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Swords of Redemption

Rowan Staeffler’s Swords of Redemption is the second book of the Swords of Deception Novel series. After discovering the dark truths about the witch council, Ellemar Vancel attempts to overthrow them but fails to do so. She and her supporters face the wrath of the witches, and they are expected to give in to the council’s way of maintaining equilibrium. 

Ellemar is saved from the council’s clutches but at a high cost. In an attempt to liberate the kingdom, she and Celeana make an ambitious plan. The kingdom’s future is at stake here– and so is her freedom. Will she be able to succeed? How will she manage an army within a kingdom that is ruled by the witch council?

This engrossing sword and sorcery book beautifully blends fantasy with adventure and takes readers on a thrilling ride from the beginning till the end. There is continuous action to keep readers engaged through the entire novel. Betrayal, enmity, the loss of love– are some of the themes presented by the author.  

Readers are given a glimpse into Celeana’s character as much as Ellemar’s, in much more detail than in the first book. Ellemar’s fighting spirit, courage to stand against corruption, and will to stand for what is right make her admirable, while Celeana’s immense power and charm help her shine through. Even though the story is a continuation, you can read this book as a standalone novel too. 

Swords of Redemption by Rowan Staeffler’s is riveting and fast paced. The easy-flowing language is reader-friendly, and the small chapters manage to hold the attention of even the most impatient readers. For those who enjoy light fantasy novels, this one is surely a must-read.

Pages: 170 | ASIN: B09JCPVTPB

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The Cursed Fae

The Cursed Fae (Accessory to Magic Book 2) by [Kathrin Hutson]

The Cursed Fae by Kathrin Hutson brings back beloved badass protagonist, Jessica Northwood, into chaos again, after the intense events of the first book from the Accessory to Magic series. This time she has to find a way to fix the bank’s malfunction while predicaments from the past step slowly back into her life. And as if all of that isn’t enough, she has to handle the curiosity of numerous magicals, both inside and outside the bank, about the gateway upstairs, which she can’t satisfy since she doesn’t know a thing about what’s going on.

This creates a tense atmosphere of mystery throughout the book ensuring the reader is engaged throughout this well defined fantasy story. But it isn’t dense at all, there’s lots of humor to go with it! Jessica’s dialogue with the bank inside her mind are one of the highlights, witty even in the moments of action. The dialogue is humorous and sharp. It showcases the nature of her relationships, whether it is her verbal sparring with Leandras (yes, he’s back!) or her mysterious interactions with Mel. The best thing about the protagonist is her attitude, she doesn’t shy away from a fight or a sarcastic remark. But her fatal flaw is not wanting to face her past problems, a theme in the book and I bet in the rest of the series. Another highlight of the book are the actions scenes. The first part of the novel is a bit slow, but the second half has lots of action that propels us forward, using the well – written dialogue as foil for the physical conflict. At the end of the book, Jessica is closer to getting her answers, but not quite yet, since the book sets up a cliffhanger which is bound to make you grab the next installment as soon as possible.

With interesting characters, an intriguing fantasy world and engaging conflict The Cursed Fae is a lively urban fantasy novel that infuses just the right amount of humor into this dark paranormal story to keep you coming back for more.

Pages: 290 | ASIN: B08T9Y58PY

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The Juju Girl

The Juju Girl: A Tale of Mystery, Murder, Magic, and Love in the Crescent City by [Nikki Marsh]

The Juju Girl by Nikki Marsh explores the unique magic of Creole identity and history. We are introduced to Gabrielle, a girl reemerging into a new life where everything once familiar to her is now entirely brand new. Her life is engrossed in turmoil as she travels to New Orleans at the request of her family. The fascinating magic of juju ensnares Gabbie and shows her an entire world that she had no previous knowledge of.

Gabbie discovers that she has a gift—among a family that can see signs of death and shadowy figures, Gabbie learns about her connection to the spirit world. This connection is tied to the magic of good juju, and the difference between it and conjure. While conjure is a natural ability that heals the body, juju is a spiritual practice that contains supernatural power. Gabbie’s Maman tells her all about the gift that has been passed from mother to daughter throughout their family for generations, and how Gabbie must make the decision to perform good juju and conjure.

I enjoyed that The Juju Girl introduced its readers to a cultural magic that isn’t often discussed in literature. As Gabbie grows and learns about the world through tutoring and the relationships she builds, we get to learn more about her intricate familial ties and the magic they pass between them. I loved seeing the spirit magic performed throughout the story, and that we experienced a metaphor for grief through the representation of juju.

The lessons that were taught throughout the book with discussions around curses and bad juju were so important. I loved watching Gabbie work through these issues, and I would have liked to see even more of these dark instances of magic explored. I felt that the ball scene took up much more of the book than I had expected it to and wished that we could have seen even more practiced magic among Gabbie and her family members.

The familial connections, lessons, and bonds that were continued along the course of the story were touching and felt relevant and authentic due to sharp writing. I loved seeing Gabbie work through her grief and suffering and turn it into something beautiful with her spiritual magic while continuing to honor her Creole heritage. The Juju Girl by Nikki Marshis the perfect book for someone trying to make peace with their pain, or anyone looking for a compelling young adult fantasy novel that has a well developed lore.

Pages: 400 | ASIN: B08Y62KJ2D

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Feeling Like an Outsider

Taylor Fenner Author Interview

Monsters & Mist is a thrilling fantasy novel that I thought was very entertaining. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Thank you! Initially I wanted to write a story about a girl whose nephew went missing who goes on a journey to find him and ends up learning about herself along the way. As the world and story unfolded it became about a group of characters that had been raised to see things one way who had to put aside those beliefs to work together.

Your characters were intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I always see a little bit of myself in at least one of my characters. Monsters & Mist was initially intended to be told solely in Andromeda’s perspective. She starts off the book feeling like an outsider – in her village, in her family even, because she looks different and acts differently, wants different things than everyone else. I often feel like I don’t quite belong, even among friends or with my family and I wanted to show that you shouldn’t feel bad because your differences are what make you who you are. All of my main characters had to go through a transformation throughout the book. Cygni, for example, didn’t think he was ready to follow in his father’s shoes but by having everything ripped away from him he became the leader he was always meant to be.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I think, especially now, it was important for me to get across that despite where someone comes from, what their background is, or how they were raised deep down people all really feel things the same way. We all have hopes, dreams, insecurities, and fears. There are five kingdoms in Monsters & Mist, and for generations the people from three of those kingdoms had spent so much energy hating the people of the fourth kingdom all because the god they worshipped willed them to, when if they had gotten to know those people the world could have been an equal, peaceful place.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have a few different projects I’m working on at the moment, all of which are outside my usual comfort zone. My primary project is a horror novel set in an almost forgotten hotel in the Great Smoky Mountains and I aim to have it out in the first half of 2022.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Girl with Warrior Aspirations.
The Playboy Prince.
The Ruthless Queen.

One will seek to enslave the world. One will lead the rebellion. And one will be the catalyst.

The Warrior General with a tragic past.
The Disgraced Bounty Hunter.
The Girl with the Constellation on Her Face.

One will rise to the challenge. One will return what was once lost. And one will embrace their destiny.

Six lives. One world borne anew.

Isle of Dragons

Isle of Dragons by [L. A. Thompson, Thea Nicolescu, Pam Elise Harris, Tara Lewis, Jennifer Rees]

Isle of Dragons by L.A. Thompson is a unique fantasy adventure story combining steampunk with magic in some very interesting ways. The story takes the reader on one young girl’s journey, Jade of House Sol, to rescue her father — the only family she has left, from the mystical Isle of Dragons. Many dangers await her on the road to the isle, not least riding dragons, learning magic and battling a king. Rumor has it that Jade’s father has been taken to the Isle of Dragons — an island that could be myth or reality, where many have ventured, but none have thus returned.

The magical world Thompson has created with her writing is filled with fantastical creatures, steampunk machines and dragons. The heroine must travel to a variety of exciting landscapes, from mystical forests to deserts, all of them feel exotic and have a depth that makes them feel real. These descriptions are never a distraction from the narrative but rather serve to create an enchanting world that the reader will get happily lost in. Our heroine meets many new friends along the way. These provide interesting character interactions and highlight the kindness of strangers. Jade is a feisty and determined young girl who has genuine love and loyalty for her family and friends. She is a noble, or ex-noble as she likes to remind people, and her fall from grace is an interesting aspect of the story, and her character, that I enjoyed. Author L.A. Thompson has an ability to create depth and complexity in her characters, making them both relatable and authentic.

There are many positive themes explored in this young adult adventure tale that will be beneficial to young readers like perseverance and family. Another positive aspect of Isle of Dragons is how action-packed the storyline is. Whenever Jade ventures out, usually with Miria, they encounter some obstacle that sets the tension high and makes sure you keep flipping pages.

While I enjoyed the story, I felt that I had to discern all connections and motivations of the characters from dialogue and action sequences. I wanted a few moments where I was in Miria’s or Jade’s head and I got to listen to their internal thoughts.

Isle of Dragons is a fast paced adventure story with a fascinating plot that is filled with plenty of action and heart. This is a riveting novel that I think will appeal to fans of the steampunk or mythical fantasy genre. This book has definitely got me excited for the series.

Pages: 383 | ASIN: B08PDQVHXS

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Magic Islands

Magic Islands by [Irene Edwards, Robert Brown, Tony Paultyn, Gareth Edwards]

Trevor is not known for being serious. In fact, he is best known for the tall tales he spins. He is new in Wales, living with his grandparents, and making friends has been easy. His personality is one that lends itself to laughter, jokes, and many a light-hearted moment between friends. When Trevor and his pals are exploring the beach one day, something happens that changes all of their lives, and Trevor’s love of a good joke is getting in the way of his ability to communicate with the adults around him. When no one believes what you say, how do you tell them your friends disappeared before your very eyes?

Magic Islands, by Irene Edwards, is a fantasy adventure centered around magic, wizardry, and adventure. The imagery painted by Edwards is absolutely stunning and contributes to the beauty of a well-crafted fantasy. Edwards’s young characters are relatable and full of life. The humor woven throughout this novel makes it not only more appealing but serves to create a fun read aloud for classrooms, as well.

As a fan of fantasy adventures and a teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed Edwards’s work. It is a light-hearted adventure based on the wonder of magic. There aren’t many young readers out there who don’t become enthralled in stories of the impossible, and Edwards has more than successfully tapped into that demographic. Her young characters are bold and just the right mix of the real world and fantasy.

The wizards and witches in Edwards’s work transport readers to a fabulously designed land of spells, castles, and absurdly fantastic beings. Page after page, the dragons and monsters continue to keep the story new and refreshing. Combined with the witty exchanges between characters, the wide array of character types makes this an all-around fantastic read for young readers.

From cover to cover, Edwards enchants young readers, pulls them into a fantasy like no other. In addition to the wonderfully engaging storyline and humor peppered throughout, Edwards includes famous names and well-known pop culture references that further serve to hook readers. I would be remiss if I did not mention the marvelous sketches by the team of illustrators, Robert Brown, Tony Paultyn, and Gareth Edwards. I highly recommend Magic Islands to anyone looking for an engaging story for young fans of fantasy and wizardry. Teachers in grades 3-6, this one’s definitely for you!

Pages: 211 | ASIN: B07ZRYY8LX

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They Are Part Monster

Rowan Staeffler
Rowan Staeffler Author Interview

Foreboding follows a witch and her lover who are hired to eliminate creatures preying on the kingdoms citizens. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?

The idea was partly from the manga/anime Claymore. Which was about silver-eyed witches who are feared by humans as they are part monster, yet are the only ones who can hunt and eliminate creatures who devour humans. I liked this perspective as they are not the typical kind of witches, and made my own version of it. In the manga, the witches are created, in my book they are from birth on witches.

Lithia and Ronan’s relationship is intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind their connection?

Both dared be in a relationship which was seen by many as wrong. Especially since witches can live so long and look young. However, Ronan and Lithia found a way to make it work, and to generally indicate that regardless the differences, that there is a way make a relationship work.

What were some themes that were important for you to focus on in this book?

That the typical magic tropes such as fire and lightning are not being used. Also to add some scientific aspects into it that can be as scary as magic if used wrongly. What was also important for me is that the world can be dark, but bright too. That there are humans who respect the witches for what they are doing. And I thought it would be good to see that witches can have issues as well such as in relationships.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Currently I’m writing about a twenty year old witch, Ellemar Vancel, who was assigned by the council of witches, to hunt down a rogue witch and former member of the council, Celeana Maar, who killed everyone at a academy. Ellemar was the only survivor and held a grudge against Celeana since then. However, Ellemar discovers a conspiracy against the council.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Lithia is a witch and possesses the natural inhuman strength, healing ability, and long lifespan that all witches have. Ronan, her lover, is a human royal guard and a former witch hunter. Together they travel the kingdom, hired by cities and villages to eliminate the creatures that prey on their citizens.

While defending a town against an attack, the humans inexplicably turn on them. When the battle is over, no human is left alive. Word of the bloodbath spreads, and enraged humans blame the witches for the deaths.

On the run and desperate for answers, every place they stop has new tales of similar massacres across the land. They discover a group of Naguals, hideous shape-shifting brutes, are behind the humans’ attacks on witches. A race against time begins as Lithia and Ronan hunt the Naguals while being chased by the very humans they are trying to save. If they don’t stop the Naguals, both humans and witches will be at their mercy and the world as they know it will be over.

What Could Have Been

F S Bala
F S Bala Author Interview

Before The Origin follows Amy who is hurled into a world of mystery and magic that is deeply rooted in ancient African folklore. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting story?

I have always wanted to write science fiction that is set in dystopian Africa. My tribe (the Hausa’s of Sub-Saharan Africa) is the biggest inspiration for the set up. Hundreds of years ago, before religion and colonization, they believed in spirits, they were partly nomadic in nature and had a whole lifestyle around that, unfortunately, it has been gradually erased and forgotten. My book just explores what could have been if a part of that was still alive.

Amy is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?

Due to her role in the story, Amy’s character development was a well thought out process. I feel like there is always a part of the author in the main character, and that is where her imposter syndrome comes in, but it was very important to have the reader experience the events of her first day at work through her eyes, which is why she is such a blank slate at the beginning of the story. Her relationship with other characters in the story is also a backdrop for the events in the next book.

I enjoyed the African folklore embedded in the story. What kind of research did you do on the topic to ensure it was accurate?

Thank you! I am always happy to hear that a reader particularly enjoyed the folklore aspect of Before the Origin because I completely made that up. Being African, I grew up listening to stories passed down from generations to generations very much like Xari in the story, but I never heard anything that explained different races or how the continents came to be. African folklore is always rich in the battle of good against evil, so I guess that is something I held on to.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am currently working on the sequel to Before the Origin which is grander in scale and characterization, book one was just a set up to our main characters’ journey as they find themselves in a battle against time and it will be available next year.

Author Links: Facebook | Website

Much has changed. Climate change has inspired a new generation of discrimination – one where the mutation of a hereditary gene has become the greatest crime. The others – a minority kept silent for years are now up to something sinister.

Agent Amy Taff has moved through the world unnoticed until the recent disturbances in an otherwise perfect utopia require her expertise. Desperate to make her mark, Amy is hurled into a world of mystery and magic, deeply rooted in ancient African folklore. Discoveries that threaten her life and could not only change her reality but hold far-reaching implications for everyone on the face of a lone continent. Follow her into an epic tale that begins with accepting a new job at Scythe. Where it ends could swing the scales of balance toward life or death.

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