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Book Review Wednesday – Charming Academy

Charming Academy by Jessica L. Elliot

Amazon Book Description:

Growing up is a difficult process for anyone, but for a boy destined to be the Prince Charming of a fairy tale it’s an absolute nightmare. Not only must Lucian learn the things normal boys are taught at school, he must also learn the particulars of quests at Charming Academy for Boys. It’s not going to be easy! There are sarcastic dragons, vindictive witches, and to top it all off Lucian’s princess hates him. Will he survive school to become the Prince Charming his parents believe him to be?

I first picked up this book in October of last year. Since then, I have read it four or five more times but it’s taken until now for me to sit and write a review instead of just continuing on with devouring the rest of the series. I originally thought this would be a children’s book that might or might not hold my attention. However, this book absolutely surprised me in the best of ways.

Plot – A-

Charming Academy is the first of a fairytales retold series. However, this book is not like most retellings. This is the story of how Prince Charming is prepared to save his princess. While it does not get to the actual retellings, the book retains the fairytale atmosphere. Lucian is the primary character and is destined to be Sleeping Beauty’s prince; however, we also meet the princesses and the other princes, each destined for his own fairytale. I loved the way the princes’ journeys are fleshed out. Charming Academy covers the six years of the princes’ training at Charming Academy (a bit like the Harry Potter format for Hogwarts) but there are also numerous side plots especially as the princes get older and the seeds of their individual stories are planted. The book is 500 pages long yet the plot carries itself well and rarely, if ever, feels as though it’s plodding. In fact, it was a jolt when I reached the end of the book and suddenly we’re back with the babysitter telling the story to the boy. I was so caught up in the story that I had forgotten it was technically a story within a story.

Content – A

In the course of expanding the realm of fairytales and creating realistic characters, Elliot includes many of the same things we face in the real world. There is violence and death, which is to be expected for princes training to fight dragons among other perils, but this primarily occurs off-screen so we mainly see the aftermath. One exception that stands out is when a particularly brutish prince strikes his princess. However, this incident is skillfully used to demonstrate how unacceptable that sort of behavior is and can provide a talking point for parents about how boys and girls should treat each other. There are also two death scenes that have reduced me to tears each time I read this book. They aren’t graphic but they are heartbreakingly poignant (and I still haven’t forgiven her for these deaths).

The kiss of true love is important to most fairytales and Elliot incorporates that wonderfully into her book. As the princes and princesses are paired with each other from the beginning, they are intended to grow as friends and then in love. It takes a while for the hormones to kick in but there are times when Lucian is highly tempted to do more than kiss Moira’s hand. However, the first kiss is so important to breaking enchantments that he resists the temptation. It’s cute watching Lucian and Moira in particular grow from definitely not liking each other (though for Lucian it’s a bit more of “she’s a girl” little boy mentality) to being very definitely in love. Moira is a challenging princess to say the least and part of Lucian’s appeal is that he is determined to be kind to her and to love her even when she tries to reject his love and the idea of loving him in return. Other than the hand-kissing and some kissing between already married adults, this is a squeaky clean story on the romance side.

Because this is a fairytale world, there are fairies and witches. The witches are interesting because they are used for discipline (believe me, these are teenagers who definitely earn their punishments) so spells are cast for punishment and once for a blessing. It fits into the fairytale setting and there is no mention of a spiritual connotation for the fairies or witches. I mentioned the teen factor because you do have characters being rude and even bullies, but there are always consequences. In a story about boys growing into men and being groomed to be worthy of the title ‘Prince Charming’, I appreciated the constant reminder that choices have consequences. Elliot skillfully made this clear in three different situations in particular, but I shan’t say more for fear of spoilers.

Technical – B+

Charming Academy is an extremely engaging read. As I mentioned before, the prologue and epilogue are set in modern times where a babysitter is telling the story to a little boy but the main story itself is so engaging that I completely forgot about this so the epilogue was a bit of a jolt. The flow rarely slows down. In fact, there were a few times where I wished we had a bit more detail and less of the sweeping summary regarding the later school years but it never detracts from the story mood.

However, there is quite a bit of head hopping in this story even though Lucian is the primary narrator. It can be a little distracting at times when we slip so quickly into different heads, but I found that this bothered me less during subsequent readings since I knew to expect it. It’s more of an omniscient third person POV storytelling style in this respect.

There is a smattering of typos throughout the book (perhaps five or six in the whole book), but it’s nothing that detracts from the story. The language is also pretty modern for a story set in the medieval setting of the fairytale world, but it doesn’t grate like one might expect. I was drawn into the story enough that the more modern language barely registered. The one technical aspect that truly bugged me in this book is the formatting of letters. The letters bounce from being the same size as the rest of the text to a huge font to being smaller than main text. There are enough letters present that I wished a single format was used across the board for them. Out of everything, it bothered me the most and what I would call a true distraction especially when it jumps to the huge font.

Final Grade – A- or 4.7 Stars

If you’re looking for a fairytale retelling that breaks the typical mold, this book is for you. This is the story of Prince Charming more than the princess. It is perfect for anyone who has ever wanted the more detailed plots that will turn Prince Charming into more than the guy on the white horse. This charming read is meant for ages 10-18 but is well-written and engaging to the point that I highly recommend it for adults too. I recommend this book for fans of clean fairytale retellings and for parents seeking fun books that they can read with their children.

Next Week – Finding Prince Charming (Charming Academy Book 2) by Jessica L. Elliot


Book Review Wednesday – Honor

Honor: Second Novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano

Amazon Book Description:

The Earl of Dentin excels in his position as Securer of the Realm. But the king’s order to pluck an orphaned child from a loving home unsettles Dentin. When a dark-eyed woman challenges his honor regarding the mission, Dentin finds himself unable to justify his actions or get her out of his mind. Something about her lack of fear intrigues him.

Lady Elsa Reeve attempts to avoid the marriage of convenience her brother and mother demand of her. She understands the need to pay off her brother’s massive debt. She only wants her family to consider her wishes in the process.

As Elsa becomes further entangled in a snare of her brother’s creating, only one man defends her. But can she trust Dentin, her unlikely champion, and his motives? With a murderer on the loose, Elsa’s fate in jeopardy, and a traitor plotting against the king, Dentin finds his priorities shifting in an unexpected direction.

I have to say that after reading the first book in this series, Duty, I was on pins and needles waiting for Honor and it did not disappoint.

Plot – Grade A

The premise of this book rests on Dentin’s attempt to balance his personal honor with the orders of the king as well as hunting for murderers and traitors in his position of Securer of the Realm. Dentin is a self-professed man of honor but he is challenged not only by the difficulty of his latest task but also by Lady Elsa Reeve. Elsa has been treated like a pawn by her own family for years but she has a strong and loving spirit too, which steals away any preconceived notion that she’s your typical damsel in distress. Think medieval-esque Darcy and Elizabeth and you have a good glimpse into their contrasting yet complimentary temperaments. The dynamic between these two characters is definitely part of what makes the plot, which ranges from initial intrigue surrounding Dentin’s unpleasant task to a murder to treason, mesh well together. As compelling as each of the elements in the plot are on their own terms, Dentin and Elsa’s personalities and their brewing relationship really glues it together as a whole. A number of familiar faces from Duty show up in this book and there are passing references to events that occurred in that book that are now influencing characters and events in Honor five years later and while reading the first book enriches the experience for this one, Honor is able to stand on its own.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean fantasy. The romance between Dentin and Elsa builds up slowly and sweetly with their attraction becoming clear even though they both spend about half the book reminding themselves that they really shouldn’t be falling in love right now, especially Dentin. There are two or three kisses before they get married and some references to sharing a bed with a husband but it’s all handled very sweetly. I applaud Rossano for her ability to show the initial and growing attraction between the characters in a way that is very compelling without ever straying into crassness. There is also a reference to a girl being rendered unmarriageable by a scoundrel and a man having a mistress but these are also handled with care.

No language is written out. It’s all either cut off before the first syllable or is merely referenced to as “he cursed.” There is violence, including a character who is abusive to women, and there are also people who are wounded or killed. This violence is accomplished without gratuitousness. The violence occurs and characters react but there is nothing shown that shouldn’t be or that should have been toned down further. With the abuse in particular, the aftermath is what is mainly shown with one exception but it is never glorified nor overly gritty and one character warns the character being abused to escape her abuser because she’s seen this happen before and the last time it killed the girl who was married to an abuser.

There is spirituality present with the characters referencing, worshipping, and praying to the Kurios and asking for His guidance. There is also a reference to one character not being afraid of death because he long ago learned to turn to the Kurios for his security after death.

Technical – Grade A

This was a very well-written and compelling read. There were maybe four whole typos/slips in the entire story. One was a missing punctuation and there was a missing article that didn’t affect the reading of the sentence. There were two true typos. Most readers might not notice these unless they’re looking for them. There was maybe one slightly anachronistic phrase but I can’t make up my mind on it and it wasn’t egregious.

Final Grade – A or Five Stars

Overall this was an excellent medieval-esque fantasy that demonstrates how to combine romantic and political intrigue without them competing with each other or straying into boredom or disbelief. The plot is compelling and along with the characters kept me drawn in. The end of the book leaves one with all sorts of questions about what will happen next and I eagerly await the next novel of Rhynan. I would recommend this book to those looking for a clean Christian fantasy and those who enjoy fantasies set in a medieval-esque world. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

Next – Avalon: An Allegory by Valerie Howard

Book Review Wednesday – Devil’s Pathway

Devil’s Pathway (DAWN: Warriors of Valor Book 1) by Vicki V. Lucas

Amazon Book Description:

I force myself to live by one rule: Don’t look at the demons. The two times I broke this rule still haunt me. Tonight I made another mistake. As a huge demon leered at us, I couldn’t fight the urge. I looked. And he saw me. Maybe it’s not a big deal. Nothing happened as my aunt sped beyond it in the car. Besides, I only have one year of high school left. I’ll be fine. But I know exactly what could occur. I’ve seen it too many times. Two men lurked with the demon I saw tonight. Evil clung to them, as if they had given their souls in exchange for something else. I shudder when I consider what they could be. But do vampires really exist? With everything I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Where are the good guys? If there’s darkness, shouldn’t there be light? How come the angels don’t battle the demons if that is the case? Or do they? Maybe there’s a war around me that I don’t see. I just want to be left alone, and after tonight, I don’t think that’s going to be a choice.


This young adult fantasy novel weaves angels, demons, and vampires into a thrilling adventure in which angels and humans wage war on demons and vampires. The action doesn’t stop as Nic, the main character, is forced into choosing which side of the fight he is on while both sides are desperately urging him to join their army. Devil’s Pathway is a Christian fantasy novel for teens who are ready to get serious about their faith. If you like Frank Peretti’s “This Present Darkness” or novels by Ted Dekker, you’ll like Devil’s Pathway.

I haven’t really enjoyed the angel/demon subgenre of speculative fiction, too many conflicts with Scripture, but I accepted this book for review because the author made a compelling case and I had enjoyed reading one of her earlier books. Have to say, I am so glad that I took that chance.

Plot – Grade A

This book dug its claws into me and held on from the first page to the last. The plot puts an original spin on the typical angels vs. demons storyline. A spiritual war rages around Nic who is trying desperately to remain neutral instead of choosing one side or the other. Nic is an empathetic character who I related to quite easily. The angels and demons and, yes, even vampires have interesting roles but they don’t steal the spotlight away from Nic. The book ending is resolved without being truly resolved. There are still many questions that I expect Book Two will answer but this book can stand well on its own. The ending comes at a natural breather story-wise and was written in such a way that it left me eager for more without making me feel as though there was absolutely no resolution.

Content – Grade A

This a clean read but it also handles a number of sensitive topics, in particular a school shooting is referenced and later shown via flashback as well as the murder of a parent in front of the child. I applaud Lucas for handling these sensitive situations in a way that showed the horror and grief of such events without descending into morbid bloodbaths, especially in a first person POV. In keeping with having vampires, there are descriptions of a few initial attacks and the aftermath of those attacks; however, there aren’t any gratuitous descriptions of gore.

There are a few instances of mild language, one “damn” and two or three “craps”. Hell is also referenced many times in its proper spiritual context. There isn’t any true sensuality in this book although there are some references to an abandoned mining town having a whorehouse.

The topics of bullying in school and abusive relationships are also addressed and handled with appropriate care. This a spiritually active book as is expected in this subgenre. What I appreciated was not only that the presentation of demons and vampires wasn’t glamorized but the importance of prayer and having a strong spiritual walk was also underlined without descending into the realm of preachiness. The struggle for Nic was real and didn’t come across as flat or like he was merely a puppet. Even I wasn’t entirely sure whether Nic would make the choice I wanted him to make. There is also a tie between Christians’ prayers and the angels’ strength in spiritual battle, which I found very interesting since I don’t recall seeing such a tie before.

Technical – Grade A

This is a very well edited book. There were three or four minor typos in the middle but nothing jarring. The book switches between first-person present for Nic’s narration and third-person past for the sections featuring other narrators (primarily the second-in-command demon, the angel Eli, and Rob). There is one section near the finale where the angel leader’s pov is in third person present, which was only slightly confusing since only Nic had been in present tense. Now, I don’t usually care for present tense but Lucas’ writing was strong enough and compelling enough for me to still be hooked. The characters are fleshed out to the point I actually found myself rooting for them to do what I knew they needed to do if they would just cooperate and I cheered whenever there was a hard-won victory.

Final Grade – A or 5 stars

I devoured this book in about five hours because I could not put it down. Lucas created a spiritual battle that resonated with me and made me think. Devil’s Pathway handles sensitive topics without crossing into crassness or gratuity; however, I would recommend this book to older teens and for parents to be prepared to discuss the topics raised, especially in regards to school violence and abusive relationships. Lucas handles these matters in such a way that I believe it can help open the door for discussions between parents and teens. I eagerly await Book Two. I recommend this book for fans of spiritual thrillers, Frank Peretti’s Present Darkness series, and it’s also a good choice for Christians who, like me, aren’t really fans of Ted Dekker. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

*Please note I was gifted a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not paid or asked to leave a positive review. My opinions are my own.

Devil’s Pathway is available via Kindle.

Next Week – Honor: Second Novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano

Book Review Wednesday – Captured

Captured: A Fantasy Romance (White Road Tale Novella Book 1) by Jackie Castle

Amazon Book Description:

He will lose everything if their secret is found out.

When Tarek’s family is taken prisoner by the conniving, self-proclaimed King of Racah, they make a pact to lay low and do whatever is necessary to survive until they can devise an escape plan.

Despite Tarek’s efforts to follow his parent’s orders, he has no choice but to save the Princess from making a life-threatening mistake. And despite his best efforts, he can’t help when he loses his heart to the enchanting and lonely Princess.

Unfortunately, Tarek is in danger of losing much more than just his heart.

Captured is the first of three novellas in the White Road Tales trilogy which also include Stolen and Ransom. All three are prequels to the White Road Chronicles series which include:
Illuminated: Book One
Luminosity: Book Two
Emanate: Book Three

Captured is the first in the prequel trilogy of novellas for Castle’s White Road Chronicles. I have enjoyed Castle’s novels thus far and picked this up when I saw it would give more of the missing backstory to two key characters

Plot – Grade A

Considering this prequel novella follows a completed trilogy, anyone who has read at least the first book, Illuminated, knows the ultimate ending to the novella and its sequels. However, do not let that deter you from checking out this story. Castle did an excellent job of sharing more about the background of Tarek  and his family as well as weaving in Princess’ life before the first novel. The story develops the world of Racah, the dark kingdom beyond what we see through Princess’ eyes in Illuminated and stands up well on its own. The plot is short and woven together with just a few strings left to be picked up in the next novella. Certain throwaway elements in this novella will jump at readers familiar with Castle’s work and trigger an “Oh! I know what that means!!” reaction. I enjoy Easter eggs so it was fun for me. The plot whets one’s appetite for more without giving away noticeable spoilers for the novels if readers haven’t read them yet while also breathing fresh life into the world for those who are already familiar with it.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean read. Language takes place offstage with only the inoffensive “Trollsbreath” being used plainly. There are references to sensuality but they are very discreet even when a girl propositions Tarek and he sees his father with a mistress. There is violence. Several people are killed and blood is described as pooling and staining witnesses’ clothing. However, this did not teeter into being gratuitous since again the focus is more on the characters’ reactions than anything else.

There is a very sweet romance brewing between Tarek and Princess. I liked how he respects her and how he draws her out of her shell. I also liked the way Tarek works to take care of his family even with his father being an absolute boor.

The spiritual side of things is extremely light in this first novella, especially compared to the allegorical nature of the original trilogy. There are mentions of the white trees and the true king. Nothing too overwhelming or in your face about it, which definitely suits this short novella and the characters’ current frame of mind spiritually.

Technical – Grade A-

This was very well edited. There were a few typos and one instance where you’re was used instead of your but nothing too grating. There a few places where the language used was a tad modern for the medieval-esque setting but nothing that truly jerked me out of the setting. The pacing was quick without being rushed. You get a clear picture of characters, especially Tarek and his family, without being overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Secondary and tertiary characters stand out when they need to and are not made of cardboard. The story is able to stand on its own while inviting you to dive further into the world of The White Road Chronicles.

Final Grade – A or 5 stars

Overall, I really enjoyed this prequel. I love it when authors reveal the backstories to novels/characters and further explore the world they’ve created. I’m looking forward to reading more about the lead up to Illuminated. I recommend this book to both fans of Castle’s White Road Chronicles and those looking to dip their toe into a fantasy romance that is family-friendly and leads into a strong Christian allegorical fantasy.  Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Next – Stolen: A Fantasy Romance (White Road Tale Novella Book 2) by Jackie Castle

Book Review Wednesday – The King of Anavrea

The King of Anavrea (The Theodoric Saga Book 2) by Rachal Rossano

Amazon Book Description:

A reluctant king, a blind queen, and a marriage that sparked a rebellion…

Ireic Theodoric, King of Anavrea, constantly battles with his council over who will run the country. When the council insists on a treaty with Sardmara, he agrees. However, the treaty quickly becomes an arranged marriage. Ireic offers up himself for the sake of Anavrea. But after he signs, no princess appears.

Lirth Parnan, only daughter of the king of Sardmara, survives alone in a cold, damp tower room. Baron Tor kidnapped her in an attempt to control her father. No one came to claim her. She suspects her father considers her flawed beyond use in his political games. After five years of waiting, her hope of rescue wanes with her health.

After Ireic fights his way into Lirth’s tower, he realizes the depths of her father’s deception. Instead of being an answer to his problems, Lirth creates new ones. The council will not accept her as queen, but Ireic has sworn an oath that he will marry her. His choice could cost him his throne, perhaps his life.

Another of Rachel Rossano’s books, which I picked up because of how much I enjoyed Wren and Duty. I also picked it up because it’s another medieval-esque fantasy romance dealing with an arranged marriage.

Plot – Grade A

I really enjoyed the intrigue in this book. While the romance is important, there is a significant amount of political intrigue occurring due to Ieric and Lirth’s arranged marriage. I thought the twists were well-handled and the dual plot lines melded together well. I was able to follow the plots when they diverged and came back together and the ending tied things up nicely while also opening the door for the next book in the series. This is the second book in the series but the stories stand well on their own with the callbacks to the previous book being woven in without bogging down the pacing or feeling that everything is being retold.

Content – Grade A

There is no language in this book. The crassest it becomes is when the “pure bloodline” fanatics accuse Lirth of being baseborn and call her a wench and sorceress. They also refer to her as being deformed due to her blindness. There is violence and one of the bad guys asks a woman if she enjoys being roughed up but nothing is gratuitous and usually takes place off-screen.

The romance is very sweet in this book. Even though the arranged marriage angle could easily cross the line depending on how it’s written, that is not a factor here. There are kisses and Ieric refers to sharing his bed with his wife but that’s it. Although one time Lirth is walked in on by a male messenger when she is not properly dressed, she’s in her undergarments (stays and shift), and the situation is understandably awkward for her. While Lirth is blind and must rely on touch to see Ieric, the descriptions never come close to being overly sensual. It is all very sweet.

The spiritual content in this book is far more front and center then it was in The Crown of Anavrea due to one character being on a journey to choosing to believe in the Kurios. While the spiritual content and its Christian influence is far more prominent, it didn’t feel like the author was preaching or bashing you over the head with the Gospel. Significantly, a character who is a follower of Kurious and His Son makes the conscious decision to hold back after the searcher doesn’t give the most enthusiastic response. The similarities between Christianity and the religious beliefs present in the book are also addressed in an author’s note by the author. I thought Rossano did an excellent job of presenting the Gospel message in the context of her fantasy world and without making it feel forced or like the searcher was just a caricature who had to come to believe in the Kurios for the sake of allegory. I also appreciated the way she didn’t just present the Gospel message but tackled the hard question of “Why would a God who knows all and controls all make or, rather, allow His followers to suffer?”

Technical – Grade A-

The book was very well-written. The challenge of writing a blind character as a POV character was pulled off quite well. It’s not often that I see a blind character providing the POV, unless an omniscient narrator is in control. I can count the books with blind narrators I’ve read on one hand. But there aren’t any gaffs where sight is used when it shouldn’t be; instead, Lirth relies on touch, smell, and hearing to paint the picture of her surroundings and the people she encounters. What impressed me is that I never felt a disconnect with her.

However, while this book is free of typical typos, there were quite a few missing words, dropped letters occurred once or twice, and sometimes part of a phrase was missing. There was also a place where it was obvious an edit occurred but part of the previous version was left behind. It’s possible that it was simply the kindle version I downloaded where these errors occurred, though. There was also one place where Ieric referred to being crowned for a year but everywhere else it’s been three years. That was a little confusing due to the scene.

Final Grade – A or 5 Stars

Overall, I enjoyed The King of Anavrea and I eagerly await the next time we return to The Theodoric Saga. I loved the unconventional heroine and how her relationship develops with the hero in the midst of political intrigue and the difficulties of being a less than perfect royal. I also enjoyed the spiritual aspect of this story and how realistically it was woven into the plot without being a hand wave or in the reader’s face. There were more technical errors this time than what I usually see with Rossano’s work but not to the point of truly detracting from the story, although some editors might twitch in certain places. I would recommend this book for fans of clean, sweet romance in a Christian medieval-esque fantasy and those who enjoy fantasy with political intrigue and a strong Christian message. Recommended for reader ages 15 and up.

The King of Anavrea is available through Kindle, iTunes, and paperback.

Next Week: Honor: Second Novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano

Book Review Wednesday: The Crown of Anavrea

The Crown of Anavrea (The Theodoric Saga Book 1) by Rachel Rossano

Amazon Book Description:

In a time when castles were the strongest…in a place where combat was face to face…Labren was on the run. He hid his true name and he admitted it freely.

In a time when slavery was legal…in a place where kings were all-powerful…Eve, a slave, appeared in the right place at the right time.

Eve saved his life. In return, he offered her the opportunity of freedom. She did not know what would happen to her if she chose to accept his proposal, but she did know the consequences of rejecting it.

I originally picked this book up last summer after reading Rachel Rossano’s books Duty and Wren.

Plot – Grade A

I enjoyed the plot. It was a good mix of sweet romance as Labren and Eve try to turn their marriage of convenience into something more and adventure with Labren being on the run. I also enjoyed the fact that the motive behind Labren’s fleeing from his home and the ultimate solution reached did not feel contrived or clichéd. It was reasonable and, more importantly, it made sense with the main characters’ previous actions, attitudes, and beliefs. In spite of the short length (109 pages from the Kindle version), I didn’t feel that the plot suffered from receiving too many cuts. Of course, there were a few places involving the last leg of the plot journey that could have been expanded on had the book itself been longer but plot stands well on its own while leaving the door cracked for continuing stories.

Content – Grade A

This is a sweet romance. There are kisses and at one point you guess that the marriage has been consummated but it was handled so tastefully that there’s nothing you’d be embarrassed to allow a younger teen to read. The most direct reference is that children were now a possibility after the change in Labren and Eve’s relationship.

Early on in the book, Eve is threatened by being told she’s been sold to an innkeeper who keeps girls to “entertain” the guests. Later an unscrupulous character leers at her and is said to make a highly inappropriate suggestion to her but she is able to escape. There is also a reference to a man’s wife liking his friend more than she liked her husband. But each instance is handled with delicacy and takes care not to stray into gratuitous detail.

There is some violence but most of it takes place off-screen. The most we see are a few punches. Language also takes place off-screen with one exception: A slave owner is referred to as “bastard.” Personally, I could have lived without that name being written out since it was a reference to the man’s character and not his being illegitimate. However, the word, and its single use, may not bother other Christians at all.

Technical – Grade A-

This book was very well-edited. It only had one case of a homophone swap: “accept” being used when it should have been “except” and one instance where it appeared that two words had been dropped but the sentence still made sense. The pacing was good if quick due to the novella-length. There was also one instance where Eve said she and Labren had been running for a month but everywhere else referred to it as being two months. There were a couple places where the more modern “Is he okay?” was used, which didn’t quite mesh with the medieval-esque atmosphere of this fantasy. And one instance where a princess of the kingdom was referred to as “Her majesty” when it should have been “Her highness,” but that probably won’t bother most readers.

Final Grade – A or Five Stars

Overall, this is a quick, enjoyable read that tells the story of Labren and Eve in a manner that makes me wish it wasn’t over already.  I enjoyed the development of their story and how they supported each other and were concerned for each other even before their feelings became obvious. I am also glad to have the sequel ready for my reading pleasure as I look forward to exploring more of the world of Anavrea and getting to know certain secondary characters better. My sole complaint for this book is that I really wish it had been longer so I could spend more time with Labren and Eve. 🙂 I would recommend this book to people who are looking for a quick, clean Christian fantasy and who enjoy fantasy novels set in a medieval-esque world. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

The Crown of Anavrea is available through Kindle, iTunes, and paperback.

Next – The King of Anavrea (The Theodoric Saga Book 2) by Rachal Rossano

Book Review Wednesday – Taerith

Taerith by Rachel Starr Thompson

Amazon Book Description:

When he rescues a young woman named Lilia from bandits, Taerith Romany is caught in a web of loyalties: Lilia is the future queen of a spoiled king, and though Taerith is not allowed to love her, neither he can bring himself to leave her without a friend. Their lives soon intertwine with the fiercely proud slave girl, Mirian, whose tragic past and wild beauty make her the target of the king’s unscrupulous brother.

In a land of fog and fens, unicorns and wild men, Taerith stands at the crossroads of good and evil, where men are vanquished by their own obsessions or saved by faith in higher things. The king’s rule is only a knife’s edge from slipping—and when it does, all three will be put to the ultimate test.

Rachel Starr Thomson is also the author of Angel in the Woods, Lady Moon, the Seventh World Trilogy, and other novels and short stories.

Taerith is one of the Romany Epistles, a nine-author series about nine exiled siblings abroad in a hostile world.

I picked up this book after reading the Romany Epistle by Rachel Rossano – Wren.

Plot – B+

The plot was good for the most part. I wasn’t able to predict every turn, just some of them. The only true trouble came from the middle of the book. The original plot that drove the story is resolved around the halfway mark (52-60%) and the minor subplot threads sort of drag along for several chapters. It does pick up again toward the end as the secondary plot is pulled together. Overall, I liked the ideas behind the main plot and the secondary plot but I wish it had been more tightly woven together so the pacing didn’t slow to a drag in the interlude between them. The book is one of a series but it can stand on its own well.

Content – A-

This is a clean book. There is no language, all cursing takes place off the page. Sensuality is nonexistent.

There is violence but it is not gratuitous. Actually, the first two fights written about are barely described. I don’t want gratuitous violence or bloodshed but I wish the description of how the fight took place had been more than something along the lines of “he attacked and his opponent fell” so I could better picture the fight and have a clearer idea of what’s supposed to be happening in that scene. Later on it’s revealed that Taerith has never killed a man and the impression is given that he doesn’t like to even wound to the point of bloodshed. Most of his action in the battlefield involved winding and knocking down/out opponents. I did like the struggle for him over whether he should take lives to protect lives  Characters die in battle, through starvation and disease, and murder. Vengeance is tackled and dealt with fairly. I liked how Thompson showed just how destructive a quest for vengeance can be to the person seeking that vengeance.

The romances shown in this book are…complicated. The romance shown at the end of the book is the one that didn’t sell me though. It felt too much like a convenience for the characters involved and not like a true love match, which is okay for the beginning or middle of a story but not so much for the end, at least for me. That said, I did like Taerith’s honorable love for Lilia a lot. Courtly love at its purest.

There is some magic in this world as shown through the presence of unicorns, who are implied to have healing gifts based on the one we are introduced to in the story. However, this is balanced by a very strong spiritual message. The image of Deus, or God, as a dove or winged man was an interesting portrayal. I thought the scenes involving the priest were good. I liked how he not only spoke about Deus but he also does things, lives out his faith. The salvation encounter for Taerith was well done, not in your face but it was clear that he had been touched/changed by the encounter.

Technical – B

This book had good bones. There were only one or two typos in it. However, the narration hampered my ability to get into the story. There is a lot of head-hopping, more than once this happens in the same paragraph, so it was hard for me to tell if I was reading Character A’s thoughts or Character B or C’s thoughts or if it was an omniscient narrator. I usually prefer character changes to occur in a more orderly fashion, e.g., with section or chapter breaks, to help keep the narrative puzzle from occurring. Because of the fluidity of the narrators, their individual voices became more important but they didn’t really sound different from each other even when moving from men to women or vice versa. I went into the book expecting two or three POV characters but there are a lot more. These details along with the fact that there’s a tendency to tell instead of show kept me at arm’s length from the characters so to speak. I couldn’t really sink into the story or their lives.

I mentioned earlier that there’s very little description for the first two fights in the book, which are supposed to be important because they place Taerith in two key places. The second fight is literally three sentences revolving around Taerith “being prepared” and then he basically steps forward and in the next sentence the fight is over. I am a visual reader, so I prefer descriptions that engage me and let me SEE what the character is doing. In the same vein of telling and not showing, there is a lot of repetition occurring in the narration and there are some odd punctuation choices. Semicolons and colons being used when a comma and a transition phrase would have helped the flow. Or where a period would have sufficed.

Final Grade – B or 4 Stars

Overall, I liked the story of Taerith. I think that Rachel Starr Thompson has the talent of a great writer and I could see it even with the narrative gaffs. I couldn’t determine for sure whether this was Thompson’s first book but it did have the feel of a first or even sophomore novel where the author is still working the kinks out of her writing process. Because it is a nine-author series, the voice between books definitely changes but the ending of Taerith made me eager to read Aiden since that Romany sibling also makes an appearance. While I wasn’t drawn in to the point of devouring the book in hours, I never had to force myself to pick the book back up again. I would recommend this book to Christians looking for a clean fantasy with strong Christian elements and fans of medieval-esque fantasies. Recommended for ages 16 and up.

Taerith is available through Kindle and paperback.

Next – Luminosity: Book Two of the White Road Chronicles by Jackie Castle