Queen of All by Anya Leigh Josephs

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

The only interesting thing about fourteen-year-old Jena is other people. Her mother disappeared when she was a baby, and her best (and only) friend, Sisi, is not just the lost heir to a noble Numbered house, but also the Kingdom’s most famous beauty. Jena herself is just awkward, anxious, and often alone: not exactly heroic material. But when a letter summons Sisi to the royal court, both girls find their own futures, and the Kingdom’s, in Jena’s hands. Sisi, caught between the king and the crown prince, searches for a magical secret the Prince is willing to kill to keep. Jena can save her: but only if she is willing to let her go, maybe forever. It’s hard to do that when she’s in love with Sisi herself.

 

Review 

I have mixed feelings about Queen of All.

I was extremely excited to see a YA LGBTQ+ novel. Add the fact that it was branded as F/F and a fantasy world I was all about it. One of the main issues I had, was the main conflict was a little meh. There was so much build-up but by the end of the book, I was left wondering if I had missed something. What happened with the prince? Was Jena more than meets the eye like I thought she was going to be? I felt a bit lost.

Sisi and Jena are tight friends. So much so, that once Sisi is summoned to the royal court due to her rumored beauty, Jena goes with her. They take on the royal court and work together to ensure they are safe.

What I liked was Jena. She took the opportunity to read and learn as much as she could. She used her plain appearance to venture around the castle unnoticed. But I feel like she got pushed into the traditional role of supporting character who is the fat best friend. Nothing irritates me more. I had so many hopes for her and was let down.

There were few LGBTQ+ elements in this. Jena does admit to herself that she has feelings for another girl, but again, her happiness here gets sacrificed.

This was just a huge miss for me. Other readers absolutely adored this novel. Check out the reviews on Goodreads, they raved about it. It just didn’t work out for me.

To be released June 9 2021

Wonderstruck by Allie Therin

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

New York, 1925

Arthur Kenzie is on a mission: to destroy the powerful supernatural relic that threatens Manhattan—and all the nonmagical minds in the world. So far his search has been fruitless. All it has done is keep him from the man he loves. But he’ll do anything to keep Rory safe and free, even if that means leaving him behind.

Psychometric Rory Brodigan knows his uncontrolled magic is a liability, but he’s determined to gain power over it. He can take care of himself—and maybe even Arthur, too, if Arthur will let him. An auction at the Paris world’s fair offers the perfect opportunity to destroy the relic, if a group of power-hungry supernaturals don’t destroy Rory and Arthur first.

As the magical world converges on Paris, Arthur and Rory have to decide who they can trust. Guessing wrong could spell destruction for their bond—and for the world as they know it.

Review

I’m going to miss Rory and Ace! The Magic in Manhattan series had quickly become one of my favorites and I always looked forward to the next novel. All good series have to come to an end and I’m happy with how this series wrapped up.

            Ace and Rory head to Paris and towards the world’s fair to destroy the relics that are dangerous to humanity for even existing. It could be life or death for them, but this is much bigger than them. Zhang, Jade, Gwen, and Ellis all return and at first, I was like, huh? Gwen and Ellis? But Gwen and Ellis surprised me.

            My favorite parts about Wonderstruck

            The action sequences. There were moments that my heart was racing with anxiety. I needed to keep turning the page to see what was going to happen. Adding the vivid setting, imagery and dialogue I felt as though I was in the moment.

            Rory finally acknowledged that he can ask for help and that these people were his real family. Family isn’t always what you’re born into, it’s the people who make you feel whole. He finally saw this.

            There were moments Ace and Rory couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. It was clear they missed each other when they were separated, but even when they were traveling together there were little touches between each other. My inner romantic sighed happily a few times.

            What I wished there was?

            More novels in the series! I know, I know. But honestly? The only thing that was missing, was on page love scenes. I’m an avid romance reader so with the build up and then skipping to later was a little disappointing.

            BUT

            I absolutely loved this series. It’s one I’ll revisit and continue recommending to other readers because it truly was a series that made me happy and excited to read.

To be released February 9th – Get your copy here

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

The Review

This book is a whopping 848 pages and took me 24 days to read (hence the pause in my reviews) but it was very much worth the read!

The Priory of the Orange Tree features LGBTQ+ characters and a dash of romance, but that isn’t the main focus of this novel. It is an epic fantasy featuring dragons, magic, witches, pirates, women who kick ass, and a battle to save the world they know.

Ead Duryan was once an outsider at court, killing anyone who threatened Queen Sabran in the shadows, rises to be a lady-in-waiting for Sabran. She uses forbidden magic to keep the Queen safe. The closer she gets to Sabran, the more she wonders if what she had been taught growing up is the true religion or if there may be something to the religion of Inys.

In Inys dragons are wrong and should be slain.

Across the dark sea, dragons are worshipped as gods.

Tane, who has been training since she was a child to become a dragonrider, faces challenges that she hadn’t expected she would ever face. She gracefully takes what is given (I want to go into detail here so badly but that would spoil it) and in the end, you see she truly has the heart of a dragonrider. Courageous, fearless, and unrelenting.

Each of the women has a special place in my heart. They were the main characters and each of their stories was vital to this overarching story. Ead was my favorite. She faced leaving her home for years, falling in love, then she has to run for her life, but she didn’t give up on the people who threatened her life.

Tane pushed forward when she thought she couldn’t push herself any further. I was in awe of her drive.

Loth, as a secondary character, I sure was invested in his journey from start to finish. I needed him to make it through each event that he faced. You have no idea how I want to detail his journey but I won’t. He was strong and willing to venture into infinitely dangerous territories because it was for Inys.

Roos, this fella here, oh boy. He made me grind my teeth and I could feel his anger and distrust towards Inys and the pirates.    

I highly recommend reading this book if you are into fantasy novels and epic worlds. It’s a vivid and exciting adventure starting from page one.

Get your copy here!

Winter Masquerade by Kevin Klehr

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary:

Ferris wakes on the Sea Queen, an enchanted cruise ship sailing on a chocolate sea. He has no idea how he got here, but he desperately wants to go home to his boyfriend.

The alchemist is the only person who can help Ferris, but he’s been kidnapped. The ransom is high tea with scones and jam.

Meanwhile, the passengers are gearing up for the Winter Masquerade, a ball where love and magic reign.

With a murderous musician, an absent boyfriend, and a mystical party, Ferris soon learns that Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

Review

The first thing I have to say about Winter Masquerade is the fact that it is entirely unique. I finished reading it a couple of days ago but I needed time to digest and analyze my thoughts about this story. There are so many layers and within its pages and it deserved the time. I’ve seen several people refer to it as absurdist fiction, but I don’t have any true experience with it. So I’m going to review it as what it meant to me while reading it.

Ferris wakes up in a world that doesn’t make sense. The sea is made of chocolate and there are characters with outlandish names (Miss Represent, Miss Calculation) that keep talking circles around him. He wants to find his way home. But to get there, he has to learn who he is and what he wants for himself.

I picked up quickly what was happening or happened to Ferris in real life that put him on board the Sea Queen. It was interesting that interspersed between the vivid, colorful characters, there were characters like Cole who served as a grounding factor for Ferris. He was able to see the type of person, the type of relationship he wanted. If it was possible to have that in this crazy world, then he could have it in real life.

I felt Ferris blossom and become the person he wanted to be. I, so very much, enjoyed seeing Ferris become Ferris. The Sea Queen and it’s permanent residents, taught him the importance of a support system. No matter how wacky that system may seem.

Give this one a read, it was one of the more memorable books I’ve had the pleasure of reading in the past few months. AND! I absolutely agree that Wednesdays bring nothing but trouble.

Get your copy here

Read the tags for an idea of what Ferris was dealing with. 

 

 

All Souls Near and Nigh by Hailey Turner

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: You can’t bargain with death if you’ve already sold your soul.

Special Agent Patrick Collins has been reassigned by the Supernatural Operations Agency to New York City. Navigating his new relationship with Jonothon de Vere, the werewolf he’s now soulbound to, is nothing compared to dealing with territorial disputes between the vampires and werecreatures who call the five boroughs home. But the delicate treaties that have kept the preternatural world in check are fraying at the edges, and the fallout is spilling into the mundane world.

Manhattan’s club scene is overrun with the vampire drug known as shine and the subways have become a dumping ground for bodies. When the dead are revealed as missing werecreatures, Patrick and Jono find themselves entangled in pack politics twisted by vampire machinations.

Learning to trust each other comes with problems for both of them, and the gods with a stake in Patrick’s soul debt aren’t finished with him yet. Bound by promises they can’t break, Patrick and Jono must find a way to survive a threat that takes no prisoners and is stalking them relentlessly through the city streets.

Old and new betrayals are coming home to roost but the truth—buried in blood—is more poisonous than the lies being spun. Trying to outrun death is a nightmare—one Patrick may never wake up from.

The Review

All Souls Near and Nigh is the sequel we’ve all be waiting for. It’s full of action, grit, and a self-made pack trying to find their feet.  It was an excellent follow up to A Ferry of Bones and Gold.

Special Agent Patrick Collins has been permanently reassigned to New York City. He’s navigating a fledgling relationship with Jono de Vere, who he now shares a soul bond with. Through all of this, there’s a territorial dispute between the vampires, werecreatures going missing, and gods who can’t seem to leave Patrick be.  He’s never going to get away from the God’s.

Jono’s storyline with the God Pack is my favorite part of this story. Actually all of the chapters told from Jono’s point of view had me on the edge of my seat, anxious for what was to come. Lucien, the gods, they were secondary for me. Jono made his stand against the God Pack. I did not realize that I had been waiting for him to do that until now. I’m invested in Jono, ya’ll. I still need to know why Fenrir has chosen Jono. There are too many possibilities and I need answers!

Things I wished for in this novel? More scenes with just Patrick and Jono. I felt like at times they were operating outside of each other. Patrick was still getting used to the fact that Jono was there and had his back, while Jono’s mind was focused on his pack. I’m excited to see them working as a unit that knows each other.

Overall this was a great novel and I’m looking forward to the next in the series coming out.

Get your copy here

Finding Aurora by Rebecca Langham

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary: Aurora Rose slumbers in the city of Oldpass, a cursed kingdom once allied with Grimvein. The victim of a malicious spell, she is powerless to control her own fate. At least, that’s how the story goes.

Now, as Grimvein faces attack, Prince Amir has been tasked with the life-threatening rescue of Aurora, his parents hopeful he will marry the princess and secure safety for their kingdom. Talia, the strongest spellcaster in the known lands, protects and guides the prince in his quest to save a woman that threatens to change their lives forever.

In finding Aurora, the pair will realise the truth about themselves and each other, coming to understand just what – and who – they really want in life.

The Review

If you are a fan of fairytale retellings, Finding Aurora by Rebecca Langham is one you’re going to want to grab to read ASAP. This is a kickass Sleeping Beauty retelling and it was refreshing to see the Prince having a female spell-caster helping him find Aurora and learning who he truly is.

Talia has been tasked with helping Prince Amir of Grimvein to locate Aurora Rose in the hopes of a securing a marriage contract that will unite the kingdoms and guarantee Grimvein’s safety. As in the traditional Sleeping Beauty, Aurora has been cursed to slumber until her true love wakes her.

Throughout this journey we see the friendship between Talia and Prince Amir grow. They work together and trust each other to make it through whatever situation they land in. Even when Talia speaks her spirit guide, Red, Prince Amir treats her as a friend would. Red comes to Talia in times of need, provides companionship, and protects Talia.

Red is incredible. I got a bit of an image in my mind the first time Red was mentioned and I feel like the word beautiful doesn’t do how I picture he justice. Even while I’m writing this, I can clearly see her in my head. Red and Talia’s connection is deep and I so badly wanted them to meet in more than the spirit world. Red is going on this journey just as much as Talia and Prince Amir.

What I truly enjoyed was the different take on the tale. Once they come close to finding Aurora Rose, they face different ‘tasks’ (that’s the best way I can describe it). They face Goblins, the dragon and it turns out to be more than goblins and a dragon. They were part of Aurora Rose’s family. It was a bit heart breaking finding out that they had been stuck in those forms, unable to remember who they were for over a century.

The love between Red and Talia is sweet and left me feeling happy and hopeful. I’d love to see what happens after this novella and how the kingdoms fair.

Pre-Order your copy here!

Heroes for Ghosts by Jackie North

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4.5 out of 5 stars!

The Summary: Soulmates across time. A sacrifice that could keep them apart forever.

In present day, near the village of Ornes, France, Devon works on his master’s thesis in history as he fantasizes about meeting a WWI American Doughboy.

In 1916, during the Battle of Ornes, Stanley is a young soldier facing the horrors of the battlefield.

Mourning the death of his friends from enemy fire, Stanley volunteers to bring the message for retreat so he can save everyone else in his battalion. While on his mission, mustard gas surrounds Stanley and though he thinks he is dying, he finds himself in a peaceful green meadow where he literally trips over Devon.

Devon doesn’t believe Stanley is who he says he is, a soldier from WWI. But a powerful attraction grows between them, and if Stanley is truly a visitor from the past, then he is Devon’s dream come true. The problem is, Stanley’s soul wants to finish his mission, and time keeps yanking him back to relive his fateful last morning over and over, even as his heart and body long to stay with Devon.

Will Stanley have to choose between Devon and saving his battalion? Will time betray their love, leaving each alone?

The Review

So you know how I told you guys that I was going to go back and read book one in the Love Across Time series by Jackie North? Well I did and oh my gosh, ya’ll. I’m a huge war history buff. I ended up taking a lot of classes in university and my ultimate goal after I get my Masters in Public History is to get a spot at the WWII Museum in New Orleans. I need you guys to know that research went into this novel. The weapons, the uniform, the locations, the trench warfare was all research and that made my historian heart all giddy with excitement. That tells me how much Jackie North cares about what she writes. She didn’t just fancy it up and hope for the best.

To the main review and away from my rambling …

It’s 1916 during World War I when we meet Stanley. He’s just lost his best friends to and he’s taken on a suicide mission in order to get the full retreat orders. Stanley doesn’t come close to getting the other half of the orders. Instead of dying, he wakes up in the present day location. The battlefield he had just been choking on mustard gas at was now a cemetery/memorial site.

Devon is writing his thesis on the effect that weather had on the 44th Battalion. He’s staying in the cottage at the cemetery/memorial site. He’s been living a pretty lonely life since he started working on his thesis. People don’t understand his excitement or find him boring. It broke my heart, because a lot of grad students go through this exact thing.

Devon was out walking the trenches when Stanley literal trips over him. Devon can’t believe that Stanley traveled through time. Both men feel an immediate attraction to each other, but in Stanley’s time, this was acceptable. Devon shies away from coming on too strong and settled for taking care of Stanley, and being there for him whenever needed.

We learn that Stanley has many regrets from the day he died. If he would have done certain things, people could have made it out.

I was shocked when he went back in time to the war. I knew it was going to happen (because I read book 2 before book 1). I just wasn’t prepared for how much it broke my heart. It hurt knowing that Stanley was going back to those conditions and he wasn’t going to make it out. Then I hurt for Devon, because he lost the one person who seemed to get him as a person.

There are things Stanley has to fix though and he’s not giving up saving his battalion, no matter how much his heart wants to stay in the present with Devon. I swear this was going to end differently and I was going to throw my iPad across the room in despair.

The way they were with each other, gosh, it was just beautifully written. It made me want that sweetness in my life. It made me believe that there is that possibility in the world. It was a gentle, drawn out romance that left me feeling hopeful and happy when I was finished reading.

This is definitely a book I will keep on my bookshelf and go back to time and time again. This was beautifully written and I’m so glad that I found this series. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series!

Get your copy here!

An Interview with Kathryn Sommerlot

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So I may have needed a little more insight into what inspired Kathryn Sommerlot for The Life Siphon Duology. Okay, more like I’m just super nosy and like to see what happens in other authors minds.

 

How did you come to decide on the names you used? It’s obvious that they have meaning, at least one character in particular.  

The names are divided by location, since all the varying kingdoms have their own linguistic commonalities. Runon in particular uses the Japanese phonemes as its base, so all the names use those sounds. Both Yudai and Tatsu are Japanese names. For Chayd, there’s a lot of l’s used, and some sounds that don’t show up in the Runonian language, like the ‘sh’ and ‘sch’ sounds. So you get names like Alesh, Ral, Drel, and Hesch. But I tried to keep them fairly short, because it can be difficult for readers faced with long unknown names, and the shorter ones are usually easier to sound out.

The scenery throughout is extremely rich? Do certain real life elements appear in these settings? 

With the scenery, I tried to use combinations of real life climate zones – like Chayd’s subtropical zone, Runon’s moderate mountain climate, and Joesar’s tropical deserts – and more magical settings I could see in my head, because I wanted them to be a realistic fantasy. The Weeping Forest was based originally off Weeping Willow trees you can see in my home state!

Do you have any upcoming projects we can be on the look out for? 

There is a sequel novel coming for The Life Siphon series that is set in the world with many of the same characters, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to finish that within the year. I’ve also just finished a first draft of an alternative historical fantasy that I’m planning to shop around to agents.

Is there any fun, behind the scene stories you want to share with us from while you were writing this?

It was my beta’s idea to have the trees in Runon laugh and giggle, set up to be the opposite effect the siphon had on areas like the Weeping Forest. Her hand is very visible in the story, and it wouldn’t have been nearly as good without her influence. The importance of having a beta who loves your work as much as you do can’t be overstated.
Want to read more by Kathryn Sommerlot?
She’s got more to read and they are officially on my TBR List. 
Both are available on Amazon and other major retailers.
Ibuki   Roanoke

The Mage Heir by Kathryn Sommerlot

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: Traitor: that’s what Tatsu is now. On the run from both Runon and Chayd, Tatsu and Yudai’s only hope for survival is to disappear into the wilds. However, when the siphon’s deadly curse returns, they have no choice but to travel into the desert kingdom of Joesar in search of a cure.

Battling the unforgiving elements of the sands, Tatsu starts to realize that the path towards destroying the siphon may claim Yudai’s life. Time is running out as Nota’s fury—and the siphon’s hunger—begin to spiral wildly beyond their control.

As their options slowly fall away, the only thing Tatsu and Yudai can count on is each other.

The Review

First let me tell you how excited I was to have both books in my possession when I finished The Life Siphon. I immediately grabbed for The Mage Heir and started reading. There was no way I was going to take a break. I needed to know what was going to happen with Yudai and Tatsu as they separated from Alesh and Ral.

The pair are running from Nota but also looking for a way to help Yudai and the way his magic acts as a siphon, stealing the energy and life of the environment around him.  My absolute favorite part of book two was getting to learn more about Yudai as he regained his strength. Yudai was smart, stubborn, a little frustrating at times, but you could honestly see how much he cared for Tatsu.

Their journey into the desert of Joesar is quiet intense. There were times I felt my mouth go dry from the heat and dryness of the sand. It was dangerous and just when you think they catch a break, they don’t. Poor Tatsu, he had thought they had reached safety and instead ended up suffering from the sting of a scorpion. This is where Yudai and Tatsu’s roles are reversed and Yudai has to help take care of Tatsu.

They took care of and pushed each other on wards during their journey. It wasn’t just one man being the savior. They were both saviors and if you didn’t have one of them, I don’t think you would have gotten the result we did at the end of the book.

My heart raced during certain scenes. My chest ached in others because I was worried about what was going to happen. I became invested in seeing this through. I needed them to come out on top. The settings were just as intense and important as they were in The Life Siphon. I would have been disappointed if they weren’t. I’m glad I wasn’t.

Yudai and Tatsu … Alesh and Ral … You can’t really have one with out the other, can you?

Ral was a wonderful surprise. Like I mentioned in my previous review, I knew there was something special about her. She always had the ability to make it through perilous situations, understand what was happening around her and she’d know what was coming. There was a reason for that and to see her character as not just a sister with a disability, but someone just like you and I, that made me particularly happy. She wasn’t disabled. She saw and experienced the world differently than those around her.

Tatsu chose to do what he could for the betterment of the world around him, even though he risked his own life to do so. To be faced with a decision of that magnitude, not once but twice, and he still chose the same, it made me proud to consider him one of my favorites.

Now for the romance, oh boy. Those kisses. There weren’t sex scenes but it wasn’t needed and wouldn’t have worked in this book. But those kisses. Yudai and Tatsu were gorgeous together and in a world of fairy tales, I would say they were made for each other. They just had to find each other.

If you’re a fan of fantasy novels, grab this duology. It is well worth it. I was able to lose myself in this world and when I was done reading the books, I was satisfied. You know how it is, where you just curl up in bed and let out a pleased sigh while you think about what could happen next for Yudai and Tatsu.

 

Buy it here!

The Life Siphon – Kathryn Sommerlot

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: The kingdom of Runon has created the impossible: a magical energy source that siphons life from the nearby lands and feeds it back into Runon itself. On the edge of the forest lives a quiet ranger named Tatsu who is watching the drain grow closer to his home country of Chayd.

Arrested for crimes against the crown, Tatsu is taken to the capital’s prison, where the queen offers him a deal. If he sneaks into Runon and steals the magical source that powers the drain, she will return his freedom. Caught in the unimaginable aftermath, Tatsu knows that the only hope is to stop the siphon before it swallows the world.

More and more he finds himself at the mercy of the destruction the siphon leaves behind – and everything he has ever known will fall apart in the revelation of its horrifying truth.

The Review

Tatsu has been spent his life in the forest and on the outskirts of Chayd. As an outsider, it’s where he has become most comfortable. It all starts when his childhood friend Alesh winds up on his doorstep, bloodied and exhausted from an illegal venture to earn money. It doesn’t take long before the crown finds her at Tatsu’s house and they both end up imprisoned. The queen offers them a deal in order to retain their freedom: steal the siphon that’s killing the environment and bring it back to Chayd.

They never expected the siphon to turn out to be what it was.

As you track their journey to Runon to acquire the siphon then getting back to the queen, you learn more and more about the kingdoms, characters and the magic of the realm.

One of the things I enjoyed was the fact that I could see their progress in my mind like a movie as I read. The settings and character reactions are extremely vivid from page one. I would love to be able to visit a place as rich as Chayd and Runon are. And the settings were just there in the background. Each setting was a character as well. What I will never forget is how menacing and horrifying the dead forest to be. It still gives me the creeps.

The pacing of this book was a little slow in parts but I found that it didn’t bother me. In fact I was thankful for all the little details I picked up when the rush of an ending hit. Do your self a favor and have The Mage Heir ready. Because that ending, WOW! I stayed up late to finish reading and when I was? It took a bit to calm down enough to fall asleep.

Tatsu was a character that I could really relate to. He is an outsider and isn’t exactly what the rest of his community of Chayd was. He was different and there was so much more to him then what you could see upon first glance. I think that was probably true for all of the characters but I understood Tatsu in a why I didn’t expect to.

Alesh and Ral, a sibling relationship that goes to show you how far you would go to take care of your family. Alesh, she was stubborn to the core but when it came to Ral, she’d do whatever in order to make sure her sister was happy and safe. Ral was enchanting. I knew from the moment we were introduced to her, there was something special about her. I couldn’t wait to figure out who she truly would end up being.

Now, for those of you looking for the M/M romance. It doesn’t appear in The Life Siphon buuuuut there’s book two, The Mage Heir. All that tension has to lead to something, right? If you like fantasy, a journey with a heavy task guiding it, then grab this book. There’s something about the writing that drew me in and made me want to be next to Tatsu, Alesh and Ral.

 

Go buy it here!