Review: The Impostor Queen – Sarah Fine

the imposter queenSixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by magical priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

Rating: 3.5/5

This book really took me a while to get into – I couldn’t understand all the raving ratings! It was one of those moments where I thought we must all be reading a completely different book.  However, once our protagonist left her cloistered world, things start picking up, and it was a race to the proverbial finish line – I was absorbed.

Also, we have a bisexual protagonist, which is great and I daresay still fairly unusual in YA fantasy. The male love interest is a gruff grumpy darling. He may be all dark and broody but Oskar has a lighthearted side. And he treats his momma and sister good. I also really enjoyed the fact that he does not pressure her or place conditions on her with regards to her abilities –  if she doesn’t do X, still has a home there regardless.

Elli as an MC was a tad annoying initially, but as she sort of undoes all the conditioning she was subject to in the temple, she becomes a much more interesting character with a backbone and her own desires.

ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 

Review: Pure Blooded – Amanda Carlson & Fated – Sarah Fine

I have a double-whammy of disappointing urban fantasy for you guys – woohoo!

pure bloodedPure Blooded (Jessica McClain #5) – Amanda Carlson

Jessica arrives back from the Underworld to find her father embroiled in a battle against the Made wolves. She and her crew drop everything to join them.

Once she arrives, the threat is after her. Jessica is lured into danger when her adversary takes something precious from her. With help from an unlikely source, Jessica goes up against her creator in a battle that will decide the path of everyone involved. She must war against a new set of foes, ones who could not only steal her power, but could take her soul as well.

Rating: 2/5

I really enjoyed the first three books in the series, but somewhere by book 4 I was left pretty disappointed in the series and unfortunately book 5 didn’t do much for me either.

I was initially attracted to the series by its fresh premise, but things that I could gloss over in the beginning are now a tad annoying.

Firstly, while I love me some action-packed series, there’s never any downtime with Jessica McClain at all – she goes from one problem to a bigger problem to an even bigger problem, so the characters are constantly on the go and its exhausting just reading about it. I want to see some scenes where the characters are just allowed to chill, without fear of impending doom.

Secondly, while Jess is a pretty tough lady, she’s a special snowflake in terms of her abilities. She starts out as the first female werewolf, and from there she just keeps getting more special and more powerful – I mean, in this installment, she has to literally reshape fate. And it’s not just our MC – her best friend Marcy, a very young, recently trained witch, somehow has the ability to do stuff way beyond her level or skillset. Its no fun watching characters who can just keep doing things without any struggle.

Overall, I didn’t particularly enjoy this book, although I found the last part to redeem it somewhat, and I think it might be time for the series and I to go our separate ways.

ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

fatedFated (Servants of Fate #3) – Sarah Fine

Aislin Ferry and Jason Moros have only days until they will be called to account before the Keepers of the Afterlife. Yet as they race to restore order and make their case, their worlds fall into total disarray.

Mutiny within the fractured Ferry family threatens Aislin’s hold on power and role as Charon. Meanwhile, the fearsome Lord of the Kere has family trouble of his own. Someone is unraveling the fabric of fate, and Moros suspects one of his supernatural siblings is behind the terrible bid to unleash Chaos.

Now unlikely allies, Aislin and Moros each need the other to escape the wrath of the Keepers. As the stakes rise, it becomes clear that protecting their respective empires is not the endgame. With the fate of all humanity dangling by a thread, Aislin and Moros must surrender completely to one another if they are to fight their common enemy. And as time runs out, someone must make the ultimate sacrifice.

Rating: 2/5

Another series where I was attracted by the premise – I really enjoyed the first book, but found the second one distasteful, and this final installment has pretty much devolved into the typical UF/paranormal tropes.

The male characters are all carbon copies of each other – he-man, I must have her and protect at all costs types, and honestly, I’ve had about enough of these types of dudes. All in all, I found Fated incredibly cheesy – if you like paranormal romance, then you’ll probably enjoy this series, but there’s nothing particularly new here in terms of characterization.

I do think the world the author created was quite original and had a lot of potential – in fact, I was more interested in the background than I was in the romance and the main characters.

ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Review: Claimed (Servants of Fate #2) – Sarah Fine

claimedGalena Margolis, a brilliant scientist with a tragic past, is determined to fulfill her destiny and develop the vaccine that could save millions. Yet when Galena’s test subjects meet with foul play, it’s clear that someone is still determined to stop her, and that Galena herself is a target. As the Ferry empire forges a plan to keep her safe, Declan Ferry, the politics-hating black sheep of the family, steps forward to protect her—but the emotional cost may be more than either of them is willing to pay.

As unknown enemies close in, it becomes terrifyingly clear that they threaten to destroy not only Galena’s lifesaving work but also the very fabric of fate. As Galena and Declan race to uncover the traitor, they also forge a special bond that could save both Galena and those she’s sworn to help. Torn apart by the past and hunted by those she trusted, can Galena find room amidst her fears for a passion that could make her stronger than ever? And even if she and Declan can find their way together, will it be enough to keep the future from coming apart at the seams?

Rating: 2/5

I’m going to be taking out my aggression on the PNR/UF genre as a whole here, but I am so sick and tired of the ‘fragile rape victim who finds white knight with magical healing cock’ trope. SO, SO TIRED OF IT. In this instance, it’s even worse – she has to marry the dude and ~consummate it~ to achieve the Ferry family’s healing powers to basically ensure she can remain physically indestructable while she finishes the research that could save the world and also people want to kill her for.

I’ve just come across this particular trope in about 3 books in the past month, and it irks me. I find it exploitative. I know rape happens in real life, but in this genre we’re talking magical powers and the afterlife, so realism ain’t exactly at the top of the priority list, y’know? There are other ways to show character development. I’m tired of having rape used as a device to show our heroine’s shining inner strength and fragility. There are other ways to do that too. In short, this is a rant which is better encapsulated by Seanan McGuire’s fabulous post on why her characters will never be raped:

Onto the book itself.

And look, let me be clear – the author wasn’t gratuitous in terms of showcasing the rape survivor/recovery – there was certainly sensitivity involved. She was very explicit in detailing that the victim was not at fault, and in romance scenes, that stop means stop. (Although I must say, the love scenes were quite cheesy and cringeworthy.)

Apart from my issues up above, I really do like the world that Sarah Fine has created. I like the family dynasty aspect, and the sibling relationships and rivalry. I’m intrigued by the different alliances and the undercurrent of instability that seems to be running through the core of their supernatural world.

This was also definitely more on the PNR side than UF, to my disappointment – while I’m a bit sketchy on the exact genre definitions, the romance took precedence over pretty much everything else that was going on. After a while though, the whole “I must protect you” thing got old.

The characters themselves were likeable – Galena is hella smart, sensitive, incredibly brave and determined. Dec is protective, loyal to those he loves, and uninterested in all the politicking and career climbing.

I didn’t particularly enjoy this installment, but I’ll still be checking out book 3 to see how everything ends.

ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Review: Marked (Servants of Fate #1) – Sarah Fine

marked sarah fineIn a broken landscape carved by environmental collapse, Boston paramedic Cacia Ferry risks life and limb on the front lines of a fragile and dangerous city. What most don’t know—including her sexy new partner, Eli Margolis—is that while Cacy works to save lives, she has another job ferrying the dead to the Afterlife. Once humans are “Marked” by Fate, the powerful Ferrys are called to escort the vulnerable souls to either eternal bliss or unending fire and pain.

Unaware of Cacy’s other life, Eli finds himself as mesmerized by his fierce and beautiful partner as he is mistrustful of the influential Ferry clan led by the Charon—who happens to be Cacy’s father. Cacy, in turn, can no longer deny her intense attraction to the mysterious ex-Ranger with a haunted past. But just as their relationship heats up, an apparent hit takes the Charon before his time. Shaken to the core, Cacy pursues the rogue element who has seized the reins of Fate, only to discover that Eli has a devastating secret of his own. Not knowing whom to trust, what will Cacy have to sacrifice to protect Eli—and to make sure humanity’s future is secure?

Rating: 4/5

An admirable urban fantasy offering from Sarah Fine, previously known for her young adult work.

Cacy, a paramedic, belongs to the prestigious and powerful Ferry family, who, unbeknownst to the public at large, are also responsible for transporting the souls of the recently deceased to the afterlife. Eli, her new paramedic partner, has just moved to Boston so that his genius younger sister can take up a position researching immunity and virology at Harvard.

The romance plays a large role in the book – after all, this is one of the staples of urban fantasy/paranormal romance. While there is some insta-lust, they spend a lot of time getting to know each other’s character while simultaneously extracting themselves from tricky, dangerous and/or life threatening situations. It’s an enjoyable slow burn.

I also admired our two MCs – Cacy is good at her job, strong, smart, loyal and unfortunately for her, impulsive – she goes to the ends of the earth to save those she cares about, even at her own expense, and even if it means trusting or bargaining with the proverbial devil.

Eli is pretty refreshing compared to many UF male leads – sure, he’s attractive, can defend himself and gets protective, but he’s a pretty upstanding guy without the misogynistic he-man tendencies. He’s also very wary of jeopardizing his job and new opportunity in the city for what might very well turn out to be a short-lived fling. I liked that Cacy’s relatives weren’t all “Touch my sister and die, bitch.” After ascertaining that Eli is a decent dude, they leave the two of them alone.

While enjoyable, Marked was not without its flaws, namely:

1. If I had a shot for every time the words ‘her spicy scent’ were used, I would have a hangover from hell this morning.

2. While urban fantasy as a genre obviously relies on imaginative elements and supernatural creations, the worldbuilding still needs to be plausible – and I’m not entirely convinced in the strength of the whole ‘Galena will be the downfall/savior of humanity’ angle, upon which the entire plot is hinged. But hopefully this will be made clearer in the forthcoming book.