Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis

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Summary

Set in 1779, Carlo Morelli, a renowned castrato, has been invited to the Eszterháza Palace, to entertain the nobility . He arrives with an alchemist, who also happens to be a respected member of society, and a Prussian spy. Already at the palace, Charlotte von Steinbeck, sister of Prince Nikolai’s mistress, is trying to find her feet while mourning the loss of her husband, all within the bounds set for a a proper lady, such as herself. When two servants are found murdered by what appear to be supernatural forces, both Carlo and Charlotte must see themselves and others for who they are in order to stop a conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor and Empress themselves.

Details

  • Publisher: Pyr
  • Publication Date: April 12, 2016
  • Language: English
  • Print Length: 319 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1633881326
  • ISBN-13: 978-1633881327
  • ASIN: B011G4E23E
  • File Size: 1026 KB

Review

I put this book on hold through my local library’s ebook platform almost as soon as I finished Congress of Secrets, which, by the way, is the next book in the series, if this can be called a series. Masks and Shadows came first.

It didn’t disappoint.

Charlotte is the most dutiful widow I think I’ve ever read, and unlike some other dutiful women, she isn’t a hidden firebrand with a snarky tongue. She’s naturally quiet, naturally demure and docile. But there’s strength in her, even and especially in those quiet moments. She also has an enormous passion for music, and its in that passion that we see how deep her love can run for things and people outside herself. Of course, music is only what gives us the glimpse. The rest of the book provides numerous opportunities for Charlotte to shine.

Carlo is intelligent and very tuned to the world around him. He’s also bored by the courts that enticed him when he was younger. Perceptive and with a passion for music that just barely surpasses Charlotte’s, I loved the conflict he feels between the role he feels he must play in order to support himself and the desperate need he has for someone who truly understands him. Watching him and Charlotte slowly fall in love was inspiring.

Though this is a fantasy novel, and magic plays a central role in the story, that’s not the main focus of this book. Music, love, and sweeping emotions play out against the backdrop of dark alchemy and hidden knowledge.

I also have to say that I really enjoyed the setting. I don’t often read fantasy novels set in the 1700s, and I wish there were more of them. Prince Nikolai and his mistress (in reality she was unnamed, but here she’s Charlotte’s sister) come through very clearly, along with many other historical figures of the time.

The subplot with Anna and Hadyn’s troupe caught my attention almost as much as the main plot. I loved the back and forth within the group, the advice Anna gets, the friends she makes. And the way it tied into the main plot was just fantastic.

Though the ending is thrilling and worth every moment spent building up to it, my favorite part was the masked ball. Carlo and Charlotte’s dance, not to mention the costumes they chose, had me squealing with joy.

Overall, a great read. Well worth the time.

All My Titles on Gumroad Are Free Until March 31st

Just a very quick announcement. Because I know a lot of readers out there might need something to read during this pandemic, I’m making all my titles on my Gumroad store free until March 31st if you use the following code:

shelter

I hope this helps, and I hope all of you are staying healthy and safe. Take care!

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A Noble’s Path by I.L. Cruz

Blog Tour Banner

Hello, everyone. Welcome to my review of A Noble’s Path by I.L. Cruz, my contribution to the blog tour. I hope you’re having fun so far and that my review turns out to be useful.

Let’s start with what this book is about. And to do that, I’ll insert the book blurb right…here.

About A Noble’s Path

Divided loyalties test Inez Garza.

The infamous incident at the Academy of Natural Studies has forced her to work for the King’s Men while continuing to serve the hidden market.

Supporting Birthright furthers the cause of Magical Return, but the cost may be the fall of the royal house and losing Zavier forever.

And the strongest pull of all is her growing and erratic magic, which demands everything and offers only destruction in return.

Inez must decide where her loyalties lie—saving Canto or saving herself.

My review

First off, I need to state that I was given a free copy of this book for review purposes. However, my thoughts are my own.

This second book in the series moves along faster than the first book. And I enjoyed seeing the fallout from the “incident” that ended a lot of the mysteries in A Smuggler’s Path.

Inez managed to hold my interest and frustrate me all at once. She struck me as childish in thinking no one else needs to be hurt, but refusing to see just how many people she’s not only already hurting, but will hurt in the future. Her final choice in the end made me want to bang my head against a wall, though I understood her reasons for choosing it.

Talking of which…Zavier. I loved him in this book! True to the end, he is a lot braver than Inez, taking risks that made Inez’s indirect methods look pathetic in comparison. Zavier is the biggest reason to read this book, in my opinion. He’s thoughtful, honest, courageous, and willing to follow his heart, even if it means Mythos (the kingdom that makes sure the others don’t have any true magical power) may come in and replace the whole royal family. Stupidly wonderful and wonderfully stupid but somehow I loved every second I spent reading his involvement in the story, probably because he’s so incredibly lovestruck.

Toman and Meiri play a bigger part in this story, and it improves every event as a result. I especially loved Toman’s obsession with Inez’s love life. It smoothed over what could have been a book-throwing bit of irritation on my part during one particular event.

Oh, and there’s developments in the Jacque/Meiri pairing, developments I adored! I love how Meiri starts coming into her own in this book, and I love how completely Jacque loves her, to the point where he’s thinking more of her future than his own.

Arch is a new character. Even though he’s a bit too smooth, I liked the glimmers of depth he got and hope he shows up more in book three.

I loved the sheep! In fact, I really like how Cruz writes magical animals, making their natures blend seamlessly with their sentience. Rowley makes more of an appearance as well, and we get to learn a little more about Birthright, the resistance movement he leads.

We also get to see some depth in the characters that make up the King’s Men, which I deeply appreciated. Cleph’s situation was especially moving.

Though there were still moments of confusion (an issue I had with the first book), they were less and the book reads fast. The one sticking point I had trouble swallowing in the previous book is at least questioned in this one.

I did not appreciate one particular loose end that was brought up in the next-to-last scene and then ignored in the final scene. If that last scene hadn’t been there, I could have forgiven the loose thread as a cliffhanger. But with that final scene—which does, I admit, bring the plot full-circle both event- and image-wise with a hint at the difficulties to come—I ended up wondering if Inez had already learned the truth or if she was still waiting.

Still, it was an enjoyable read. Well worth the time. I look forward to book three!

About the Author

I.L. Cruz decided to make writing her full-time career during the economic downturn in 2008. Since then she’s used her BA in International Relations to sow political intrigue in her fantasy worlds and her MA in history to strive for the perfect prologue. When she’s not engaged in this mad profession she indulges her wanderlust as often as possible, watches too much sci-fi and reads until her eyes cross. She lives in Maryland with her husband, daughter and a sun-seeking supermutt named Dipper.

Her Twitter: @ILCruzWrites 

Her blog: Fairytale Feminista at https://fairytalefeminista.wordpress.com

Her website: www.booksbyilcruz.com

Want to keep following the tour? Schedule is below.

Tour Schedule

path through grassy field to misty mountains

2020 Goal Progress (includes brief update on Puck’s Call)

path through grassy field to misty mountains
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

It’s February, and since I posted on my goals at the beginning of the year, I thought I’d update you on my progress.

(Click here if you want to see the original post where I list my goals.)

  • I’m 34% of the way to hitting my 80,000 word goal for Puck’s Call. Though the word count is good, I’m also glad that this is turning out to be a fun novel to write. I’m thinking about posting scenes on Wattpad to see if others think it’s fun to read. Thoughts?
  • Didn’t do very well keeping up with friends this past month. I’ve been just a little too focused on writing. Will try to change that in February.
  • I’m waiting on finishing The Lord’s Tale until after I’ve finished Puck’s Call, but it’s still on my To Do list.
  • I’ve used my timer more frequently this past January, especially for writing time. So, yay!
  • No additions to the reviewer list. Too focused on writing and life.
  • Which means that I’ve been living. Which is good.

That’s my progress so far. How has your year been so far? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

magical open book with fantasy background

5 Fantasy Romance/Romantic Fantasy Book Blogs/Sites

magical open book with fantasy background
Image by pixel2013 from Pixabay

It can be hard to find books that have both fantasy and romance in them, no matter which is the main focus. So, I thought it might be nice to share some sites that have either lists of books on them, reviews of fantasy romance/romantic fantasy books on them, or some combination of the two.

(Note: Please be aware that, because there aren’t a whole lot of blogs dedicated to these subgenres [at least, based on my searches] most, if not all, of these blogs are run by those who write in this genre. Inclusion does not imply endorsement of their books. Also, I get nothing from mentioning them.)

Hope you enjoy.

Here Be Magic – This is the first one I found when I started searching for fantasy books with romance in them. Created by a group of authors, the blog covers fantasy, sf, and paranormal romance, as well as more general posts related to the aforementioned subgenres and posts about writing. They also have a page with links to free reads, written by said authors and meant as a way of sampling their work, for those who might be interested.

Epic Fantasy | Epic Romance – A blog by author Jayne Castel. Covers reviews of other books in the genre as well as updates on her own. And for writers, she has posts dedicated to combining fantasy and romance.

Epic Fantasy Romance – Like Here Be Magic, this blog is maintained by a group of authors. Also has lists dedicated to epic fantasy romance books and epic fantasy books with romance in them.

ensworldofwords – a book reviewer whose preference leans toward fantasy romance.

Heroes and Heartbreakers – Combines fantasy romance with paranormal. They don’t have a lot of the former, but it’s well organized and also contains urban fantasy, for those who are looking for that as well.

Do you know of any others? I’d be glad to add them. Just let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

 

 

The Lord’s Tale, part three, 12/10 update

Thank you for your patience in waiting for this update. I hope you find this new scene for The Lord’s Tale, and this new approach to updating, worth the wait.

Created with GIMP

Series: Trial of the Ornic

Book Description: Within the besieged city of Openwater, Krysilla Jyomsa, now employed by her former husband, Lejer, swears to continue to believe in the oath she made with Zhiv and Daegan to learn magic that will help people, even if it means learning spells outside her trade. When Lady Lia Marilisin, current ruler of the city, asks her to open an enormous portal beneath the noble’s manor, she agrees, swearing that this time she is stronger, the proof of it currently protecting the city. But the magic that waits for her below has secrets they cannot yet imagine. And Lia’s manipulations threaten the lives of everyone Krysilla cares about, from the youngest of them, Tira, to the one Lia wants to make her own, Zhiv Mikailsin, the minstrel who started it all. It doesn’t help that Krysilla feels as if something very important, something she can’t yet see, has begun to go wrong. And that feeling keeps growing the longer she’s away from Zhiv…

If you’d like a more complete recap of the series, please visit the recap page.

Update: Krysilla and Zhiv come to an agreement regarding helping Lia, and Krysilla makes Zhiv more than one promise.

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Comments are very welcome, by the way. If I get enough of them, I might start updating twice a week! Either enter your comment below or send them through the Contact Me page of this site.

Also, using Gumroad like this is very new for me. Please forgive me as I work out the kinks for the first few updates.

The Lord’s Tale, part three, 11/15 update

Created with GIMP

Series: Trial of the Ornic

Book Description: Within the besieged city of Openwater, Krysilla Jyomsa, now employed by her former husband, Lejer, swears to continue to believe in the oath she made with Zhiv and Daegan to learn magic that will help people, even if it means learning spells outside her trade. When Lady Lia Marilisin, current ruler of the city, asks her to open an enormous portal beneath the noble’s manor, she agrees, swearing that this time she is stronger, the proof of it currently protecting the city. But the magic that waits for her below has secrets they cannot yet imagine. And Lia’s manipulations threaten the lives of everyone Krysilla cares about, from the youngest of them, Tira, to the one Lia wants to make her own, Zhiv Mikailsin, the minstrel who started it all. It doesn’t help that Krysilla feels as if something very important, something she can’t yet see, has begun to go wrong. And that feeling keeps growing the longer she’s away from Zhiv…

If you’d like a more complete recap of the series, please visit the recap page.

Update: Krysilla returns to the bakery to find Lejer dealing with the ovens.

Comments are very welcome, by the way. If I get enough of them, I might start updating twice a week! Either enter your comment below or send them through the Contact Me page of this site.

The Lord’s Tale, part three, November 15, 2019 update

 

The Lord’s Tale, part three, 11/9 update

Created with GIMP

Series: Trial of the Ornic

Book Description: Within the besieged city of Openwater, Krysilla Jyomsa, now employed by her former husband, Lejer, swears to continue to believe in the oath she made with Zhiv and Daegan to learn magic that will help people, even if it means learning spells outside her trade. When Lady Lia Marilisin, current ruler of the city, asks her to open an enormous portal beneath the noble’s manor, she agrees, swearing that this time she is stronger, the proof of it currently protecting the city. But the magic that waits for her below has secrets they cannot yet imagine. And Lia’s manipulations threaten the lives of everyone Krysilla cares about, from the youngest of them, Tira, to the one Lia wants to make her own, Zhiv Mikailsin, the minstrel who started it all. It doesn’t help that Krysilla feels as if something very important, something she can’t yet see, has begun to go wrong. And that feeling keeps growing the longer she’s away from Zhiv…

If you’d like a more complete recap of the series, please visit the recap page.

Update: Krysilla tries to walk the line between helping the city and keeping her promise to Zhiv. Lia tries to get closer to Zhiv. Zhiv and Daegan talk about Nitty and Zhiv learns Nitty is hiding something.

Comments are very welcome, by the way. If I get enough of them, I might start updating twice a week! Either enter your comment below or send them through the Contact Me page of this site.

The Lord’s Tale, part three, November 9, 2019 update

 

 

The Lord’s Tale, part three, 10/26 update

Created with GIMP

Series: Trial of the Ornic

Book Description: Within the besieged city of Openwater, Krysilla Jyomsa, now employed by her former husband, Lejer, swears to continue to believe in the oath she made with Zhiv and Daegan to learn magic that will help people, even if it means learning spells outside her trade. When Lady Lia Marilisin, current ruler of the city, asks her to open an enormous portal beneath the noble’s manor, she agrees, swearing that this time she is stronger, the proof of it currently protecting the city. But the magic that waits for her below has secrets they cannot yet imagine. And Lia’s manipulations threaten the lives of everyone Krysilla cares about, from the youngest of them, Tira, to the one Lia wants to make her own, Zhiv Mikailsin, the minstrel who started it all. It doesn’t help that Krysilla feels as if something very important, something she can’t yet see, has begun to go wrong. And that feeling keeps growing the longer she’s away from Zhiv…

If you’d like a more complete recap of the series, please visit the recap page.

Update: Zhiv visits Krysilla to try to talk her out of helping Lia, and the Dogs make another, smaller, attack on the wall’s defense.

Comments are very welcome, by the way. If I get enough of them, I might start updating twice a week! Either enter your comment below or send them through the Contact Me page of this site.

The Lord’s Tale, part three, October 26, 2019 update

 

 

The Lord’s Tale, part three, 10/19 update

Created with GIMP

Series: Trial of the Ornic

Book Description: Within the besieged city of Openwater, Krysilla Jyomsa, now employed by her former husband, Lejer, swears to continue to believe in the oath she made with Zhiv and Daegan to learn magic that will help people, even if it means learning spells outside her trade. When Lady Lia Marilisin, current ruler of the city, asks her to open an enormous portal beneath the noble’s manor, she agrees, swearing that this time she is stronger, the proof of it currently protecting the city. But the magic that waits for her below has secrets they cannot yet imagine. And Lia’s manipulations threaten the lives of everyone Krysilla cares about, from the youngest of them, Tira, to the one Lia wants to make her own, Zhiv Mikailsin, the minstrel who started it all. It doesn’t help that Krysilla feels as if something very important, something she can’t yet see, has begun to go wrong. And that feeling keeps growing the longer she’s away from Zhiv…

If you’d like a more complete recap of the series, please visit the recap page.

Update: Zhiv thinks he may have found an alternative to Lia’s plan and finds a surprise in the process.

Comments are very welcome, by the way. If I get enough of them, I might start updating twice a week! Either enter your comment below or send them through the Contact Me page of this site.

The Lord’s Tale, part three, October 19, 2019 update