Once & Future – Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 9.49.32 pmPublisher: jimmy patterson

Publication Date: March 26th, 2019

Page Count: 368 (hardcover)

From the Jacket:

King Arthur as you’ve never imagined! This bold, sizzling YA retells the popular legend with the Once and Future King as a teenage girl — and she has a universe to save.
I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.
 
Now I’m done hiding.
 
My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.
When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.
No pressure.

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Once & Future is Arthurian legend fantastically reimagined in space–hilarious, sexy, endlessly creative, and marvelously gay. In Capetta and McCarthy’s retelling, Merlin is a newly minted teenager stuck in a tormenting cycle of failed Arthur reincarnations as he ages backwards. Ari is the newest and 42nd reincarnation, the first female Arthur, and quite possibly Merlin’s last chance to get things right and break the cycle before he ages backwards into infancy. Gwen is the queen of Lionel–a medieval planet straight out of a Renaissance Festival–and Ari’s old flame from Knight Camp. Rounding out the group are a vibrant and incredibly diverse cast of characters who make up the rest of the knights of the round table. Together they must figure out a way to defeat Mercer, the evil corporation controlling the entire galaxy, rescue Kay and Ari’s moms who have been illegally imprisoned,  figure out how to lift the barrier that’s keeping Ari’s home planet in exile, and unite all of humankind in peace.

This book ticks almost all of my boxes–magic, badass female protagonist, diversity, romance, spaceships, witty banter, unforgettable characters, compelling world building, and even a little bit of smut. There is so much to love about this wonderful gem of a book. I went in knowing almost nothing about it apart from what I know of arthurian lore, which is in no way essential, but did heighten my reading experience by adding an element of nostalgia. It was a delight from beginning to end and my only complaint is that there isn’t a whole lot more.  Once & Future is enormous is scope, and the authors have jam packed so much plot into a story that seems too brief by comparison. Given another 50 to 100 pages to really flesh out some of the larger plot points would have made this absolute perfection in my opinion. I know that this is the first in a series, so I have really high hopes that many of these details will be elaborated on in the next installment.

Once & Future will be out at the end of March and I cannot recommend it enough. There is a little something for everyone here, especially for fans of young adult fiction, space operas, and romance. I hesitate to make comparisons because this is such a unique reading experience, but for me it was reminiscent of The Wayfarer Series and the Lunar Chronicles. I am so incredibly lucky to have snagged an early copy but also will have to endure an even longer wait than most for the next one. Not until I read the author’s note at the end did I realize that Cori and Amy are a couple and Once & Future is their first intellectual love child. Be still my heart. The biggest thank you to them as well as jimmy patterson books for this copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Polaris Rising – Jessie Mihalik

screen shot 2019-01-14 at 11.24.40 amPublisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: February 5th, 2019

Page Count: 448 (paperback)

From the Jacket:

A space princess on the run and a notorious outlaw soldier become unlikely allies in this imaginative, sexy space opera adventure—the first in an exciting science fiction trilogy.

In the far distant future, the universe is officially ruled by the Royal Consortium, but the High Councillors, the heads of the three High Houses, wield the true power. As the fifth of six children, Ada von Hasenberg has no authority; her only value to her High House is as a pawn in a political marriage. When her father arranges for her to wed a noble from House Rockhurst, a man she neither wants nor loves, Ada seizes control of her own destiny. The spirited princess flees before the betrothal ceremony and disappears among the stars.

Ada eluded her father’s forces for two years, but now her luck has run out. To ensure she cannot escape again, the fiery princess is thrown into a prison cell with Marcus Loch. Known as the Devil of Fornax Zero, Loch is rumored to have killed his entire chain of command during the Fornax Rebellion, and the Consortium wants his head.

When the ship returning them to Earth is attacked by a battle cruiser from rival House Rockhurst, Ada realizes that if her jilted fiancé captures her, she’ll become a political prisoner and a liability to her House. Her only hope is to strike a deal with the dangerous fugitive: a fortune if he helps her escape.

But when you make a deal with an irresistibly attractive Devil, you may lose more than you bargained for . . .

Rating: Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AM

Polaris Rising is the sexiest, most addicting book I’ve read in a long time. It is a deliciously fun blend of sci-fi space opera and romance (new favorite genre alert!) that I enjoyed so much I read it twice in a row without stopping. At 448 pages, this is not a short book. I flew through almost 900 pages in a single weekend and found the second read even more entertaining than the first! There is something inherently romantic to me about the possibilities for space exploration in the very distant future–to have the ability to effortlessly travel through space and time and wake up in a ship and look out the window to see vast, empty space, or some distant planet. For my imagination, the possibilities here are endless.

With Ada, Mihalik has created a character that made every part of my imagination sing. As the daughter of one of the most powerful families in the universe, Ada has rare access and means to go anywhere she wants to go. She’s been trained in espionage and fighting skills and her time growing up in a world rife with the dangerous politics of the other high houses means she has a confident self assuredness not typically found in someone so young. She’s disciplined, resourceful, intelligent, witty, incredibly brave, and she can pilot a ship! I want to be her.

The book opens with Ada’s unsuccessful escape from capture by a group of mercenaries (to be known here on out as ‘mercs’ because using her lingo makes endlessly happy) who plan to cash in the very large bounty her father has placed on her head. She has been promised since childhood to marry into one of the other high houses and it’s a fate she does not plan to take lying down, or at all. The mercs throw her into a cell with a very muscular, very handsome man who just happens to be the most wanted criminal in the ‘verse (see above note). *A quick note here to say plainly that I recognize the cliche here and throughout the rest of the book–recognize it but do NOT care at all. This is a romance remember? And some amount of cliche is going to exist because we can only tell this story so many times in a completely unique way.* If being captured frightens Ada, she doesn’t let it show. Almost immediately, she takes in her surroundings and begins plotting her escape, and the handsome criminal she’s locked up with, Marcus Loch, certainly makes things more interesting.

Full of believable futuristic world building that my nerdy brain devoured like candy, compelling characters, and non stop action, Mihalik packs so much into her debut. Polaris Rising starts off at a run that turns into a full out sprint as Ada and Loch plan one escape after another and make a discovery that threatens the future of the high houses, and subsequently, mankind. I particularly enjoyed the time spent planetside as well as the way the relationships are portrayed between Ada her friends and siblings.

I’ve always loved scifi, and while I enjoyed aspects of romance, they always lack something for me. I think part of the reason why this book worked so much for me, is the fact that Mihalik gives equal focus to the action and adventure you expect from a space opera as she does to the budding relationship between Loch and Ada. It reminded me a lot of The Illuminae Files and the Shatter Me series, but geared towards adults and has the steam factor I loved so much from A Court of Thorns and roses series.

If you are a fan of scifi but also enjoy some good smut, you should read this as soon as possible. I cannot overstate how entertaining this book is and how utterly and completely addicting. I neglected all responsibility this weekend to read it not once, but twice and I have no doubt I’ll read it again. The best part is that book two in the series, Aurora Blazing, will be out this fall! I’ll be scouring Edelweiss from now until then so I can get my hands on this next installment as soon as possible.

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As always, the world’s biggest thank you to Edelweiss and Harper Voyager for the review copy of this truly wonderful book!!

The Kingdom of Copper – S.A. Chakraborty

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Publication Date: January 22nd, 2019

Publisher: Haper Voyager

Page Count: 640 (Paperback ARC)

From the Jacket:

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe..

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

Rating: Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AM

Sometimes you read a book that is so astonishing in scope and beauty that it takes your breath away and makes it hard to find the words to describe it. The City of Brass was an incredible book–one that introduced us to the world of Daevabad and it’s wondrous array of peoples, to Nahri and Dara, to the Qahtani’s, and a seemingly endless stream of other unforgettable characters. It was complex and full to the brim with intrigue, action, adventure, and quite possibly the lushest, most detailed world building I’ve ever come across. I finished that book and could not wait to get my hands on the next one. I had to know what was going to happen to everyone, where Chakraborty was going to take me next, how she could possibly even begin to wrap up what she set into motion. I was so impressed, so desperate to keep reading, that I did what I almost never do. I took a deep breath, and reached out to the publisher to inquire about an early review copy. And then I waited. And I got a reply back almost instantly thanking me for my interest but explaining that the next book wasn’t even finished yet, and there should be more information in the fall. So I waited some more–for what felt like an eternity, but was in actuality only a few months–to inquire again. This time I did not hear back and had all but lost hope when I got an email from the Harper team asking me if I wanted to be a part of their Fan Ambassador group. If I was interested, not only would I be getting an advanced copy of The Kingdom of Copper, but I would also have five copies of The City of Brass that I could give to whoever I wanted.

I must have reread the email ten times to make sure I had the details correct. I cannot recreate my reaction to this news in a blog post, so let’s just say there was an immense amount of high pitched squealing and some really bad celebratory dancing. I do not know if mine was the first reply they got to this email, but I’d be shocked to learn otherwise. A few weeks later I had the books in my hands. I gave one to my OB who I spend more time fangirling about books with than discussing my reproductive health and did a giveaway for the rest of them on my bookstagram account. My first ever giveaway!

Fast forward to today. I’ve just finished The Kingdom of Copper and it absolutely blew me away. For the past few days I’ve been posting almost incoherent updates on bookstagram, because I just could not find the words. This book has everything that made The City of Brass great, multiplied by about a billion. From the first page I was plunged back into the breathtakingly beautiful world that is Deavabad, only this time it was a place I knew intimately and reading felt like a homecoming.

**Some City of Brass spoilers coming after the jump, so read at your discretion.

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In the first few pages we learn what happens to Ali after he is exiled from his home, to Nahri after she and Muntadhir are forced to marry, to Jamshid who is brutally injured in the fight with Dara, and to all the others. There are so many surprises contained in the first few pages but I won’t be spoiling any of them here. Daevabad remains thick with rising political tensions and the city’s inhabitants continue to fight amongst each other after centuries of war and hate. Sending Alizayd away seems to have sharped Ghassan’s cruelness and there have been countless deaths as a result of his actions. Despair and unrest seem to be everywhere, but it is perhaps the Shafit who are suffering the most. Outside of the city, dangerous plans are being laid with the potential to change everything.

The Daevabad Trilogy is so so good and this second installment is just phenomenal. I loved getting to see Nahri grow into her role as the Banu Nahida. As her skill increases, so does her confidence, and after so many months of seeing her broken down and unsure of herself, she rises up and becomes the Nahri from Cairo again.  There is so much character development in this book, and not just for Nahri. Ali is not the easiest character to like or even relate to in the first installment, but his growth shows a bravery and strength of character that shines far brighter than the enthusiastic naivety and fanatical ideologies of his younger years. Alongside the growth of the characters I’ve come to know so well, are a slew of new ones to love… and hate.

The Kingdom of Copper is intricately plotted and contains multitudes while moving at a such breakneck pace that I could barely put it down. It never gets slow and I was left to marvel at the level of detail in everything. Chakraborty’s writing is so vivid that I was left spellbound even when reading about the plans for a new building in town. She is remarkable. I thought the cliffhanger ending of The City of Brass was bad, but it has nothing on the ending of this one. I loved every single second I spent reading this book and I have no idea how I’ll bear the wait for the final installment.

I am eternally grateful to the team at Harper Voyager for allowing me to be part of the Fan Ambassador team for this incredible book. Thank you thank you thank you for giving me the chance to share my thoughts about this book by providing me with a copy!!

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