New Adult/Adult, Paranormal

Haze by Rebecca Crunden

Pages: 265

Publisher: Independent

Release Date: August 6, 2018

Genre(s): Contemporary with Paranormal Elements

Format: PDF Copy from Author

*** I received a copy of Haze from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts/opinions in the review below are all my own and have not been influenced by this exchange in any way.***

Goodreads Synopsis

“When Eliza Owens gets a phone call in the middle of the night from a girl she’s never met, she doesn’t know what to think. The girl introduces herself as Paige, and says she used to date Erik Stern, Eliza’s fiancé. What’s more, she has something important to discuss.

The only problem? Paige has been dead for years.

Believing it to be a sick prank, Eliza tries to force it from her mind until Sam, Eliza’s older sister, tells her she met Paige only a few weeks before. And, according to Sam, Paige has nothing nice to say about Erik.

The fight which follows shatters the lives of everyone involved, and Erik disappears without a trace.

Five years later, Erik returns to town after his father’s death. Old wounds quickly resurface, and with them several burning questions. None the least of which is: Who spoke to Eliza and Sam if it wasn’t Paige? And why?” 

What Did I Think?

To describe this book in a few words …. dark, mysterious, and downright spooky!

The overall concept of Haze fascinated me from the get-go. The vibe is probably split 50/50 between contemporary and paranormal, which I found really intriguing, given that I haven’t encountered other books with such an even mix of both before. Though the narration isn’t truly alternating between our main protagonists, I found myself really enjoying learning about what Erik and Eliza were doing separately just as much as I liked the moments when the story was being told with them in the same location. I’m a total sucker for anything in books that breaks from the normal text, so seeing those journal entries pieced into Haze was so cool to see. Though the main plotline of the book is pretty intense and serious, I think the humor in the dialogue between characters kept me engaged and from getting too sad about the events that sparked our characters’ adventures. While Haze isn’t something I likely would have picked up on my own due to it being on the darker side of things, I thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace and exploring a novel with an overall concept so different from anything I’ve read before.

Though I’ve never experienced half of what Eliza, our main protagonist, has gone through in her life, I found myself so sympathetic to her cause, even when she turned to not-so-great habits to cope with these hardships. After the death of someone very close to her and another just up and leaving, it seemed perfectly reasonable for Eliza to crack and sink to her lowest point. I appreciated the realness we got to see from her character during this time even though it totally did break my heart to read about. However, Eliza’s fiery personality we see at the very beginning of the book is never fully smothered. I lived for the moments when she would put her foot down and stand her ground, even when I thought she was totally crazy for doing whatever it was she insisted on — it’s the effort and drive that counts, right? My favorite moments from Eliza were those where she used her inner strength to help pull others out from under the control of their own personal demons (though it was a little hypocritical in some instances). It didn’t happen often, but I couldn’t help but appreciate this compassionate yet insistent side to Eliza that I also think helped her move past her anger and bitterness for life. As a whole, I liked Eliza’s character okay, though I did find it difficult to connect with her in any real way outside of just being sympathetic to the struggles she has been going through since tragedy struck.

I found that I had a stronger connection with our second main protagonist, Erik. While I couldn’t connect with the tragedy he’s had to face and the people of Riverside’s general wariness of him due to his father’s past sins, I think his reserved yet sincere personality is similar to mine, making it easier for me to understand his motives (even if I didn’t always agree with how he approached things). I appreciated the fact that while Erik has made some pretty terrible choices in life, he does his absolute best to atone for his actions and make it up to the people he’s hurt. I also loved the fact that he didn’t hide what he was feeling or mince words — he’s always quick to tell Eliza how he feels about things, even though she did her best to avoid any emotional topics (to her own detriment, I think!). Overall, Erik’s charismatic nature was kind of hard to resist, and I couldn’t help but respect him all the more for how hard he tries to make up for time lost in Riverside with those he cares about.

I’ll be the first to admit that if there had been no Miles in this book, there’s a good chance it would have been way too dark for my psyche to handle. This dude brought all the humor, laughter, and a good time to all the situations he was put through and did so with a great attitude. I loved the banter he carries on with both Eliza and Erik, as well as how he wasn’t afraid to give them a piece of his mind when they needed it. I think everyone needs a friend like Miles in their life — funny, loyal, and ready to face whatever comes his people’s way right along side them!

While I very much enjoyed Haze, there were some things I wasn’t super keen on. One of the main issues I had dealt with the lack of development from the main characters. I thought there were so many times where a moment would help one of our protagonist start to change course but never did. While not all characters have to have a huge amount of development, it just seemed like all of them stayed relatively stagnant throughout the course of the novel — I just expected so much more from them, in the end. I also had some issues with pacing. I’m a huge fan of fast-paced plots, but this one almost moved TOO fast, leaving some plot holes and the storyline feeling rather incomplete in the end. I think slowing down the action and spending some additional time on transitions (i.e. making it clear when a character left one place to go to another, as one example) would have made the plot a little more clear and easier to follow. The only other component of Haze I just wasn’t sold on was the ending bit. No spoilers, but it just went too far into the paranormal. Did I enjoy it? Totally, but it didn’t work for me in terms of consistency with the rest of the book.

Haze is a quick read sure to satisfy any reader’s paranormal contemporary romance craving! It was spooky, funny, and a whole barrel of mystery I had a blast uncovering alongside our crew of characters. If you’re looking for a dark, ghostly read to get you in the mood for the fall season/Halloween, Haze would be the perfect choice!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

***NOTE: While nothing is necessarily explicit, there are certainly mature themes mentioned on more than one occasion (drug usage, some components of romance, and violence) that you should be aware of before giving Haze a read!***

If you are a fan of the New Adult/Adult paranormal/paranormal romance genres and don’t mind a substantially dark read, Haze is the perfect choice for you!

I’d also recommend Haze to fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Don’t Look Back and Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series.

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Pages: 625

Series: Blood and Ash #1

Publisher: Blue Box Press

Release Date: March 30, 2020

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

A Maiden…

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty…

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom…

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.”

What Did I Think?

Y’all, I am SHOOK. A little backstory for you all: JLA announced the title and cover of this book on THE DAY IT FREAKING RELEASED (yes, seriously — not even exaggerating!) AND it was her very first time releasing an adult high fantasy novel. As if that didn’t shock me enough, I am completely flabbergasted to say that now that I’ve read it, From Blood and Ash just might have made my top three favorite books of hers of all time!

Now that you understand why I am completely SHOOKETH, let’s discuss the overall concept of this total gem! From Blood and Ash had just about everything I could ever want in an adult high fantasy novel: multi-dimensional characters, stunning descriptions of the very complex world of Masadonia, all the political intrigue, and an action-packed plot that kept me on my toes from beginning to end. I thought the religious tie-ins were fascinating to read about, and I thoroughly enjoyed them in conjunction with the mythical creatures and themes that were also woven into the story. From Blood and Ash has so many moving parts, and I thought all of them worked together beautifully — like a well-oiled machine!

Poppy, our main protagonist, is a force to be reckoned with. Given the role of ensuring the Ascensions of the people of Masadonia, Poppy is forced to live her life in solitude, following the explicate orders of the Duke, Duchess, and priestesses. However, the reader learns quickly that Poppy often secretly breaks away from what is expected of her in order to try and maintain some control over her life. From the very first chapter, we see that she’s not too keen on following direct orders from the people who are supposed to “rule over her” and that she is more than capable of protecting herself when need be. Throughout the course of the book, we continue to see her question everything she previously thought was true, and the more she manages to discover, the more she begins to fight for what she feels is right and what she wants, rather than what those around her expect her to do for the “good of humanity.” I loved that the reader sees the fire in her from the first page and that we hardly ever see it go out, even as she struggles through some very tough moments. I found myself rooting for Poppy over the course of the entire book, and I am so excited to see how the events of this book have shaped her character in the next one!

As always, JLA gives us a totally swoon-worthy supporting lead, and this go-round, it’s Hawke Flynn: handsome, crazy clever, and one of the wittiest JLA characters of all time, if you ask me! Though he comes across as this very mysterious tough guy, he also has a softer side to him that had me saying “awhh!!!” in my head like a million times over. One of my favorite components of Hawke’s character is the fact that instead of trying to protect Poppy from every little thing as her royal guard, he understands her need to take control of her own life and fight for herself. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the whole “tough guy constantly save the damsel in distress” trope, so I was happy to see that Hawke helped when needed, but wasn’t the overbearing, brood-y male lead we often times see in similar novels. To say that Hawke never got on my nerves/made me really angry is a total lie (no spoilers, friend! Just give this book a read and you’ll totally get what I mean!), but a part of my soul still loves him to pieces. Hawke’s character has so many secret layers, and I cannot wait to see more of them unravel in Book #2!

One last comment before I cap this review off: THAT FRICK FRACKIN’ ENDING, YOU GUYS! PREPARE YOUR HEARTS AND SOULS BECAUSE THAT WAS CRAY!

From Blood and Ash was basically what you’d end up with if Throne of Glass and Twilight had a baby. I loved watching Poppy navigate through the uber-controlling world she lives in and how Hawke provided the breadcrumbs she needed to sort the facts from fiction she’s been told her entire life. The romance was legit FIRE, the characters had so many layers that I loved seeing unravel as the story went on, and the plotline was so fast-paced that it was legitimately breathtaking. I am so thankful that the second book, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, releases tomorrow because I seriously cannot wait to dive back into this world!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*NOTE: This book is definitely only for mature readers (the romance is STEAMY and there is also quite a bit of graphic violence/murder). I would not recommend this book to readers under the age of 18.*

If you’ve read Jennifer L. Armentrout’s other books (particularly her paranormal romances!), From Blood and Ash may just turn out to be your next great read!

I’d also whole-heartedly recommend From Blood and Ash to fans of Sarah J. Maas, and Stephanie Meyer.

Dystopian, New Adult/Adult

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Handmaid's Tale (orig) - Two Dollar Radio Headquarters

Pages: 314

Series: The Handmaid’s Tale #1

Publisher: Anchor Books

Release Date: April 1985

Genre(s): Dystopian

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now . . .

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.”

What Did I Think?

Given its dystopian genre, the overall concept of The Handmaid’s Tale was both intriguing and disturbing if one takes the time to think about what it would actually be like to live in a world like Gilead. I enjoyed the “before and after” separation of the story. It allowed the reader to gain an understanding of how different things were and orient themselves in the “new look” of the world our protagonist, Offred, is living in. I enjoyed the flashback of the past that came up in the present-day parts of the story, as well as how thoroughly the logistics of Gilead were explained. While I have found myself growing out of my love of dystopian novels, The Handmaid’s Tale had the perfect blend of elements that make it dystopian and those that are completely unique to this story, keeping me engaged from beginning to end.

I fell in love with Atwood’s writing from the very first chapter. Every line is so poetic, and the way she describes this world and the happenings in it are absolutely beautiful to read — a sharp contrast to the objects and situation she’s actually illustrating using this language. The fact that she spends the most time describing things that aren’t all that relevant to the plot is an interesting twist on what a lot of modern writers do, and I found myself really enjoying it. For example, the reader finds out exactly what’s in Offred’s bedroom, though this setting is rarely mentioned again. If I had to pick one stand-out from the entirety of The Handmaid’s Tale, it would have to be Atwood’s writing style and the places she chooses to add these beautiful descriptions, hands down!

Offred’s character was so fascinating to me. At first glance, it appears that Offred it okay with just going with the flow of the standard that Gilead has for handmaids — they are to have the Commander’s children that the Wives can no longer have due to being rendered infertile. This obviously frustrated me because unlike so many of the other characters, Offred remembers what it was like in the “before,” and I kept thinking, “Why are you settling for a life like this when you know how good it used to be?” However, another side to Offred came out as she started interacting with some other multi-dimensional characters. Given how horrible Gilead’s consequences for resistance are, it makes sense that Offred would have been afraid to speak out against those who have more power than her. In an attempt to keep spoilers at bay, I enjoyed seeing Offred’s character develop more and more as she realizes that she’s not the only one looking for a way out.

The Handmaid’s Tale was a compelling dystopian read that contains many overarching themes that are still relevant today, though it was first publishing in 1985. I found the plot engaging and well-paced, and the characters (very nondescript names and all) very dynamic, as many aren’t as they first appear. Atwood’s beautiful and descriptive writing style was the icing on the cake to this masterpiece. While The Handmaid’s Tale is already considered a classic for more reasons than one, I have a feeling that past and future readers will hold onto this book and never let it go!

*UPDATE: Just saw that there is a second book called The Testaments, YAYY! Definitely going to be giving that a read in the near future, especially after the cliffhanger at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale!*

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*NOTE: This book is only suitable for mature audiences due to graphic violence and other adult themes. For this reason, I would not recommend this to readers under the age of 16*

If you’re a lover of the world-building and overall darkness of other dystopian novels, I highly recommend you give The Handmaid’s Tale a read!

I would also recommend The Handmaid’s Tale to fans of Veronica Roth’s Divergent, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds.

New Adult/Adult, Paranormal

Torn by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Pages: 360

Series: The Wicked Trilogy #2

Publisher: Jennifer L. Armentrout (Self-Published)

Release Date: July 19, 2016

Genre(s): Paranormal with Romantic Elements

Format: Paperback

*If you have not read the first book in this series (Wicked) , please stop reading this review now! SPOILERS FOLLOW for Book #1!*

Goodreads Synopsis

“Torn between duty and survival, nothing can be the same.

Everything Ivy Morgan thought she knew has been turned on its head. After being betrayed and then nearly killed by the Prince of the Fae, she’s left bruised and devastated—and with an earth-shattering secret that she must keep at all costs. And if the Order finds out her secret, they’ll kill her.

Then there’s Ren Owens, the sexy, tattooed Elite member of the Order who has been sharing Ivy’s bed and claiming her heart. Their chemistry is smoking hot, but Ivy knows that Ren has always valued his duty to the Order above all else—he could never touch her if he knew the truth. That is, if he let her live at all. Yet how can she live with herself if she lies to him?

But as the Fae Prince begins to close in, intent on permanently opening the gates to the Otherworld, Ivy is running out of options. If she doesn’t figure out who she can trust—and fast—it’s not only her heart that will be torn apart, but civilization itself.”

What Did I Think?

Guys I frick frackin’ LOVED this book! A lot of times the second book in a series is the hardest to write, as it has to pull together ideas from the first book while setting the stage for the third, but this book was one of my favorite second books in a series of all time!

Instead of going into the overall concept (which you already know I love from my review of Wicked), let’s talk about how are characters are adjusting to life after that crazy plot twist JLA threw at us at the end of Wicked! Like with most of her books, I fall more and more in love with the characters she creates as a series goes on. I mean yeah, they literally stomp all over my heart every time, but for some reason I keep coming back (and it’s totally worth it each time, I swear!).

I respected Ivy so much more in this book than I did in the first one. Throughout the course of Torn, she was very anxious and kept to herself a lot, and I really don’t blame her, considering the entire Order demanded that the halfling (aka Ivy) be killed on-site. This distance Ivy was keeping definitely changed the relationship she had with Ren– it basically made it non-existent for a time, which drove me literally insane because I ship them so hard– but at the same time, I thought her reaction was super understandable and realistic, given the circumstances. It’s human nature to want to fight for your survival, and I think Ivy’s approach to trying to do so made total sense and felt real, even though it was clear she hated having to isolate herself from those she loved to keep them (and herself) out of harm’s way. The perseverance and bravery we see from Ivy in Torn is definitely going to make her a stronger character come the third book, and I can’t wait to see how her character deals with the next set of obstacles she has thrown her way in Book Three!

A short letter to my good friend, Ren: Oh, Ren. I love ya, buddy, but you CRUSHED MY SOUL in this book. I get it, I totally do, but I still expect you to make it up to me (and Ivy, but mostly me) in the next book. In all seriousness, though, Ren’s personality stayed pretty true to what it was in the first book– sweet, hilarious, and oh so lovable, even when he was being a dummy. I wish I could give you all the juicy deets about why I have such mixed feelings about Ren’s actions in this book, but you’ll just have to read it for yourself to find out why I’m so conflicted! I will say that he redeemed himself towards the end of the book, but I can’t help but hold a little bit of a grudge because I expected so much more from him (ughh… why do I sound like a disappointed parent here? Regardless, it’s the truth, yo).

Last but certainly not least, MY MAN TINK! If anyone who’s read this book says that don’t like Tink, you definitely shouldn’t be hanging out with them because they are CRAY! He added so much humor to a book that had some pretty dark moments, and I love when his hidden knowledge of all things Fae and demons comes out when you least expect it! Some big things happened for Tink in this book, and I can’t wait to see what shenanigans he gets into in the next book!

Andddd we are down to my final thoughts! The pacing for this book was right on the money. I didn’t find myself skimming, and I was completely focused and invested in all this book had to offer from beginning to end. The characters demand attention from the audience, and I am so here for how much our MCs have developed in just the first two books. JLA’s writing style is so beautiful and compelling, and her books always take the reader on some of the best (and most insane) journeys ever–Torn could be one of the wildest yet!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains very mature content (both in terms of violence and romantic themes) that exceeds that of the first book in the series, so I would only recommend individuals 18+ give it a read!*

This recommendation is obvious as HECK, but if you loved Wicked, you should definitely be reading this book like right now!

New Adult/Adult, Paranormal

Wicked by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Pages: 375

Series: The Wicked Trilogy #1

Publisher: Jennifer L. Armentrout (Self-Published)

Release Date: December 8, 2014

Genre(s): Paranormal with Romantic Elements

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Things are about to get Wicked in New Orleans.

Twenty-two year old Ivy Morgan isn’t your average college student. She, and others like her, know humans aren’t the only thing trolling the French Quarter for fun… and for food. Her duty to the Order is her life. After all, four years ago, she lost everything at the hands of the creatures she’d sworn to hunt, tearing her world and her heart apart.

Ren Owens is the last person Ivy expected to enter her rigidly controlled life. He’s six feet and three inches of temptation and swoon-inducing charm. With forest-green eyes and a smile that’s surely left a stream of broken hearts in its wake, he has an uncanny, almost unnatural ability to make her yearn for everything he has to offer. But letting him in is as dangerous as hunting the cold-blooded killers stalking the streets. Losing the boy she loved once before had nearly destroyed her, but the sparking tension that grows between them becomes impossible for Ivy to deny. Deep down, she wants… she needs more than what her duty demands of her, what her past has shaped for her.

But as Ivy grows closer to Ren, she realizes she’s not the only one carrying secrets that could shatter the frail bond between them. There’s something he’s not telling her, and one thing is for certain. She’s no longer sure what is more dangerous to her—the ancient beings threatening to take over the town or the man demanding to lay claim to her heart and her soul.”

What Did I Think?

Let’s dive right into my thoughts on the overall concept/construct of this bad boy! Jennifer L. Armentrout is literally the queen of paranormal, and Wicked was no exception to this rule! I loved the New Orleans setting and how Jennifer combined paranormal elements with some real New Orleans’ hot-spots (Cafe Du Monde beignets, anyone?). Her world-building was well constructed, and I loved how all the moving parts in this book worked so well together.

Hate me if you must, but at the beginning of this book, I was not a huge fan of Ivy. I just felt like she was doing the whole “woes me” thing (understandable, to an extent, but STILL), and it wasn’t until learning about her past that I was finally member of the Team Ivy fan club. While she is totally kick butt at her job (and in all things life, to be honest), other members of The Order had little to no respect for her and thought she was crazy, which was just plain irritating to read because all of us readers know how awesome she is. However, I appreciated the fact that she didn’t let them deter her from doing her job and doing it better than most of the other members of The Order, nonetheless. The determination that she had to do what she thought was right even if The Order didn’t approve was one of the traits I admired most about her and I think served her so well as various events started to go down.

Can we please just take a moment and focus on REN? So good looking, so freaking awesome, and so funny and witty, ughh. Pretty dang close to a perfect specimen, if you ask me. As much as I wanted to resist his charms, it was an epic fail. I loved how he didn’t baby Ivy and gave it to her straight, especially at the beginning when she was kind of a hot mess. I also really appreciated his levelheadedness, as it helped balance out Ivy’s fiery temper. Needless to say, I’m totally on board the #Revy ship, folks (yes, I just made that ship name up because they make such a great pairing!). Ren’s relationship with Tink also literally almost killed me. It was so funny to watch them bicker back and forth, but with such a fondness for one another, even if they’d never admit it! I hope these two become BFFs as the series continues.

You didn’t think I’d leave this little (sometimes big) guy out, did you? Tink has got to be one of my favorite characters of all time! If you love characters that have literally no filter but loyal to those they love to whatever end, you’re sure to be obsessed with him too! My favorite part of his characterization is that he is so wise. We don’t know all that much about his past, but it’s clear that it has shaped who he is and has also resulted in him being seriously knowledgeable about things that aren’t all that well known to other characters (even when they need that information to deal with various plot events that go down). Overall, I love him, but I’m excited to see his character develops more in the next book and learning more about his kind!

Down to the nitty-gritty. I thought that Wicked was well-paced and that the plot events flowed seamlessly from beginning to end. As with any new series, there has to be time to world-build and sometimes the reader can get bogged down with logistics, and I felt like this was the case, ever so briefly, though, in this book. However, I do think that this information will be very beneficial to the reader as the series goes on. Overall, I thought this was a great read with a compelling storyline and some really hilarious interactions between characters, not to mention a crazy good cliffhanger to top things off and a whole truckload of plot twists along the way!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*Due to mature content (both violent and romantic themes), I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of 17/18.*

If you’re as big of a JLA fan as I am, I don’t even know why you’re reading this review when you COULD BE READING THIS BOOK. Just kidding, but this book is definitely for you!

I’d also recommend this book to anyone who loves books by Sarah J. Maas, Cassandra Clare, and Wendy Higgins.

Or, maybe you’re just looking for a book with a fun cast of characters, plot twists at every corner, and a whole lot fighting between humans and supernatural critters. If so, this book may just be right what you’re looking for!

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City): Maas, Sarah J ...

Pages: 816

Series: Crescent City #1

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: March 3, 2020

Genre(s): High/Urban Fantasy with Romantic Elements

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.

“Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.”

What Did I Think?

Okay, y’all. I think I’ve finally calmed down from the awesomeness that it this book enough to formulate all of my thoughts, so here it goes:

The world-building in this book was fantastic, as with all of Sarah J. Maas’ books! In all my years of reading, I’ve never read anything quite like this world, and I absolutely loved every moment of piecing the imagery and descriptions of this world together and creating a visual in my mind of exactly what Lunathion (aka Crescent City) would look like!

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was the fact that even though Danika and the Pack of Devils weren’t physically present for a good portion of the book, I was so invested in their characters and fell in love with them instantaneously, which made the more emotional moments of Bryce’s journey that much more heartbreakingly beautiful for me to be a part of. It takes incredible talent for someone to be able to write characters that stick with the reader long after they’re gone (not gonna spoil anything, folks, so just read the book to find out what I mean!), and the fact that Maas could make the reader connect with a group of nearly-invisible characters on this deep of a level in literally a couple of chapters is completely insane, but in the best possible way!

Speaking of characters… First and foremost, I love every freaking character in this book, including the mean ones (yeah, I’m talking to you, SABINE, MICAH, AND THE AUTUMN KING). Ruhn, Queen Hypaxia, Flynn, Declan, Naomi, Isaiah, Ithan, Amelia (err, okay, my like of this one is still up in the air), Tharion, Fury, and so many more have totally stolen my heart, and even though I know there’s bound to be casualties in the other books in this series (A SARAH J. MAAS SPECIALTY, much to my dismay), I really hope that a lot of these guys make it to the end and get their happy endings (I know, unlikely, but one can hope, right?).

Okay, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the ROMANCE between Hunt and Bryce! At first, I wasn’t sure I was sold, to be honest. I think this was because I feel like with all relationships (fictional and in real life), you have to work on yourself first before you can really connect with someone else, and these two both had things they needed to figure out. However, as I continued reading and learning more about their individual struggles, I couldn’t think of a better pairing, as they were able to help one another through the challenges they were facing because the battles they were fighting individually were very similar to the other’s. While Bryce and Hunt’s individual journeys in and of itself themselves were incredibly raw and beautiful to watch unfold, I think the emotional bond (and, of course, the romantic bond) they created with one another makes their stories that much more compelling because they had one another to lean on and trust, when at the beginning they each had close to no one in their corners.

A quick shout-out to my FAVORITE element of this whole book, as cheezy as it may sound: the fact that EVERY SINGLE MOMENT circled back to the idea that there is real power in love, and that sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps you moving forward, whether it be love for your friends, family, a romantic partner, or maybe even a combination of all three.

Okay, so I’ve rambled a whole lot about this book, so here are my final thoughts:

The plot moved at a perfect pace for me, and I thought the story line was very well constructed– complex enough that the reader is certainly going to have to think things through, but not so complicated that our heads are spinning. The characters and their development were FABULOUS and their motivations/journeys and their reactions to various plot points were represented realistically, and I loved all of the “OH SNAP NO FREAKING WAY” plot twists that kept getting thrown our way! I would seriously give this book 1,000,000 starts if I could, but since I can’t fit that many on this post, I’ll just have to settle for 5/5!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

Due to mature content (both in terms of romantic elements and violent themes), I would only recommend this book to mature audiences (17/18+).

If your’re looking for an adult fantasy novel that’s action packed, full of plot twists, and has has a little dash of “forbidden romance” thrown in, this book is totally for you! If you’ve read Sarah J. Maas’ other books and fell in love with her characters and world-building, I highly recommend you check this book out!

I also recommend this book to those of you who are big fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, and Leigh Bardugo!