Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

My Review: Fire Heart (The Dragon of Umbra #1): by Emma Hamm

Publish Date: January 31st, 2022
Number of Pages: N/A
Publisher: N/A
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance, New Adult, Young Adult

Total Star Rating: 2 Stars

‘Lady of Starlight,’ he murmured, then stepped so close she could count the gold flecks in his eyes. ‘My fire heart. Live for me, and I will lay a kingdom at your feet.’

– Emma Hamm, “Fire Heart”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

They handed her a sword and bid her to take a throne…

Lorelei is half elf in a kingdom where that bloodline is synonymous with “slave”. The Umbra King holds everyone captive with his pet dragon who knows no mercy. She hides in the shadows and steals to stay alive, until a rebel group gives her an offer she can’t refuse.

The King seeks a bride. If she can get close enough, she could drive a dagger into that wicked man’s heart. But the bridal games are more difficult than most. Lorelei must prove herself not only beautiful, but talented, poised, and deadly as the king. However, the closer she gets to saving her kingdom, the more she realizes a singular problem stands in her way.

The dragon.

The King’s bodyguard is more than a slathering beast. He’s a man. And the longer she’s near him, the more she realizes that perhaps the king isn’t the most dangerous person in the kingdom. Perhaps she had to guard not only her body, but her heart. For a dragon mates for life, and they’re hard pressed to give up their treasures.

~~~

It’s always disappointing when a book that has all the variables, all the tools, all the story aspects, or whatever you want to call them…it’s disappointing when a book has all these that you love in a book, but it doesn’t end up being as good as you’d hope it to be.

I was made aware of this book when it was chosen as the adult book for Bookish Box–a monthly subscription box for fantasy and paranormal romance genres–under their adult box from earlier in 2022. The premise drew me in, and it sounded like a good enemies-to-lovers fantasy-romance title from an indie author who upon doing a little research, had quite a following!

I eventually got my own copy with the hopes of reading it ASAP because I was really drawn to this story by the premise that had me excited because it sounds right up my alley, and the gorgeous cover to boast too! It was giving me Throne of Glass vibes with the badass blonde heroine on the cover with a ferocious dragon just behind her.

I’m not saying this is a bad book by any means, I never say a book is outright bad unless the author does something that is so tone deaf that I wonder how their book ever got published…but that isn’t the case here. The author knows how to write and she obviously knows her craft; her following especially on Amazon reviews show for it, but I just didn’t connect with this book anywhere close to what I was hoping I would. The story just had too many clichés that I couldn’t look past, the characters felt so stiff and wooden to me that I didn’t connect with them either, the villain was very one-dimensional, and there just didn’t really feel like there was a sense of urgency in this story at all either.

I go more into these reasons why later on in my review.

I’m also trying to not judge the book too harshly…it is the first book in a series, and as a fan of many YA Fantasy title, I have seen many times before where the first book is usually the weakest book in a series because it’s merely setting the scene and then the series grows and becomes its own thing as you keep reading. Case in point, the Throne of Glass series. I can see readers not wanting to read on because of that book and the many things that are considered cliché in that book, and those of us who have read that series know that SO SO SO much happens after that, so here I am hoping that this may be the case for this series as well too.

~~~

You are a thousand questions and a million truths just out of my reach.

– Emma Hamm, “Fire Heart”

~~~

What I Liked:

  1. An Interesting Premise! The synopsis gave me much hope I’d really like this book! I mean, an enemies-to-lovers fantasy romance book with elves and dragons?! Yes please!
  2. A Twist I Did NOT See Coming! I’ll admit the author added in one twist that I didn’t see coming at all, and I’ll happily point it out whenever an author manages to do this! I won’t give any spoilers, but just remember that not everyone is as they seem…

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. A LOT of YA Fantasy Clichés…nameless mean girls, the competition to win the heart of the king, the one-dimensional villain king, the “I’m not like most girls” mentality of the main character, instalove…I don’t know, but the clichés definitely overtake any original ideas this book had, I think this is why I found myself so bored with this book.
  2. Characters Felt Very Stiff and Wooden…I really did not connect with anyone at all. They all felt so one-dimensional and stuck within the familiar character archetypes that I’ve seen before. There was hardly any personality shown, or really any slower scenes to merely show them as actual people. the plot merely drove them forward without really giving them a chance to really breathe and show them as actual people in my opinion.
  3. The Enemies-to-Lovers Could’ve Been Stronger…The fact that instalove happened between Lore and Abraxas made it feel like a very weak Enemies-to-Lovers storyline…this could’ve been drawn out for their romantic feelings to happen later, and maybe not feel so forced…
  4. The Stakes Could’ve Been Raised…I didn’t really feel a sense of urgency with this book as Lore infiltrates the castle and tries to kill the king. Very little consequences happen with what happens in the book, and I think this also adds to why I struggled with this book.

Conclusion:

Overall, Fire Heart was an underwhelming book that I didn’t connect with, much to my disappointment. It had all the things I love in my favorite books, but just didn’t deliver as strongly as I was hoping it would. I was just bored a lot of the time, and the list of clichés with a lack of adding much of anything new to the table made me not excited to keep going with the book.

As for right now, I recommend this book for someone who’s maybe not as familiar with fantasy genre books and wants something to ease into it before diving into much heavier, and more dense material. It’s a good beginner level fantasy read for someone just starting out in this genre.

However, I want to take all this negativity towards the book with a grain of salt and keep going because I’ve seen several instances where the first book in a series is the weakest, and the story gets much more engaging as it develops with each and every book. Plus, I already preordered the next book because I’m a sucker for pretty book covers, so I’ll at least give book 2 a try before I decide to bench this book series.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: February 15th, 2022
Number of Pages: 805 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

***Warning! This book review contains spoilers for this book and the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned***

To see my review of book #1 – House of Earth and Blood – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.75 Stars

His smile broadened as he walked out. ‘I never would have met Bryce. And every horror, every nightmare … all of it had been worth it for her.’

– Sarah J. Maas, “House of Sky and Breath”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal―they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds.

The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.

In this sexy, action-packed sequel to the #1 bestseller House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Maas weaves a captivating story of a world about to explode―and the people who will do anything to save it.

~~~

Okay, so it’s only been about a month and I think I NOW can say I’ve gathered my thoughts on this book that has actually stolen my breath away! This was easily one of my most anticipated book releases of 2022 since its been two years since we’ve ventured with these characters and experienced all that happens in House of Earth and Blood.

It’s quite the sequel to say the least! Old characters get new depths added to them, there’s a plethora of new characters who add so much to the story, there’s tons and tons of twists and turns, the plot somehow gets deeper and deeper, and lets just say that ending will freakin’ BLOW YOUR MIND like it did more me at 2 in the morning!

In this book, the story starts up again a few months after the catastrophic events where the glass gates are opened with portals to Hel and the demons are let loose in the city and countless people are injured or killed. Bryce and Hunt are just trying to ignore the thinly veiled threat of the overruling Asteri and their watchful eyes, and are just trying to live their normal lives and continue to be together under more mundane and normal circumstances. Things aren’t that easy, as they learn about rebel movements in place and secret weapons being found that could turn the tides of this possible war on the horizon (lets be real, we know it’s happening, has it never actually happened in a fantasy book you’ve read?)

This is also quite a substantial book and is easily one of her thickest titles to date, but it doesn’t feel that way as you read it; she has this way of connecting you to all her characters in such a way that you could literally read them talking over sports while drinking in a bar and you won’t get bored.

Speaking of the characters, that is such a major highlight of this book! Characters you met in the original book are back and have so much added onto them as the story develops that they still feel so fresh and real, even though you may not like as many of them as you get to know them! I don’t remember the last time I was so jealous of a character being surrounded by so many amazing male characters, but here Bryce is with company like Hunt, Ruhn, Ithan, Tharion, Flynn, Declan, and even a new character who is a lot more than meets the eye!

Thats the other thing about the new characters: there’s a lot of them, and ALL of them serve a huge purpose to the story and the many twists and reveals that come your way! I love the cast so much, and no surprise, SJM has truly created a wonderful array of them for us to enjoy.

One thing I can definitely critique is that we were promised a lot more spice in this book….first of all, I wasn’t a fan of the idea of Hunt and Bryce keeping things slow and trying things out on a platonic level–a horrible decision, really–and I thought we were promised like 500% more sex in this book! Well technically there’s more sex in this book than the previous one, but the amount we were promised sounds like there was supposed to be even more than what we got in A Court of Silver Flames…I’m not saying we don’t get any, we do and it’s great and it makes me happy when they go at it, but I was hoping for more in this regard.

And of course that ending……..oh my goodness, I can’t say any more because I risk spoiling it, but just holy shit that has to be the best way to end this book or any of her books! I need another SJM new release NOW!

I say anyone who sticks with the series all ADORE this book, it’s so much better in every way, I wish I could sound like I wasn’t just gushing about this book, but when my only critique was that there wasn’t enough spice in it, it’s hard not to! This book was phenomenal!!

Males will always try to control the females who scare them. Marriage and breeding are their go-to methods.

– Sarah J. Maas, “House of Sky and Breath”

What I Liked:

  1. THAT ENDING! I think I speak for the whole dang fandom when I say that the way this book ended was probably the most epic, most exciting, most mindfuckable of an ending that she could’ve come up with! I know It’s said a lot as we all finish books, but holy shitballs do I need the next book NOW!!!
  2. Things Get Spicier! Bryce and Hunt finally get their heads out of their own butts and into each others genitals! Yes, I went there…….but so did they *wink*wink*
  3. The Twists! Sarah J. Maas continues to surprise us readers to no end as more and more gets revealed! Danika and her extra-curricular activities that Bryce had no idea about, new characters who thicken the plot, Family tree’s revealed, The Underking, the Asteri, and even Hel itself and the Demon Princes have information all exposed about them that really raise the stakes! Plus, ALL the new characters have so much to add to the story in different ways, like there wasn’t one random addition, and they all had more going on beneath the surface to make this book even more addictive…
  4. The Multiple Romances! In Book 1, the romance was definitely all about Hunt and Bryce, and while it still shines a light on their relationship plenty, there were some other relationships also formed! Some were more alliances, but for some male characters, there’s definitely some sparks (or flames) flying!
  5. Buddy Reading It With My #Bookstagram Friends! I joined Bookstagram back in October, and I’ve made some truly wonderful friends while being active on there! We finally did our first successful buddy read together with this book, and it was so much fun to come up with theories and guess who was behind the many mysteries that raised questions, and of course, gush about the sex scenes! Brit, Kay, Laura, and Emily – Nothing But Love for my Wolfpack ❤

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Where’s The Smut?…So yeah there are sex scenes that finally happen in this book, but weren’t we promised like 500% more sex in this book? Umm, I think the decimal should’ve been moved over a few spots…I mean, there was so much sex in A Court of Silver Flames that some got cut out! What we got between Hunt and Bryce (and even Ruhn a few times) was hot and spicy like how I like my food, but with the promise of more, I felt like the quantity didn’t meet expectations.
  2. Tharion Was Pretty Shady…I love mermaids, and especially hot mermen, but Tharion was making some questionable decisions in this book, and exhibited some less than stellar behavior, like I was finding myself not happy with him and some of the things he did. Just shady behavior…..
  3. All The Tightening Balls…Laura in my Bookstagram Wolfpack pointed this out so then I couldn’t not notice this, but when SJM was writing about a male getting turned on, several times there was a mention of his balls tightening in arousal….LET ME tell you all who read this that this does not happen, if anything we get a hard-on, but our balls don’t tighten except for if we’re freakin’ freezing and the temperature is dangerously low…so not hot, no pun intended. Women authors who say this in romance/erotica need to cease and desist!
  4. The Book Got Spoiled Before It’s Release Date…Now this doesn’t affect my overall rating of how much I enjoyed this book, but all I can say is there’s a special place in Hel for those who leaked the book and gave major spoilers before the book even released is unforgivable! Some A-holes even tried to sell books from BAM (Books A Million) a week early for well over $100 dollars…I hate people sometimes.

Conclusion:

Overall, House of Sky and Breath exceeded expectations of how this story continues, there’s hardly a bad thing I can say about it. The world-building continues, there’s no info dumping like in book #1, the romance was much more present and was with more characters besides just Hunt and Bryce: Ruhn even has a little something something happening on his end too!

The ending of this book is quite literally mind-blowing, and like I said before, I am in desperate need of a new SJM book like NOW, I hope we don’t have to wait years for any answers to what I saw as the final scene in this wonderful book.

It’s by far the best book of 2022 for me so far, I’m so looking forward to how this story keeps developing! its ahhhh-mazing

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: Glint (The Plated Prisoner #2): by Raven Kennedy

Publish Date: January 3rd, 2021
Number of Pages: 470 Pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers for the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!***

To see my review of book #1 – Gild – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

‘Sometimes,’ he murmurs, ‘things need first to be ruined in order to then be remade.’

– Raven Kennedy, “Glint”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

For ten years, I’ve lived in a gilded cage inside King Midas’s golden castle. But one night changed everything.

Now I’m here, a prisoner of Fourth Kingdom’s army, and I’m not sure if I’m going to make it out of this in one piece. They’re marching to battle, and I’m the bargaining chip that will either douse the fire or spark a war.

At the heart of my fear, my worry, there’s him—Commander Rip.

Known for his brutality on the battlefield, his viciousness is unsurpassed. But I know the truth about what he is.

Fae.

The betrayers. The murderers. The ones who nearly destroyed Orea, wiping out Seventh Kingdom in the process. Rip has power sizzling beneath this skin and glinting spikes down his spine. But his eyes—his eyes are the most compelling of all.

When he turns those black eyes on me, I feel captive for an entirely different reason.

I may be out of my cage, but I’m not free, not even close. In the game of kings and armies, I’m the gilded pawn. The question is, can I out maneuver them?

This is the captivating second book of The Plated Prisoner series. It’s an adult epic fantasy story blending romance, intrigue, and beautiful imagery. Return to the seductive story of magic inspired by the myth of King Midas, and get caught up in the world of Orea.

Please note: There is explicit language and romance in this book, not suitable for those under the age of 18.

~~~

Well folks, I can definitely say that Glint is a definite improvement from its predecessor for multiple reasons: the momentum of the story has really picked up from where you were last left off with the ending of book #1, the character development with Auren is finally happening, and there’s finally some hints to some actual romance and not some powdered over Stockholm syndrome-esque love that the character Auren believes is true…it’s something that is actually real—thank god…

The story picks up almost immediately with how Gild ended: Auren, along with the small chunk of Midas’s soldiers and the saddles, have been taken in by Commander Rip, general to King Ravinger’s army. They’re traveling across the land back to where Midas is also traveling to in order to make a trade or make some sort of deal while political intrigue is well under way outside of what you glimpse in the actual story.

Auren faces multiple journeys, one of course being physical with the army traveling across the frozen tundra of the land, the journey of gaining her sense of confidence and freedom, her slowly developing feelings for Commander Rip as he shows her respect and allows her to grow at her own pace and slowly reveals to her the manipulation that Midas had infected her mind with over the last decade she’s been the golden kings beloved.

While the stakes have been risen and more and more happens in terms of the conflict ascending, the pace of the story continues its rather slow pace which can make it a harder book to stay focused on! You just want more to happen, you want more answers, and for the love of god, you just want Auren and Commander Rip to tear each other to threads and bang each other’s brains out while they’re in the same tent together! The anticipation is truly what keeps you going.

Much like the last book, the last bit of Glint is where all the tension reaches its boiling point and the excitement finally makes its appearance! The final scene is that special moment where you could be like “Holy shit…..now this story is getting good!” The reveal was something I truly didn’t see coming, so the fact that the author continues to throw twists into her story that truly surprise me is also a nice treat to make me see why so many of my bookish friends keep recommending these books to me…

He shakes his head. ‘No, Auren. You’re the one that needs to burn. You need to spark to life and fight. Stop letting him dull you, stop letting the whole fucking world trample you,’ he shouts, making me flinch from the vehement demand. ‘If you tried, you could shine brighter than the fucking sun. Instead, you’ve chosen to sit back and wither.’

– Raven Kennedy, “Glint”

What I Liked:

  1. Auren Finally Sees The Truth! As Auren and the saddles are taken by Commander Rip and his army, she slowly starts to see how bad her situation with Midas truly was…like seriously, it’s like she’s woken up from a trance and finally see what a douche-canoe the king with the golden touch really is! That’s the other thing too: it’s not actually him with the power, and Auren realizes how much he needs her so much more than vice versa.
  2. Queen Malina Strikes Back! While Midas is away and the saddles are commandeered, Queen Malina is taking some action of her own! Obviously she despises her husband, King Midas, and hates what he’s done to her kingdom during his reign. She wants to take it back over while their land is vulnerable, and while she’s a detestable character, I could get behind her not just laying around and isn’t afraid to be the change.
  3. The Shocking Ending! Let’s just say when you meet King Ravinger finally face-to-face, you’re going to be shown something you definitely did not see coming, honestly the moment was when I whispered “holy shit” out loud to myself and seriously get excited about where these books were going!
  4. There’s More Romance! The sexual tension between Rip and Auren is so spectacularly done, it’s such a big improvement to finally see some actual romantic promise in this series because there was absolutely NOTHING romantic about King Midas and his relationship with Auren…Rip is ready for something to happen, but it’s still clear that Auren has a ways to go in terms of growth before anything happens there, but let’s definitely agree when I say that some seeds are planted!
  5. I’m Not Sure Who’s Really An Ally! The story by this point really branches off and becomes it’s own thing from the original tale of Midas and his power, and with that comes a more interesting and unpredictable story to keep you guessing as to what could possibly happen next! Like “Game of Thrones” more people in positions of power rise up and become major players on the chess board, more characters become involved and of course, more and more tension rises to make everything eventually come to even bigger blows when the big confrontation and battle inevitably takes place!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Pacing Is Still Very Slow…While there are some major high points in the story that really add some excitement and unpredictability in the story, it takes you a bit longer than you’d maybe like to admit….almost like a journey across a harsh and cold tundra in itself. Sorry if that seems mean, but with how character driven this story is, the pacing is definitely on the longer and slower and more methodical side.
  2. King Midas Is Still A Threat…King Midas in this story is actually worse than Tamlin in A Court of Thorns and Roses series, like seriously, this dude doesn’t even try to hide how awful he is at this point…I thought the story was going to go a different direction and that Midas was going to be stopped by now, but he’s still very much at large and also very much trying to take over all the kingdoms. Part of me wishes he had some redeeming qualities in order to give him more depth as a villain, but so far I haven’t seen it.

Conclusion:

Overall, Glint by Raven Kennedy was a major step up from the previous book in The Plated Prisoner series! It was a little more of the same we saw in the first book, but enhanced and improved upon everything like the danger, the romance, and the surprises that the author comes up with to throw you off your tracks! Maybe some of you readers may catch them better than I did, but I was personally surprised at how the author snuck those past me…

The next book in this series is Gleam, and all my bookish friends who’ve read these books all say this one is the best; its like The Court of Mist and Fury of the popular series by Sarah J. Maas. I’m definitely going to read on with these books, because even though the pacing of this story is much slower than I’d like, I’m going to say it’s more on the slow but methodical path, because that final scene in the book really had me going “Oh shit….this is about to get good!”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh & Fire #1): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publish Date: October 19th, 2021
Number of Pages: 647 Pages

Publisher: Blue Box Press
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers as this book is a spin-off out of the “From Blood and Ash” series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

Total Star Rating: 3 Stars

It is far easier to be lied to than it is to acknowledge that you have been lied to.

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “A Shadow in the Ember”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.

However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then… end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot.

Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.

~~~

Instead of moving forward with the story of the “Blood and Ash” series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, we kind of go backwards in time to go and meet an incredibly important character that we met in “The Crown of Gilded Bone:” The Primal of Death, Nyktos. We go back approximately 200 years before FBAA starts and meet Nyktos and his Consort, Sera, who we know are actually Poppy’s grandparents.

It’s the beginning of a spin-off series set in the same world, you definitely get to see some Easter eggs of what is to eventually come with the Ascended and everything Poppy, Cas, and Kieran are dealing with in more current times.

I was a little bummed going in because personally, I am not the biggest fan of prequels. You already know to some degree what’s going to happen, so the fact that the story is somewhat predictable to that degree makes me not as interested. In a way, you’re already spoiled how it ends. I told myself to keep my criticism and weariness to a minimum because if I learned anything from TCOGB, I can trust the author to satisfy me with her storytelling skills. For the most part, this book didn’t disappoint, but I can also say that it didn’t feel as good as it could’ve been.

For most of the beginning towards the middle of the book, it felt like I was just reading a version of “From Blood and Ash” all over again with similar character archetypes and relationships, and maybe that was something the author wanted to do with showing so many parallels between Sera’s story and Poppy’s, but personally I got incredibly bored with the book for this reason. It didn’t feel like it’s own story, just a remixed version of a story the author already gave me.

I’m definitely not saying this isn’t worth the read though! The last chunk of the book is where this book truly starts to feel like it’s own entity and starts to veer away from the many comparisons of FBAA with epic battles of gods vs. gods and many twists revealed to thicken the already intricately drawn out plot.

Also, there was some incredible sexual tension between Sera and the Primal himself as they can’t deny the mutual attraction they feel towards each other. There wasn’t as many sex scenes as I was hoping, but we got some incredible spice from what we were given!

Of course, JLA leaves us bewildered with a crazy reveal at the very end of the book that even I can admit, it’s making me really excited for the next book to see how exactly all this information comes into play! It seemed to definitely get a great reaction out of the fandom, at least those who’ve posted about it on the FBAA World Spoiler Group on Facebook!

What I Liked:

  1. I Love A Good “They’re Sent To Kill Them, But End Up Falling For Them Instead” Trope! I really discovered I loved this when I read “The Bridge Kingdom” by Danielle Jensen, but it was also just so spectacular in this book too! Sera has been trained pretty much since she was a child on how to seduce the Primal of Death and then kill him when he’s at his most vulnerable, but of course those dang feelings get in the way and complicate everything! I’m personally here for it, and the angst and drama when the other finds out about it…
  2. Sera Is Even MORE Badass Than Poppy! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I liked Sera even more than I did Poppy at the beginning of FBAA! She’s more badass with a weapon in hand, she doesn’t ask as many questions, and she and Nyktos have some hot AF chemistry too!
  3. The Twist With The History Of The Primals! I feel like I should have seen of this coming with how “Crown of Gilded Bone” turned out. But seriously, WHO could possibly guess the twists with the crazy family trees that the author reveals to us as the plot thickens, and even what happens at the very end of this book too….bravo Jennifer 👏🏼👏🏼

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There’s Not As Much Spice As I Was Hoping…so I’m not saying there isn’t some very well written smut in this book, because there is, but I was hoping for more than what we actually got. I figured if Sera was sent to seduce the Primal of death, she’d really put that training into…ummm…action if you know what I mean.
  2. Maybe A Few Too Many Parallels To Blood And Ash?…I was very bored with this book for a large part of the beginning because it felt like I was reading “From Blood and Ash” all over again. There were so many similarities…the maiden and her elder knight mentor and guardian, douchey royals, and mysterious, snarky, dark, and sexy brooding man for the love interest…it just felt like the same book rewritten with minor changes to keep it somewhat new

Conclusion:

Overall, “A Shadow in the Ember” was a good book that I’d hoped would be great, but unfortunately some of my weariness with prequels came to be as this book just felt like recycled material with the same archetypes and type-cast of characters all like characters from FBAA that we’re familiar with.

HOWEVER, like I said, as you get to the last chunk of this book it really begins to feel like it’s own original story with a lot more excitement and plethora of twists and reveals that even though it’s a prequel, I’m very curious to see what happens further with Sera and Nyktos and everyone else!

NOW. as I’m typing this review, it’s around three months until the next installment of the FBAA series, “The War of Two Queens.” Now THAT is what I’m very excited to read! I need to know what happens to Cas, all the Draken who’ve woken up to join the battle, and possibly find yet another book boyfriend in Reaver! I can’t wait, and I can already tell it’s going to be a top book of 2022 for me!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: The Kingdom of the Wicked series by Kerri Maniscalco

Image courtesy of Bookstagram account: @xenatine

Hello readers!

I’m back with another Fancast article, this time it’s a demonic, witchy series that has become a favorite of mine in 2021 as I started reading it, “Kingdom of the Wicked” is a spooky delight with enemies-to-lovers and (surprisingly) amazing food prep descriptions that may add on to my quarantine 45!

The story revolves around Emilia, whose family is full of witches who must keep it a secret from witch hunters, they live among the mortals of their island town. Her twin sister, Vittoria, is mysteriously & brutally murdered, and Emilia goes looking for answers, and reluctantly joins forces with one of her mortal enemies: a demon Prince from hell. They rule the kingdom of the wicked, and Prince Wrath may be incredibly easy on the eyes, but never before has a witch ever formed an alliance with demon royalty, but as they dig deeper into this murder mystery, they discover there are much more malicious forces at work, and dark prophecies may soon come to light…

I am making this Fancast/Dreamcast as I’ve recently finished the second book that’s released – Kingdom of the Cursed – as I’m typing this. I’m so relieved that Kerri Maniscalco decided to go in more new adult direction with this series; Wrath was WAYYYYYYYYY too hot to stay in YA!

Anyways, not everyone has been cast yet, but not to worry! I plan to add characters as I find a face to the name, so refer back to this post as books release and it’ll be updated as quickly as possible!

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To see my review of book #1 – Kingdom of the Wicked – Click HERE

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Here’s My Official Fancast/Dreamcast:

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Emilia/Vittoria di Carlo: Sophia Miacova

She isn’t an actress, but this model definitely has the look I imagine these magical twins having! She’s got the Latin looks, even if I’m not entirely sure if she ethnically matches up to the characters.

Nonna Maria: Stevie Nicks

Again, I’m not getting an A+ on authenticity because Stevie Nicks doesn’t have any Italian descent in her blood, but there’s no doubt that she has a witchy, haunting vibe to her…hell, she played a witch in “American Horror Story” when she’s made surprise appearances!

Antonio Vincenzu Bernardo: Rafael Silva

I love Rafael in Fox’s “9-1-1: Lone Star” and he has such boyish good looks that I imagined Antonio having! Who wouldn’t have a crush on a face like that if they grew up with him like Emilia?

Prince Wrath: Clayton Brannon

Okay, but Prince Wrath was easily the hardest to cast because this is going to sound shallow, but who could possibly be good looking enough to play this sexy demon Prince from Hell?!?! Luckily, I remembered I follow this model on Instagram and I do believe he is an excellent choice even if he’s not an actor, he’s who I picture as Wrath!

Claudia: Jeanine Mason

I first saw this actress in a season of “Grey’s Anatomy” and she’s also in the show of “Roswell, New Mexico” but also who I picked to be Emilia’s cousin in these books.

Prince Envy: Mario Zabal

Again, apparently demon princes from Hell are sexy AF, because here’s another model who matches up to this Prince of the green sin…he’s got sharp features that I think really encapsulate the prince’s ethereal beauty!

Prince Greed: Daniel Gillies

So if you’ve seen my other Fancastings, you know I love “The Vampire Diaries” and for some reason, “Elijah” here came to mind when it came to the demon Prince who ran an underground speak-easy/casino to lure the weak minded into losing everything…

Prince Lust: Clint Mauro

Clint Mauro is someone who I consider to be one of the sexiest men in existence, so why not have him play the Prince of Lust! I even found a picture of him shirtless on a beach because a beach is where we first met him! You’re welcome!

Alexei: Jarred Blakiston

So this actor is obviously wearing a wig, but seeing him in full costume in the Netflix show “The New Legends of Monkey,” he looks like an evil elven Prince, or in this case, a certain vampire who does the bidding of Prince Envy!

Anir: Charles Michael Davis

I was struggling to find someone who wasn’t Ne-Yo or Tyson Beckford in who has both an African and Asian background since that’s how the character is described, but I found out that Charles is part Filipino, so it fits! Another TVD favorite who played Marcel!

Fauna: ???

I’m struggling to find someone who looks like what I imagined this character looking like….stay tuned!

Prince Gluttony: Darren Criss, or Adam Brody

This Prince is not a larger sized guy like you might think, in fact even Emilia describes him as not appearing how she expected either. He’s described as being shorter with brownish-maybe dark red hair and hazel eyes, so I pictured either of these actors playing the Prince of not eating too much, but simply enjoying ALL of life’s pleasures in excess!

Prince Pride: Adam Demos

Prince Pride finally makes an appearance in KOTC, and as soon as we figured out what he actually looks like, I pictured this hot Aussie actor to play him and continue to heat up the screen you’re viewing this post on! If he looks familiar, it’s because he’s on the hit Netflix show “Sex/Life.”

Celestia: Kristin Bauer van Straten

She played the dark queen Maleficent in ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” and also just so happens to play this character who works as a medicine woman down in hell who’s way more than meets the eye…

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Remember: this Fancast/Dreamcast will be updated as more books release for this series, and as I figure out more characters, so come back over time to see any new additions.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell