Tagged: masq1

Seaside by Wylde Scott

Seaside by Wylde Scott(Cover picture courtesy of Barnes & Noble.)

Every boy in Seaside wants to be one of Blackbeard’s Boys. From the time ten year old Robert Grace O’Malley could hold his very first fishing pole, it was all he thought about. Every captain of every ship had been one, and now he was well on his way. That is, until he meets Walter, the young octopus who will change his life forever. In Seaside, Wylde Scott takes you on an exciting voyage through a fairly-tale fishing village and a pivotal moment in the life of two unexpected friends. An adventurous story perfect for young readers graduating into their first novels or parents reading their little ones to sleep, it’s a book that’s bound to be a staple in every family’s library for years to come.

[Full disclosure: I received a hardcover copy of this book from the author at Book Expo America 2015 in exchange for an honest review.]

Novels for  younger readers aren’t what I typically review here on The Mad Reviewer but the blurb was so intriguing and Mr. Scott pitched it very well at his booth so I just had to pick it up.  In the end I’m really, really glad I brought Seaside home.

Seaside is a great book, as the blurb says, for young readers starting to read novels on their own or for parents reading to younger children before bedtime.  But really, I’m a grown woman and I thoroughly enjoyed it so it’s not just for the little ones as long as you let your inner child have free reign for a while.  It’s written at a level that any age group can enjoy but it’s the story itself that is (of course) the most important part.

Our human protagonist Robert is a ten year old boy who wants nothing more than to be one of Blackbeard’s Boys.  In his village of Seaside virtually everyone works as a fisherman but Blackbeard’s Boys are sort of the in-crowd, the group of future fishermen that you really want to be a part of.  They’re the cool kids and Robert quite naturally wants to be one.  Which is where we begin our story: with Robert swimming out to the lighthouse late at night in order to prove he’s worthy to be one of Blackbeard’s Boys.  That’s also when we meet our octopus protagonist, Walter.  Walter is just a carefree young child who questions almost everything his mother says, especially when it comes to humans.  Unfortunately, Walter’s reluctance to leave his play area that also happens to be a popular fishing area leads to his mother being captured by Captain Bonicelli, the son of the man Walter’s grandfather dragged to the bottom of the sea when he was caught.

Without giving too much of the plot away, Walter and Robert end up meeting and striking up a friendship that is as unconventional as it is taboo in the fishing town of Seaside.  And it’s this friendship that really makes both of them reconsider their preconceived notions about both humans and octopi.  Walter has to really think about his stereotypes regarding humans and Robert has to really reconsider whether or not he really does want to be a fisherman for his own sake or because it’s what is expected of him.  That leads me into another important point about Seaside: it has some really great lessons in here for young readers.  For example, the idea that you don’t have to fit in with the cool crowd and that you should choose to do what makes you happy rather than what’s expected of you.  Those are lessons that people of all ages can use, but they are especially important for children.

Obviously for someone who reads quite a bit, the ending was a little predictable but kids will absolutely love it.  One of the things that’s really striking about Seaside in general is that for a children’s novel, the characters were incredibly well developed.  Of course both Walter and Robert were well developed, but the surprising thing was that all of the adult characters were as well.  They all had a little bit of page time of their own and that revealed their backstories as well as the motivations for their current actions.  We learn, for example, why Robert’s father retired from being a fisherman and why Captain Bonicelli has a bit of a chip on his shoulder when it comes to giant octopi.  There are all sorts of fascinating little details in these peoples’ lives and I think you do have to read the book a couple of times to truly appreciate the thoughtfulness and detail Wylde Scott put into his novel.  Of course the illustrations by Hannah Shuping really add to the story and bring the characters to life even more.  They’re a little dark for my liking but they are fabulous and at times adorable.

Basically, if you have a child that’s just starting to read chapter books or one that’s a little too young but loves to be read to at bedtime, Seaside is a great choice.  It has some amazingly memorable characters, a great plot, fabulous illustrations and some very important life lessons.  What more can you ask for in a chapter book aimed at young children?

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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*Not available.

King Callie by B. Lynch

King Callie by B. Lynch(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Caliandra, the teenage princess of Barra, is in dire straits.

Not only did her fiancé break off their engagement and leave her for a richer woman, but Caliandra’s father is gravely ill – and if her brother Valric is unable to find the cure he’s set out for, their titles and wealth will disappear. Their father had been chosen as king by a magic axe, and when he passes on, so does the crown.

Soon, the worst befalls the princess – Valric turns up dead, her father succumbs to disease, and the axe goes missing, leaving the throne open for a coup by the devious Minister of War. Caliandra and her mother decide to risk everything on a desperate bid to find the axe and oust the Minister, driven by a prophecy that the proper King will take his place – Caliandra.

But when she finds out which trusted family friend betrayed her brother, will Caliandra’s thirst for revenge sabotage her only chance at the crown?

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

If I could describe King Callie (both the book and the title character) in one word it would be ‘underwhelming’.  For a story with magic, prophecy, revenge and intrigue, this book is kind of boring.

Caliandra as a character is thoroughly underwhelming.  She mopes around about being ditched for a richer woman for most of the book and then spends the rest of the book getting mad at the people who are actually just trying to help her (and actually end up putting her on the throne).  I don’t mind characters with generally unlikeable personalities as long as they’re interesting but Callie wasn’t.  We’re told she’s driven by revenge for her brother Valric’s death but you never really feel that anger and desire for revenge.  It manifests itself in stupid actions like challenging her own guards to a duel but as a reader you really don’t feel that desire for revenge.  And for someone who grew up at court, she’s strangely naive when it comes to plotting.  Sure, I’ll go help you two mysterious ladies kill the Seer who sent my brother to his death!  By the way, maybe I should ask you why you want this guy dead instead of just going along with it?  Yes, I get that she’s young and inexperienced but at the same time I expect at least a little bit of a sense of self-preservation when she actually grew up at court.  Courts aren’t exactly the most honest, open places in the world.

The plot seemed to be convoluted in the beginning because there were so many names thrown at the reader at once but it’s really not. It’s your typical evil General trying to seize the throne at an opportunistic moment sort of thing.  The only interesting parts were with the Seer, who happens to work for a shadowy organization that may or may not be evil.  We’re not entirely sure at this point and I’m not particularly inclined to find out.  Really, the only interesting character that can actually plot is Caliandra’s mother, who Caliandra spends most of the time undermining or insulting for being too womanly or suggesting Callie should tone things down.  Unfortunately, the book is not really about Callie’s mother.  I really do love books with lots of political maneuvering and on the surface there’s plenty here but it’s actually all very shallow and follows the same old political tropes you’ve read a hundred times before.

One of the only things that I actually found on par with my relatively middling expectations was the world-building.  I liked the fact that this magic axe chose the next king.  (Why not?  It’s no more ridiculous than relying on the dubious merits of a king’s offspring simply because they are his offspring.)  I also liked the scenes with magic, particularly in regards to the Seer’s prophecies and how he chose to interpret them.  One of the things I was fairly impressed with is that B. Lynch actually acknowledges that a kingdom does not exist in a vacuum and when the king dies, other kingdoms are fairly opportunistic.  They really do like to kick their opponent when said opponent is practically on its knees.  Of course that’s very realistic and in line with the history of almost every country in the world.

So despite the good world-building I have to say that King Callie was underwhelming.  It’s not the worst book I’ve ever read and I’d even hesitate to call it a ‘bad’ book but it certainly wasn’t the most enjoyable book I’ve ever read.  It really does feel like there was so much potential that was just squandered.

I give this book 2/5 stars.

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Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Sometimes, one must accomplish the impossible.

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…

I had serious doubts about how Hidden Huntress would turn out, given the fact that Cécile and Tristan are now separated and their relationship was the absolute highlight of the first book.  Their banter also provided quite a bit of comedy relief given the relatively dark atmosphere of the story.  However, I didn’t really need to worry because although there are some places where this book suffers from Book 2 Syndrome, it is a solid book on the whole.

We meet Cécile as she’s trying to find her place in society: she’s on stage almost every night singing opera, just like she dreamed.  Except now she’s really not happy because she’s separated from Tristan, has to deal with her overbearing perfectionist mother and is missing Tristan terribly.  Yet she manages to function like a relatively normal human being, going about her daily routine while secretly involving her friends in the search for Anushka.  Things are frustrating for her but they’re going well considering Tristan’s predicament: he’s been disinherited and thrown in jail, tortured regularly with iron to suppress his magic.  It’s pretty horrific and it’s understandable that when Cécile meets with his father, the king, she makes a promise she might not be able to keep.  And troll promises work on humans in strange ways, ways that the human in question might not have anticipated.  It’s Cécile‘s hasty (but understandably so) promise that really kickstarts the main events and action in the novel.

Once again, the characters are incredibly well developed.  Cécile is still very much her own woman but has to learn to rely on her friends and her brother in order to help her hunt Anushka.  She also has to come to terms with her mother and her mother’s expectations of her as a budding opera singer (which includes the entertaining of men).  Tristan also really has to confront his past arrogance in his schemes and learn to think in about four dimensions in order to anticipate his scheming father’s every move.  He does a few incredibly rash things but since it’s in the name of restoring a semblance of equality to Trollus I think some of them are understandable, if not entirely justified.  One of the characters that really stood out for me was Anushka.  We don’t really learn much about her until the end of the novel but wow, her backstory makes her cursing of the trolls entirely understandable.  Trust me, whatever you’re thinking her backstory was, it’s actually much worse.  You really do feel quite a bit of sympathy for her…temporarily.

The plot is not the most fast-paced, unfortunately.  Sometimes Danielle Jensen gets caught up with the Cécile angle of the story and neglects Tristan’s very important scheming, which really needs more page time in order to be fully understood and appreciated.  She could have cut some of the opera scenes with Cécile in the name of trimming down the plot and that’s coming from me, an opera lover.  I think Hidden Huntress is definitely a solid sequel to Stolen Songbird but the plot just lacked something that the first book had.  I can’t quite pinpoint what it is, but it seemed like there was something missing in this second book that was definitely there in the first.  That’s not very helpful, I know, but it’s true.  Although, to be fair, the cliffhanger at the ending was massive and makes me want to read the next book immediately.  I also loved the fact that the origins of the trolls are explained a little more even if we’re still lacking in a full backstory.

Basically, Hidden Huntress was a decent sequel but it definitely suffered from Book 2 Syndrome in some spots.  I’m absolutely still going to read the third and final book in the Malediction Trilogy but I do feel this one could have been better.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Summer Queen by Amber Argyle

Summer Queen by Amber Argyle(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Nelay never wanted to be queen.

Poised to become the most powerful priestess in Idara, Nelay doesn’t have time to become a pretty bauble for the king. She’s too busy saving her people from the invading army sweeping across her kingdom.

But in defeat after defeat, Nelay begins to realize a bigger power is at play than that wielded by mere mortals. Only she can stand between the cinders of her once-great nation and the vengeance of a goddess.

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

One of the things that drew me to Summer Queen in the beginning was the idea that this was finally some different fantasy.  In the beginning of the blurb it sounded pretty typical but then things quickly got good so I decided to sign up for the tour.  And in the end I’m glad I did because Summer Queen is anything but typical.

We start off meeting our main character Nelay preparing to seduce a king.  Not because she’s particularly interested in him or seduction in general but because she wants to distract him while she makes her move to escape.  The king, Zatal, is not marrying her because she’s sooo beautiful or the usual tropes but rather because the High Priestess of the fire goddess has told him he must marry an acolyte of the goddess in order to save his crumbling kingdom that used to be an enormous empire.  Naturally, Nelay was chosen because she’s a high ranking priestess who is quickly looking like she’s going to challenge Suka, the old High Priestess for her job.  But Nelay really doesn’t want anything to do with this man (who is in love with his thoroughly unsuitable mistress, not her); she wants to find her family.  So she hires the smuggler Rycus and escapes.

Nelay is a very resourceful character.  Not only is her butt-kicking awesome but in general Nelay is very analytical and thinks things through before doing them.  She can sometimes be impulsive but at least she can also come up with plans while she’s doing the impulsive thing.  It’s really nice to have a strategic thinker as a main character, despite her flaws like arrogance and the occasional bouts of selfishness.  All of her more strong emotions are tempered quite nicely by Rycus, who is very easy going and thoroughly attractive.  In the beginning Nelay and Rycus aren’t exactly buddy-buddy but through all of their adventures in the desert, in the various towns under enemy occupation and in the last standing city in the Idaran empire they start to realize that maybe they’d make more than just a good fighting team.

The plot of Summer Queen is actually quite fast for a high fantasy novel but Amber Argyle never sacrifices background information for plot.  She maintains a nice steady pace with frequent bursts of pure action but at the same time readers get a pretty clear picture of the history of her fantasy world.  And the history we learn through Nelay’s eyes isn’t necessarily the real history as we find out later when other characters come clean.  Let’s just say that assuming things in Indara aren’t all that they appear to be.  This rings especially true throughout the final battle as Nelay takes on more responsibility than she ever thought possible and learns that sometimes you have to sacrifice a little of yourself to save your people and even then it might not be enough.

Basically, if you’re looking for some well written and diverse fantasy, I’d recommend Summer Queen.  It’s a great departure from a lot of typical fantasy tropes and Amber Argyle has clearly done her world-building.  Technically speaking it’s not the first book in a series but apparently all of the books in this series can be read separately with complete understanding, just like I did.  This is the first book of Argyle’s that I’ve read but it was so good I know it won’t be my last.  Just go try it out!

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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AmberAmber Argyle is the number-one bestselling author of the Witch Song Series and the Fairy Queen Series. Her books have been nominated for and won awards in addition to being translated into French and Indonesian.

Amber graduated cum laude from Utah State University with a degree in English and physical education, a husband, and a two-year old. Since then, she and her husband have added two more children, which they are actively trying to transform from crazy small people into less crazy larger people.

To learn more about Amber, visit her blog at amberargyle.blogspot.com

You can find Amber on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.


The Tour Hosts

Week One

6/15/2015- Curling Up With A Good Book– Review

6/16/2015- The Mad Reviewer– Review

6/17/2015- Arkham Reviews– Review

6/18/2015- In Love With Handmade– Review

6/19/2015- In Libris Veritas– Review

Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive the eBook bundle of The Faerie Queen Series. International!


The Taking by Terra Harmony

The Taking by Terra Harmony(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Eighteen-year-old Serena now reigns as queen of both the Undine of The Deep and the wolves of The Dry. The alliance between her maidens and the werewolves is shaky when all at once the basic necessities of food and shelter are taken away and both their worlds fall apart. After decades of war, the two societies must work together if they want to survive what lies ahead. A promised land is theirs for the taking, but first, they must survive each other.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received an ebook copy of the whole trilogy on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

The Taking picks up almost exactly where the second book, The Betrayed ends: with Serena deciding to move her entire civilization to a more hospitable environment.  And since she’s now officially Queen of the Werewolves after Alaric’s death and the werewolves are back on the side of the Undine, that means they’re moving too.  Moving two species who have been at war for almost two decades isn’t exactly going to be easy and Serena has no illusions.  But ever since the werewolves were given an eviction notice from the protected park land, they really have no choice but to move with the Undine to a place where no one in the government will take notice of them or otherwise bother them.  Lo and behold, they find a place up in the Arctic where it isn’t as polluted!  But how does one get from around Vancouver Island to the Arctic on ships without having to land and go through customs?

The answer is to join up with the annual boat race, but that puts the move on an extremely tight schedule.  Serena and the Undine must pack up the remnants of their civilization, transform into human form and keep that human form for almost three weeks.  As we saw in previous books, the Undine tend to dry out when out of water for more than a day and it gets extremely painful after that.  Not only that, the werewolves will have to learn to work with their former enemies and tensions are still high after Alaric’s death.  Hmm…put two different species who have hated each other for two decades together on a cramped space for three weeks and see what happens.  But as Serena makes clear to everyone, they have absolutely no choice.  Still, some Undine choose to stay behind because they’re old and set in their ways.  The move will decrease the pressure on the ecosystem because fewer Undine will be eating the sea life but the acidity of the ocean will eventually kill anyone who stays behind.  Still, as Kai and Liam tell Serena, it’s not her decision.

Serena is now a mature young woman.  She’s still struggling with being Queen at the age of only 18 but she’s really coming into her own.  Now that she has political clout she’s finally free to ditch Murphy and mate with Kai, who is patient with her and doesn’t want her to do anything she isn’t comfortable with.  Murphy takes the whole thing in stride because it means he can be with who he truly wants to without pretending to love a much younger woman.  Amidst the uprooting of almost their entire kingdom, most of Serena’s subjects can’t be bothered and Serena has the confidence to do what she thinks is right.  Still, things aren’t going to be easy sailing both literally and metaphorically because of the aforementioned former enemies being forced to live in cramped quarters together for almost a month.  There are lots of bumps on the road to a new start.

The plot is of course interesting because by this point I was very invested in the characters.  It was also quite a bit more fast-paced than the previous two books because of the time-crunch nature of the Undine/werewolf move.  At the same time, the ending almost felt a little too rushed.  It was exciting and thrilling but I really missed out on the little details of how everyone was going to survive and adjust up in the Arctic.  The journey to their Arctic haven in the end was very rushed.  I wish Terra Harmony had slowed things down just a little bit; enough to maintain the excitement without sacrificing her descriptive writing.

Still, The Taking was an enjoyable conclusion to what has been a good trilogy.  If you haven’t started the trilogy I’d definitely recommend downloading the first book for free and giving it a try.  And if you’ve stuck with the trilogy thus far you’ll enjoy the ending.  I know I did.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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The Betrayed by Terra Harmony

The Betrayed by Terra Harmony(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Two separate worlds; the Undine of the Deep and the Wolves of the Dry. A history muddled in war but thick with family bonds blur the lines of right and wrong. The youngest members of each race unite, trying to steer their people away from the brink of disaster. Serena and Liam must work together to resolve the problems of their people before the pressure tears these twin siblings apart. But the betrayed are angry, and are out for revenge.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received an ebook copy of the whole trilogy on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

With that doozy of a cliffhanger at the end of The Rising, I just had to read The Betrayed almost immediately after.  I mean, finding out that not only the King is Serena’s father but that he sacrificed himself to save her and the Undine?  That’s a pretty steep cliffhanger to end the first book in a trilogy on.  It didn’t make the first book unsatisfying, though.  It just made me want to read the second book as soon as possible!

So now Serena is Queen and the problems that were her father’s are now her own.  Not only is the ocean not getting any less acidic where the Undine are situated, the werewolves are still a huge problem after the mini-war that broke out at the end of the last book.  Werewolves were killed and Undine were killed; in the end it brought everyone no closer to a peace deal.  Serena’s father’s sacrifice should have ended the war between werewolves and Undine but Alaric (the leader of the werewolves) is still demanding that the Undine hold to the king’s bargain and surrender Serena for him to experiment on.  That’s obviously not going to happen now that she’s Queen, but Serena has more than herself to think of: only one of the women who were able to mate in the last book has been able to conceive and now the werewolves are blockading the beach again.  Cordelia, the woman in question, now has nowhere to give birth to her child and that’s a major problem for a child who might be the new hope for the entire Undine species.

Serena really is going through a lot.  First she learns that her father isn’t dead and is in fact the king and then he dies to save her and his people.  She loves one of his guardsmen, Kai, but has to pretend to be mated to Murphy, the Captain of the Guard for political reasons so that the older generation will accept her.  On top of all that, the supply of food for the Undine is dying out with the rising acidity of the ocean where they live.  Things really aren’t looking good for Serena but I was really impressed with her character.  She truly does rise to the challenge, even if things start out a little bumpy.  Of course she makes mistakes and isn’t the best politician yet but she’s only 18.  I shudder to think of most 18-year-olds (or 80-year-olds for that matter) trying to tackle all of those problems at once.  And some of the solutions Serena comes up with aren’t popular; still, she sticks to them.

The plot in The Betrayed is a lot more fast-paced than the previous book and some of the plot twists are far less predictable.  There was a lot of intrapersonal conflict on Serena’s part because of all the pressure placed on her but it was interesting since I’ve come to care about her character, particularly in this second book.  She has a tough job and she’s doing the best she can, especially since she was never raised as royalty and never even suspected that the king was her father and she was the rightful heir to the Kingdom of the Undine.  Yes, there’s also a little romantic intrigue because of Serena’s inability to express her love for Kai in the open but that’s sort of a background to the still-simmering tensions between werewolves and the Undine.  The way Serena resolves the conflict is brilliant, if a little messy and while the book ends on another cliffhanger it’s nowhere near as dramatic as the cliffhanger of the first book.

If you enjoyed The Rising I think you’ll enjoy The Betrayed just as much, if not more.  It’s a great second book that doesn’t really drag on and on because of how Terra Harmony makes you care about her characters.  You really do worry about what happens to them and Serena is a very memorable character in her own right.  Basically, if you read and enjoyed the first book you need to pick up this second book.  You won’t regret it and you’ll be just as eager as I am for the third and final book.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The Rising by Terra Harmony

The Rising by Terra Harmony(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Seventeen-year-old Serena is the youngest member of a dying race. The increasing acidity of the ocean is destroying her home, slowly eating away at the once thriving underwater landscape. But since the night of Serena’s birth, it is an outside force that most threatens their dwindling population. Werewolves, who once served as protectors for mermaids in the Kingdom of the Undine, now seek to eliminate all who dwell in the ocean — and Serena is about to find herself right in the middle of the deadly conflict.

Given the title of Werewolf Liaison, Serena is determined to make things right for her people. When she ventures to The Dry, she meets Liam, the werewolf with hazel eyes, and her whole world gets turned upside down. As Serena discovers the real history between werewolves and mermaids, she is left wondering who her true enemies are.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received an ebook copy of the whole trilogy on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I had read one of Terra Harmony’s books previously and thought it good, if a little preachy.  I was a little iffy about trying another book by her not because of the preachy factor but simply because I was still not quite sure how I felt about some of the scenes in the book I read, Water.  They were a little graphic, although justified within the narrative, but I was still a little wary.  But I still decided to try requesting the full Painted Maidens trilogy because it sounded good.

The world Terra Harmony has created in the trilogy is just amazing.  The main character Serena is a mermaid, although they call themselves the Undine.  She’s the youngest member of her dying race, which has been unable to reproduce because their land guardians the werewolves rose up in revolt against them and massacred dozens of mating couples and labouring mothers on the beach 17 years ago, including Serena’s mother and the King’s wife and children.  You see, the Undine do swim like mermaids but for normal functions like going to court, sleeping and learning they remain on land in the various cave systems near the island where they live.  It’s actually kind of fascinating to read the little details of Undine transformation because it’s not as straightforward as cartoons and other books would have you think.  (Which does actually make a lot of sense.)

Anyway, Serena is a fascinating character.  She was orphaned by the Full Moon Massacre 17 years ago and lives in a sort of communal nursery with other Undine around her age, although most of them are 18 at this point.  They’re indulged by society simply because they’re the last hope of the species but even among the last class there are hierarchies and old family rivalries.  Serena is most definitely at the bottom of the ladder until the day jobs are chosen for the young Undine and she’s appointed the King’s own Werewolf Liaison, tasked with bringing peace between two species that have been warring for almost two decades.  She was given the job in part because she’s always sneaking up to The Dry but also because of the hidden motivations of those in power.  I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say there’s a very special reason for her appointment.

Serena is a fascinating character.  She’s more scientifically oriented and intellectually curious than many of her classmates but at the same time she really does lack some basic social skills.  Really, she’s the epitome of the awkward teenager and instead of being cutesy-awkward she’s often genuinely awkward as she tries to navigate the pitfalls of friendships and relationships with Undine males.  The fact that Undine society still has some ridiculous gender stereotyping and gender roles doesn’t exactly help the whole situation.  But when she’s named Werewolf Liaison Serena really comes into her own.  She matures and improves on her natural resourcefulness in an attempt to bring an end to the conflict that killed her parents.  And she discovers some terrifying secrets that society has kept from her and her classmates.

Some of the plot twists were predictable but I really do give Terra Harmony credit for keeping the story interesting and fast-paced despite that.  There isn’t a lot of action in the beginning but there’s a lot of interpersonal drama and tension.  It’s also a good thing that the action is put off until later because getting used to Undine society isn’t something that happens in just a few pages.  It’s so alien and different from our own that it really does take getting used to.  Undine society is far from perfect but you really do gain a certain appreciation for it and for its people who are just trying to ensure their species survives.

Basically, if the blurb or my review has got you interested, I’d say go for it!  The Rising is a great start to the Painted Maidens trilogy.  Plus, this first book is free on both Kindle and Nook!

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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