YA Review: A Heart So Fierce and Broken (Cursebreakers #2)

Title: A Heart So Fierce and Broken
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

I enjoyed A Curse So Dark and Lonely, the first book in the Cursebreakers trilogy, but I loved A Heart So Fierce and Broken. This is the middle book of a trilogy – a notoriously difficult book to write – and it is more compelling, more interesting, and less predictable than the first.

The first book explored the story of Beauty and the Beast, following Prince Rhen of Emberfall; Grey, the Commander of the Royal Guard; and Harper, the girl Grey kidnaps from Washington DC in an attempt to break the curse. It was an intense story, centred on Harper, Rhen, and the royal palace, and constrained by its fairytale inspiration. The second book leaves the expectations and conventions of the fairytale behind, and explodes onto the page with new point-of-view characters, new settings, and hook that takes the story in an exciting new direction.

Maybe it’s because fantasy isn’t my favourite genre, or perhaps it’s the in-depth insight into the wider world of Emberfall and Syhl Shallow, but I found myself drawn into this book from the beginning. There’s less of a reliance on magic and curses, and more on the mistakes the characters make, and their tangled motivations and allegiances. It’s a political story instead of a fairytale, and I loved every twist and turn of the plot.

Most of the story is told through the eyes of Grey, who stood with Rhen through the years of his curse, and Lia Mara, daughter of the queen of Syhl Shallow. Syhl Shallow needs to conquer or ally with Emberfall, and the threat of invasion hangs over all the characters – royal families, soldiers, and citizens. The stakes are high, the fear feels real, and small actions have devastating consequences.

I loved seeing Emberfall and Syhl Shallow from Grey’s point of view. His familiarity with his own country is contrasted strongly with his impressions of its neighbour – its buildings, its people, and its queen. Lia Mara’s chapters give the reader a refreshing outsider’s view of Grey and some of the other characters from the first book, helping to build them into rounded, relatable people. The world is carefully described, highlighting the differences and similarities between Syhl Shallow and Emberfall, and between the palaces and streets in both countries.

It is a joy to follow the characters as they try to negotiate and manipulate for the outcomes they need. There are strong themes of duty, family, and friendship running through the book, and the story works best when these threads collide. The twists of the plot ensure that this happens often, pitching characters, siblings, and rulers against each other, each one working for their own version of a greater good.

This is a clever book, with a shocking and engaging finale, followed by a tantalizing setup for the third instalment in the series. I can’t believe I have to wait until January to find out how this ends!

Have you read A Heart So Fierce and Broken? What did you think of the story? Do you prefer the fairytale retelling of A Curse So Dark and Lonely, or the political twists of this book? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

Join Rachel at Today’s Virtual Book Fair!

Join Rachel TODAY at 2pm BST (9am EDT / 3pm CEST) on the Twitter Live Virtual Book Fair, when she will be reading sneak previews from Battle Ground and False Flag, and running a LIVE Q&A!

To view the live broadcast, you must be signed into Twitter or Periscope. Visit Rachel’s Twitter profile (@Rachel_Churcher) or Periscope page to start viewing, or follow her on Twitter before the event and receive a notification at the top of your Home screen when she starts broadcasting.

We’re looking forward to sharing exciting sections of both books with readers all over the world! Please come and say hi, and bring your questions …

Huge thanks to Our Own Write for organising the Virtual Book Fair. Indie authors rely on book fairs and events to meet you, the audience, and this a great opportunity for us to get together virtually.

Stick around after Rachel’s session to hear readings from a range of authors and a range of genres, including our friend and neighbour MT McGuire at 2.30pm!

YA Review: Erinsmore

Title: Erinsmore
Author: Julia Blake
Edition: Kindle
Rating: 5/5

A Narnia-inspired Portal Fantasy, Erinsmore follows two sisters as they unwittingly cross into the land of Erinsmore on their way home from a family holiday in Cornwall. Arthurian legends and modern-day teenagers clash as the sisters uncover the history of the world they stumbled into – and the one they left behind. Drawn into the battle to save Erinsmore, the sisters discover a prophecy that places them front and centre of the fight, while hinting at a tragic outcome.

The teenagers rise to the challenge, learning to fight, and discovering abilities connected with the magic at the heart of Erinsmore. There’s a bumpy romance, a whole lot of bravery, and enough nail-biting action to keep the pages turning. The descriptions of medieval-style wild forests and rambling castles are sumptuous and inviting. The enemies are genuinely terrifying, and the battle scenes throw the characters – and the reader – into the heart of the action.

The characters feel real and relatable, and the dangers they face feel truly threatening. Ruby, the younger sister, is fascinated by Arthurian legends, and her enthusiasm to learn more about Erinsmore is infectious. She is delighted by the links between the legends she knows so well, and the world in which she finds herself. Cassie is older, and much less impressed about leaving the world she knows, but her determination to protect her sister overcomes her reluctance to fit in. Her relationships, with Ruby and with the people they meet, inspire her to learn to fight, to prove herself, and to defend her sister and her friends.

While Ruby brings people together, constantly finding connections and figuring out the politics of the royal court, Cassie becomes her protector and armed guard. When the prophecy puts them in danger, they must work together and combine their skills to save each other – and save Erinsmore.

This is an exciting story with vivid settings, interesting, rounded characters, and edge-of-the-seat action. Oh – and did I mention dragons?

Download Erinsmore from Amazon.

Have you read Erinsmore? What did you think of the story? Which sister would you rather be? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

Now in bookshops!

We are very happy to announce that you can now order Battle Ground and False Flag, Books One and Two of the Battle Ground Series, in print from Waterstones, Barnes and Noble, and all good bookshops!

This has taken a good deal of work (buying ISBNs, reformatting the books, redesigning the covers, registering with the distributors, and more), but we’ve made it!

By ordering from bookshops, you’ll be supporting bricks-and-mortar stores (and you’ll probably receive your books more quickly than from Amazon during lockdown). Thank you for supporting Indie authors and high street shops!

YA Review: Viper (Isles of Storm and Sorrow #1)

Title: Viper
Author: Bex Hogan
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

Right from the start, I loved this book. The first chapter wastes no time, throwing the reader into the blood-soaked life of the protagonist from page one, and building a strong character in a very few pages. There are no wasted words, no unnecessary descriptions, and no unimportant events. Chapter one introduces violence, conflict, fear, and betrayal, setting up the themes of the book. By the end of chapter two, all the pieces are in place for a thrilling pirate-based adventure.

I know I have a soft spot for pirate stories, seafaring tales, and strong female protagonists, and Viper brings all these things together with some vividly described settings and plenty of action. The main character, seventeen-year-old Marianne, is intelligent and brave, facing her fears and learning how to survive as the daughter of the Viper – the most feared ship’s captain on the ocean, and defender of the Twelve Isles. While the Viper is committed to training Marianne to follow in his bloodthirsty footsteps, she has other ideas, refusing to kill for him and turning her attention to stories of magic from the lost Western Isles.

There’s triumph and tragedy, friendship and betrayal, fear and strength, and some gorgeous settings. I wanted to visit the Twelve Isles, and by the end of the book I felt as if I had set foot on several of them. The descriptions are intriguing, and every time Marianne steps onto land the reader can feel the sun, smell the flowers, or wince at the sharp rocks underfoot. The descriptions of the ocean are just as vivid, evoking a sailor’s respect for the power of the sea.

Strong friendships and stronger betrayals are a theme of the book, as the loyalties of the Viper’s crew are tested, and Marianne uncovers her father’s plans for her future. A romantic subplot brings plenty of surprises, with the relationships developing in unexpected ways. The main characters are sympathetic and interesting, and the story is relentless, pushing through danger and nail-biting action to a satisfying conclusion.

This is an effective piece of escapism, which draws the reader into the world of the Twelve Isles, and sets everything up for the rest of the trilogy. I loved seeing the world through Marianne’s eyes, and I can’t wait for Book Two!

Have you read Viper? What did you think of the story? Are you looking forward to Venom – Book Two in the series? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

Battle Ground Wins Bronze!

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Battle Ground, Book One of the Battle Ground Series, has been awarded a BRONZE MEDAL in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards!

Huge thanks to the Wishing Shelf team, and to the YA readers who put us through to the finals – we’re so happy you enjoyed the story! Congratulations to all the winners – you can find the full list here.

If you haven’t read Battle Ground, download it now for 99p ($1.49) and lose yourself in an award-winning book today!