The Dark World 

Set in the 1700s-1800s this tale is an intriguing take on vampire myths. 

It follows Xavier Delacroix, the heir to the King of All Creatures: Dracula. Dracula’ grandaughter, a human woman, is being hunted by Lycans– Xavier’s brother Christian almost died trying to save her. Eleanor Black, a past flame, dies mysteriously in front of Xavier and he is reeling from grief. Will he be able to protect the human? What role does she have to play? Secrets abound. 

The setting was unclear at first. There are no mentions of time and no identifying technology.  It could be the 1600s for all I know. London is a sprawling town. The only identifying detail for time is I believe someone mentions a newspaper but I might be remembering that incorrectly. They could have just asked if the other was familiar with the stories about the murders. 

Time aside, it was well written and visual. 

There were few female characters and few people of color, which surprised me since the author is an African-American woman. 

This book does not pass the Bechdel Test. There are two women who are POV characters- Lillith and Mara. Lillith, Princess of the Vampires, was a disappointing character. She is important to the plot, and yet a weak Mary Sue. We are not in Mara’s head very much. Xavier’s brother, Christian, could have been a Christina and this would have made the character more interesting and might have made a few things make more sense. 

I do look forward to reading the future books.  

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Rise of the Seven

Frey’s memories have been returned to her but reconciling her past self to who she became without her memories is a challenge. Not to mention there are even more attempts on her life and her kingdom is in turmoil. Will she risk war with the Fairies? And what shall she do about the mounting tension between her and Chevelle? Her guard of seven will be instrumental in keeping the peace. 


I enjoyed this book. Ruby continued to be one of my favorite characters. Steed and Chevelle finally have a showdown. 

The development of the risk of war with the Fairies was intriguing. 

Again this book passes the Bechdel Test

There’s more action in this book than in the second and less sleeping. 

Chevelle becomes more developed in this book. One reviewer said she liked Chevelle in the second book because he is perfect.  I like characters to have more complexity than that. Granted we see everything from Frey’s perspective, so perhaps she overlooks his flaws. Love is blind and all. 

I look forward to the fourth book, Venom and Steel, set to come out this year. 

Pieces of Eight

Not about Spanish currency of antiquity. 


The second book in the Frey Saga is an entertaining quest to restore an elf maiden’s fractured identity. 

There is less action in this book than the first. It is, however, an intriguing jaunt through another world. 

I enjoyed it very much.  It also had the challenge of the first book of hypersexualized male characters. I have to say I enjoy Steed’s flirtations with her more in this book. Chevelle, the male lead, is underdeveloped. He is dark and brooding but otherwise almost flawless (he does have a jealous streak when it comes to Steed). 
Being that it was written by a woman I took it for granted in the first book that it passes the Bechdel Test. This book also passes the test and Ruby remains one of my favorite characters. The current book I’m reading does not so far and it was also written by a woman. 

I enjoy being in Frey’s head, though she is very different than me. 

One criticism I read in another review of this book is that Frey is frequently sleeping. This is true , but I didn’t find it boring and it served the plot. She evolves through the book. 

One quote I particularly enjoyed:

Somewhere, in the mess of my mind, I’d understood that acquiring the magic and memories would not release me from the difficulties of my life. 

Pieces of Eight was a diverting, easy read.  I highly recommend it. 

Frey

Frey felt life was unfair as an elf who has no magic until one day she finds herself accidentally practicing dark magic. Things get worse from there. A dark and handsome stranger appears and her world is soon thrown off kilter. Will her mother’s diary hold the answer to her fractured memories? Will she find any magic that is not dark? 


This story was appealing because it focuses on a strong female lead who fights against the odds. We can probably all identify with feeling out of place from time to time.  

In this world the genders feel pretty equal, though two of the male characters are hypersexualised. Although one of the elves, Steed, is quite comical with his forwardness. His personality reminds me of a married man that used to hit on me. I didn’t think it was so funny at the time. 

The story seems to follow more of a Freytag model than a traditional three act structure.  That’s okay; my book, Threads of Fate, follows this model and is based off Blake Snyder’s beat sheet.  

Ruby was one of my favorite characters. She is strong and mischievous, so a little unpredictable. She definitely has agency. This book passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. 

There were a few moments that felt unrealistic. Chevelle is particularly brooding and in one spot does not speak to Frey for an entire day. I can’t imagine traveling with someone for a full 24 hours and not breaking the silence. 

I wish there was a little more description about things like the colors of the horses. I can’t recall what color her horse was and those kinds of details draw me in being a visual person. 

The book was an easy read and I’ve already read the next one, Pieces of Eight

Surprising from the start


Silent Hall was a well executed novel. What I found surprising about the start is that I felt that the opening image did not “save the cat“. That is to say, the character was engaging but not endearing.

There were diverse characters throughout the story. Not only were the five main characters darker skinned islanders in contrast to the lighter skinned continentals but there was variety among the regions of the continentals as well, which showed thought and realism. Handicaps were also addressed along with age, again showing care and adding depth to the world. Gender inequality and slavery were also addressed briefly in this world.

I’m not sure if it’s enough to warrant a trigger warning, but there were moments of domestic violence in this book in the context of three different perspectives—Galanea, Criton, and Bandu. It will be interesting to see where Mr. Dolkart goes with this theme with the next books in his Godserfs series or if all has been resolved.

The theology was impressive though dry at times. The pacing kept me engaged though the direction was not always clear. I kept looking to the back cover and wondering how we would make it to the dragon and the primordial monster, but by the end the cover had more than delivered.   It was a diverting read and I’ve enjoyed it this past week.   I had pre-ordered this book, but I just now got around to reading it and I’m glad I did. I highly recommend it. 

 

Seraphina and the Black Cloak 

My husband and I toured the Biltmore Estate not long after I finished reading “Seraphina and the Black Cloak“. I was awed by not only the beauty of this place, but by the sheer attention to detail that Beatty imbibed into this work. All throughout the house, things were mentioned in detail. I had been to the Biltmore Estate before, but this book brought it to life for me. 
While it is middle-grade fiction, it is captivating and intriguing. Sometimes YA can be a little boring for my tastes, but this middle-grade book was so well plotted that it kept me turning pages.

This book delves into the fantastical and historical. It demonstrates the socio-economic differences of low, mid, and high class groups at the turn of the century. 

It also interprets some local legends. I especially enjoy his interpretation of the Catamount. 

One of the most valuable features from a child’s perspective, is that I suspect it would help foster resilience. Seraphina is diligent in rescuing her friends. She overcomes her own anxieties and social awkwardness to become the heroine. Also, it explores real evil and how sometimes good intentions without planning can be disastrous. 

While I have not been blessed with motherhood, I do hope to be a mother and often read parenting articles. In “How Danish Parents Raise the Happiest Children in the World” Jessica Alexander writes: 

Another difference: Danes actively teach empathy in school, starting in pre-school… Everything doesn’t have to have a happy ending. Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales (one of the most famous Danes) are often very dark or sad, but have been modified in America to fit a culturally accepted version… Reading books that deal with hard topics helps parents cover a wide range of emotions with their children and this has been proven to improve their empathy skills. I think sometimes in America we tend to avoid confronting the harder emotions if we can help it. In Denmark, they jump right into those!. 

It’s my theory that this book would help build empathy and emotional resilience in children. Even if I’m wrong, it’s still a great book for young readers and adults. 

Put me down for a marvel. 

  
This book was marvelous — I could scarcely put it down. Despite the post-apocalyptic setting, this story transported me to a world where anything could be possible. A gleaming blue dome protects New York City, but what of the horrors within? I can’t wait to read the next! Check out I.A. Ashcroft’s website for updates. 

The characters were carefully crafted. I could easily picture them and their environments. Anna is not a Mary Sue – she’s well developed and important to the plot. With unimportant, sexy characters pervading literature and the silver screen, it’s refreshing to read a book that can pass the sexy lamp test. 

 
If sexy lamps are your thing, buy one here.  

Even though Anna is striking, I enjoyed Jackson’s character very much. I had to know why there are things only he can see. What makes him different? What do the ravens mean? Who is the starry-eyed man? What happens when he doesn’t drink the crazy tea?

  

This is kind of how I imagined the Ravens in the book but with a post-apocalyptic background. 

I loved the ending of the book. It left me wanting more, but resolved appropriately. The pacing of the book was compelling.

What are you doing?! Go buy it already