Saturday, December 30, 2017

Saturday #Review - The Battlemage by Taran Matharu #YALit #Fantasy

Series: The Summoner Trilogy # 3

Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

The third book of the YA Summoner quartet, which has been compared to Tolkien, Rowling, and Pullman.

Fletcher and his classmates from Vocans Academy—including the elf Sylva and the dwarf Othello— time-travel through the ether, pursued by Wyvern Riders and the albino orc, Khan. In a race against time to survive the ether's poison, they find clues about traitors in their midst, and Fletcher's demon, Ignatius, changes in ways neither anticipate.

With plenty of duels, double-crosses, and even some romance, the team of Summoners faces their biggest challenge yet. Can they rebuild their world and broker peace?

Harry Potter meets Pokemon meets The Lord of the Rings in Taran Matharu's Summoner quartet. Fans will eagerly anticipate this action-packed installment.

The Battlemage, by author Taran Matharu, is the third installment in the Summoner trilogy. *Note* The author has another story planned for this series, but it features an entirely different character. Thus, one could say that this is the end of the road for Fletcher. As the story picks up right where The Inquisition left off, I shall do my best not to spoil anything for readers who haven't yet read the first two books in this trilogy.

This is a series that is set against the backdrop of the fantastical world of the Hominum Empire which is facing an all out war with the Orcs. (Lord of the Rings anyone?) The series follows the adventures of one Fletcher Raleigh, who was abandoned as a baby, and later learned that he could summon demons from the ether among other secrets. He has since learned a whole lot more about himself and his family roots and has had more than his fair share of enemies standing in his way. 

Fletcher attends the prestigious Vocan Military Academy where noble children are taught the art of summoning. He has been put thru the ringer ever since this series started. If you don't believe me, please read The Novice and The Summoner. He is training to become one of the elite battlemages to help protect the Hominum Empire from the Orc's. This is a world that is filled with Elves, Dwarfs, Goblins, Gremlins, Orcs, and all sorts of various demons that can be summoned. 

One of the strengths of this series is the authors world building, as well as the diverse cast that he has created. The author never stays in one place for an entire story. This is an action packed story right from the onset when we meet a curious character named Sheldon upon arriving in the Ether after escaping the villainous Orc named Khan who wants to rule the world. Sheldon just happens to be a rather large turtle who gets more than his fair share of story time which is ultimately a really good thing. 

The Ether is a story in itself with its poisonous environment to everything except demons who call it home. From there, it's all about running from place to place fighting for their lives, and then facing the battle of a lifetime in order to save innocents from being Orc meals. While were at it, you should definitely get to know Fletcher's friends. Othello is Fletcher's best friend. He is also a dwarf along with Cress. Sylva is an elf who has put her trust and friendship on Fletcher's shoulders. She is also rather important to the Elves. But, there are other characters as well. 

Alice, who was kidnapped by Orc's 17 years ago, and finally rescued by Fletcher and his allies. Arcturus, and Captain Lovett who are key members of the Vocan Academy and have Fletcher's back against those who would cheer if Fletcher fell by the wayside. Fletcher has grown leaps and bounds since we first met him in The Novice. He is able to control two demons at once; Athena, a Grphowl, and Ignatius, a Salamander who literally breaks out into something totally freaking amazing. He is now the true leader of his group, and later he takes his place as a novice noble who is expected to put together a coalition in a place that he was taken from as a baby. But, I would have preferred a bit of a different ending to this story. There are some emotional moments in this story and I will once again tell you to please pick up this series and read it. You won't be sorry. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Friday #Review - Everless by Sara Holland #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Untitled # 1
Format: E-Book, 368 pages
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

Time is a prison. One girl holds the key. This is a thrilling, high-stakes new fantasy duology, perfect for fans of Red QueenThree Dark Crowns, and Six of Crows.

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is extracted from the blood, converted into coins, and used as currency or consumed to add to one’s lifespan. The rich aristocracy amass eons in their vaults, while the poor are forced to cut their futures short in order to survive in the present. And few families are richer than the Gerlings, who lord over the peasants from Everless, their palatial estate.

A fateful accident once spurred Jules and her father to flee Everless in the dark of night. But ten years later, in order to save her dying father, Jules must secretly return. Everless holds more temptations—and dangers—than Jules thought possible. Soon, she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets, and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

This dazzling debut novel, starring a fierce heroine and rife with high-stakes adventure, engrossing mysteries, star-crossed romance, and captivating magic all set in a richly built world, will leave you counting down the seconds until the next installment.

Everless, by debut author Sara Holland, is the first installment in a yet to be named series. 17-year old Jules Ember is the lead character in this series. She lives in a society where blood is currency, and a person's time can be drained to pay off debts or punishments owed to the monarchy. 10 years ago, Jules and her father Pehr Ember lived on the estate owned by the Gerlings called Everless. That is until an accident sent them fleeing from the estate ending up in Crofton, living under the radar as much as possible. 

People in Sempora wait in line for hours to have time drawn from their blood and forged into blood-iron coins. This is also a world where breeders lay in wait for people to come along so that they can extract the blood from an unwilling victim which then can be turned into Blood-iron coins. The downside of this world is that one can bleed themselves into losing great chunks of time they desperately need to survive. If you lose too much time, you can also lose your mind and drift away, 

With Pehr's health dwindling, and their debts piling up, Jules makes the fateful decision to return to Everless in hopes that she can make enough money to save her father. As Jules makes the fateful decision to return to Everless, Pehr issues two separate warnings; "Do not let the Queen of Sempora see her, and if she sees Liam Gerling, run!" But, with Everless paying a year on the month for service to the Gerlings, Jules hands are all but tied. There are answers that need to be uncovered, and if it means working once again for the Gerlings, so be it.

Jules ends up as a servant at Everless, serving in the kitchen and then as the handmaid of the Queen’s daughter; Ina Gold. This position lets their relationship develop into a real friendship that seems to be mutually beneficial to both. Jules also finds that she still possesses a bit of a grudge when it comes to Liam for what he apparently did to his brother Roan 10 years ago that got Jules and Pehr removed from Everless. Jules also has a curious ability which I shalt not spoil. I have seen the spoiler elsewhere, but it's a key part of what happens in the final 1/4 of this series to send all sorts of events into chaos.

There is also a curiosity that the author tries to convey by introducing the Sorceress and the Alchemist who bound time to blood and metal and stole the Sorceress's heart. I believe that at times, Jules is a bit too curious for her own good. Especially when she and Ina set off to discover long lost secrets that affect both women. There is also the Queen's handmaiden Caro that really sets the bar for being a serious villain. There is a point to where I was wondering how many more secrets can Holland spin before my head imploded. 

The mystery of the Sorceress and Alchemist really blew my mind and thus I will be reading the sequel which is currently being called Evermore. One of the other curiosities is the twisted romance angle that the author forges and then blows apart at the seams leaving a rather large cliffhanger ending for readers to deal with. The high-stakes, richly layered and developed world, varied and intriguing cast of characters, and original concept of Everless, make it stand out in a fantasy marketplace full of strong heroines. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Thursday #Review - The Traitor's Kiss by Erin Beaty #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Traitor's Trilogy # 1
Format: Hardcover, 344 pages
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Macmillan / Imprint
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

What makes her unfit to be a lady, makes her a brilliant spy—but can she spot another?

To escape the threat of being married off by her uncle, orphaned Sage Fowler accepts an apprenticeship with a matchmaker. Intelligent and unruly, she’s perfect for gathering information on prospective clients. Protected by a small army contingent, Sage and her mentor escort a group of ladies to be matched with noblemen. Sage spies on soldiers and brides alike as they travel.

Amongst rumors of a political uprising, a handsome solider recruits Sage to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers, the more uncertain she is of whom to trust. Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

With secret identities and a tempestuous romance, The Traitor’s Kiss is Jane Austen with an espionage twist.

The Traitor's Kiss, by author Erin Beaty, is the first installment in the authors Traitor's Circle trilogy. 17-year old Sage Fowler is a commoner who has been living with her Aunt and Uncle Broadmoor since her fathers death. She doesn’t know how to be a proper lady, but she is book smart, highly intelligent, and a good teacher to her younger cousins. When Uncle William makes it known that he intends to match Sage to a possible suitor by using the famous matchmaker Darnessa Rodelle, it doesn't go well. 

Sage's temper shows through, as well as her inability to become submissive to any man. Both personality failures make her unfit for marriage. She's more like her own parents who were self-matched and married which lead them to being ostracized and disowned. Darnessa, who knew from the beginning who Sage was and that she had no desire to be married off, ends up making Sage her apprentice. She knows that Sage is intelligent, and driven. She can be the perfect spy to gather information on the candidates looking to attend this years Concordium.  

With the Concordium being held for the first time in 5 years,  Sage takes the appearance of a noblewoman named Lady Sagerra Broadmoor. As she and the other 15 woman (who she doesn't get along with because they treat her as pond scum) are being lead cross country to the event of the year, Sage finds time to spy on the brides, as well as the group of soldiers led by one Captain Alexander Quinn who is supposed to see to their safety. She attempts to get up close and personal with one of the men named Ash Carter. Things between Ash and Sage are truly a center part of the entire story. It is one of interest if you are also looking for a possible hint of romance in this story.

On the other end of the spectrum is Captain Quinn. Son of a General, recently promoted to lead a cavalry squad, Quinn wants to prove himself. Something curious is happening in Demora and it soon becomes a worry for Quinn and his cavalry soldiers. Soldiers from Kimisara seem to be invading the country, but for what purpose remains just out of reach. Alex finds himself curious about the over-eager Sage who is as curious as anyone he's met. He nicknames her Sterling, and sends "Mouse" to see what she is up to and whether or not she can be trusted with serious information that may end up affecting not only his men, but the women he's sworn to protect. Quinn's own story is as mysterious as it comes. You might consider paying attention.  

I loved Sage. She's exactly as advertised. She's intelligent, highly intuitive, and has a firm understanding of the subjects she's supposed to spy on. She has zero issues with inserting herself into the story while Quinn and his men might have second thoughts about trusting her or allowing her in on their plans. When Sage does get invited in, she discovers secrets that Quinn missed but it also makes her wonder who she can really trust. I also loved Lady Clare. Clare is a 15 year old girl who is sent away by her father to marry and becomes Sage's only friend among the women. She is adorable and sweet. As is Charlie. Charlie is Quinn's younger brother who Sage comes to adore. I think readers will as well.

Much has been written about this book since it was released and even before. I tend to stay out of conflicts involving the idiocy that has been written about the fact that someone dared call this a Mulan retelling. FYI, it's absolutely not nor have I seen anywhere that said the book was, in fact, a Mulan retelling. Sage plays a sort of chameleon. She's a lady. She's a maid. She's a spy. She's a matchmaker. She's not Mulan folks. This is a book about espionage, politics, and there's not a whole lot of romance included in the story. It's NOT MULAN!

Sage has no desire to dress up as a man and play soldier boy with Quinn's group. She desires to be who she is without worrying about being slammed by those of higher status. I've heard people complain about the girl hate in this book. Get over yourselves people. If you go thru life as hateful as some of the reviews I've read, you will never achieve happiness in your lifetime. Sage's life was made difficult by the other women in the caravan because of her low status. Imagine going through life hating Sage because she dared have a backbone and bite back against those who tried to reign her in. It was her job to slice through the bullshit and match each woman with the ideal candidate. If that leads to being hated, then Sage is certainly going to sleep well tonight.

Last point. I've read some rather nasty comments towards the author as well as reviewers who liked this book. The haters felt the book was filled with racism because the so called villains were dark skinned. If I say a person has darker skin than the protagonist who is lighter skinned and has freckles not unlike the Irish, could I be saying that the person is perhaps from Italy, or the Middle East, or even parts of Africa where dark skin is prevalent? If you see racism every where you go, and blame white people for all of your troubles, aren't you yourself perpetuating the hatred instead of understanding the actual world in which the author has created?

I actually look forward to the sequel. I hope the author doesn't allow the hatred to guide her into completely rearranging her characters or changing them around because a few people with hate in their blood can't keep quiet.   

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wednesday #Review - A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole #YALit #SyFy

Series: Untitled # 1
Format: E-Book, 432 pages
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction

Olivia A. Cole blends a richly imagined world, fantastical creatures, family secrets, and a simmering romance in her cinematic sci-fi/fantasy YA debut, perfect for fans of Amie Kaufman and Pierce Brown.

Octavia has only ever had one goal: to follow in the footsteps of her parents and become a prestigious whitecoat, one of the scientists who study the natural wonders of Faloiv. The secrets of the jungle’s exotic plants and animals are protected fiercely in the labs by the Council of N’Terra, so when the rules suddenly change, allowing students inside, Octavia should be overjoyed.

But something isn’t right. The newly elected leader of the Council has some extremist views about the way he believes N’Terra should be run, and he’s influencing others to follow him. When Octavia witnesses one of the Faloii—the indigenous people of Faloiv—attacked in front of her in the dark of night, she knows the Council is hiding something. They are living in separate worlds on a shared planet, and their fragile peace may soon turn into an all-out war.

With the help of Rondo, a quiet boy in class with a skill for hacking, and her inquisitive best friend, Alma, Octavia is set on a collision course to discover the secrets behind the history she’s been taught, the science she’s lived by, and the truth about her family. 

A Conspiracy of Stars, by author Olivia A. Cole, is the first installment in the authors untitled duology. This is a work of pure science fiction/fantasy set on a planet called Faloiv where 40 years ago, a group of humans, including the protagonists own grandparents, left the Origin Planet for a new beginning. They ended crash landing on Faloiv and have been here ever since. They built a place called N'Terra to study and experiment on the local fauna and animal life. They built places like the Mammalian, Avian, Amphibian, and Aquatic compounds to continue their research.

A entire generation has been born on the planet, including 16-year old Octavia English, the main protagonist of the story. Octavia and the rest of the human population lives in a place that was never meant to support human life. The plant life, the environment, and the animals are all dangerous to human life. For most of the story, readers won't see much of the outside world, but when we do, we get a glimpse of a place that is both dangerous and as beautiful as the authors imagination.  

The story focuses mainly on the settlement that Octavia lives in, N’Terra, and the various areas of study available to those called green coats, children of the white coats, who are now allowed to participate in guided internships. N’Terra is divided into sections depending on what job people have and what the scientists in each section are studying. As the daughter of two council members, Octavia has had access to each of the compounds, unlike her fellow students. Octavia strives to become a whitecoat (think scientist) just like her parents. 

After learning that she has the ability to hear things no one else can hear, and get a sense of things that nobody else can sense, Olivia learns that things are not as peaceful as they appear. She and her friends Alma and Rondo discover that the Council has been breaking their agreement with the Faloii, which has brought them to the brink of war. Olivia and friends find out that things are even more dangerous now than they were 40 years ago when their parents and grandparents crash landed on the planet and made an agreement with the Faloii. 

Led by the diabolical leader of the Council and Olivia's own father, humans are rushing forward with a human first mentality that has torn everything that Olivia thought about to pieces. She sees her parents in a different light. She sees her internship as a way to dive into the darkest secrets of the council, and finds that she may have created her own unique alliance with the local Faloii after one of their own is captured, which has brought the two factions towards an all-out war. 

One could say that A Conspiracy of Stars is a classic story about invaders vs. indigenous peoples. It is a story that examines the dangers and destruction of colonialism and the importance of empathy in the face of the unknown. The author has created some very interesting wild creatures. The animals span the gambit from being cuddly and cute, to being downright terrifying and nightmarish in nature. In the end, Cole has created a vivid and cinematic world as well as an action-packed plot that has plenty of twists and turns. It's a story about family secrets and betrayals, and it contains a slow-burning romance which doesn't take anything away from the story itself. 

This book was originally sold as "The Whitecoat's Daughter" but was changed to A Conspiracy of Stars somewhere between when it was purchased by the publisher and when it was placed in the HarperCollins catalog. It has one of the more diverse casts you will find in this genre with every single character being non-white. I do look forward to the sequel since the ending leaves a whole lot of curiosity to explore.  

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tuesday #Review - The Forgotten Book by Mechthild Gläser #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Book, 336 pages
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy

Book Jumper author Mechthild Gläser revisits a literary theme in this humorous fantasy novel. For the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death, she adapts figures and motifs from the books of the popular author, picking up on the most beautiful romance novels in literary history, not without conjuring up a fantastic story of her own with many surprises. 

When Emma finds an old notebook in the library of her boarding school, she thinks it's a kind of history of the school. But it's the other way around: Anything that you put into this book actually comes true.

Of course, Emma immediately starts by "correcting" the school routine at Schloss Stolzenburg a little bit. But nothing happens the way she thought it would. Especially since earlier chroniclers have used the book. For example, a young Englishwoman who wrote a fairy tale about a faun at the end of the 18th century and later became a successful writer. Or Gina, who disappeared four years ago, after she had entrusted her secrets to the chronicle.

As Gina's brother Darcy interferes, the chaos is perfect. Because Emma and Darcy are devoted to each other in heartfelt dislike - at least that's what the two think.

Mechthild Gläser's The Forgotten Book is a Jane Austen inspired novel about a 16-year old girl named Emma Morgenroth who finds a magical book with a strange figure on the cover. She discovers that anything she writes inside the chronicle comes true. Except sometimes the things she writes in the book actually have consequences for those around her. And, to make things even more twisted, someone else is interested in the chronicle, and may have been involved in the disappearance of a young girl named Gina de Winter 4 years ago. 

Originally called Emma, der Faun, und das vergessenge Buch, The Forgotten Book should not be considered sequel to The Book Jumper. The protagonist and settings are no where near being the same nor is the plot or characters involved in the story.  Emma has spent the past 4 years at Stolzenburg Castle where her father is headmaster of the prestigious school for the one percenters in the world. Except for the fact that her mother lives in England with her boring boyfriend, and her father is a hypochondriac, Emma has it pretty easy compared to others. 

But, with the arrival of Darcy de Winter and his friend Toby Bell, the discovery of the chronicle, and the unsolved disappearance of Darcy's sister Gina four years ago, trying to solve a long time mystery may have even more consequences than Emma or her friends Charlotte, & Hannah can imagine. The author focuses all her attention on the mystery of Gina's disappearance, the legends of Stolzenburg, including some journal entry's from the 18th century, and the love hate relationship that develops between Emma and Darcy.

I am going off script a bit when talking about Emma and Darcy and their unusual romance. I am going to say that I did not like the fact that Darcy is 20 years old, while Emma is 16. Perhaps it is a European thing, or perhaps it is the Jane Austen inspired thing, but the 4 year difference is a whole lot for me to overcome and accept. I also noticed a huge discrepancy in the timeline. One minute Emma is talking to an important secondary character who is involved in almost every aspect of this story, and the next moment 2 weeks have flown by without explanation

Overall, I think the author had a fine idea behind writing a book that is a chronicle of events, and you can actually write things in it and change the course of events for yourself and others. Besides the clunky timeline fiasco, and the entire thing being wrapped up so quickly I had no clue what just happened or how, overall it's a fine book if you like a bit of Jane Austen inspired mystery.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday #Review - Daughter of Dusk by Livia Blackburne #YALit #Fantasy

Series: Midnight Thief # 2
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy & Magic

After learning the truth about her bloodlines, Kyra can't help but feel like a monster.

Though she's formed a tentative alliance with the Palace, Kyra must keep her identity a secret or risk being hunted like the rest of her Demon Rider kin. Tristam and the imprisoned assassin James are among the few who know about her heritage, but when Tristam reveals a heartbreaking secret of his own, Kyra's not sure she can trust him. And with James's fate in the hands of the palace, Kyra fears that he will give her away to save himself.

As tensions rise within Forge's Council, and vicious Demon Rider attacks continue in surrounding villages, Kyra knows she must do something to save her city. But she walks a dangerous line between opposing armies: will she be able to use her link to the Demon Riders for good, or will her Makvani blood prove to be deadly?

In this spellbinding sequel to Midnight Thief, Kyra and Tristam face their biggest battle yet as they grapple with changing allegiances, shocking deceit, and vengeful opponents.

Daughter of Dusk, by author Livia Blackburne, is the sequel to Midnight Thief. Once again, the author chooses to alternate narratives between Kyra, a young thief who grew up on the streets of Forge, and Tristan Brancel, a former Knight who was stripped of his knighthood after saving Kyra's life. Kyra is half human and half Makvani which leads her to worry that her secret will be exposed at any moment thanks to the former leader of the Assassin's Guild, James, being in prison and knowing what she really is. 

Especially now that she has agreed to work for the Palace hunting down the remaining members of the Assassin's Guild. One could say that she is a thief on a leash who just happens to work for Defense Minister Malikel. There is a whole lot of stuff happening in this installment. One could legitimately say that this is a book about power. Some have all the power but are never happy unless they are kicking some poor young girl who has done nothing but attempting to survive. Some want even more which puts them in direct conflict with others who want to prevent that power from being abused.

But, let's throw all that out the window. Daughter of Dusk really is Kyra's story and her coming into understanding her abilities she recently discovered. This story unfolds in a complex way since Kyra's every movement is bound to be scrutinized by the wrong people who can make her life even more troublesome than what she's been through to this point. Especially when Kyra goes searching for answers to who her parents were. The answers she receives might not be what she wants to hear. She may even have once again rely on a former ally turned nemesis to get her answers.

Kyra is a much more likable character this time out because she takes the initiative and doesn't fully rely on others to tell her what she should be doing. I have always respected the way that Kyra has become a big sister/mentor to sisters Idalee and Lettie, plus her relationship with Flick allows you to take a breath for a minute before jumping back into a complexity of twists and turns and things that just go full throttle with little time to wonder what is going to happen next. 

I haven't mentioned Tristam yet and for good reason. He, like Kyra, have duties and responsibilities that make any sort of romance impossible. Tristam's responsibility to his family leads to negotiations of a possible arranged married to someone he doesn't really love. Duty has always been something that Tristam has tried hard to fulfill while also struggling with his feelings for mixed blood Kyra who is puzzling on every level to him. Tristam, in the end, is a fine character who means well, and ends up doing what he needs to do in order to help his city survive. 

One of the feel good stories of this book is Kyra's friend Flick who is basically her brother by another mother & father. Flick really stands out and makes you feel good about the possibilities that could happen by him opening up his heart and his mind to those who are supposed to be enemies. I also loved the sisters Idalee and Lettie, most especially Lettie and her relationship with the Demon Riders kits. If both Flick and Lettie can find ways to bridge the gaps of misunderstanding between the Cat shifters and Humans, maybe there is hope for Kyra's reconciliation with those like Pashla and Leyus.

For those who are curious, there is a prequel novella to this series called Poison Dance. It is a story about James and a woman named Thalia who we have heard about in this series. It's currently free for those with Kindle's. There is apparently another prequel featuring Kyra's parents who we learn about in Daughter of Dusk. But, there is nothing yet posted anywhere that I can find more information about the story. Hopefully soon?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Early #Review & Excerpt - Dragon Blood by Eileen Wilks #Romance #Paranormal

Series: World of the Lupi # 14
Format: E-Book, 400 pages
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Romance / Paranormal

The battle against a vengeful goddess reaches a climactic point as Lily Yu must now face the ultimate challenge in a dangerous new realm—without her husband, Rule...

When a mission to rescue five children stolen by an Old One falls apart under the assault of a demon prince, Lily wakes up in a strange reality—and is immediately taken captive by the dragon spawn who rule there. Jumping worlds has fractured her party, and Cynna is her only companion. 

Although the clock is ticking, time works differently, and Lily has miraculously gained a week. That means seven days to free herself, find Rule and the others, rescue the children, and make it home alive. All before the dragon spawn holding her hostage trade her to the Old One. It would almost be doable if this weren’t Lóng Jia—also known as Dragonhome: the birthplace of dragons.

Dragon Blood is the 14th installment in author Eileen Wilks World of the Lupi series. If you are a fan of this series, then you have already read Dragon Spawn. If you've read Dragon Spawn, then you know that that book is one of the very few in this series that ended on a stunning cliffhanger. This is a series that features FBI Special Agent Lily Yu, and her husband Rule Tanner who are fighting to save Earth from the Great Bitch and her avatars.

When last we left the couple, they were deep into the realm known as Dis searching for 5 missing lupi children who were supposed to be given to the Dragon Spawn by the Great Bitch. The kids include Rule's own son Toby, and Cynna Weaver's daughter Ryder. At the end of the story, Gan, once a demon, sent Lily, Rule, Cynna, and Madame Yu to a place known as Lóng Jia, also known as Dragonhome: the birthplace of dragons.

The problem is that Gan separated the group into two. Cynna and Lily find themselves as prisoners of the Dragon Spawn of this world, while Rule, who is badly injured, Madame Yu, and Gan have a long trek ahead of them in order to meet up with the women before the kids show up in this realm. Lily is the key to the Great Bitch's plans, apparently. From the onset of this book, the Great Bitch has tried to take Lily away, mind wipe her, and take over her body which is immune to all magics. 

But, now we get to meet an assortment of new characters, including, Helen Whiteheads sister Alice Baitou Li as well as the 6 remaining Dragon Spawn that call this realm home and made some sort of deal with the Great Bitch for the 5 lupi children. I am one who believes that this series has perhaps jumped the shark at times. The ongoing war with the Great Bitch could have been handled by now, but instead, we get even more convoluted, and even more technical with not only understanding Dragon culture, but also Madame Yu's impressive abilities that have so far gone unnoticed or ignored completely by almost everyone. 

There are certain parts of this book that were completely unnecessary and could have been easily removed without skipping a beat or interrupting what is happening with Lily and crew. Those parts happened back on Earth time days before Lily and group headed to Dis. Lily and Cynna really do have their hands full in order to deal with the difficult challenges put in front of them. While Cynna is forced to teach Alice about healing magic, Lily gets questioned over and over again by one of the leaders of the Dragon Spawn.

If you are looking for something different, than this book is definitely for you. When you think of Lóng Jia, think of China. There is a lot of overlapping between this realm and the Chinese culture. I dare not say this story is filled with action. It isn't. I will say that once you get deep into the story, then you can start thinking the group will once again come together, and perhaps a battle will happen that will lead them back home to Earth where an even more interesting revelation happens right at the end of the book. ::sigh::

Even though Wilks once again creates an interesting world and new characters, I am eager to see the final battle play out between Lily's allies and the Great Bitch's. After 14 books, there has to be an end game soon, or close to soon.


Lóng Jia

Pain comes in many varieties. There’s the crushed outrage of a smashed thumb and the oh shit rip of a twisted ankle. A bad tooth throbs, a headache pounds, and when a bone breaks, the bright shock of it shorts out your entire system, as intense as a climax. Then there is pain that swallows the entire world, admitting no presence beyond itself. Pain that goes on and on.

Rule woke to pain.

In the first few seconds or eons, there was no place to put the pain, nothing to assign it to, no sense it was lodged in this or that part of his body. Pain was entire, complete…until it wasn’t. He grew aware of a voice. Not words, for the pain-universe allowed him no space to sort sound into words, but he knew this particular sound was a voice.

He was not alone.

Some instinct rose from a place so deep inside the pain could not shut it out. An instinct that said quiet. That said listen. He was hurt, badly hurt, and he was not alone. Not-alone was dangerous. His nostrils flared. He did not smell clan or Lily. He smelled . . .

“…did you stop?” the voice was saying. It sounded scared. “It’s not enough to get him out of the water. We’ve got to get to cover. One of them could swoop down at any moment and…”

The word for what he smelled eluded Rule, but he knew the scent. No, two scents. The one that went with the voice was not-trusted. The other…

“Hey, why did you-what are you-eep!”

The other was very dangerous.

“Oh, right. The sleep charm. I forgot about that. I can put him in sleep and then he won’t scream anymore. Okay. You can back off now. Please back off.”

Very dangerous, but also…his. His, and trusted. Rule made a huge effort and opened his eyes.

The glare made his eyes blur, or maybe they’d already been wet. He panted, openmouthed, as pain threatened to white out his other senses. He blinked to clear his vision. All he saw was blue. After a moment he caught the word for all that blue: sky. Then a large head loomed over him, furred in orange and black with white above the eyes and on the ruff.

Tiger. That was the word for the one with the dangerous-but-mine scent.

The tiger licked the side of his head with a huge, rough tongue. And purred.

The tiger had a name. Madame Yu. Yes. He did not need to defend himself with Madame Yu here. His eyes closed in exhausted relief.

“How did Cynna say it worked?” the voice asked. “I hold it on him, but there was something else.”

Memories flickered through Rule and landed on a name. Gan. The voice belonged to Gan, who used to be a demon and an enemy but was now a friend. She was not-trusted because her judgment was unreliable, not because she wished him ill.

“No, don’t lick me! Lick him if you want, but I don’t-oh, I get what you mean. I’m supposed to lick the charm to activate it.”

Madame Yu was here. Gan was here. Where was his mate? Automatically Rule reached for Lily through the bond. Panic flickered, a hot little flame amid the vaster pain. So far. She was so far away-

Something damp and metallic pressed against his cheek. Sleep swept in, soft and comforting as a blanket, and separated him from both thought and pain.

One second, Lily had been fighting two enormous Claws. Although fighting might not be the best term, since her M4 had run out of ammo and sheÕd been unable to get a new clip in before one of the oversize demons slapped it out of her hands. The next, she was waking up in this manicured garden. Trees surrounded the grassy area where she sat, interrupted in two places by paths. It was warm here, very warm, and a lot more humid than she was used to. Somewhere nearby, a bird sang. Water gurgled a happy-little-stream song. A stray sorcŽri brushed against her hand, making the skin tingle faintly.

Lily sat motionless, her head aching, and looked up at the dead woman who’d greeted her.

Helen Whitehead was a small, birdlike woman of middle age who put the “white” back in Caucasian. Her skin was so pale she must have spent her entire life slathered with sunscreen, and her hair was the color of sun-bleached straw. Only her eyes testified to her body’s ability to produce pigment-blue eyes that might have looked washed out in another face, but were vivid in this one.

Lily knew the face, the eyes, the hair. The last time she’d seen them, that uncolored hair had been wet with blood, the blue eyes clouded over in death. She reached the obvious conclusion. “I’m dead.”

The woman tipped her head. “Did you suffer a blow to your head?”

As a matter of fact, she had. It ached, as did various other body parts. Bruises and contusions taken in the fight in the audience hall were reporting in, which spoke against her initial conclusion. So did the Glock in her hand-the one she’d drawn so automatically she hadn’t noticed doing it. Lily didn’t have a clue what the afterlife was like, but she doubted it included semi-automatic weapons.

Still alive, then. Which made her amazingly lucky, though it was hard to feel fortunate as she sprang to her feet with all the vigor of an arthritic eighty-year-old. Her ankle sang out in sharp rebuke when she put weight on that foot. Good thing she didn’t plan to run anywhere right away. Her ankle might let her hobble away. Maybe.

Helen watched, mildly curious. “I understand head blows can induce confusion. Put the gun away, Lily.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I do,” said a voice behind her.

She spun-and something yanked the gun out of her hand even as she squeezed the trigger. The shot killed the hell out of a leaf or two without coming close to the man who’d come up behind Lily.

Her weapon whisked itself through the air to plant itself in the palm of the man’s hand. He was tall and thin and clearly Asian-probably Chinese though his features were subtly different from the Han Chinese that comprised over 90 percent of China’s population. Tibetan, maybe? His features were clean and elegant, his skin extremely pale, his hair black and pulled back in a tight bun. But his eyes were blue-sky blue-and brighter than any human eyes she’d ever seen. Brighter even than Cullen’s, which she would have thought impossible. He wore a gold and black shenyi, the wraparound robe that had constituted formal wear for Chinese men for centuries. It hadn’t been in style for a long time now.

Tom Weng had been wearing a shenyi. Weng had looked subtly different from the Han majority, too. She’d wondered if he might have a European ancestor somewhere, but maybe not. Maybe he came from the same ethnic group as this guy. There was a resemblance, wasn’t there? He might be Weng’s…cousin? Brother?

One way to find out.

Two months ago, Lily’s mindspeech lessons with the black dragon she called Sam had finally paid off. An ability that had been dormant came to life. Mindspeech, she knew now, was only one way of using her mindsense…which was only logical, really. You had to sense a mind before you could speak with it. Lily’s new sense was an odd meld of tactile and visual. Most of the time it slept in her middle, as much a part of her as her colon and as easy to ignore. When she wanted to use it, she gave it a mental nudge and it uncoiled, reaching out like a tentacle or probe-or like a mist, if that’s what she wanted.

It was the mist she used now. With it, she could locate all the nearby minds at once. She nudged the coil sleeping in her gut, picturing it as a mist radiating out…

To her mindsense, the man simply wasn’t there. That absence had only one possible explanation. He was dragon spawn.

“I’ve been wanting one of these,” the dragon spawn said, turning her Glock over in his hands. He spoke clearly, but with a definite accent. “Later, you will instruct me in its use.”

While she appreciated his use of the word “later” and the implied confidence in her continued existence, being somewhere else sounded like a great idea. Pity it would be so hard to put into practice. Dragon spawn were crazy strong as well as plain old crazy. He was probably also a sorcerer. Magic might not work on her directly, but she could be affected by what it did. Look at how easily he’d knocked her weapon out of her hand…which still tingled from the odd magic he’d employed.

A type of magic she’d touched before, she realized. “Telekinesis. That’s how Weng was able to float or fly or whatever you want to call it. Not true levitation-at least, not the way dragons do it, which may not be levitation, either.” Cullen thought dragons went out-of-phase with reality much the way demons did when they went dashtu, thereby reducing the effect of gravity on their huge bodies.

The thought of Cullen made her chest tight, as if she didn’t have enough air. He’d fallen in the battle in the audience hall. She didn’t know if he was still alive. She fought to keep the fear from her face, her voice. “Weng used a peculiar form of TK to move his body where he wanted it.”

“I was told she wasn’t as stupid as most humans,” he observed. “Her initial response to you made me doubt this, but perhaps that was due to the blow to her head, as you suggested, Alice.”

Alice? Was Helen using a different name here? Wherever “here” was. Lily’s head ached. “Where are we?”

It was as if she hadn’t spoken. “I will study her before we hand her over to our ally.”

The woman-Helen or Alice?-spoke. “I have expressed my desire to make my own study of her.”

“Be satisfied with the other one.”

“Other one,” Lily repeated. “You have another human here?”

For the first time, the man met her eyes. He even smiled. It was not a friendly expression. “We have a large number of them. Your people are limited in many ways, but you do breed well.”

She had his attention. Good. Keep asking questions. “What’s your name?”

“Surely even you know better than to expect an answer to such a question.”

“Surely even you realize I meant a call-name.”

“You will call me Zhu.”

She snorted. “Master? Not likely.”

“And yet you will do so. If not now, soon.” Abruptly he switched to Chinese, but it was a dialect she’d never heard before. Not Cantonese or Taiwanese-neither of which she could speak, but she knew them when she heard them. Wu, maybe? Wasn’t that the dialect spoken in Shanghai Province? He seemed to want someone to hurry up and…

What was that? Feet moving quickly and in unison. She turned.

Half a dozen ancient Chinese warriors came trotting out of the trees on one of the paths. At least they looked Chinese and their gear might have clothed the extras in a Genghis Khan movie, if Genghis Khan had been Chinese rather than Mongolian. Hollywood didn’t pay attention to details like that. These men wore baggy pants, skimpy beards or long mustaches or both, and pointy leather helmets. Also what she thought were called cuirasses-two pieces of shaped leather strapped together to protect the chest and back. The sixth man’s armor was made of something blue and shiny. Two of them carried swords, two carried bows, and two held…were those pikes or spears? Long wooden poles that ended in a pointy part.

She twitched with the urge to bolt. She wouldn’t get far.

It wasn’t until the six men formed up in a circle around her that she realized how short they were. Blue-armor was the only one taller than her, and he only had a couple inches on her. That armor was peculiar. Not metal, she thought, but she couldn’t get a good look. Helen blocked her view.

The dragon spawn told them in that odd Chinese to “take her to the [gentle womb? fine bag?] with the other one” and started to walk away.

“What other one?” Lily called after him. He ignored her.

One of the warriors barked an order at her-not the guy with the blue breastplate. This one’s face was weathered, wrinkled around the eyes. His armor was leather, but he had more of it than the others-winged pads on his shoulders, stuff that strapped onto his thighs. His order was simple enough that she understood it quite well: come with us.

“You are to go with them,” Alice/Helen said tranquilly.

“Or else what?” Lily asked. “Are they going to poke holes in me with those big sticks?”

“No. As you perhaps have guessed, our ally wants you alive and reasonably intact. If you resist going with them, they will try not to damage you. If they fail in that attempt, you will be given medical care. You may find their version of medical care rather primitive.”

Alrighty, then. Might as well go with the short warriors. Lily inclined her head regally at Shoulder Pads Guy and tried to channel Grandmother as she said in Chinese-Mandarin Chinese, that is, that being the only form of the language she could speak-“You will introduce yourself. Then I will go with you.”

He scowled in what might be confusion. After a moment he repeated his order, but this time added that he was Li Po, shou quán gui yuánsù de tian Zhurén. First something-something of the Heavenly Masters.

Lily lifted her eyebrows as if she doubted he’d gotten that right, but was too polite to call him on it. “I greet you, Li Po. I am Special Agent Lily Yu of Unit Twelve of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America.” Nyah, nyah, nyah. My title’s longer than yours. “I will go with you.”

They insisted on tying Lily’s hands in front of her. Clearly someone thought she was a helluva lot more dangerous than she felt. They didn’t search her-an odd omission, but maybe they assumed her bound hands would keep them safe from her. They were probably right.