Book Reviews · Science Fiction · Teen

Review: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead. To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Book Reviews · Fantasy · Teen

Review: Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother's love. The adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, Vanja has long made her own way in the world as the dutiful servant of Princess Gisele. Until a year ago, when her otherworldly mothers demanded payment for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back . . . by stealing Gisele's life. With the help of an enchanted string of pearls, Vanja transformed into her former mistress and took her place, leaving the real Gisele a penniless nobody. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming the nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Until, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to turn into jewels, stone by stone. With a feral guardian half-god, Gisele's sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on her tail, Vanja has just two weeks to pull off her biggest grift yet, or she risks losing more than her freedom - she could lose her life.

Book Reviews · Fantasy

Review: Little White Hands by Mark Cushen

Garlan’s dreams of being just like the knights he idolizes may not be as impossible as he has always been led to believe, when he is chased from his home and thrust headlong into the kind of adventure he had only ever read about in books. Setting out on a journey that spans the entire kingdom of Faeland, Garlan will traverse impossible mountains and stormy seas and battle terrible monsters, all to keep the world he knows safe from an enemy who will stop at nothing to bring about a never-ending winter. With a cast of fantastical characters to aid him in his quest, can Garlan overcome his self-doubt and find the courage he needs to rise above his humble station and become the hero he always dreamed of being? The fate of the world rests in his hands.

Book Reviews · Fiction

Review: The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke

Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse. A lighthouse that weathered more than storms. Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation. Coincidence? Or curse? Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left. Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth... But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

Book Reviews · Fantasy

Review: Paladin Unbound by Jeffrey Speight

The most unlikely of heroes, a lowly itinerant mercenary, Umhra the Peacebreaker is shunned by society for his mongrel half-Orc blood. Desperate to find work for himself and his band of fighters, Umhra agrees to help solve a rash of mysterious disappearances, but uncovers a larger, more insidious plot to overthrow the natural order of Evelium in the process. As Umhra journeys into the depths of Telsidor’s Keep to search for the missing people, he confronts an ancient evil and, after suffering a great loss, turns to the god he disavowed for help. Compelled to save the kingdom he loves, can he defeat the enemy while protecting his true identity, or must he risk everything?

Book Reviews · Fantasy

Review: The Symmetry of Stars by Alex Myers

Beyond the stars, two gods vie for rule of the world. One stands for Nature – the belief that everything is stamped in flesh from the start. The other, Nurture – the belief that all is potential, that the true self is coaxed out through love and living. And so, they take a bet. Each immortal selects a set of twins as their champions. The twins that prevail in contest will decide which immortal rules…

Book Reviews · Fantasy · Teen

Review: Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko

For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar's throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities. Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that's what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends.

Book Reviews · Fantasy · Teen

Review: A Dark & Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell

Derry and her eight siblings live in an isolated house by the lake, separated from the rest of the world by an eerie and menacing forest. Frank, the man who raised them after their families abandoned them, says it’s for their own good. After all, the world isn’t safe for people with magic. And Derry feels safe—most of the time. Until the night her eldest sister disappears. Jane and Derry swore to each other that they’d never go into the forest, not after their last trip ended in blood, but Derry is sure she saw Jane walk into the trees. When another sibling goes missing and Frank’s true colors start to show, feeling safe is no longer an option. Derry will risk anything to protect the family she has left. Even if that means returning to the forest that has started calling to Derry in her missing siblings’ voices. As Derry spends more time amidst the trees, her magic grows more powerful . . . and so does the darkness inside her, the viciousness she wants to pretend doesn’t exist. But saving her siblings from the forest and from Frank might mean embracing the darkness. And that just might be the most dangerous thing of all.

Book Reviews · Fantasy

Review: Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn

Ryia 'the Butcher' Cautella has earned her reputation as the quickest, deadliest blade in the city - not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name. A deadly secret has kept Ryia in hiding, running from city to city, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster - sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms. But even the most powerful men can be defeated.  One last impossible job is all that stands between Ryia and her freedom - but even the Butcher can't do it alone. She teams up with the Saints, a crew of uniquely skilled miscreants, smugglers and thieves, to carry off a death-defying heist into the most tightly guarded island in the kingdoms - the Guildmaster's stronghold. Unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are nearly as selfish as she is, and they all have plans of their own...

Book Reviews · Fantasy

Review: The Pariah by Anthony Ryan

Born in the troubled kingdom of Albermaine, Alwyn Scribe is raised as an outlaw. Quick of wit and deft with a blade, Alwyn is content with the comradeship of his fellow thieves. Yet an act of betrayal sets him on a new path of blood and vengeance, which leads him to a soldier's life in the king's army.  Fighting under the command of Lady Evadine Courlain, a noblewoman beset by visions of a demonic apocalypse, Alwyn must survive war and the deadly intrigues of the nobility if he hopes to claim his vengeance. But as human and arcane forces gather to oppose Evadine's rise, Alwyn faces a choice: can he be a warrior, or will he always be an outlaw?