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August 4, 2021

5 Fantasy Novels to Add to Your TBR Pile

by MK French

I love all sorts of fantasy novels and there are many great fantasy novels coming out this month. Today, I tell you about two young adult novels that came out yesterday and a romantic fantasy and another young adult novel that come out later this month. I wrap up with a new adult fantasy novel that was published back in January. I would love to hear about the fantasy novels you are enjoying - leave a comment!

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

A Lesson in Vengeance
August 2021; Delacorte Press; 978-0593305829
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); YA fantasy

Felicity Morrow returned to Dalloway School after a year's absence following the death of her girlfriend. The school is old, its history steeped in witchcraft. In fact, her dorm is rumored to be haunted by five girls who were supposed to be witches. Felicity is determined to leave that darkness behind, but Ellis Haley is a new student and already a published author. Ellis has a following at the school and asks Felicity to help research the Dalloway Five for her new book. But history is repeating itself, and there is darkness within the school as well as herself.

The story starts out slowly, with Felicity returning at the start of the term and not really fitting in at Dalloway House. The rest of the girls at the school refer to the accident that left Alex dead, as well as the fact that Felicity had taken magic too seriously the year before. They did ceremonies on a lark, but she had believed in magic. Now, she's stuck in her head with grief, false memories, and the feeling that she's haunted; Ellis writing a book based on the Dalloway Five just brings it all back to the surface for her again.

While this is an elite boarding school, there's an almost claustrophobic feel to the story. We see the world through Felicity's eyes, feel her isolation and guilt, the whispers and rumors in her wake. Ellis takes up a lot of her thoughts as well, reflected in Felicity's loss. As the story progresses and there are concerns about Felicity's state of mind, Ellis uses her magnetism to "help" Felicity. But she's a "method writer," having to experience firsthand everything she writes about, and pushes past Felicity's discomfort for the sake of her novel. They're drawn to each other and orbit each other; ultimately, this knowing leads to dramatic revelations and loss in the final third of the novel.

A Lesson in Vengeance didn't go the way I thought it would, especially when Felicity's fear of being haunted is tested time and again. Ellis is a figure that captivates Felicity and the other girls of Godwin House, but she's a manipulative rich seventeen-year-old. Felicity has her own moments, leading to the dread and tension of the ending, which left me with my jaw dropped open. This is dark academia at its finest, and a compelling book to read.

Buy A Lesson in Vengeance at Amazon

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

The Dead and the Dark
August 2021; Wednesday Books; 978-1250762016
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); YA fantasy

Teens have been going missing in Snakebite, Oregon, and some of them are turning up dead. Coupled with odd weather and ghost hunters arriving, the populace is sure they're involved. Logan Ortiz-Woodley and her ghost-hunting fathers arrived, and the town seems plagued by ghosts. Ashley Barton's boyfriend was the first to go missing in town, and she feels his ghost everywhere. While the townsfolk shun Logan and her fathers, Ashley is hoping that she will help discover what went wrong in Snakebite. The two grow closer, and their growing feelings for each other might be the love that's able to drive out hate.

Logan feels alone even when she's with her famous fathers, so she isn't terribly surprised at the prickly greeting the people of Snakebite give all of them. Some of it is that they blame one for the murder, and some of it is because they're incredibly homophobic. It doesn't help that she's gay as well as an outsider, giving her few people to potentially talk to in an already small town. Ashley is the town's golden girl: she's literally the blonde in a group that excludes others, her family has employed most people in town, and her mother is the social backbone. The two join forces when their needs collide: Logan wants to prove her father innocent, and Ashley wants her boyfriend back. But there are secrets hidden in the town's past, such as the fact that both of her fathers once had lived in town, and left thirteen years before. Something about that time period leaves one father distant and the other excusing it, driving Logan away to investigate on her own. At the same time she learns more about that hidden past, Ashley learns about the hate simmering beneath the polished veneer of the town, as well as the fact that she feels more interest in Logan than she ever had for Tristan, indicating she probably isn't straight.

The alternating POV's give us insight into what Logan and Ashley experience, and how they feel loneliness despite the first impressions they had of each other. The premise of the novel also indicates that ghosts are real. Here, they are remnants of the dead or the strong emotions left behind, creating imprints of a soul and the memories left in their wake. Ashley isn't the only one that can see them and the ghost hunting tech that Logan takes from her father's works. The joint investigation they try to do gives them the opportunity to get to know each other, but it's the belonging and potential connection that allows them to move past the darkness in town. The darkness grows in the presence of hate, fear, and isolation. Acceptance and love are all that can keep the dark at bay, something that every reader can appreciate.

Buy The Dead and the Dark at Amazon

Requiem of Silence by L. Penelope

Requiem of Silence
August 2021; St. Martin's Griffin; 978-1250148131
ebook, print (576 pages); Romantic fantasy

Queen Jasminda is trying to integrate the Langrimari refugees into Elsira, but there is much unrest. It doesn't help that the True Father is still trying to attack, using shadows that can't be harmed by anything but Nethersong. Kyara isn't the only Nethersinger, but they're woefully unprepared for the onslaught. In addition, sister novitiate Zeli is hoping to unlock a secret to repairing stolen Songs that just might remake the nations.

Requiem of Silence is the fourth book in the Earthsinger Chronicles and does absolutely rely on you reading the prior ones. Elsira is troubled by politics and racial divides, which affects Jasminda on a personal level. Her brothers, who look Elsiran, are welcomed more but still feel the disconnect that comes from being biracial and not feeling a part of either culture. Jasminda isn't really getting help from Oola and is overwhelmed by the politics in the country.

I feel bad for Kyara, who had endured so much trauma and has so much distrust for those who manipulate her into training. She receives a lot of information about a past she can't remember, as well as how to manipulate her Song. At the same time, Zeli is able to travel and find new information not because she's a fabulous scholar, but because she's kind and has good intentions to save the different kingdoms. There is a lot of political concern within and around Elsira, and the appearance of wraiths intent on destroying the people ups the ante for everyone involved.

As the final volume of the Earthsinger Chronicles, it did tie up storylines and show what their futures will be even if it doesn't happen on the page per se. I would've been happy to read dozens of more books in this series, as there is rebuilding to do and future generations to care for. As it is, this is a wonderful and complete series of books, and a great one to recommend for others.

Buy Requiem of Silence at Amazon

Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis

Bad Witch Burning
August 2021; Delacorte Press; 978-0593177389
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); YA fantasy

Katrell uses her ability to talk to the dead to support herself, her mother, and her mother's boyfriend-of-the-week. This calls attention from the world beyond this one, but Katrell needs to earn a living. When she is able to raise the dead, that earns even more. But magic isn't free, and a price has to be paid.

Katrell is determined to make her own way from the very start of the book; her mother hasn't been working, her mother's boyfriend is aggressive and threatening, and Katrell is afraid of being taken away from her mother and put into foster care. It currently worked out for her best friend Will, but Will had bad caretakers before her current foster parents. Katrell has to work to pay all the bills, supplementing her fast-food job with talking with the dead. Because of how tight bills are, especially when she's asked to foot the bill for whatever other things her mother wants to do, Katrell can't ever get ahead and disregards the warning from a ghost that she'll burn down everything around her if she continues talking to the dead. It doesn't seem so bad at first, especially when she's able to resurrect the dog her mother's boyfriend kills.

Katrell is barely sixteen, and being saddled with a parentified role saps a lot of joy and wonder out of her life. She resents the care that others have in her, mistrusting it as a means to call child protective services and separating her from her mother. She loves her mother, even as she's frustrated with how much extra work she has to do to make ends meet when her mother can't. Raising the dead is easy money, and it doesn't seem to do any harm until it does; at that point, Katrell's life spirals even further out of control. Because she's so fiercely independent, she snaps and snarls, driving everyone away that might help her.

I don't usually cry when reading books, and it takes a lot for me to tear up with books. With this one, I had tears streaming down my face in several spots, to the point that my husband asked if I was okay. This is a book that really tugs at your heartstrings; Katrell's rage masks the pain of a child abandoned and taken advantage of, one who mistrusts those that truly care for her as a result. It hurts to see someone so alone and in pain, and this book makes you vicariously feel it. There's so much emotion in these pages, and vindication when you reach the end of it. I raced through this book and wanted to immediately reread it once I hit the end of it.

Buy Bad Witch Burning at Amazon 

Girl of Shadow and Glass by C. K. Beggan

Girl of Shadow and Glass

Kith Canto was born in a world where magic is fading but can cross the gate between Sundown and its neighboring world. The shadows there teach her about their world. The shadows want to take over Sundown, and consider Kith too weak to stop them.

Girl of Shadow and Glass is book one of the Tara’s Necklace series. That refers to the different worlds of the Taran System, named after the world’s savior Tara. Each world is sealed by a Gate, and on Kith’s world of Sundown, there are people who are part Shades, part Wisps, and few that have any solidity. Kith is a shade child, the only one in her village. She’s solid, and those of her village consider her weak; without the Shadows to teach and feed her, they feel she would die. She’s the only one that is taught certain histories or skills, and repeating these lessons to her teachers is how we learn them. Most of the other denizens are wisps, fragile enough that wind can disrupt them.

The purpose of teaching and feeding Kith when Sundown is a land of famine and drought is confusing. Her people tell her not to run or hurry, that she ought to rest because she is weak. Then her teachers ask her questions about her world in an almost creepy way. The whole situation between the shades and wisps was confusing, as well as why the Elders made a deal with the shadows anyway. We literally have to get halfway through the book when one of Kith’s teachers decides to tell her the truth about her world and the people in it. That’s a long time to have to deal with confusing terms and characters that don’t seem to like each other.

I raced through the second half of the book more to see if it would make more sense than because I was super invested in Kith’s story. The final quarter of the book is far more interesting than the first half but ends on something of a cliffhanger. I’m not a big fan of those; I like seeing potential hooks for further books, but this one has to feel complete as well. There are too many openings and not enough answered questions here.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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  1. As a fan of fantasy, I'm surprised I haven't heard of any of these. Thanks for the enlightenment.