Sky in the Deep, Adrienne Young

“Ond Eldr.” Breathe fire. 

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

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5 / 5

Sky in the Deep features my favourite kind of woman – the warrior woman, the woman with a sword and an axe and a glare that could shatter empires. Eelyn is tough, bitter, discerning, and sensitive upon occasion. She is raised in the pseudo-viking Aska Clan, bitter rivals to the Riki people with whom they meet in battle every five years. Five years ago, Eelyn’s brother Iri died on the battlefield, leaving her and her father alone; today she stands shield to shield with her friend when she encounters a ghost on the bloody field.
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Sufficiently Advanced Magic (Arcane Ascension #1), Andrew Rowe

“It was the day of my Judgement and I was prepared in a thousand ways that didn’t matter”

Five years ago, Corin Cadence’s brother entered the Serpent Spire — a colossal tower with ever-shifting rooms, traps, and monsters. Those who survive the spire’s trials return home with an attunement: a mark granting the bearer magical powers. According to legend, those few who reach the top of the tower will be granted a boon by the spire’s goddess.

 

He never returned. Now, it’s Corin’s turn. He’s headed to the top floor, on a mission to meet the goddess.

 

* * * * 

4 / 5

When I was a great deal younger I spent a reasonable amount of time devouring books and manga of the LitRPG genre – the most famous of which might be Sword Art Online, The Tower of God, and 1/2 Prince. Essentially, these are books based either literally around people in a game or a world that functions like an RPG; typically these feature dungeons, levelling up, magic, trading, forging weapons, and parties (the dangerous, monster fighting kind).
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Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad #1), Scott Reintgen

 

Babel pushes us over cliffs and expects us to fly. Sometimes we do.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. Forever. 

* * * * *
5 / 5

Wow. This book completely blew me away. It reminded me a little of Ender’s Game – kids recruited for some mission in space by a vaguely nefarious company, set against each other in a series of games, always loomed over by a massive scoreboard – and whilst Ender’s Game does have a massive twist near the end, I enjoyed Nyxia a heck of a lot more. Reintgen crafted such excellent characters, there’s so much emotion in this book, but also so much badassery, and I was even rooting for the romance! I can’t even remember the last book I read where I wanted the romance to work out.

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Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor

“It was impossible, of course. But when did that ever stop any dreamer from dreaming?”

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep. 
* * * * *
5 / 5 
 
Sometimes I’m not sure whether a book is a four or a five star; is it great or an all-time favourite sort of great? When confronted with this question I have one good, solid criteria: did I notice the page numbers flipping by? I have quite a mathematical mind – when I start a book I like to look at the back and see how many pages there are and when I read I like to calculate how far through, fraction-wise, I am (obviously Kindles make this far too easy). When reading a great book I’ll notice the page numbers going up and go ahhh, 4/7 the way through, what a shame I’m getting towards the end. In an all-time favourite sort of book, I won’t even notice. It’s only when I set the book down that I’ll take note of where I am.

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Spellslinger (Spellslinger #1), Sebastien de Castell

“Tricks are all I have.” I said. “Clever. The boy always seeks to be clever.”

Kellen is moments away from facing his first mage’s duel and the start of four trials that will make him a spellcaster. There’s just one problem: his magic is gone. But when a daring stranger arrives in town, she challenges Kellen to take a different path. Ferius Parfax is one of the mysterious Argosi – a traveller who lives by her wits and the three decks of cards she carries. She’s difficult and unpredictable, but she may be Kellen’s only hope.

Read my reviews of Shadowblack (#2), Charmcaster (#3), and Soulbinder (#4)

* * * * .5
4.5 / 5

Kellen is supposed to be earning his mage name; on the cusp of turning sixteen, if he doesn’t pass the four trials he’ll be relegated to the life of a servant. The problem? He doesn’t have any magic any more. It doesn’t help that his father is the most powerful mage of their people and his sister, barely thirteen, is already passing all of her trials. This is an absolutely wonderful book that grabbed me from the very first page.

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Grendel’s Guide to Love and War, A. E. Kaplan

 

“Tom no,” Zip said. “Tom,” I said, “yes.”

Tom Grendel lives a quiet life—writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the “manic-pixie-dream” label. But when Willow’s brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens’ community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is rightfully pissed—his dad is an Iraq vet, and the noise from the parties triggers his PTSD—so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. But of course, it’s not that simple.

* * * * *
5 / 5

 
This book managed to be a hilarious, witty, endearing and slightly heartbreaking page turner all at once. I was thoroughly impressed. This book had such a solid main cast from Tom Grendel himself, lawn mower and interviewer of old ladies, to his wild actress sister Zip, best friend Ed, and unruly teenagers next door, Willow and Rex (bro-iest bro ever to bro). It also managed to be so lighthearted and genuinely funny whilst touching on some serious topics.

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Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1), Mark Lawrence

“That’s my secret and my shame. I’m Nona Grey, war is in my veins, and the screams of my enemies are music to me.”

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Read my review of the second book in the series, Grey Sister.

* * * * *
5 / 5

Absolutely incredible. Red Sister is the amazing, heartwrenching, slow-paced, bloody story of ten year old (then twelve, then older) Nona Grey, first sold to a child-seller, then to a a gang of ring-fighters, then inducted into the Sweet Mercy convent of assassin-nuns to save her from the hangman’s noose. It started with a bang and ended with my heart in pieces and my eyes yearning for more. Seriously, it starts with:

“It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.”

And Red Sister only got better from there on out. Exponentially better.

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