Albert Einstein tells us that “Imagination is everything.” The fantasy novels of winter 2016/2017 contain heart, love, and plenty of imagination.
Indelible by Adelia Saunders
Indelible by Adelia Saunders is the story of Magdalena, and Richard and Neil and how their fates intertwine. Magdalena sees people’s lives literally written on their skin. As a child, the sentences looked like funny markings but she can still remember when she first learned to read and blurted a horrible truth to her teacher. She was delighted when her vision blurred at a young age and uses her glasses only when absolutely necessary. Her battered shins may hate her but her soul, at least, finds a certain peace in this solution. When Richard sends a Christmas present to her mom, he uses his son Neil as a carrier. Magdalena is happy to pick up the package but less delighted when she is forced to put on her glasses and sees her own name clearly on his skin. What can that mean?
An interesting take on how magical gifts can come with high prices, Indelible offers a slow burn romance within a literary fantasy/paranormal novel.
Memorable moment: When Neil and Magdalena meet:
Suddenly, she leaned in, looking right at him with strange intensity. Either he had something on his face or she was going to kiss him. Neil thought he might pass out. But instead she smiled, like something there had pleased her.
One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews
Easily my favorite of the past few month’s novels is One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews. Dina DeMille runs an intergalactic Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas. Of course, her neighbors have no idea that her guests tend to be werewolves, despots, and vampires from galaxies far, far away and she likes it like that. But when her sister sends a renegade Ku with an SOS message and then Dina finds herself hosting the Hiru, with the murderous Draziri on their tail, she finds that her anonymity may just be harder to maintain then she thought. Good thing she has the help of werewolf love interest Sean Evans to get through this adventure safely because this latest peril may just be a bit too much for even her considerable magical powers.
Sean and Dina are a fantastic couple, everyone in the inn is a delight to be around and the addition of some new, terrific secondary characters makes this third book in the Innkeeper series a must read. Expect a resolution to the love triangle and a new love interest for one of the primary players. And naturally, be prepared for laughter, thrills, chills and magic!
Memorable moment: When a spaceship awakens half the block, Sean and Dina are caught in slight dishabille at two in the morning, right outside the inn. Sean, a close neighbor of Dina, claims he just happened to be jogging by. Their other neighbor doesn’t buy it.
Mr. Ramirez looked at Sean and me one last time and smiled. “Good luck with your jogging.” No. He didn’t just wish Sean and I happy jogging. I shut my eyes tight for a second. “You okay?” Sean asked. “Jogging?” I squeezed through clenched teeth. “That’s the best you could come up with?” “What else was I supposed to tell him? He isn’t going to believe that I woke up out of a dead sleep, got dressed, and ran four hundred yards here in the time it took him to go downstairs and open the door.” “He thinks we’re sleeping together.” “So what if we are? We’re adults last time I checked.” “Tomorrow he’ll talk to Margaret and by afternoon the whole subdivision will be talking about our 'jogging'. I’ll be fielding rumors and questions for a week. I don’t like attention, Sean. It’s bad for my business.” Sean smiled. Ugh. I turned around. “Come inside.” “You sure?” He was grinning now. “People might get the wrong idea.”
Nine of Stars by Laura Bickle
Nine of Stars is Laura Bickle’s third book starring alchemist/geologist Petra Dee. Temperance, Wyoming may look like a sleepy western town but just beneath the surface lies powerful magic. Petra’s faced her share of dark horrors while battling the nastier denizens of this community but she encounters something new – and lethal – in this latest adventure. The situation is especially scary since Petra’s partner Gabe is now mortal and in the cross hairs of the town’s new sheriff. The man is convinced Gabe holds the secrets to an unsolved case and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to find out the truth.
Hailed as “Longmire meets Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson” this is the perfect read for those who like their westerns mixed with the occult.
Memorable moment: The wedding kiss.
She leaned forward on tiptoe to kiss him. This felt good, it felt right. He reached down to touch her face, and he was shining. He tucked the amaryllis flower behind her ear, and she grinned as he tried to negotiate the unwieldy stem into her hair.
Gilded Cage by Vic James
Gilded Cage by Vic James places us in an alternate reality where a revolution in 1642 England has resulted in the Slavedays Compact. This treaty means that “Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.” Abi’s family determines to do their time together, serving on the estate of Kyneston, home of the powerful Jardine family. It is an accepted fact that the surest way to survive service is to keep your head down and play dumb but brilliant, talented Abi finds feigned ignorance a difficult act, especially in front of Jenner Jardine.
This alternate reality fantasy is scary, engaging, and engrossing. The first in a new series it leaves us longing for book two.
Memorable moment: The meeting between Jenner and Abi.
Her words died behind her lips when she looked at Jenner Jardine. Not from a distance on his horse, or with one eye on her indiscreet little sis, but properly at him.
He had warm brown eyes and coppery hair. His face was dusted all over with freckles, and though his mouth was wider than usual in a man, it was balanced by strong cheekbones. Abi took in all these details, yet none of them really registered. She felt giddy again. Felt naked again. And it didn’t leave her cold. No, not cold at all.
The Edge of the Blade by Jeffe Kennedy
The Edge of the Blade by Jeffe Kennedy is book two in her new Uncharted Realms series, the fifth dealing with the world of the Twelve Kingdoms. Jepp has always been fearless, whether she was taking a new lover to bed or facing down an enemy with her knives. But when she finds herself replacing the ambassador to Danaria after a disastrous negotiation with an island king, she feels her first inkling of being out of her depth. Fortunately, Prince Kral of Dasnaria is happy to help in any way he can, especially since alone time with Jepp is one of his very favorite activities.
Continuing the story surrounding the jewel known as the Star of Annfwn, this tale of adventure and romance is sure to please fans of this series.
Memorable moment: Jepp doing some sexual teasing during an argument with Kral.
“I seem to recall,” I echoed him, pursing my lips as in in thought, “that you had me on more than my back. You had me any number of ways – on my stomach, on all fours, on your back. . . Tell me, lover, which was your favorite?”
We hadn’t closed any distance but it felt like we had, the heat thickening, the cool morning air. Oh, yeah, that got to him. He didn’t shift to adjust his arousal, but he wanted to. I let my eyes linger there and smirked. Then blew him a little kiss.
Enveloping Shadows by Lauren D. M. Smith
Enveloping Shadows by Lauren D. M. Smith pairs a princess’s body guard with a handsome, magical stranger. Terrwyn had paid little attention to the rumors that circulated through their land regarding the dark arts and dangerous beasts that were the hallmarks of the forests that bordered their country. As a warrior, she deals in hard realities, like how to keep Her Highness Aricia safe. But when a dark shadow snatches the princess from the supper table right under her nose, she realizes she is going to have to alter her thinking a bit. Zelek, shrouded in mystery and with magic of his own, becomes her strongest ally in braving the deadly woods where the princess is being held hostage. But what awaits them in that dark and dangerous place?
Love, of course. A fantasy tale full of surprises and perils, this book is perfect for fans of Jeffe Kennedy, Grace Draven or Amanda Bouchet.
Memorable moment: That swoon-worthy scene where Zelek reassures Terrwyn that she is perfect just the way she is.
She grabbed the hem of her shirt and held it down. That had him popping his head up, heavy-lidded eyes meeting hers, face creased with confusion. Terrwyn flushed, but she had to explain if she wanted things to progress. And she very much did want them to progress. “I – I’m not . . .dainty,” she said, voice cracking slightly. “I have scars and trained for years, so I’m not exactly like most other girls and –“
He cut her off with a quick kiss. “I don’t care. Besides,” he said, smiling, “scars are a sign of courage.”
Nobody’s Pawn by Amy McNulty
Love and hate power strong magic in Amy McNulty’s Nobody’s Pawn, the third book in her The Never Veil series. Noll’s village has been under a strange curse, one in which she plays a crucial role. She believes she has overcome the problem and now, determined to live life on her own terms, she accepts that she and the lord who is bound to her are better without each other. Easier said than done. When new problems arise in their land the two must work together to find the solution.
A rare fantasy novel that stars people of color, this tale of love, sacrifice and forgiveness is a charming YA love story. Be sure to read the full series, starting with Nobody’s Goddess.
Memorable moment: When Noll realizes that love doesn’t mean sacrificing freedom.
I reached up and where I expected to feel nothing, my fingers brushed against soft petals. I bent over to look at my reflection in the water. A crown fit for a queen rested atop the thick black hair I once found so difficult to tame— hair that was far longer now than I remembered. When had it grown so long? Was that part of the magic, too? I felt like it was. That it was a sign that I was no longer just nobody’s goddess or nobody’s lady— the girl who cut her hair when she wanted to be left alone. I was no longer alone, but I was nobody’s pawn. My tresses looked wild even now, but it suited the crown. It suited the woman who looked up at me.
A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
My very favorite read of 2016 was A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. Spindle, her newest novel, is gently tied to that tale.
Long ago the story teller queen saved the world by banishing a dangerous demon and his cohorts. Now the prison which holds the dangerous jinn horde is weakening and a new power has slithered forth, intent on destroying mankind. It had been a spinner who banished them from the world before and using a strong, sinister spell the demon binds the power of the spindle to the life of the princess. More, any who spin develop the lung sickness, which steals the very breath from their body. Yashaa has come to hate the young princess Rose who through no fault of her own has brought hard times upon his family. Once they made the cloth that dressed kings. Now they sit at a foreign cross road, his mother dying of the spinner’s sickness and his family all but starving in this new place. When his mother sends him to find them a new home, he goes instead to their old one, determined to fix the curse over their land once and for all, even if it means killing the young girl who has taken everything from him. But they will not be saved by hate, but by love.
This retelling of Sleeping Beauty places the tale in Arabia and provides us with a feisty, strong version of a girl who is most famous for lying around doing nothing. A truly fascinating take on an ancient fable.
Memorable moment: First kiss between Yashaa and his princess: Awkward, teenage and wonderful
And then she kissed me, full on the mouth.
Wearing shoes, the Little Rose stood at eye level with my chin. To kiss me, she had to stand on her toes and propel herself forward and upward. I was not at all prepared for this sort of attack, which pulled me away from my center of balance and onto my heels, but I did manage to catch her before she overbalanced us both or caused us to fall through the screen and into the well. Her nose pressed against mine, and she stepped on my foot.
Heartstone by Elle Katharine White
Heartstone by Elle Katharine White offers us an exciting new spin on Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice. The world Aliza Bentaine inhabits is a dangerous one, full of lamias, direwolves, banshees and gryphons. The last are especially dangerous and much to her sorrow, Aliza learned this firsthand through the death of her sister. When Lord Merybourne hires Riders to destroy the horde, Aliza is delighted. Her family will once more dwell in safety. She is less thrilled when she meets Alastair Daried, a rather haughty – but handsome! – man whose family line has long included dragon riders, a point of no small pride for them. Like Elizabeth and Darcy, Aliza and Daried have a witty, romantic battle of wills on their path to true love.
Memorable moment: The “I Love You”:
I took his good hand. He was trembling, or perhaps I was. Maybe we both were.
“I do,” I said. “I love you, Alastair.”
And then, because I'd fought through dragonfire and death and knew at last what courage looked like, I kissed him.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about fire. I'd smelled it, touched it, almost tasted it, but for all that, I had no idea. This was the fire that bound the Daired bloodline to dragonkind. Love, and passion, and wildness - all burned in that single touch, searing my lips even as it seared my soul.
Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier
Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier is the third book in the Blackthorn and Grim series. When Blackthorn agrees to help the queen’s latest ward, she has no idea of the dangerous adventure that will be sparked by their meeting. Young Cara is a creature of wind and wood, happiest in the wild. The court is no safe place for such a girl. But there is dark magic around her and dark secrets in her past and all who know her will be caught up in them.
This series combines old legends with fresh twists to deliver something new and fantastical. Ms. Marillier is an excellent writer of magical stories and delivers a slow, steady romance between Grim and Blackthorn that comes to a sweet denouement in this novel.
Memorable moment: The moment that Blackthorn finally accepts she and Grim are more than just buds.
He was right. Even before that night, what was between us had been far more than simple friendship. It had already grown into the kind of bond I had thought never to form again. Unless I decided to turn my back on him and walk away, or send him into his own exile and break both our hearts, we were a pair forever. And if that was so, there seemed no reason not to enjoy everything that pairing had to offer.
“You know,” I said, “that it won’t all be easy going from here on. Trouble will keep finding us. Puzzles and traps and enemies, uncanny problems and worldly ones too. It’s the nature of things. We’ll always have battles to fight. We’ll always need to take risks and put ourselves in danger. Someone asked me if I wanted the hermit’s path or the warrior’s path. I think ours is the warrior’s path. Even though we seem to be . . .settling down.”
“I’ll go on any path you want,” Grim said.
Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
Amanda Bouchet’s Breath of Fire continues the tale begun in A Promise of Fire and delivers more romance between Griffin and Cat. As always, our duo is fighting dangers from Cat’s past, enemies from all sides and negotiating with the gods. Doing a masterful job of delivering a fresh take on the ancient Greek myths, Ms. Bouchet’s series delivers heat and heart as well as action and adventure.
Memorable moment: Hard to say but here is one of many heated kiss scenes.
Griffin leaps forward and yanks me into his arms. Our bodies connect, and a spasm wrenches my chest. It feels so perfect, so right when he holds me like this. Surrounding me, squeezing me until I almost can’t breathe, he rains kisses all across my face.
Whatever style of romance imbued magic you love, the last few months have delivered from the Greek epic of yesteryear to the modern urban fantasy. Happy reading–and let me know if I missed any super books in this genre!
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