark, and dangerous journey. I liked the chosen one and good vs evil arc in this book. Author turned this arc into extraordinary by including prophecy, elemental magic, giant serpent and spiders, dark magic, underworld monsters, and brave young characters.

What I loved most was world-building. I enjoyed reading about 8 elemental magic and seven nations, each nation was skilled in particular element, various powers of particular elemental magic, rift between nations, and how things were changing because of dark magic and rising of being from underworld.

There was adventure in every single chapter that kept me turning pages at jet speed. Twist and turns were clever. I couldn’t guess how they would save their new friend and fight dark magic. Climax was action packed and end was great. It was perfect story for the target audience. I can picture myself giving this book to my daughter after 6 years.

Overall, it was total fun, coming of age middle grade fantasy filled with action and magic. I highly recommend this to middle grade readers.

Book Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Affiliate Link: Book Depository

Let’s discuss!

What do you think about the book and review? Have you read this book already? Have you read books featuring elemental magic? What is your element? I’m Ice and Water according to this test, check out yours HERE.

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#Review : Anbatar: Legacy of the Blood Guard by Anne Dolleri

Anbatar: Legacy of the Blood Guard by Anne Dolleri
Series: The Legend of the Samerians book 2
Publication Date: September 14th 2019
Genre: Fantasy / High fantasy
Pages: 488
Stars: ★★★★★

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Zessalon’s war with the Northern Kingdom has ended, their enemy once more defeated. But Nareth—ruthless Samerier warrior and half-brother to the Southern king—can find no rest behind the battered walls of the Golden City. Craving unity after centuries of bloodshed, he rides north to initiate peace talks with his kingdom’s lifelong enemies. There, he discovers the Northerners’ hatred of him and his people runs far deeper than he suspected. In the dark alleys of Anbatar, Nareth encounters a fierce enemy, turning his quest into a battle of life and death.

*** Note: I received e-copy of this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to author for free copy. ***

Anbatar was fantastic high fantasy, second in series but can read as standalone. It revolved around Nareth, a Samerier and prince of southern kingdom trying to bring peace between Northern and Southern kingdom. The book was about prejudice and misconception, dispute between kingdoms, politics, betrayal, loyalty and friendship.

Characters-

There were many characters in this book. All played important role. I loved their descriptions and introduction. I cannot talk about all characters and surely not in detail without giving away much so I will tell about my favorite characters only.

Nareth– He was a Samerier- a supernatural being who draws strength from emotion. The more angrier, more dangerous. You can say he was a mortal, vulnerable, self-destructive hulk. If you have Samerier in your army you wouldn’t need cannons. Everybody feared and hated them because of their ruthlessness. But Nareth was different. He was learned, wise, and smart, more controlled of his emotions and knew how to hold back his anger and power. His love for his country and people was tremendous. His impatience was his biggest flaw and people around him kept testing his limits. It was easy to empathize with this character. He gone through a lot after battle and hatred in people’s eye didn’t help. They consider him an animal. All he wanted was respect and treated as normal human being. The more I knew about him the more I loved him. I liked his prejudice towards Artherians changed by the end of the book.

Asrodin was my second favorite. Can I have a whole book featuring this character? He was simply amazing. This most feared and reputed thief of Anbatar was highly unpredictable and mysterious character.  His ways, knowledge, and plan awed me. I couldn’t guess what he would do next. I liked the bits of his backstory.

Illion was amusing, brought smile on my face.
Asekha was brilliant heroine. I wish things were different for her and Nareth.
I thought I wouldn’t like that arrogant nephew of Artherian but he grew on me by the end of the book.
Keni was cleaver kid. I liked his and Nareth’s friendship.
I didn’t like Yaron or any politician. I honestly didn’t get why Yaron disliked Nareth, maybe it was prejudice or jealousy but most of the time his apathetic nature irked me.
Oh and my favorite animals in the book- Alhar– Nareth’s war horse and Revo– his smart dog who saved him few time in the book.

What I liked-

This turned out a lot much more better than I expected. Writing was perfect. It gave life to creative characters and mesmerizing world. Author balanced characters and plot wonderfully. Book was third person narrative mostly from Nareth’s POV but we also get to see some parts from Asrodin, Asekha’s view as well.

As said in the synopsis book started after the big war between Southern (Zessalonn) and Northern kingdom (Anbatar). Nareth heading towards Northern kingdom after defeating them and capturing the king, to convince working government about peace treaty between the nations. He was sent to spy the condition and gather information until delegates and small troop arrive and then work together on their mission of putting an end to centuries of bloodshed.

Now that synopsis didn’t give away anything. Story was much more complicated than it looked. First there was no king in Anbatar after they got the news of defeat of old king, council was the working government but were bound within the walls of palace unable to act until king was elected by their votes. Now there started all the problem. To facilitate the coronation of favored council member, Nareth and his men had to undertake dangerous mission- take the secret sect called The Blood Guard out of commission- and protect council member’s daughter from them. Nareth and his men knew nothing about The Blood Guards- where they were and who they were. The more how they worked on their mission putting the future king on throne and sign peace treaty looked more uncertain and difficult. It turned into battle of life and death, surviving Northerners’ hatred and prejudice of towards Nareth and devious plan that can end the treaty and Nareth’s life. 

I loved this world. Both capital cities of kingdoms were beautifully narrated. What I loved most was legends and stories around Blood Guard and Samerier. It was told bits by bits throughout the story. The more I progressed in the story the more I knew about the world and Samerier and about this intricate group of Blood Guard. I enjoyed the stories of big battle which was not in detail (might be what first book was about) but I could connect the stories to the current situation and how characters were affected by it. We get to see views and differences of both kingdom and how it affected people over the centuries. It baffled me to see people’s prejudice not just towards Samerier but Artherian bloodline. Corridors of castle, deathly traps of tunnel, and alleys of Anbatar, all was captured in the story vividly.

Conversation between characters was realistic and engaging. Banter between Nareth and his diplomat, Yaron was a bit overdone. Inevitable Romance was important part in the book. I could see it was going to bring another trouble but I enjoyed sweet moments. I liked author took practical approach here which made it different from romance we see in other high fantasies. I bet you will feel all kind of emotions. There was so much adrenalin push, tension, humor and I even shed a tear or two after climax.

As it is massive book small part (beginning, middle, just before climax) seemed little slow and I was thinking to cut half star but many twist and turns kept me excited and engaging. So many things happened since climax. Climax was predictable but the way it happened and events followed was out of the box. The twist was shocking and my guesses were all turned out wrong. End was perfect. I liked Nareth’s attitude and closed the book with smirk and smile on my face.  

My only complaint is, why second book was translated first! I would have loved to know Zessalonn story from the first book. I was going to rate it 4 but when I thought about it, I couldn’t find anything negative and I actually enjoyed it.

Overall, it was fantastic, thrilling, filled with twist and turns, and interesting high fantasy.

Book Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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What do you think about the book and review? Have you read this book already? Are you going to add it to TBR? Which is the best fantasy you read this year?

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#Review : Gravemaidens (Gravemaidens #1) by Kelly Coon

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Gravemaidens (Gravemaidens #1) by Kelly Coon
Publication Date: October 29th 2019
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Fantasy / High Fantasy
Pages: 416
Stars: ★★★★☆

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The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honor…and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.

In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.

When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.

*** Note: I received e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to PRHGlobal for free copy. ***

Gravemaidens was unique and fascinating fantasy that take place in ancient land where sacred maidens were chosen to bury along with dead king i.e. Gravemaidens. It revolved around this concept, a healer and her journey trying to save her sister who was chosen to be one of the gravemaiden. It was about injustice and ill-treatment towards low class people and women, ancient dogmatic tradition and cruel practices, family, friendship, sisterhood, grief and loss and how people react to it differently.

Characters-

Kammani was brave and strong willed young healer. She dreamed to be best healer in the city like her father and followed his footstep ever since she was a child. I adored her love for family. She kept her promise to her dead mother and became breadwinner, a mother to her young siblings and a daughter who supported her father who was lost in grief and alcohol. But she was also very flawed character. I didn’t appreciate Kammani’s stubborn nature towards Dagan and his love. It was clear she loved him but never admitted it and kept pushing his love away and also any help and support from her best friend Iltani. The reasons she gave felt empty. I could see why near the end but still it was a bit annoying. I adored her for not leaving her family behind and risking her life to save them.

Iltani and Dagan were the best in the book. They kept the tension and my annoyance at bay. Iltani was character I would love to be friends with. You never get bore with her. She had a way to every problem. Her impromptu plans, bold nature, and smart mouth made me smile whenever she appeared in the story. Dagan was sweet. He was gentle, generous and humble handsome farmer’s son. I instantly liked him and I was ready to swap places with Kammani telling her ‘girl you can have your dream and let me have this charming man’. 😉

All secondary characters fit in their role perfectly. Most of them were naïve and stupid specially Nanaea. Villain was evil, chilling and full of deceit.

What I liked-

That cover is perfect for the story. Writing was great. It gave life to interesting characters and brilliant setting. Book was first person narrative that started with Kammani introducing her world, traditions of Alu and her family. How they were cast out, what happened to her mother and father since then, how unfair Lural (king) was to her family and how she hated the concept of sacred maidens. Her world turned upside down when her sister was announced as one of the maidens. And so her journey started towards saving Lural and so her sister from being buried with him.  

I was curious to know how she was going to save the king. As soon as she entered the palace and started healing king I knew who was behind such cunning plan, where the story will head and if she will succeed in saving king and her sister. I must say author did great job at misleading my guesses and I almost believed them. I enjoyed finding answers and culprit, reading the twist and turns, and learning more about the world along with Kammani’s journey.

What I loved most was the world. The city – Alu, kingdom, palace and its structure, market, people and their orthodox nature, their discriminating mentality, blind belief in their religion and tradition was brilliantly displayed. It made sense as the story was set in the ancient world where they still used tablets not paper. I also liked the some Mesopotamian mythical aspects, the God Enlil they worshiped and story of boatman they believed in so religiously. All descriptions were vivid. Ancient treatments methods, childbirth, tonics and tinctures were well researched. As a pharmacist I loved reading this part of the book. Author’s note at the end was enlightening. Few things in the book like burial rituals of royalty and treatment to lower class and women were actually facts and was inspired from the Sumerian history. 

Another thing that I loved was Kammani’s family, their history and what happened to them. It was emotional and it pained me to see Kammani grow so fast without letting herself grieve, and pushing away all the help she needed. Her relationship with her sister was strained and frustrating but it developed near climax and I loved how it grew by the end of the book.

Message behind the story was nice. It was about giving yourself time to grieve, not push others away who meant well for you specially your loved ones. How loss and grief affects differently and how one can turn evil if they let their grief fester in them.

Pace was bumpy, first 30% was steady, middle part was bit slow, but after 60% story pick up the speed. Twist and turns were simply amazing. Climax was surprising, shocking, and tense. I absolutely loved the end and I’m curious to see where Kammani’s journey will take her and what they will decide to do in next book.

Why 4 Stars-

Half of the story was predictable. I guessed most of the turns. As I said I was bit annoyed with main character.

Overall, it enjoyable, enthralling, and fascinating fantasy with interesting ancient world and characters.

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Let’s discuss!

What do you think about the book and review? Have you read this book already? Are you going to add it to TBR? Which is your favorite high fantasy?

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