Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

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Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Harford, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.

Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.

Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she’s just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…

THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

What an enchanting read!  I was very pleasantly surprised by the maturity and depth of Ghost Talkers.  It’s a story about love and patriotism and letting go and standing tall.  I loved the backdrop of WWI Europe and the vivid world of the Spirit Corps, but Ginger was what made it all come alive.  She was a brilliant main character and I thoroughly enjoyed her story.

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

So, like…it was fine.  It didn’t live up to the hype but it didn’t utterly fail me, either.  It was engaging, the characters were interesting, the world was cool, but I just didn’t find myself particularly engaged at any point.  Like an “okay” first date, there was nothing wrong that I could put my finger on, but there was no…spark.  For this reason, I probably won’t be continuing with the series.

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The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…

With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Never thought I’d give a book in this series anything less than a 5/5 but good lord if that ending didn’t just ruin the whole thing. I loved everything right up until the last chapter. That last chapter made me question the existence of this entire series, this series I loved so much. I still love it, but I feel I’ll have to love it without that last chapter, like cutting out an ex-boyfriend from an old picture.

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Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.

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Sequels are notorious for their potential for falling short, but Erika Johansen, despite this being only the second book under her belt, is not a novice.  She not only successfully maintained the brilliance of her first book without rehashing, but she went beyond the boundaries of her first book and explored different aspects of her characters and world, ultimately creating a beautiful second installment. Continue reading

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom’s haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea’s forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen’s Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen’s vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen’s Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as “the Fetch.”

Kelsea’s quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea’s journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.

THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Thank the Lord for Erika Johansen.  I’d been despairing slightly about the state of fantasies lately, until I stumbled upon this gem.  As I understand it, this is her first novel, and good grief, am I not torn between admiration and envy.  Erika Johansen accomplished so much within 500 pages.  Everything about The Queen of the Tearling seemed effortless–except for the characters’ journeys, of course.  The writing seemed to disappear as I read, and the characters came to life, all little 3D reliefs against the backdrop of this beautifully imagined world. Continue reading