Fantasy Review: Roar by Cora Carmack

Roar by Cora Carmack

Published by: Tor Teen

Format: Ebook and Audiobook

Genre: Romance/Fantasy

Order at: Amazon | B&N

Reviewed by: Madison

What to Expect: An unlikely hero, conflicted villains, and a lot of secrets.

Plot:

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

Review:

I stumbled upon this book when looking for an audiobook for a long car ride. Following a week of the flu, this book has become my constant companion. I highly recommend for sick days and long car rides. First and foremost I love our heroine. Aurora is an unlikely heir. She doesn’t show a lick of magic to protect her kingdom and she is forced into hiding by her mother for the fear that someone may find out her secret. She is then arranged to marry with a brooding and dark prince named Cassius from the kingdom of Locke. Don’t get heart eyes on me yet. Carmack does an amazing job at stringing you along to trust this prince and then shatters your heart within the first few chapters. I am one of those readers who will always love the first romantic interest. It’s like I have some loyalty to them. This book was the exception.

Without giving too much away Aurora finds herself in the black market of magic and teams up with a group of magical hunters. What do they hunt? Storms. Aurora cleverly devises a plan to leave with them under the guise of her new identity, Roar. Roar is bold, unafraid, and relatable. The hunters are suspicious of her. This is not a “buddy buddy perfect friendship” kind of book. The relationships are complicated and they should be. Though this is set in a fictional world I found myself relating to a lot of the characters for their human flaws.

What you might not like/doesn’t work for you: There is nothing I truly disliked. If I had to pick one thing I wish when Aurora transitioned to Roar there was a bit more awkwardness to it. Sometimes she felt so strong. She was sheltered for years. There is a description in the book that her servants were changed out so often they only knew what herbs to put in her bath. I think in the beginning when she trusted Cassius that showed this naive girl. But I wish it carried a bit more into that transition. It’s not a huge thing because there were awkward and naive moments throughout.

What you will love: The story is completely original. If you are looking for some high fantasy that you feel like you haven’t read before, this is it!The world the author built was quite lush and dynamic.


Madison is our newest reviewer here at Binge on Books! When not working on her own first novel, she loves reading YA & Fantasy and listening to podcasts.

You can get in touch with her on Twitter: @MPMarkerWrites

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Buddy Review: Alex and Edwin talk Apocalypse Alley by Don Allmon

Apocalypse Alley by Don Allmon

Published by: Riptide

Format: eARC

Genre: Fantasy

Release date: February 26, 2018

Order at: Publisher

Reviewed by: Alex & Edwin

What to Expect: Death Race 2000 meets Mad Max in The Matrix. Featuring a hacker, a supersoldier with side servings of the Daddiest orc in history and a terrifying cyborg assassin. Read More

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Edwin’s Recent Reading Roundup: Book 1 Bonanza

Over the past few months, I’ve read a number of “book ones” in multi-book series that I really enjoyed.  Here are four I’d like to highlight, all of which either have a sequel out already (in the case of the first two) or out in the next few weeks (in the case of the last two). No waiting for months before bingeing right on to the next book!


Cold Iron by Stina Leicht

Get it now: Publisher | Amazon | B&N 

The first book in what looks like it’s going to be the epic fantasy trilogy I’ve been wanting for a long time.  I primarily read epic fantasy as a teenager, and I love the sweep of it. The nation-shaking plots, the battles, the magic, the heroic effort to defeat evil.  Great stuff.  But bundled into that is a lot of reactionary pining for feudalism and how replacing a Bad King with a Good King fixes everything.

Cold Iron upends those tired tropes, and gives us an epic fantasy with a revolutionary mindset.  Our two lead characters are royal siblings, yes, but the empire they’re heirs to is kind of crappy and oppressive; at the very best the status quo is deeply flawed.  The book is not the story of how the Good Queen fixes the status quo & makes it a paradise, it’s about how the status quo collapses.  And that is altogether a very different (I’d argue more interesting) story. Throw in plenty of women characters with agency, major supporting characters who are queer, a much less prominent role for the military than is normal in fantasy societies, and a gripping plot and you have something really special.  

The best epic fantasy that I read last year, and I’m excited to read the second book, Blackthorne, which is out now.


Soul’s Blood by Stephen Graham King

Get it now: Publisher | Amazon | B&N

You don’t see much queer space opera out there, and that’s what I thought I was getting when I picked up Soul’s Blood.  And it is what we start with, but it becomes apparent that that is not the book’s primary focus.  Our major characters are Keene and Lexa-Blue, along with Lexa-Blue’s sentient ship, Maverick Heart, better known as Vrick.  They’re interstellar ‘troubleshooters,’ taking on jobs of varying levels of legality to pay their way.  The book opens with a nice little heist scene, but quickly morphs into what consumes the rest of the book: a political technothriller.  One of Keene’s ex-boyfriends is CEO/King of a corporate state, and needs help resolving an escalating conflict with the genetically modified not-quite-human nation which shares his planet.   

What ensues is surprisingly character-driven, which works well because the characters are excellent.  Keene is a cocky smuggler, yes, but he also wears his heart on his sleeve, and Lexa-Blue is a riot as a hypercompetent, gives-no-fucks badass.  Arguably my favourite character, though, is Vrick. Centuries old, the product of banned technology, and a loyal friend to Keene and Lexa-Blue, he’s a marvellous creation.  This good characterisation is backed up with interesting worldbuilding and a fast moving plot.  I might have wished for the book to be a bit longer to spool out some of the relationship developments, but there are worse sins than leaving one wanting more.

Gatecrasher, Book 2 in the Maverick Heart series is out now and is, if anything, even better than Soul’s Blood.


Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells

Get it now: Publisher | Amazon | B&N

I read this on the recommendation of KJ Charles, who in addition to writing great books gives good recs, so I wasn’t surprised that I really enjoyed Hunger Makes the Wolf, but I was surprised to be really blown away by it.  The basic setup is two young women on an outlying mining planet in an interstellar civilization.  One is in an outlaw motorcycle gang, the other is the niece of the gang’s leader and ends up with a prominent role in the miners’ union.  Both are altered by something weird about their planet to have ‘witchy’ powers, and are set in conflict with the big nasty corporation which runs the mining operations on the planet (and also control all interstellar travel, so we’re talking big corporation).

The setup itself is cool enough: magic SF outlaw bikers in the neo-Wild West (there is also an alien(?) I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to find sexy but totally do)! How is that not going to be awesome? But that’s not what impressed me so much.  The special thing about this book is its unrepentant howl of working class anger at pretty much everyone who exploits workers.  The church, the rich, corporate interests, all of it.  And a pretty obvious contempt for ineffectual liberal incrementalism, too. So the book is enormous amounts of fun as a science fantasy adventure, and also a big fuck you to our complacent liberal present.  

Highly recommended, and very much looking forward to book 2, Blood Binds The Pack, which is out on 1 February.


The Root by Na’amen G Tilahun

Get it now: Publisher | Amazon | B&N

An unclassifiable and high quality portal fantasy/urban fantasy mashup.

A portal fantasy/urban fantasy of the highest quality. Our two leads are Erik, a former child star in San Francisco whose career has been destroyed by a scandal involving his ex-boyfriend, and Lil, basically an apprentice mage/archivist in the parallel city of ‘Zebub, where humans are an underclass to god-like beings. Both are black, an unfortunately rare situation in fantasy writing.  Both are also excellent characters.  Erik quickly discovers that he is descended from the blood of gods (or angels. Or something more than human), which gives him special powers. He’s introduced to a number of other people who share such powers, and is drawn into a fight between two factions of these children of angels.  Meanwhile, in Zebub, Lil starts off incredibly timid, but finds an enormous amount of strength & bravery as she’s drawn into a mystery of something which threatens the whole of her reality.  The plot is convoluted – in a way I enjoyed – and there are many point of view characters, so it’s hard to give more detail than that. 

Aside from the extremely creative worldbuilding and rock solid prose, there are a number of other things that made this one of the best books I read last year. I really like that Erik’s powers are related to his anger: it’s rare for queer characters in media to be allowed to be angry, for that anger to be justified, and for it to be powerful.  Erik is granted all of those things. I like that the angels are ugly; completely inhuman (and in line with some old testament descriptions).  And the diversity of the book is wonderful.  Erik’s not-quite-love-interest is Asian. A number of his friends and colleagues are queer. Powerful women with real agency abound.  It’s a fantasy where anyone can see themselves, find themselves in it, and that is a precious thing.

Book 2, The Tree, is out on January 23, and is the next book on my TBR pile.


Edwin gets grumpy if his SF/F reading doesn’t feature happy queer main characters.  Aside from that, he reads and writes for a living (though not fiction), so of course his hobby is reading, and now writing about what he reads. Why do anything else?

Connect with Edwin on Twitter: @gaybookgeek

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 22 with FT Lukens


FT Lukens joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from her SFF fantasy, The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magic.


About The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magic: 

Desperate to pay for college, Bridger Whitt is willing to overlook the peculiarities of his new job—entering via the roof, the weird stacks of old books and even older scrolls, the seemingly incorporeal voices he hears from time to time—but it’s pretty hard to ignore being pulled under Lake Michigan by… mermaids? Worse yet, this happens in front of his new crush, Leo, the dreamy football star who just moved to town.

Fantastic.

When he discovers his eccentric employer Pavel Chudinov is an intermediary between the human world and its myths, Bridger is plunged into a world of pixies, werewolves, and Sasquatch. The realm of myths and magic is growing increasingly unstable, and it is up to Bridger to ascertain the cause of the chaos, eliminate the problem, and help his boss keep the real world from finding the world of myths.



About FT Lukens:

F.T. Lukens is an author of Young Adult fiction who got her start by placing second out of ten thousand entries in a fan community writing contest. A sci fi enthusiast, F.T. loves Star Trek and Firefly and is a longtime member of her college’s science-fiction club. She holds degrees in Psychology and English Literature and has a love of cheesy television shows, superhero movies, and writing. F.T. lives in North Carolina with her husband, three kids, and three cats.

Her first novel in the Broken Moon series, The Star Host, was released by Duet Books in 2016. The second novel in the series was released in 2017. Connect with FT on her author site.


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 20 with Mary Fan

Mary Fan joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from her YA dark fantasy novella, Firedragon Rising.


About Firedragon Rising: 

Sinister plots. An underground rebellion. And a treacherous road filled with monsters and enemies unknown.

It’s been three months since Aurelia survived the International Challenge—an elite monster-fighting competition. And the Triumvirate has been keeping a close eye on her ever since … as if they expect her to cause them more trouble.

They’re right.

Now that she knows about the underground revolution—and the dark secrets of her own past—Aurelia is hell-bent on escaping the government’s watchful gaze and joining the rebels. Finally, she’s found a cause worth fighting for. A way for her kind, the Norms, to take back their freedom.

Then, when she overhears a Triumvirate official’s conversation, she learns that it’s even worse than she realized. The government knows about the rebels, and the rebellion. They’re searching for people who sympathize with the cause. And they’re coming after her next.

Suddenly the time for dreaming about the rebellion is over. Aurelia must make contact with the rebels and plot a quick escape … before the Triumvirate has a chance to capture her. But government forces and miles of monster-filled wilderness stand between her and the rebel headquarters, and dangers she never imagined lurk in the shadows.

Before she can fight for the freedom of her people, she must achieve her own—or die trying.

Find it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads.



About Mary Fan:

Mary Fan writes sci-fi/fantasy and young adult books about intrepid heroines and fantastical worlds. Her books include the JANE COLT space opera trilogy, STARSWEPT (YA sci-fi), and the FATED STARS novellas (YA high fantasy). The FIREDRAGON novellas (The Firedragon, Firedragon Rising) are prequels to her YA dark fantasy novel, FLYNN NIGHTSIDER AND THE EDGE OF EVIL, which will be released on May 15, 2018 from Crazy 8 Press.

Mary is also the co-editor of the BRAVE NEW GIRLS anthologies about girls doing techy things in sci-fi worlds. The goal of these anthologies is to encourage more girls to explore STEM fields and raising money for the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund.
Visit her at www.MaryFan.com.
Twitter: @astralcolt
Instagram: @astralcolt


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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New Podcast teaser: Lauren Proves Magic is Real

Hi all! Judith here. Today I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart: a well crafted podcast. Now it’s no secret that I adore many things in the land of books. Surprisingly, one of these is something that isn’t even written. For an avid reader like me, that’s unprecedented. But hands down I love a podcast. Listening to people talk about books? Yesssss. It is a wonderful and engrossing way to learn more about the written word with the added bonus of learning the personalities of the people recommending those books through the spoken word.

So what else do I love in books? Collaborative story-telling, diverse press Blind Eye Books, author Ginn Hale, and author/editor Nicole Kimberling. As separate entities they are amazing; as part of the same new serialized podcast that explores the intersections of good storytelling, fantasy, and authorship? PHENOMENAL.

Lauren Proves Magic is Real! is a unique new way to experience SFF. It incorporates the fantastic elements of old time radio plays with fresh content, voice acting, and SFF world-building. It’s a mash up of my favorite, the podcast, with a crafted fantasy story rich in character development and piled high with a whole lot of magic and devilry. The creator, Nicole Kimberling, stopped by Binge on Books today with a teaser trailer of this new podcast and along with the whole cast lets us know what we can expect from future episodes.



About Lauren Proves Magic is Real! 

When 12-year old cat sitter Lauren discovers her neighbor is a secret agent, the next logical step is to start podcasting his reports.

This episode features music by Infinite Third from their album, “Gladly” as well as the bespoke song, “Spider on My Face” by Joji and Nodalus from Motus.

Set in the shared-world universe first explored in our book “Irregulars” “Lauren Proves Magic is Real!” explores the lesser case files of Special Agent Keith Curry, supernatural food inspector. For more Special Agent Keith Curry check out “Cherries Worth Getting.

Or you could check out the book trailer for “Cherries Worth Getting.”

“Lauren Proves Magic is Real!” was created by Nicole Kimberling and is a co-production of Tommy Jordan, Shepherd Boy Records and Blind Eye Books.

Episode One, “The Banana Thing,” was written by Nicole Kimberling and produced by Tommy Jordan. It features the voices of: JojiDal MacleanGinn Hale, Ian EveryHope, Tommy Jordan, Brendan Connor and Nicole Kimberling.

Follow along on Blind Eye Books: listen now to Lauren Proves Magic is Real!


About Nicole Kimberling, the creative mind behind this podcast: 

Nicole Kimberling lives in Bellingham, Washington with her wife, Dawn Kimberling, two bad cats as well as a wide and diverse variety of invasive and noxious weeds. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. She is also the author of the Bellingham Mystery Series.

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 12 with Charlie Jane Anders

Charlie Jane Anders joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from her Nebula award winning, All the Birds in the Sky.


About All the Birds in the Sky:

An ancient society of witches and a hipster technological startup go to war in order to prevent the world from tearing itself. To further complicate things, each of the groups’ most promising followers (Patricia, a brilliant witch and Laurence, an engineering “wunderkind”) may just be in love with each other.

As the battle between magic and science wages in San Francisco against the backdrop of international chaos, Laurence and Patricia are forced to choose sides. But their choices will determine the fate of the planet and all mankind.

In a fashion unique to Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky offers a humorous and, at times, heart-breaking exploration of growing up extraordinary in world filled with cruelty, scientific ingenuity, and magic.

 



Photo by Francesca Myman/Locus.

About Charlie Jane Anders:

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which won the Nebula, Crawford and Locus Awards and was on Time Magazine’s list of 2016’s ten best novels. Her story “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo Award, and she’s had short fiction in Wired, Tin House, Conjunctions, Tor.com, Asimov’s Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. She organizes the Writers With Drinks reading series in San Francisco, and helped create io9.com, a blog about science and science fiction.

 

 


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 5 with Ginn Hale

Ginn Hale joins Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from queer SFF novel, Lord of the White Hell.


About Lord of the White Hell:

Kiram Kir-Zaki may be considered a mechanist prodigy among his own people, but when he becomes the first Haldiim ever admitted to the prestigious Sagrada Academy, he is thrown into a world where power, superstition and swordplay outweigh even the most scholarly of achievements.

But when the intimidation from his Cadeleonian classmates turns bloody, Kiram unexpectedly finds himself befriended by Javier Tornesal, the leader of a group of cardsharps, duelists and lotharios who call themselves Hellions.

However Javier is a dangerous friend to have. Wielder of the White Hell and sole heir of a Dukedom, he is surrounded by rumors of forbidden seductions, murder and damnation. His enemies are many and any one of his secrets could not only end his life but Kiram’s as well.



About Ginn Hale:

Award-winning author Ginn Hale lives in the Pacific Northwest with her lovely wife and their ancient, evil cat. She spends the rainy days admiring local fungi. The stormy nights, she spends writing science-fiction and fantasy stories featuring LGBT protagonists. (Attempts to convince the cat to be less evil have been largely abandoned.) Her most recent publication is The Long Past & Other Stories.

Connect with Ginn: Website | Twitter | Facebook


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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Sci-Fi Fantasy review: Dalí by E.M. Hamill

Title: Dalí by E.M. Hamill

Published by: NineStar Press

Format: Mobi

Genre: Queer SFF

Order at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Publisher

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: When we meet Dalí Tamareia, they’re like Princess Leia combined with Han Solo in that first moment they met, except with more drugs, more sex, more implants, and more time in emergency care than a Sol Fed Ambassador should have to endure. This sci-fi novel goes fast and, damn, is it good.

Read More

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Fantasy Review: The Glamour Thieves by Don Allmon

The Glamour Thieves by Don Allmon

Published by: Riptide Publishing

Format: eARC

Genre: Queer SF/Fantasy

Order at: Publisher  |  Amazon  |   B&N  |  Kobo

Reviewed by: Edwin

What to Expect:  A fast-paced, well-written SF/Fantasy heist story, packed with action and sex.

Check out Don Allmon’s guest post “One Handed Writing” to learn all about what drove him to write The Glamour Thieves. Hint: it’s not what you think it is. 

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