Book Title: Unchosen Author: Katharyn Blair Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books Release Date: January 26, 2021 Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic
“Leave her alone. You’ve already destroyed this world. Leave this girl alone.“
— Katharyn Blair
Katharyn Blair crafts a fiercely feminist fantasy with a horrifying curse, swoon-worthy sea captains, and the power of one girl to choose her own fate in this contemporary standalone adventure that’s perfect for fans of The Fifth Wave and Seafire, and for anyone who has ever felt unchosen.
“Such heart. Bravery. Guts.”
— Katharyn Blair
For Charlotte Holloway, the world ended twice.
The first was when her childhood crush, Dean, fell in love—with her older sister.
The second was when the Crimson, a curse spread through eye contact, turned the majority of humanity into flesh-eating monsters.
Neither end of the world changed Charlotte. She’s still in the shadows of her siblings. Her popular older sister, Harlow, now commands forces of survivors. And her talented younger sister, Vanessa, is the Chosen One—who, legend has it, can end the curse.
When their settlement is raided by those seeking the Chosen One, Charlotte makes a reckless decision to save Vanessa: she takes her place as prisoner.
The word spreads across the seven seas—the Chosen One has been found.
But when Dean’s life is threatened and a resistance looms on the horizon, the lie keeping Charlotte alive begins to unravel. She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world.
Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.
“He cursed the world. He wanted the world to suffer for my rejection of him.”
Angst. Angst. Angst. Angst. Angst. Remember when YA books used to be pure angst? Yeah, I do. And if you can’t tell I kind of miss it. But this book took that angst and all of those old YA tropes I still love oh so much and made them fresh and new and revitalized the genre in a way I haven’t seen yet. So yeah, I kind of enjoyed this one. OH! And there are (kind of) ZOMBIES!
“Did she figure out I’ve been lying? Or is it finally time?”
— Katharyn Blair
Where do I even start with this review though? The characters? Yeah, I really liked them. The plot? Well, like I already said, I really liked that. The fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian elements? Yeah, those were perfect. So, basically, this was probably my favorite read of the year so far. There were just so many things that screamed “me” in this one and it just kept delivering throughout the entire book.
“And it’s easier to be mad at him than to be anythign else, so.”
— Katharyn Blair
Everything in this book just works so well together and fit so perfectly into this absolutely amazing plot. And it has those classic/older YA elements that I truly do miss (don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously still a fan of the genre) and made them fresh and modern. So there’s just so much to love about this book that you’re going to just need to read it and find out all of the amazing stuff throughout it.
About the Author
I live in LA, drink way too much coffee, and write all day long — because I’m crazy blessed to do what I’ve been doing for fun since I was a kid hiding in my garage loft writing terrible, terrible vampire stories. Glitter enthusiast. Bethyl shipper. Pluviophile. Ask me about my Dean Winchester obsession. John 1:5.
I’m wife to Ross and mom to Aryn, Liam, and River Grace. Also, mom to Cricket (a dog, not an insect), Maximus Dogimus Meridius (a ferocious cuddlebug) Maggie Rhee (cat, not the bad ass from The Walking Dead), and Kovacs (no parenthetical needed for him).
An annihilation force of invading aliens. Human civilization on the brink of extinction. Earth’s only hope – seven cadets and the legendary starship they were never meant to command. No matter the cost, they will stop at nothing to survive. No matter the odds, they will fight to save their future.
The distant future. Earth’s Alliance forces have emerged victorious from a brutal nine-year war with the mysterious Kastazi – a vicious, highly advanced alien race. In the dawn of a new peace, the Alliance Devastation Class starship California embarks on a mission of science and learning with a skeleton crew of seasoned officers, civilian students, and inexperienced military cadets in tow.
For JD Marshall and Viv Nixon, gifted cadets and best friends, the mission holds special meaning: It offers an opportunity to prove themselves and begin to escape the long shadows of their legendary war hero parents.
Suddenly ambushed by a second wave of invading Kastazi forces, JD and Viv make the impossible decision to spearhead a mutiny to save the California and everyone on it. In command and quickly out of options, they are forced to activate the ship’s prototype Blink Reactor – an experimental technology they expect to send them to the safe, distant reaches of space. When their escape transports them to a reality they don’t recognize and reveals unimaginably terrifying secrets, they must fight their way home to save not just everyone they love but also humanity itself. Standing in their way are an insurmountable enemy, saboteurs from within, a mystery eons in the making, and the fabric of time and space itself.
Aliens, space, and adventure. What more could you want?! This book has all of the twists and turns that you would expect from an enthralling scifi, plus it reminds me of a Star Trek but YA (where my trekkies at?!). But this is definitely a unique story on it’s own that will take you light years away from the mess we’re living in!
I absolutely LOVED the characters in this one! I think the sign of a great scifi read for me is when I absolutely adore the characters. There’s just something about a rag tag team of people going on an adventure (insert gif of Bilbo Baggins, but not really cause I’m lazy). AND THE PLOT! This book starts right off the bat crazy and just keeps going from there. These two combined make for such an interesting book and start to what I hope will be a wonderful series.
This is one of those fun and quirky reads that you can just take some time with and enjoy. While scifi isn’t always my first choice genre it is something I’m trying to change. BUT, I ALWAYS enjoy a book set in space with some alien craziness.
About the Authors
Glen Zipper is a former an Assistant Prosecutor in Hudson County, New Jersey, and DEVASTATION CLASS is his debut novel written with Elaine Mongeon.
In addition to co-authoring DEVASTATION CLASS, Glen produced the Academy Award® winning documentary UNDEFEATED, Executive Produces the Netflix Original documentary series DOGS which will enter Season 2 in 2021, and Executive Produces the acclaimed Cinemax comedy/documentary series TALES FROM THE TOUR BUS directed by Mike Judge (Silicon Valley, Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill, Idiocracy).
Glen most recently Developed and Executive Produced CHALLENGER: THE FINAL FLIGHT, produced in collaboration with Bad Robot — premiering on Netflix in September of 2020.
In 2020 he also produced SHOWBIZ KIDS for HBO, directed by Alex Winter (Bill and Ted Face The Music), and won an Emmy for Executive Producing the HBO two-part documentary feature WHAT’S MY NAME: MUHAMMAD ALI, directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer).
Award-winning filmmaker Elaine Mongeon wrote and directed the short films Good Morning for Warner Bros. Pictures and Swiped to Death for Hulu and the Sundance Institute. She also served as an associate producer on Magic Mike XXL. Elaine has a love for the outdoors and has been known to spend her time traversing glaciers in Canada and precision motorcycle riding. Originally from New England, she currently resides in Los Angeles.
The Hive Queen (The Bond Trilogy, #2) by Robin Kirk Publisher: Blue Crow Books Release Date: September 1st 2020 Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, SciFi
It’s for her daughter, we’ll say. For the future. For love.
In the second book in the INDIE-award-winning Bond Trilogy, warrior Fir leads his brothers on a quest for salvation that will threaten everything he holds dear.
As you know, I love surprises.
After the battle that toppled the Weave, warrior Fir leads his brothers east to escape servitude, or worse—death at the hands of rival warriors. They search for the fabled Master of Men who promises freedom for men in the Weave. But their quest leads them to a foe more dangerous than they could have imagined.
When the beautiful Hive Queen, Odide, bespells Fir, he’s compelled to betray his brothers—and risks dooming them all to an unspeakable fate. To survive, Fir must choose between his loyalty to his brothers, his allegiance to the Queen, and his love for Dinitra.
But salvation is not what it seems. When the worlds of the Hive and the Master collide, it triggers a devastating betrayal that leaves Fir with an impossible choice: can he sacrifice his brothers for the love he thought he could never have?
We’re going to find this Master, find a home, no matter what stands in our way.
This series is one of those series that’s got a little bit of everything and is still expertly done. ANDDDDD, THERE’S A MAP! You know it’s an automatic win for me when there’s a map in a book. Plus this map is so cool. I’m not going to spoil it though, so you just need to get these books so you can see it. But anyways, I also really loved the switch in perspective in The Hive Queen over to Fir. I think it really added even more depth to the series.
I vow: not one brother more will die because of me.
The second book takes us on an even grander adventure than the first. And the world building stands up as well. Much like the first book, Kirk takes what we know of this world, flips it on its head, and takes us even deeper than ever imaginable. Yet through all of this world building the story doesn’t slow down in the slightest. There’s just action followed by more action and topped with a dash more action.
For us, there’s no going back.
The writing style of this book is so unique and I’m not quite sure how to describe it. In a sense it’s very bare, but not in a way that makes you feel as if you are missing out on anything. It almost has a sort of ephemeral quality, which pairs really nicely with the story and the concept of the world.
About the Author
Kirk is the author of The Bond, the first in a fantasy trilogy published by Blue Crow Publishing. Foreward Reviews awarded The Bond its Bronze award for best YA in 2018. Book II, The Hive Queen, is due out in August 2020. Kirk’s other books include More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs and America’s War in Colombia (PublicAffairs) and The Monkey’s Paw: New Chronicles from Peru (University of Massachusetts Press). She coedits the The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke University) and is an editor of Duke University Press’s World Readers series.
Kirk is a Faculty Co-Director of the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute and is a founding member of the Pauli Murray Project, an initiative of the center that seeks to use the legacy of this Durham daughter to examine the region’s past of slavery, segregation and continuing economic inequality. An author and human rights advocate, Kirk is a lecturer in Duke’s Department of Cultural Anthropology.
More of Kirk’s work is available on her Scribd site. Kirk can be reached at robinkirk.com, through her Facebook Page or on Twitter at @robinkirk.
The Parada had been lost for almost two hundred years before they recovered the ship, drifting in stygian interstellar darkness, and brought her home again.
But that was not the miracle.
The miracle was that the crew was still alive.
That was also the problem.
Six crew members went out on the Parada, Earth’s first starship. All contact was lost, and the ship vanished for almost two centuries. When the Parada’s successor found the drifting ship and somehow managed to bring it home, the six crew members were not only still alive but barely older, due to the time dilation effects of near-FTL travel. Their return was a miracle – but it could not be revealed to the waiting world. The problem was, six individuals went out to the stars. More than seventy fractured personalities came back.
Psychologist Stella Froud and Jesuit Father Philip Carter were recruited as part of the team assembled to investigate the mystery, and to try and help the Parada’s crew understand their condition and possibly reverse it. What they discovered was a deepening mystery, and very soon they found themselves forced to take sides in a conflict that nobody could have possibly predicted. Their world would never be the same again.
You can purchaseThe Second Star at the following Retailers:
Praise for The Second Star
“Like its cast of returned starfarers, this rich and continually surprising novel is many things at once: a religiously-inflected first contact story; an engaging psychological mystery; a glimpse of the future through the eyes of the past; and a moving tale about the difficulties of homecoming. I highly recommend it. ” —Matt Ruff, author of Set This House in order
“The Second Star is a grandly deep wallow in multiple personality disorder material. Dr. Stella Froud is wonderful as she studies six star-faring humans who come home fractured.” —Jennifer Stevenson, author of Walking on Sunshine
Hey look, it’s me coming back with another review on another science fiction book! I’m so proud of how I’ve been sticking to trying out the genre this year. I find that I really like science fiction books that explore more than just traditional sci-fi aspects and elements. Which is probably why I enjoyed The Second Star so much!
Coming back from space is unimaginable to me, but add in getting lost in space and coming back with multiple personalities just makes the whole thing even scarier. I mean, think about it. What would you do if you were lost in space? What would you see? What would happen? It’s like an eternal internal debate.
This was definitely a high stakes and thrilling read. It just made me think the entire time I was reading the story and learning about all of the characters. It also reiterated my belief that I never want to go into space. There is just so much to discover from within these pages.
About the Author
Photo Content from Alma Alexander
Alma Alexander is an author whose books include the internationally acclaimed historical fantasy The Secrets of Jin-shei published in 13 language, and its follow-up, Embers of Heaven, set in a fantasy China.
VOYA suggested that her Worldweavers series (Gift of the Unmage, Spellspam, Cybermage, Dawn of Magic) might be just the thing “for readers suffering Harry Potter withdrawal.”
Another series, The Were Chronicles (Random, Wolf, Shifter), which dramatically changes the Were world, is about to be republished,
Other fantasies include her haunting and newly republished Midnight at Spanish Gardens, as well as Changer of Days, Wings of Fire, Empress, and a humorous science fiction novel, AbductiCon. She has edited two anthologies, River and Children of a Different Sky.
More on all her books – and links for buying them – can be found under the pull-down menu BOOKS at the top of the page.
Alma Alexander was born on the banks of the Danube in a country that no longer exists, grew up in Africa, and is married to an American she met online. She lives with him and two cats in the cedar woods of the U,S. Pacific Northwest.
Cato is the only true half-human, half-ghost hybrid in existence. He’s powerful and unique with two divine powers instead of one.
The United States government believes he is the key to developing a devastating weapon that will give humankind an advantage when war inevitably erupts between the Human Realm and Avilésor, the Ghost Realm.
After being an unwilling test subject in Project Alpha for two years, Cato and the rest of his “lab-family” survive a transport accident to find themselves stranded and powerless in the middle of the wilderness. Hunted every step of the way by ghostly Shadow Guards with supernatural abilities and human Agents desperate to recapture their prisoners, the eight young fugitives are drawn to Cato’s hometown where the Rip between Realms connects the worlds.
Cato wants nothing to do with his past, but as his enemies close in, he realizes he’s willing to do anything to protect his lab-family . . .
. . . even kidnap the daughter of a ghost hunter and make a dangerous deal to become a mercenary.
This book definitely exceeded all of my expectations, and let’s just say they were quite high after seeing all of the positive reviews about it! I’ve been trying to diversify my reading lately by expanding my genres, and I was really excited that this one seemed a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, which is usually the way to get me most excited for sci-fi (and are usually the ones I love). It was also just so well written that I felt fully immersed in the world.
So, I love books that have ghosts in them. It’s just one of those things that is an instant deal maker for me. And I loved how the ghosts were interwoven into this story and world. Oh, and there’s a ghost realm and I think all books need a ghost realm. So, as you can see there’s a lot of really interesting things in this book to keep the story interesting and amazing as it was.
The only downside to this book is having to wait for the second one. I mean, seriously, you need to check it out and devour it like I did. I mean, it’s not only got such an interesting concept, amazing characters, and great storyline but there’s also my favorite thing ever: world building. So, because of this everything makes sense and that’s what helps draw the story all together.
About the Author
Sara A. Noë is an author, artist, and award-winning photographer. She has had poetry, short fiction, and memoir works featured in various anthologies and journals since 2006. Her photograph “Aftermath” was published on the cover of Voices Literary Journal in 2018, and “Spiraling” was awarded Best Still Life in a 2019 juried gallery exhibit.
A Fallen Hero, the first novel in the Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series, was published in 2018 and has been critically acclaimed by NAM Editorial, The Prairies Book Review, Literary Titan, and Chronicle Focus Editorial, among others. The novel also made book reviewer Lauren Gantt’s list of Top 10 Favorite Books of 2019. As an artist, Sara creates her own covers and graphics. The series sequel, Phantom’s Mask, is scheduled to be released in July 2020.
Sara lives in a little cottage with her calico cat, Calypso, who has a fondness for chewing pens and being as loud and sassy as possible.
Print Length: 503 pages Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1612189199 Publisher: 47North (April 1, 2020) Publication Date: April 1, 2020 Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC Language: English
From the bestselling author of the Chronos series comes a page-turning novel of time travel, fast-paced action, and history-changing events.
When two time-traveling historians cross paths during one of the most tumultuous decades of the twentieth century, history goes helter-skelter. But which one broke the timeline?
In 2136 Madison Grace uncovers a key to the origins of CHRONOS, a time-travel agency with ties to her family’s mysterious past. Just as she is starting to jump through history, she returns to her timeline to find millions of lives erased—and only the people inside her house realize anything has changed.
In 2304 CHRONOS historian Tyson Reyes is assigned to observe the crucial events that played out in America’s civil rights movement. But a massive time shift occurs while he’s in 1965, and suddenly the history he sees isn’t the history he knows.
As Madi’s and Tyson’s journeys collide, they must prevent the past from being erased forever. But strange forces are at work. Are Madi and Tyson in control or merely pawns in someone else’s game?
You can purchaseNow, Then, and Everywhen at the following Retailers:
Praise for Now, Then, and Everywhen
“Walker (the CHRONOS Files series) opens the CHRONOS Origins series with this ambitious time-travel adventure…a twisty narrative that expertly blends the past and the future. Fans of intelligent time-travel stories will be rewarded.” —Publishers Weekly
“Fans of Walker’s (Courier to the Stars, 2019, etc.) CHRONOS Files series will enjoy seeing the pieces of that mythology falling into place here, but new readers can easily jump in to this origin story with no prior knowledge. An enjoyable, mind-bending time-travel adventure.” —Kirkus Reviews
Have I mentioned lately that one of my goals this year was to read more scifi? Yes? Well, I’m just so proud of myself for actually sticking with this! While this is a prequel series to the original Chronos series, there is a lot of time travel involved. So, even though I haven’t read the original series (I definitely need to rectify this), I am sure that there are a lot of things that fans of the original series will recognize and love!
Ah time travel, how I love books about this! There’s just something SO GOOD about this type of plot and I am always just immediately drawn into the stories. Typically when you’re reading time travel books you only have one or two big leaps between designated times, but Now, Then, and Everywhen doesn’t stifle you to one big leap. Which can make it a bit convoluted, but isn’t that the joy of a good time travel story? There is always the risk of completely changing history, and this story does not shy away from that risk!
Now, I probably would have understood this book a bit more if I had read the other series, but I kind of like the mild confusion I had. I think when it comes to a time travel story such as this is pays to be confused. You don’t know what’s always happening let alone what might happen. I also loved the idea that our time travelers are historians! I’m a sucker for some history mixed in with my stories, ESPECIALLY when there is time travel involved!
About the Author
Photo Content from Rysa Walker
RYSA WALKER is the author of the bestselling CHRONOS Files series. Timebound, the first book in the series, was the Young Adult and Grand Prize winner in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. The CHRONOS Files has sold nearly half a million copies since 2013 and has been translated into fourteen languages.
In addition to speculative fiction, she occasionally writes mysteries as C. Rysa Walker.
Rysa currently resides in North Carolina with her husband, two youngest sons, and a hyperactive golden retriever. When not working on the next installment in her CHRONOS Files universe, she watches shows where travelers boldly go to galaxies far away, or reads about magical creatures and superheroes from alternate timelines. She has neither the time nor the patience for reality TV.
If you see her on social media, please tell her to get back into the writing cave.
Ember Queen (Ash Princess Trilogy #3) by Laura Sebastian Publisher: Delacorte Books For Young Readers Release Date: February 4th 2020 Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Fiction, High Fantasy, Science Fiction, Magic, Epic Fantasy
It strikes me suddenly that we are all together again, in a way I never imagined we would be.
The thrilling conclusion to the series that began with the instant New York Times bestseller “made for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Sabaa Tahir” (Bustle), Ember Queen is an epic fantasy about a throne cruelly stolen and a girl who must fight to take it back for her people.
Princess Theodosia was a prisoner in her own country for a decade. Renamed the Ash Princess, she endured relentless abuse and ridicule from the Kaiser and his court. But though she wore a crown of ashes, there is fire in Theo’s blood. As the rightful heir to the Astrean crown, it runs in her veins. And if she learned nothing else from her mother, she learned that a Queen never cowers.
It barged into my world unprovoked, and all I’ve done is try to put an end to it.
Now free, with a misfit army of rebels to back her, Theo must liberate her enslaved people and face a terrifying new enemy: the new Kaiserin. Imbued with a magic no one understands, the Kaiserin is determined to burn down anyone and everything in her way.
The Kaiserin’s strange power is growing stronger, and with Prinz Søren as her hostage, there is more at stake than ever. Theo must learn to embrace her own power if she has any hope of standing against the girl she once called her heart’s sister.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by trilogies! Trilogies are like the perfect length for books, but also the worst. They’re just long enough to where you never feel like the story is dragging, but then they also pull you so deeply into the story that at the same time you have to suffer through the withdrawals of knowing no more books are coming.
And it seems you have all of the oafishness of an ogre.
It’s always so bitter sweet to get to the end of a series, but Ember Queen was such an amazing finish! It’s just got all of the action, magic, and bits of romance that I love and desire to see in a book! And it has also finally made me excited to get back into kingdom/queendom types of books! As with many YA books there were some predictable moments, but that’s something that I actually look forward to when reading young adult. I don’t know, I just feel as if it comes with the genre.
You had better not kick.
But this series is just one of those pure and simply enjoyable stories to read! It’s got everything you expect and then some! It covered some really important topics surrounding rebuilding stolen kingdoms and I loved seeing how the characters and people in the world were able to regroup, recover, and just live. I really look forward to seeing what Sebastian comes up with next.
About the Author
Laura Sebastian was born and raised in South Florida (the Redlands and Key Largo) and has always loved telling stories–many apologies to her little brother who often got in trouble because of them. No copies of her first book, a Cinderella retelling about angels circa 2nd grade, remain. Thankfully.
After getting her BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design, she moved to New York City thinking that she would stay for a couple of years before going somewhere better suited for a small-town, sun-loving girl. Five years later, she’s still here and madly in love with it.
When Laura isn’t writing, she’s probably reading, baking cookies or cupcakes, buying more clothes than her overstuffed closet can fit, or forcing her lazy dog Neville to take a walk.
Her debut ASH PRINCESS, the start of a YA fantasy trilogy, will be out April 24th, 2018 from Delacorte (Random House).
The sun is blinding when I step out of the mouth of the cave on weak legs. I lift a heavy, aching arm to shield my eyes, but the effort of even that small gesture makes the world around me spin. My knees buckle and the ground comes up to meet me, hard and sharp with rocks. It hurts, but oh, it feels so good to lie down, to have fresh air in my lungs, to have light, even if it is too much all at once.
My throat is so dry, it hurts to even breathe. There is caked blood on my fingers, on my arms, in my hair. Distantly I realize that it’s mine, but I can’t say where it came from. My memories are a desert–I remember stepping into the cave, remember hearing my friends’ voices begging me to come back. And then . . . nothing.
“Theo,” a voice calls, familiar but so far away. A thousand footsteps beat against the ground, each one making my head throb. I flinch away from the sound, curling tighter into myself.
Hands touch my skin–my wrists, the pulse point behind my ear. They are so cold, they raise goose bumps on my skin.
“Is she . . . ,” a voice says. Blaise. I try to say his name, but nothing comes out.
“She’s alive, but her pulse is faint and her skin is hot,” another voice says. Heron. “We have to get her inside.”
Arms scoop me up and carry me–Heron’s, I think. Again, I try to speak, but I can’t make so much as a sound.
“Art, your cloak,” Heron says, his chest rumbling against my cheek with each word. “Cover her head with it. Her eyes are oversensitive.”
“Yes, I remember,” Art says. Fabric rustles and her cloak falls over my eyes, wrapping my world in darkness once more.
I let myself fall into it now. My friends have me, and so I am safe.
The next time I open my eyes, I’m on a cot inside a tent, the bright sun filtered through thick white cotton so that it is bearable. The pounding in my head is still there, but it’s dull and faraway now. My throat is no longer dry and raw, and if I focus, I have a hazy memory of Artemisia pouring water into my open mouth. The pillow beneath my head is still damp from where she missed.
Now, though, I’m alone.
I force myself to sit up even though it intensifies the pain echoing through my every nerve. The Kalovaxians will return sooner or later, and who knows how long Cress will keep Søren alive? There is so much to be done and not nearly enough time to do it.
Placing my bare feet on the dirt floor, I push myself to stand. As I do, the tent flap pulls open and Heron steps inside, ducking his tall frame in order to fit through the small opening. When he sees me awake and standing, he falters, blinking a few times to ensure he isn’t imagining me.
“Theo,” he says slowly, testing out the sound of my name.
“How long has it been?” I ask him quietly. “Since I entered the mine?”
Heron surveys me for a moment. “Two weeks,” he says.
The words knock me backward, and I sit down on the cot again. “Two weeks,” I echo. “It felt like hours, maybe days.”
Heron doesn’t look surprised by that. Why would he? He’s gone through the same thing.
“Do you remember sleeping?” he asks me. “Eating? Drinking? You must have, at some point, or you would be in much worse shape.”
I shake my head, trying to grasp what I do remember, but very little of it solidifies enough for me to hold on to. Scraps of details, ghosts that could not have been real, fire flooding my veins. But nothing more than that.
“You should have left me,” I tell him. “Two weeks . . . Cress’s army could be back any day now, and Søren–”
“Is alive, according to reports,” Heron interrupts. “And the Kalovaxians have received no orders to return here.”
I stare at him. “How can you possibly know that?” I ask.
He lifts a shoulder in a lopsided shrug. “Spies,” he says, as if the answer should be obvious.
“We don’t have spies,” I say slowly.
“We didn’t have spies. But we got word that the new Theyn was at his country home, two days’ ride from here. We were able to turn several of his slaves before they returned to the capital. We just received our first missive. The Theyn hasn’t ordered troops back yet. Besides, the vast majority of the army has left. It’s only Blaise, Artemisia, Erik, Dragonsbane, and me, plus a group of those still recovering from the battle. But even they’ll be going to safety with Dragonsbane in a day or two.”
I barely hear him, still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of spies. All I can think of is Elpis, of what happened the last time I made a spy of someone.
“I didn’t approve the use of spies,” I tell him.
“You’d walked into the mine the day before the plan was hatched,” Heron says, his voice level. “You weren’t around to approve much of anything, and there was no time to wait for you to come back. If you came back at all.”
A retort dies in my throat, and I swallow it. “If they die–”
“It will have been a necessary risk,” Heron says. “They knew as much when they volunteered. Besides, the Kaiserin is not as paranoid as the Kaiser, from what we’ve heard. She thinks you’re dead, she thinks we aren’t a threat, she has Søren. She thinks she’s won, and so she’s getting sloppy.”
The Kaiserin. Will there ever come a day when I hear that title and think first of Cress and not Kaiserin Anke?
“You said the army had left,” I say. “Where to?”
Heron lets out a long exhale. “You missed quite a lot of squabbling while you were gone–I almost envy you. The Vecturian chief sent his daughter Maile to assist us, along with his troops. With Søren gone, she and Erik have the most battle experience, but they don’t agree on anything. Erik wants to march straight to the capital to take the city and rescue Søren.”
“That’s foolish,” I say, shaking my head. “It’s exactly what they’ll expect, and even if it weren’t, we don’t have the numbers for that kind of siege.”
“That’s exactly what Maile said,” Heron says, shaking his head. “She said we should continue to the Earth Mine.”
“But we can’t do that without marching past the most populous cities, without even the cover of forests or mountains,” I say. “It’ll be impossible to avoid detection, and then Cress will have an army waiting to greet us at the Earth Mine.”
“Which is exactly what Erik said,” Heron says. “See, you’re all caught up.”
“So who won?” I ask.
“No one,” Heron says. “It was decided that we should send the troops to the cities along the Savria River. None of them is heavily populated, but we’ll be able to contain the Kalovaxians, free their slaves, add to our numbers, and collect weapons and food as well. And most importantly, our troops aren’t just waiting here like sitting ducks.”
“Like we are, you mean,” I say, rubbing my temples. The headache blossoming has nothing to do with the mine this time. “And now I’m here to break the tie, I suppose.”
“Later,” he says. “Once you can actually walk on your own.”
“I’m fine,” I tell him, more forcefully than necessary.
Heron watches me warily. He opens his mouth, but closes it again quickly, shaking his head.
“If there’s something you want to ask me about the mines, I don’t remember anything,” I tell him. “The last thing I remember is going in–after that, it’s a blur.”
“You will remember, in time,” he says. “For better or worse. But I know I never want to speak of my experience. I assumed you would feel the same way.”
I swallow, pushing the thought aside. A problem for another day–and I have too many problems before me as it is. “But something is on your mind,” I say to Heron. “What is it?”
He weighs the question in his mind for an instant. “Did it work?” he asks.
For a second, I don’t know what he means, but I suddenly remember–the reason I went into the mines in the first place, the weak power I had over fire before, the side effect from Cress’s poison. I went into the mine to claim my power, in hopes that I will have enough to stand against Cress when the time comes.
Did it work? There is only one way to find out.
I hold my left palm up and summon fire. Even before I uncurl my fingers, I feel heat thrumming beneath them, stronger than I’ve ever felt it before. It comes easily when I summon it, like it’s a part of me, always lurking just below the surface. It burns brighter, feels hotter, but it’s more than that. To show him, I toss it into the air, hold it there, suspended but still alive, still bright. Heron’s eyes grow wide, but he says nothing as I lift my hand and flex it. The ball of fire mimics me, becoming a hand of its own. When I move my fingers, it matches each movement. I make a fist, and it does that as well.
“Theo,” he says, his voice a hoarse whisper. “I saw the extent of Ampelio’s power when he trained me. He couldn’t do that.”
I swallow and take hold of the flame again, smothering it in my grip and turning it to ash in my hand.
“If you don’t mind, Heron,” I say, my gaze fixed on the dark pigment that smears over my skin just as the ash crown had, “is Mina still here? She’s–”
“The healer,” he supplies, nodding. “Yes, she’s still here. She’s been helping with the wounded. I’ll find her.”
When he’s gone, I dust ash from my hands and let it settle into the dirt floor.
By the time Mina enters the tent, I’ve gotten used to standing again, though my body still doesn’t feel entirely like mine. Every move–every breath–feels like a labor, and every muscle aches. Mina must notice, because she takes one look at me and gives a knowing smile.
“It’s normal,” she says. “When I came out of the mine, the priestesses said that the gods had broken me and remade me anew. It seemed to sum up how I felt.”
I nod, easing myself back to sit on my cot once more. “How long does it last?” I ask her.
She shrugs. “My pain lasted a couple of days, but it varies.” She pauses, looking me over. “What you did was incredibly foolish. Going into the mine when you already possessed a measure of power–when you were already a vessel half-full–you were asking for mine madness. You realize that, don’t you?”
I look at the ground. It’s been some time since I’ve been chastised like this, by someone concerned about my well-being. I rack my mind for the last person; it very well may have been my mother. I suppose Hoa did as well, in her wordless way.
“I understood the risks,” I tell her.
“You’re the Queen of Astrea,” she continues, as if I haven’t spoken. “What would we have done without you?
“You would have persisted,” I say, louder this time. “I am one person. We lost far more in the war, far more in the siege itself, including my mother. We have always persisted. I wouldn’t have made a difference.”
Mina fixes me with a level look. “It was still foolish,” she insists. “But I suppose it was also brave.”
I shrug again. “Whatever it might have been, it worked,” I say.
I show her the same thing I showed Heron, how I can not just summon fire but turn it into an extension of my own self. Mina watches me all the while with her lips pursed, not saying a word until I’ve finished and am scattering the ash to the ground once more.
“And you slept,” she says, more to herself than me.
“Quite heavily, as I understand it,” I say dryly.
She steps toward me. “May I feel your forehead?” she asks.
I nod, and she presses the back of her hand to my brow. “You aren’t warm,” she says before reaching out to touch the single tendril of white in my auburn hair.
“It was there before,” I tell her. “After the poison.”
She nods. “I remember. Not like the Kaiserin’s hair, is it? But I suppose you have Artemisia to thank for that–if she hadn’t used her own gift on you so quickly to negate the poison, it would have affected you far more. If it hadn’t killed you on the spot, the mine certainly would have.”
“You didn’t see Cress–the Kaiserin–yourself,” I say, changing the subject. “But you must have heard stories of her power by now.”
Mina considers this. “I’ve heard stories,” she says carefully. “Though I find stories are often exaggerated.”
I remember Cress killing the Kaiser with just her scalding hands around his throat, the way she trailed ash over the desk with her fingertips. She radiated power in a way that I have never seen equaled. I’m not sure how anyone could exaggerate what I saw with my own eyes.
“It’s as if . . . she doesn’t even have to call on her gift. She killed the Kaiser in a few seconds with just her hands,” I say.
“And you still don’t feel strong enough to stand against her,” Mina guesses.
“I don’t think anyone is,” I admit. “Did you ever hear of Guardians killing with that little effort?”
She shakes her head. “I didn’t hear anything about Guardians killing at all,” she says. “It wasn’t their way. If a person’s crimes ever warranted execution, it was carried out by more mundane means. Guardians never did the deed with the gifts given to them by the gods. It would have been its own kind of sacrilege, a perversion of something holy.”
I think about Blaise going out into the battlefield, knowing he could have died but determined to kill as many Kalovaxians as possible before he did. Was that a perversion of his gift? Or are the standards different now, in times of war?
“The children I saw before, the ones you were testing,” I say, remembering the boy and girl with the same unstable power as Blaise. “How are they?”
“Laius and Griselda,” she supplies. “They are as well as can be expected, I suppose. Frightened and traumatized by the horrific experiments the Kalovaxians did on them, but they’re strong in more ways than one.” She pauses for a second. “Your hypothetical friend has been helpful. They like him, standoffish though he might be. It truly is something, to discover you aren’t as alone in the world as you thought.”
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Malice by Pintip Dunn Publisher: Entangled Publishing Release Date: February 4th 2020 Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
What I know: a boy in my class will one day wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.
What I don’t know: who he is.
In a race against the clock, I not only have to figure out his identity, but I’ll have to outwit a voice from the future telling me to kill him. Because I’m starting to realize no one is telling the truth. But how can I play chess with someone who already knows the outcome of my every move? Someone so filled with malice they’ve lost all hope in humanity? Well, I’ll just have to find a way—because now they’ve drawn a target on the only boy I’ve ever loved….
Malice is a high octane sci-fi thriller with a bit of fantasy mixed in. It is such a fun and quick read! A certain character also made me giggle quite a lot, much to my chagrin a few times in class. What can I say? I love some good sarcastic banter. It also goes to show that I was so invested in reading this that I willingly read through class. Not that I would EVER in ANY other circumstance willingly not pay attention.
So I only have Malice as an ebook and I’m kind of sad. AKA, I think Imma buy a physical copy. I mean, it is really pretty! And even though I don’t have any shelf space left I DO reread books with characters who make me giggle a lot…. Probably more than I should. Which leads me to how I wasn’t sure if I would love this book. Throughout the years I have been wary of sci-fi. I don’t know why, but it’s just not something I always naturally love. BUT, this year I decided was going to be the year that I really get into this genre. And I’m so glad I chose Malice for this! It was the perfect selection and with the wit, the banter, and the thriller-esque experience I was absolutely hooked!
I loved the diversity amongst the characters. It was diversity without including diversity for diversity’s sake. PHEW, that was a lot of diversities! But it’s something that continuously frustrates me while reading, when you can tell that an author includes diversity just to say they did. So I really appreciated the flawless addition of diversity in Malice. Each character was their own unique person!
About the Author
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.
Her novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix del’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the TomeSociety It list; and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award.
Her other titles include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED, and MALICE.
She lives with her husband and children in Maryland.
So, I think I have found my niche in dream casts! I also just might like making mood boards. Who knows, I sure don’t! So, I hope you like my dream cast selections! I definitely went with a color based *aesthetic* this time, I guess I was just feeling the pastels.