Book Review: Bloodwitch


The Blurb

High in a snowy mountain range, a monastery that holds more than just faith clings to the side of a cliff. Below, thwarted by a lake, a bloodthirsty horde of raiders await the coming of winter and the frozen path to destroy the sanctuary and its secrets.

The Bloodwitch Aeduan has teamed up with the Threadwitch Iseult and the magical girl Owl to stop the destruction. But to do so, he must confront his own father, and his past.


*Spoiler warning!*

Read: February 2019

Rating: 5 stars out of 5!

As I mentioned in a previous review, I’ve discovered some amazingly good books (and their attached series) through the “Books Under $2.99” section of the NOOK Store. That’s how I tumbled into the Witchlands series: My poor spending habits and I spotted Truthwitch, looked at each other, and said, “Eh, why the fuck not?” I will admit that I had my trepidations about Truthwitch as I was reading it, but I saw a lot of potential in it and forged on. By the end of the first book, I was completely hooked on the Witchlands series and read the next book, Windwitch, about a month later. It turned out to be even better. And OH MY GOODNESS, BLOODWITCH WAS GOING TO FOCUS ON AEDUAN?!?!? Try as I might to convince myself that I shouldn’t, I preordered it around the holiday season. The day it released, I was glued to my NOOK.

Susan Dennard’s debut series features an intricate system of magic, and with complicated magic systems, there exist greater opportunities for bungling both details and delivery. Witchlands avoids these mistakes: Dennard eschews info-dumping, instead opting to provide information as things crop up. Bloodwitch builds well upon the material of the first two books. In this installment of the series, readers get an even closer look at the mechanics of both regular magic and (*shudder*) Cleaving, and – in what I pictured as a super-intense Monsters, Inc. sequence – our heroes utilize a set of magic doorways between numerous locations (many of which are apparently very near to the Origin Wells). Those of you who are history/geography buffs won’t be disappointed either, since Bloodwitch‘s setting explores even more of the Witchlands. Although Safi and Vaness have actually made it to Azmir, Aeduan and Iseult – along with their headstrong charge, Owl, and her monstrous mountain bat, Blueberry – are still en route to the Carawen Monastery in the Sirmayan Mountains, and Merik has been whisked away to Ponzin. The variation in setting throughout the story will satisfy your inner adventurer and fend off setting fatigue. And the complex plot will make you anything but bored: There’s plenty of action and big reveals to keep you entertained.

The character development in Bloodwitch is top-notch. I’m gonna be honest: I didn’t like Safi’s character all that much at the beginning of the series. But she really has grown on me as she herself has grown, and now I love her. While she may not be clever in the way that Iseult is, she has proven to be smart in her own right. When Vaness’s birthday celebration devolves into a complete and dangerous fiasco, Safi’s leadership skills step to the fore as she reasserts her autonomy and helps Vaness escape. In Lovats, Vivia is stepping into a new leadership role as Queen-in-Waiting, but her opponents – including her own manipulative father, King Serafin  – have no qualms about stomping on her toes to curb her ascent. Vivia eventually realizes that she doesn’t need her father and that she needs to make her own decisions rather than constantly submitting to him. Meanwhile, Iseult continues to take initiative and have confidence in her snap judgments. Owl too evolves from being an overpowered mega-brat (get it? It’s a pun on “mega-bat”… Never mind) with a contrarian attitude problem. Slowly but surely, she emerges from her shell to befriend Iseult and proves herself unfalteringly loyal to her friends, even if she is still obstinate.

Obviously, though, this book focuses most on Aeduan’s internal journey, and his redemption arc is a powerful one. For more than a decade, Aeduan has been plagued with guilt and self-loathing. In Bloodwitch, readers gain an in-depth comprehension of why. The long and short of it is that Aeduan’s childhood traumas caused him to brand himself as a monster, and this view of himself allowed him to justify his unquestioning loyalty to his father, even when Ragnor’s orders were patently immoral. By the end of Bloodwitch, Aeduan has learned to forgive himself and that there is a path towards salvation for him.

And finally, the romance. God, the romance. Throughout Bloodwitch, Dennard continues to build upon the romantic tension between Aeduan and Iseult, culminating in the implication that they are Heart-Threads. At the end of the book, Aeduan has been separated from Iseult but vows to find her, and all I can say is that I am so ready for that journey back to each other. Just let my OTP be together. (Side note: Does anyone else spy a blossoming romance between Vaness and Vivia?)

Here I am at the end of this review and there are so many things that I haven’t touched on, simply because I can’t do them justice. Bloodwitch has more than earned its place on my Favorites and Cream-of-the-Crop shelves, and I enthusiastically recommend the Witchlands series to any fantasy fanatic. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for Book Four!

Book Review: Beasts of the Frozen Sun


The Blurb

Burn brightly. Love fiercely. For all else is dust.

Every child of Glasnith learns the last words of Aillira, the god-gifted mortal whose doomed love affair sparked a war of gods and men, and Lira of clan Stone knows the story better than most. As a descendant of Aillira and god-gifted in her own right, she has the power to read people’s souls, to see someone’s true essence with only a touch of her hand.

When a golden-haired warrior washes up on the shores of her homeland-one of the fearful marauders from the land of the Frozen Sun-Lira helps the wounded man instead of turning him in. After reading his soul, she realizes Reyker is different than his brethren who attack the coasts of Glasnith. He confides in her that he’s been cursed with what his people call battle-madness, forced to fight for the warlord known as the Dragon, a powerful tyrant determined to reignite the ancient war that Aillira started.

As Lira and Reyker form a bond forbidden by both their clans, the wrath of the Dragon falls upon them and all of Glasnith, and Lira finds herself facing the same tragic fate as her ancestor. The battle for Lira’s life, for Reyker’s soul, and for their peoples’ freedom has only just begun…


Read: March 2019

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

*Thank you to Edelweiss+ for the free digital ARC.*

When I first began reading Jill Criswell’s debut novel, I really wasn’t certain that I was going to love it. Beasts of the Frozen Sun was… just fine, for maybe the first third of the book. But I was well rewarded for reading on. 

This book’s biggest flaw is that the non-main characters simply didn’t feel as animated to me as they should have. Some character introductions and the subsequent interactions with other characters seem a bit abrupt. Quinlan, for instance, is introduced as Lira’s close male friend and someone whom Lira might or might not have feelings for, even though Lira does not mention him until his first physical appearance. Criswell often consigns minor characters brimming with potential to the sidelines, but I hope she will expand their roles in the next book. Right now it feels like she’s focusing so intently on Reyker and Lira that she’s skimping slightly on the other characters. Paying them some mind would, in my opinion, render this tale more colorful.

That’s not to say that the characters are unlikable, or that the main characters are uninteresting – just that there’s room for growth (and perhaps that’s what Criswell has planned for the sequel). While Reyker, a complicated warrior from Iseneld, embarks on a poignant and heart-wrenching redemption arc, Glasnithian Lira grapples with the societal constraints foisted upon her as both a young woman and a god-gifted individual and battles against the guilt she feels over the death of her mother several years prior. Lira’s elder brother, Garreth, proves to be noble and clever – and something of a maverick with a surprise up his sleeve, and Quinlan is a treasure – both as a friend and as a human being.

Although the lore of Criswell’s world isn’t complex, it’s not overly simple either – and that moderation suits this story. Likewise, Criswell is even-handed with her imagery: she doesn’t catapult her readers into a choppy sea of detail, but she provides enough for a reader to conceptualize the surroundings to a satisfactory degree. As far as the romance goes, this is one whirlwind love story. Despite the occasional over-gooeyness, Criswell executes the enemies-to-lovers trope well. Readers will find themselves invested in Reyker and Lira’s blossoming relationship and riveted by the parallels between their love and that of Aillira and the Great Betrayer. And at the end, the villain divulges a revelation that not only sheds a new light on his character but also leaves them bursting with questions.

Beasts of the Frozen Sun might not be a masterpiece, but it’s a solid beginning to Criswell’s series. I had some difficulty tackling the first portion of the book, but that hump was not insurmountable and the story ended up being entertaining. Adrienne Young’s Sky in the Deep has found its kin in Beasts of the Frozen Sun: If you read and enjoyed the former, I enjoin you to pick up the latter (which I’d argue is better).

You can purchase Beasts of the Frozen Sun at Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, Indigo, and Amazon. 

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Book Review: Alien Minds


The Blurb

On my seventeenth birthday, I wake up in the hospital to find I just survived a sketchy but terrible accident. My parents stand by my bedside—both are beautiful, wealthy, and super-nice. They tell me that once I leave the hospital, I’ll attend the prestigious ECHO Academy, where I’ll churn out equations for the government along with my mega-smart peers.

So, I’m living the perfect life.

Then why does everything feel all wrong?

My parents, my house and even ECHO Academy…none of it fits. Plus, what’s up with Thorne, my brooding yet yummy classmate who keeps telling me I need to remember my true past, which seems to have included a lot of us kissing? That’s one thing I’d really like to remember, except for the fact that I’m pretty sure Thorne is hiding a ton of nasty secrets of his own, including the fact that he may not be from this world. But considering how my own past seems alien to me, it’s not like I can judge. Plus, Thorne has dimples. That’s a problem.

And worst of all, why does it feel so yucky to work on these calculations for the government? It’s all supposed to be part of ECHO, but my heart tells me that I’m helping something truly terrible come to pass. Thorne seems to think that kissing him again will release my real memories.

Maybe it’s time to pucker up.


Read: March 2019

Rating: 1 star out of 5

*Thank you to Edelweiss+ for the free digital ARC.*

Honestly, I expected little from Christina Bauer’s Alien Minds – and this book lived up to my expectations. I plowed through Alien Minds quickly, simply because it was tedious and jejune and I wanted to be done with it. 

Alien Minds plays host to a plethora of flaws, least of which is the sloppy editing. Although the writing is legible, Bauer’s strong suit clearly does not lie in grammar and spelling conventions, nor does her editor’s strength lie in noticing and correcting them. Several words are missing letters, have their letters transposed, or contain letters that transform them into different words altogether. Take, for example, Meimi yammering into her “smart witch” (smart watch) and explaining her “thughts” (thoughts) to the reader, and Thorne’s name being spelled “Throne” at one point in the book. Errors like that, while obvious, are easy enough to parse out, but missing or jumbling words in sentences are more difficult to deal with. 

Bauer also has a penchant for doling out the wrong amount of detail for the wrong subjects. Lush imagery and meticulously crafted lore are well and good, but it seems to me that Bauer gives more thorough descriptions of trivialities like clothing and appearances than of more important aspects of her story, particularly background information. Yes, I know Meimi is suffering from amnesia. Yes, I understand that some things will be left out as a result. That said, Bauer frequently just dumps readers into a scene, blathers about the sartorial choices of nearby characters or what color the walls are, decides, “Fuck it!” and then careens onward through her haphazardly assembled plot. To make matters worse, she tends to gracelessly insert information, frequently at inappropriate points in a scene. These interruptions compound with negligible buildup to events, adversely affecting the flow of the story overall. (Side note: In a futuristic science fantasy novel, never use the word “modern” when describing architecture. No one knows what “modern” means in the context of two-and-a-half centuries in the future.)

The characters themselves have little appeal. Characterization is anemic from the start, and there’s little character development to remedy that. Meimi is purportedly an adroit scientist, but readers don’t really get to experience her problem-solving – they just see the results. She’s portrayed as a perfect girl, a state of being established less by actions and events and more by statements about Meimi. Furthermore, Meimi is the queen of patent observations. More than several times she notes something completely obvious in the stupidest way possible. Thorne, her extraterrestrial love interest, isn’t a huge improvement. The son of an alien emperor, Thorne’s character centers around being in love with Meimi and dealing with his daddy issues, but mostly around being in love with Meimi. In fact, Thorne’s callow, near-constant exultation of Meimi is a major irritant. Thorne also has a creepy habit of smelling Meimi. Not catching a whiff of her scent in passing and remarking that she smells nice, but legit purposefully sniffing her. And when you sleep next door to someone, even if you’re concerned about their safety, it’s definitely obsessive to sleep on the floor directly in front of the door, not to mention imprudent. What if Meimi tries to run from danger and she opens his door and trips over him? Just sayin’. Their instalove romance is dull and moves way too fast. In one scene, while Meimi is still suffering from amnesia, Thorne purchases undergarments for her. Slow the fuck down, dude, she only kinda remembers you. Thorne is also overprotective of Meimi and, much to my vexation, calls her “my girl” about one million times throughout the book; Meimi, meanwhile, repeatedly chooses the term “yummy” to describe Thorne. This romance is so contrived that it would be fitting for Thorne to forgo the rose bouquet and instead gift Meimi an entire fucking bushel of corn. 

So much of the story focuses on instalove that the supporting characters are glossed over, and the antagonists aren’t well-constructed either. Zoe and Chloe Fine are useful but only superficially entertaining; the Hollow’s backstory is glossed over. Vargas, a Merciless soldier charged with marking society outcasts for execution – often with the unwilling aid of his poor Pokemon, Marro – is little more than a death-hungry lech with muscles and a pea brain. Dr. Godwin is basically the alternate-dimension Dr. Doofenshmirtz: he’s genuinely evil but completely cheesy and absolutely not subtle.

When all is said and done, I wouldn’t read this book again, nor would I recommend it. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have read it in the first place if it hadn’t been free. It’s definitely not my cup of tea, but if Alien Minds is yours, by all means, please read it.

You can also read this review on Goodreads:

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Flash Book Review: The Last Namsara


The Blurb

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm.

When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.


Read: August 2018
Rating: 5 stars out of 5, A++++

I’ve found some terrible books on the “Books Under $2.99” section of the NOOK store. (For an example, see my review of The Crown’s Game.) Kristen Ciccarelli’s The Last Namsara is definitely not one of them. I forked over my $1.99 and promptly started reading, and holy crap, I could not put it down. I’m going to try to stay as spoiler-free as possible because I really, really want you to read this book. (I’ll be posting a spoilers-included review soon.)

This book is blessed with wonderful characters and excellent character development. Characters experience not just external conflicts but internal conflicts as well. Racial and ethnic discrimination are underlying themes of the story: The skral are enslaved by the draksors, whom they once attempted to conquer, and tensions are high between the draksors and their distant relatives, the scrublanders. Asha and Dax’s cousin, Safire, is half-skral, and the cultural attitudes and social protocols pertaining to skral-draksor interaction hinder her relationship with Asha.

Ciccarelli presents the lore of her world in a graceful manner. She provides detail in moderation – not too little, not too much – and doles out information in manageable, unobtrusive quantities. Interspersed between Asha’s chapters are vignettes that allow the reader to glimpse mythologies and past events that not only flesh out Firgaard but also have significant bearing on the plot of the story.

The Last Namsara has a compelling plot, and its whirlwind pacing fits perfectly. Even the “downtime” is interesting. Despite the plot’s breakneck speed, Ciccarelli still gives readers the space to generate questions and formulate predictions before the big events/reveals. And oh, don’t get me started on the plot twists or the romance!

I was stunned by just how much I loved this book. As soon as I completed it, I promptly preordered its sequel, The Caged Queen. Both are completely worthy of their spots on my Favorites shelf. If dragons, wholesome relationships, and strong female characters are your thing, pick this book up now.

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Book Review: The Crown’s Game


The Blurb

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know.  The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love, or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.


Spoilers ahead!

Rating: 1 star out of 5

I’d been contemplating reading Circle of Shadows, the newest Evelyn Skye novel, but I wanted to test the waters by reading another of her books first. I found The Crown’s Game on sale in the NOOK store for $1.99, so I snapped it up. In a way, I’m glad I did, because reading The Crown’s Game ultimately prevented me from wasting considerably more money on Circle of Shadows.

I could use the phrase “dumpster fire” to describe this book, but that’s really not fitting: Dumpster fires at least entail vaguely interesting events. The Crown’s Game is easily one of the dullest books I’ve ever read – even duller than any novel in the Twilight series. It’s no compliment to say that Stephanie Meyer did a better job world-building. Evelyn Skye exerted such negligible effort on world-building that her tale barely squeaks into the historical fantasy genre, giving more of the feel of historical fanfiction with magic tossed in for shits and giggles. The magic originates from some spring or fountain or some bullshit that apparently pays attention to arbitrary geopolitical boundaries and nationality. And excluding faith healers and a couple of magical creatures, the latter of whom are only mentioned in passing, there are only four known characters in Russia with the magic, and two of them monopolize most of it. Since both competitors possess gargantuan supplies of the magic, the result is a pair of stupidly overly-powerful heroes.

Skye is just as bad at inventing plots as she is at world-building. Expect no real action or intrigue from Crown’s Game. The game itself is nothing more than an unstructured magical pissing contest, and Skye fails to leave enough to the imagination to keep readers hooked. There’s no nefarious plot running beneath the surface, there’s no tension or suspense; it’s just a fight for who gets to be the tsar’s chief suck-up and who gets to die, and the two competitors falling in love. Sigh.

The characters are breathtakingly boring. If you played the Wii Fit obstacle course game, you probably remember what a pain in the ass it was to avoid those logs, lest your Mii be comically flattened. Clearly the Crown’s Game’s characters played this game and lost spectacularly, because damn, are they dimensionally challenged. Though it’s not Vika’s fault that Pasha worshipfully describes her in a manner that is utterly vomit-inducing, it is Vika’s fault for failing to demonstrate that she is anything more than an insipid, gorgeous magical girl anime reject. She has pretty red hair with a black streak in it and can generate an entire island with her mind. She misses her dad. She’s pretty. She’s powerful. Did I mention she’s pretty? The way Vika blathers on about how attractive Nikolai is implies that she’s never seen a boy before (even though that’s probably not true). Spare me the agony.

Scarcely surpassing the sentience of a doorknob, Nikolai might as well have been a giant Russian Ken doll. His thoughts mostly consist of dreamily imagining banging Vika, hawing over not wanting to kill her, and attempting to concoct a contest-winning plan. When a woman in a semi-zombified state shows up out of the blue – alleging to be his mother, no less – Nikolai is relatively unperturbed. His strongest reaction is his revulsion over how dreadful Aizhana smells. Come on. Even if you live in a world steeped in magic, if a shambling, malodorous corpse lady appears and claims to be your dead mommy, you should shit yourself, at least a little bit. If all you can do is complain about is the foul stench, you desperately need help. When he walks into the Enchanted Hollow, a goddam cave, his thought is, “So this is why it’s called the Enchanted Hollow.” You’re a little slow on the uptake, pal. Reading this particular line evokes thoughts of that iCarly scene where Kurt, the cute but dumb (fired) intern, rides the elevator and then breathes in awe, “This is an elevator.” And really, that captures Nikolai’s essence – the hot but moronic guy who should be fired before he ruins the world. I half-expected him to pop into a scene with a plastic bag of lemonade.

Pasha isn’t much better. Like Nikolai, he too obsesses over Vika to a degree that seriously annoyed me, as a reader stuck in his head. (What I can say is that Pasha, as nauseatingly pesky as his crush-related thoughts are, isn’t a complete creep. For instance, he refrains from kissing Vika while she is asleep because he does not want to disrespect/violate her.) Unlike Nikolai, however, he exhibits some intellectual curiosity and later undergoes a considerable personality change; unfortunately, this shift is such an about-face that its effect comes off less as character development and more as a rancorous temper tantrum.

There’s little to say for the remaining characters. Renata merely serves to upgrade the love triangle to a love web. Ludmila is Vika’s plump, middle-aged sidekick, who effectively fills the role of a lame-ass Molly Weasley: a source of tasty baked goodies and motherly love, minus the tough fierceness that makes Molly so endearing. Pasha’s sister, Yuliana, functions as the impetus behind the Crown’s Game, urging her father to commence the contest, but Tsar Alexander is such an unpleasant dickbag that no other scapegoat for starting the game is truly required, rendering Yuliana obsolete. At virtually every given opportunity, he goes out of his way to be rude, condescending, or snappish. During his spiel about the rules of the game, Vika interrupts him as respectfully as possible to inquire about why one Enchanter must die at the end of the game, and Alexander acts as if she’s expressed the desire to hit him in the testicles repeatedly with a large stick. He can’t even muster the patience or sympathy to answer a valid question posed by a competitor – a teenager, mind you – in a fatal contest to be the tsar’s magical toady. When Vika arrives at the ball in her fabulous dress, the tsar snidely remarks that she should “take care not to become too enamored of the tsarevich” because “it will require more than a showy gown to be worthy.” Damn it, dude, she just told you that she fashioned her clothes herself. Would it kill you to just toss out some platitude or another? Honestly, I pity Tsarina Elizabeth – she deserves so much better than Alexander. Sergei’s role is just being Vika’s mentor/father figure and an eventual sacrifice; Sergei’s bitchy sister, Galina, is a fucking psychopath who forces Nikolai to kill animals that she put in his bedroom and doesn’t miss a chance to remind him of his “low birth”. And if you’re holding out for a decent villain, don’t bother: Despite being one of the more interesting characters, Aizhana is just a vengeful zombie who boasts a typhus-riddled black tongue (I kid you not), long fingernails, and a festering grudge. That’s pretty much it.

And just what the fuck is this sentence structure?! The writing is clunky, awkward, and the cause of many an eye-roll. For example: “Nikolai shook his head at the beauty of Bolshebnoie Duplo.” This is an actual sentence in a published book not written for fourth-graders. This is an actual sentence in a published book that is presumably not written by a fourth-grader. I have read and enjoyed books with similar writing flaws, but the other elements of the book compensated for them. Obviously, nothing in The Crown’s Game does.

This clumsy delivery pervades the romance of the book too. In yet another nightmare sentence, Pasha gushes about this gorgeous girl (Vika), whom he spotted from a distance the other day:

“She has red hair, like the most hypnotizing part of a flickering flame, and her voice is both melodic and unflinching.”

Ew, gross, no, stop. You’re embarrassing yourself, Pasha. You heard her speak but three sentences from a distance and now you can describe her voice like that? Not only does this further paint Vika as a Mary Sue, but it also just makes Pasha look like a pompous ass. This sort of florid diction is typically reserved for Lord Byron’s poetry. And then, when Pasha hops back on the boat back to St. Petersburg, Skye writes, “He murmured, ‘Vika,’ to himself, more than once.” Oh. My. God. By this point, I can safely say that Pasha acts like Ron Weasley under the influence of Romilda Vane’s love potion. J.K. Rowling at least had the courtesy to cure Ron of his sorry state by within the chapter; Skye’s characters, on the other hand, continue this behavior throughout Crown’s Game. I can’t pick on just Pasha, not when Vika serves up internal monologues like this one:

“It was as if the attempts to kill her faded into the background, and now she saw the truth at the core of it all: Nikolai’s magic was gorgeous and powerful and… and… Her lungs faltered. Even the mere memory of his magic was so strong. And touching Nikolai, even through her gloves and his sleeve, was like being pummeled by a stampede of wild horses. No, wild unicorns. Beautiful, wild unicorns.”

He’s the other enchanter, and she’s just now figured out that he’s powerful? Also, does she want to fuck him or his magic? If you think Nikolai contributes nothing to this travesty of romance, you’re quite wrong: “He had thought, during the mazurka, that they’d had something. Their touch had both frenzied and frozen the ballroom. Their breathing had synchronized, heatedly.” I could find more examples but I really don’t want to, since I prefer not vomiting.

Skye spends so much time on saccharine pseudo-poetry that she skimps on meaningful interactions between characters, particularly those involved in the two pairings we the readers are supposed to choose between. One carriage ride and a ballroom dance with Vika, whom he’s only known for a couple of weeks, and he thinks he’s so in love with her that when he discovers Nikolai’s identity as the second enchanter and that Nikolai is “in love” with Vika too, he feels betrayed enough to pit the two of them – his best friend and the girl he supposedly loves – against each other in a battle to the death. Nikolai and Vika’s encounters consist of either one attempting to murder the other, often with a crowd of bystanders within view, or gazing longingly into each other’s eyes. Although Vika does have a sweet mother-daughter scene with Ludmila, and Sergei and Galina seem to reach some kind of reconciliation before the former dies, character-to-character interactions are generally superficial and unanimated.

In the end, whether you subject yourself to the agony of reading this book is up to you. Personally, I think it might be less time-consuming to purchase a bottle of high fructose corn syrup from the grocery store, go home, and drink the entire fucker in one sitting. You’d get the same bland, over-sweet experience from whichever one you choose. As for me, I won’t be reading another book of Evelyn Skye’s. I’ve had enough literary corn syrup to last me a lifetime.

You can also read this review on my Goodreads account: <https://>.

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