Readers' Favorite

February 1, 2022

4 New Books for Fans of Fantasy

by MK French

Some really good fantasy novels are coming out this month. I slipped in one more from January.  If you are wanting to celebrate the Lunar New Year with a book, you can pick up The Touch of Murder. The other two come out a little later this month so either pre-order them now or put them on your wishlist as you won't want to miss them.

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

Blood Mercy by Vela Roth

Blood Mercy
January 2022; Five Thorns Press; 978-1957040011
ebook, print (664 pages); romantic fantasy

Cassia meets with the Hesperine diplomat Lio. Hesperines have magic and drink blood, but Cassia isn't afraid of that. Her biological father is the king, a monstrous despot, and would execute her for trying to bargain with a Hesperine. Lio wants to prevent a war between their people, but his desire for Cassia might provoke it.

Blood Merc is the first of a four book series and is a fantasy world that often threatens physical and sexual violence. It's not on the page but mentioned as women support each other. Everyone is terrified of the king, who tends to threaten, execute and intimidate everyone. He deigned to acknowledge Cassia as his daughter, but only to use her as a possession to further his own aims. The only way to get around him is to be subtle and play off his enemies against each other. The Hesperines are a people that don't rule by fear, and often share thoughts or emotions. Their longevity gives them perspective, and their different ways are a stark contrast to the ready violence and misogyny of Tenebra.

We slowly see Cassia's and Lio's perspectives even before they meet, and there is a lot of world-building and exposition between the two of them long before the threat of illness arrives. The king would rather let the people die than accept help from the Hesperines, and it's ironic that the very people rumored to kill and maim are the ones most concerned about innocents dying of an easily treatable illness. Conspiring to gather herbs to make medicine against the king's will puts both Cassia and Lio in closer contact and makes them both potentially working against the king and at risk of execution. That adds tension to an otherwise very wordy and slow-moving middle of the story until we get to the real meaty portion in the final quarter of the book when Cassia takes a more active role in the world around her.

As the first book in a series, there is a lot of world-building that has to be done in this volume, which is likely why the beginning half is much slower than the second. It does establish the love between Cassia and Lio, so it's believable that they'd risk it all to be with each other. The ante is definitely increased by the end of the book, and I'm sure the next ones in the series will continue to explore the different gods and their magics, and how Cassia continues to try maneuvering around her father with her meager household. It's a fascinating world and one that is fun to read about.

Buy Blood Mercy at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE)

The Touch of Murder by JF Lee

The Touch of Murder
February 2022; Indie; B09P1WC7P8
ebook (138 pages); fairy tale

Tao Jun is a corrupt magistrate and hates the paperwork involved in his job so he happily investigates when a missing persons case turns out to be murder. Digging into the case soon exposes a web of lies, as well as a con-man wanted in two cities, and a girl who used to be an assassin.

This is a film noir and wuxia hybrid and bound to engage any fans of the genre.  While this takes place during the Tales of the Swordsman and the Tales of the Jianghu series, it's not necessary to have read those books in order to understand this one. The wuxia aspect means this takes place in China and martial arts is commonplace and will involve manipulating qi to create fantastic effects, the secrets of which are jealously guarded by each sect. The film noir aspect is that the language is very approachable and acerbically funny. Lines like "You’d sooner pry a pork bone from a hungry dog than get those two to say nice things about each other" is what I mean by the blended tones. It doesn't sound like it should work, but it really does.

Tao Jun is lazy on some magistrate duties, but he knows the underworld and isn't necessarily above collecting favors or pushing for more than he actually knows to reach a conclusion. As he and his men dig into the missing persons case turned murder, more clues come out until the big confrontation at the end. It's a lot of fun to read, and really fun. There will be other adventures in the future about the magistrate, and no doubt they'll all be a blast.

Buy The Touch of Murder at Amazon

Castles in Their Bones by Laura Sebastian

Castles in Their Bones
February 2022; Delacorte Press; 978-0593118160
audio, ebook, print (528 pages); YA fantasy

Empress Margaraux trained princesses Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz from birth in the arts of deception, seduction, and violence. The sixteen-year-old girls enter into marriage as the first step of Margaraux's plan to one day reign over the entire continent of Vesteria. Each girl has a wish from the stars as well as their skills. Their mother has plans, and they're not privy to all of them.

Each of the girls has their own personalities as well as the princes that they're meant to marry. All three have some roadblocks from the very start as they arrive in their new kingdom: a prince isn't what he seemed in letters, one has no interest in women, and one dies before the princess even arrives. Each princess still holds to Margaraux's plan and is resolved to make the most of their time in their new kingdoms. I liked the girls, and how they resolved to make the most of the situations they were in.

I liked the very different characteristics of each country, each with its own culture. Cellaria is at the extreme end with their aversion to any magic, which is derived from fallen stars. Others all use magic, but climate, culture, and trade are all different. The plans to take over each kingdom were intricate and the sisters thought they could deviate from their mother's plans. I liked Sophie the best, and her development over the novel made me proud of her, even though her mother clearly wouldn't be. We don't learn until the very end what it actually entails, which is horrifying. I hope there is another book to pick up from where this one left off, because I want more in this world and would love to see Margaraux's plan thwarted. 

Buy Castles in Their Bones at Amazon

Uprooted by Kandi Wyatt

February 2022; Indie; 979-8754302822
ebook, print (389 pages); YA fantasy

Eighteen-year-old Hest was happy working in a stable and telling stories. When a warrior purchases him as a slave, he is faced with the prospect of living out the stories he told. Hest now must learn to fight, and it's while recuperating from injuries that he overhears a treasonous plot. Where do his loyalties actually lie?

I'm glad that the slavery purchase was a misunderstanding, and that Hest isn't actually a slave. Hest was miserable until that was clarified, thinking he could never return to the only home he'd known for twelve years. He's meant to be a squire, learning to be a warrior and horse trainer. There's the inevitable posturing in the army, demonstrations that Hest isn't a warrior yet, and teaching Hest about the rest of the world. His eagerness to learn puts him in the position to hear conversations, and because of his ignorance, others think they're taking him under their wing, allowing him to be a spy for the king.

The details about the world are fascinating, and I enjoyed that the best out of this book. Because Hest is such an innocent about the wider world and other kingdoms, teaching him the language and history also teaches us. I found the final quarter of the book to be the most exciting, and I enjoyed that part the best. This is the start of a series, so there's a lot more in store for Hest in future novels.

Buy Uprooted at Amazon

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.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us. Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up for our newsletter today! Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.


Post a Comment