YA Fantasy

My Review: Truthwitch (Witchlands #1): by Susan Dennard

Publish Date: January 5th, 2016
Number of Pages: 415 Pages
Publisher: Tor Teens
Genre(s): YA Fantasy

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

A YA-Fantasy title with major potential!

It seems like there are so, so, so, so, so, so, so many fantasy-genre titles that have come out over the last couple of years, and I’m happy about it, but at the same time it makes me ask myself: which ones are actually worth reading?

It’s a question that’s been seriously stressing me out lately, and I’ll be honest, there are plenty of titles that I’m sure are just recycled spin offs of others and are filled with a lot of the same themes, character-arcs, settings, etc. Even the blurbs mesh together and sound the same at this point, and characters are only memorable if I have no idea how to even pronounce their name!

Don’t even get me started on how the titles have a variation of any of these words in no particular order: Throne, Sword, Glass, Storm, Glass, War, Thorn, Rose, Crown, Queen, Flame, Shadow, etc…

This title was one that I’d really questioned, and was really hesitant to open. The blurb didn’t blow me away, and everything just sounded unoriginal and just recycled material I’d read in other titles already. It’s Goodreads score was decent enough, and Sarah J. Maas hyped it up (before her and the author had a huge, mysterious falling out), plus I started seeing awesome fanart on Pinterest and Instagram, so I slowly warmed up to the book and decided fuck it, I’d give it a chance.

It was good, but not great. It has a lot of major potential, that is for sure, but nothing really amazed me or caused me to want to stay up until 4 am on a work night because I needed answers and not sleep. I say that with a grain of salt because I also have to take into account about trying to judge a series based off just the first books. I mean…look at any first book of a series you love, then think about either the latest or the final book if it’s finished. Was the first book absolutely eye-opening? did it make you excited? were the characters as amazing then as they are when it’s over? Odds are no, you read on and grew with the story as it’d developed and thats what made you love the book/series. Truthwitch wasn’t the most amazing book I’d read, but I can say I liked it well enough to care what happens next and want to read the next title someday!

One thing I appreciated about the author’s work is how she’d made sure to make her cast of characters incredibly diverse. This was as much for me to reference back to as well as anyone who wants to (feel free to bookmark the page), but here’s a rundown of the ethnic backgrounds of the main empires of the storyline and what they’d match up to in contemporary times:

Nomatsi: Eastern Asia

Nubrevna: Mediterranean/ Greek/ Spanish

Cartorra/ Dalmotti: Austrian/ Venetian

Marstoki: Mixed Races of darker skin, eyes, and hair

The author goes into detail about all this HERE on her Tumblr page for anyone who wants to look for themselves!

And now, onto the story!

What It’s About:

Map of the world of the Witchlands, image courtesy of the Witchlands wiki page

Truthwitch takes place in a world known as the Witchlands–seriously–and is ruled by three empires: Marstok, Dalmotti, and Cartorra. There are regular people, but there are also those with special abilities that put them in a class all their own. For the past 20 years, the three empires had been involved in a truce to not go to war, but times almost up, and tensions have risen to their boiling points, and not everyone may be renewing the contract.

The story revolves around two young women, Safi and Iseult, who come from different backgrounds, but had become best friends through training under the same mentor who’d helped them master both their special abilities.

Safi: blonde, tan, hot-headed, and of course beautiful, is a Truthwitch – someone who can sense if someone is lying, and it’s a power that is an extremely rare gift, which makes her extremely sought after by many powerful forces.

Iseult: pale, narrowed eyes, smart and strategic, calm and collected, and dark hair is a Threadwitch – someone who see’s invisible ties like string that bind those closest to her, meaning she knows where they are and what they feel.

They both fight for the chance to earn a simple and free life away from all the politics, the overpowering rule, but with war threatening to erupt, plans are quickly extinguished. The two of them find themselves working with Prince Merik–A Windwitch and ship’s captain– as they travel to foreign lands and see for themselves the world they’d only begun to understand. Meanwhile, a vengeful Bloodwitch –Aeduan–hunts each of them to try and return Safi to powerful rulers who want nothing more than to use her as a weapon!

What I Liked:

  1. The Various Point-Of-Views! I’m always a big fan of these kinds of fantasy novels, it’s like you’re getting multiple mini stories in one big book! I love when they intertwine and events from one point of view can become a big plot point for another point of view later on in the series. Safi, Iseult, Merik, and Aeduan were all the different perspectives of this story, and I personally liked Safi and Aeduan the most. Safi was a little clichéd, but I like her spunk and her dynamic with Iseult was fun to read. Merik seemed too moody and annoyingly angsty most of the time despite how I did like how everything he did was for the welfare of his kingdom and his people. Iseult is a great character, but I found her storyline to be a little lacking since she was injured in a bed for a good chunk of time, hopefully she gets more time to shine in the next title!
  2. The Theme of Female Friendship! It’s a major theme of the book, and something that anyone can enjoy if they’re fans of Fantasy, or fiction in general. It’s something we see surprisingly little of, where friendship is a theme or main focus of the overall story. Sure, it’s there in plenty of titles, but it doesn’t get as much attention. It would be cool if it’d possibly be an LGBT F/F relationship, but there are other titles out there that include that too, so I’m good with platonic friendship!
  3. The Diverse Cast! The author made it a point to not white-wash her cast, and instead made sure to make sure about 80%–my own estimate–are POC.
  4. Aeduan! He’s by far my favorite character of the book! He’s a Bloodwitch and a Carewan monk, and has an air of mystery to him that I liked. He’s technically a villain, but will probably have a similar arc to Magnus Damora from Falling Kingdoms and go from villain to anti-hero. Sure, he seems like an Assassin’s Creed knockoff with his white cloak and the fact that he’s a hired assassin, he still has some major potential to be an incredibly memorable character in this whole series!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Insta-Love…Well, it wasn’t outright, but it was obvious that something shifted between Merik and Safi the instant they’d met, and then danced together at a ball. The way the author wrote it was similar to a storm out at sea, making it sound like it was this epic thing with sweeping winds, harsh thunder, dark clouds, and the earth shaking, and even if the characters themselves didn’t realize their feelings for each other, it was an insta-love for us as the readers…ugh.
  2. Off To A Slow Beginning…After the initial setup at the beginning, the book felt slow to me. It was hard for me to get fully engaged in the story until after the halfway point. It was there that I’d gotten more attached to the characters and felt like the story had gotten more interesting.


Overall, I can honestly say this novel has a lot of potential. It’s nothing too spectacular or mind-blowing, but I also say that knowing that nowadays, it’s incredibly difficult to be able to sum up a series from just the first book. I remember the first book of a lot of series I consider my favorites: both the Throne of Glass and even Harry Potter first books left me feeling like there was more to be desired, and look how they turned out…two of the most popular YA fantasy series of all time.

Truthwitch leaves you just curious enough to want to read on and see what may possible happen next. It’s filled with imagery and themes that are both familiar and somewhat new as well, and while I felt I wasn’t fully engaged for a good chunk of it, the positive definitely outweighs the negative.

I recommend this title to anyone who enjoy strong heroine-centric YA fantasy titles written by authors like Sarah J. Maas (who has an interesting past with this author), Kristin Cashore, Victoria Aveyard, Richelle Mead, Tamora Pierce, and Cassandra Clare (But I can at least say the writing is better than some of these names mentioned). Truthwitch is filled with adventure, action, complex and engaging relationships between it’s main cast of characters, and like I said earlier, the promise of more; let’s hope this series continues to improve as it develops!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, LGBT, Romance

My Review: American Queen (New Camelot Trilogy #1): by Sierra Simone

Publish Date: October 5th, 2016
Number of pages: 392 pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre(s): Romance, Erotica, Political Drama

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

To keep my vocabulary clean and proper, I just want to point out that holy shit you guys… this book was an experience to say the least! This book was FIRE; It was intense, it was kind of dark and twisted, and was absolutely eyebrow raising amongst all the other Romance/Erotica titles that I’ve read or want to read.

There’s actually a lot I’d want to reveal about the story, but most of it will spoil the book, so I have to stay somewhat kind of vague. Part of the experience of the book is the shocking discovery of certain things, seeing how things develop and reveal themselves, so why would I ruin it for any new readers?

The very first scene is a wedding, and it starts out pretty light and innocent, but then the author starts to point certain things out that normally would go unnoticed, like a dirty little secret amongst only the select few who know, giving you a little tease of what’s to come…

It’s unorthodox, spellbinding, seductive, wicked, forbidden, and a completely different kind of fairytale than the ones you’ve ever read before…

What It’s About:

Recent college grad and literary professor, Greer Galloway, has always been around the political circuit for as long as she could remember. Her parents died when she was much younger, so her grandfather became her legal guardian, and he also just happened to be the Vice President of the United States at the time. Going with him to special events and galas, she became well versed in politics and how to read people based off facial expressions, body language, what is said and how people say it. Her grandfather noticed, and used her perceptiveness to his advantage.

Through most of her childhood, she’d run into one of her grandfather’s best friends, Merlin Rhys. Cold and aloof, he’d leave Greer with not much more than a few warnings and then disappear, leaving her to wonder if maybe he lives up to the magical being he’s named after?

The real story begins years later when Greer is 15 and meets Maxen Ashley Colchester, or “Ash” for short. They meet at a party in London, and sparks instantly arouse, but they know it’s forbidden because she’s so young, and he’s a 26 year old War Lieutenant. Despite it all, they share her first kiss, not knowing their lives will be forever changed. Their meeting brings a new life into her, and so after he’s off fighting in the war, she writes him letters. She reveals things that she’d never told anyone else, along with her intense, growing attraction to him. Unfortunately, she never heard back from him.

Six years later, at Merlin Rhys’s birthday celebration on a rooftop in Chicago, Greer coincidentally runs into Maxen yet again; this time he’s come back and is considered a huge war hero. She discovers that they are both still attracted to each other, but he’s engaged to another woman. Devastated, Greer leaves the party and meets Embry Moore, a charismatic and charming military comrade of Maxens. They hit it off, both trying to get over lost love, but discover that they may have feelings for each other too, so Greer decided to act on it, and thus loses her virginity to him. The next morning, she leaves Embry with the promise of more should he contact her again, but again she’s left out in the cold

Now in present time, Greer is visited once again by Embry, but now he’s Vice President under Maxen, who was elected as a Third party contender. Maxen sent him to come find her, and what happens after that is an epic love story between a woman and the two most powerful men in the country thats told from past and present times. Its an unconventional story of lust, jealousy, sex, forbidden love, political intrigue, scandal, deceit, and danger.

This book is told from the view of Greer, and the next two books will be told from the perspectives of Embry and Maxen.

What I Liked:

  1. (Most of) The Characters! There’s Greer who’s smart, kind hearted, determined, submissive but strong. There’s Embry who’s charming, reckless, intense, conflicted, arrogant, and aloof. Maxen is commanding, heroic, powerful, manipulative, and honorable. Mixing them together drives the story forward as Greer internally battles herself on the fact that she’s in love with both men for different reasons, and who should she end up with in the end. Personally, there were times I wasn’t a big fan of Maxen, but I dive into that later. The author keeps you wondering, and makes you feel for the characters and worry about them, hoping they all get their happily ever after.
  2. The Exploration of Sexual Attraction! One thing that I’m starting to notice about self/indie published romance books is that they are starting to really dig further in terms of exploring the spectrum of sexual attraction of human beings. It’s become so broad in today’s world, and yes, it’s no longer just about being gay or straight. While this book stays within the realm of those two orientations, it shows forbidden fantasies and if we were to allow ourselves to explore our curiosities, no matter how devious, perverted, or explicit they may be seen as. Sexual orientations are never straight out said within the story, and the author never tries to justify if a character is gay or bisexual; it was done in the “show, don’t tell” method, as it should.
  3. The Romance! It will drive you nuts! The author creates aching sexual tension, and is slow and methodical in the buildup between the pages. The love scenes are so incredibly intense and well written that I actually had to stop, blink, and catch my breath a couple times.
  4. The Sudden Cliffhanger Ending! The ending just happens so abruptly, and I went back and wondered, did someone rip out the last page?… Nope, it’s just a really big cliffhanger that excites as much as it frustrates. I get it; it’s the perfect ploy for any sort of drama to get people to want to read the next book ASAP, and (oh god) does it work, but at least I’m not waiting a whole year for the next title, I already have the next book on my shelf because I had a hunch I was going to need it *wink wink*
  5. The Author’s Writing Style! Grab your vibrating toys ladies, gents, and non-binaries, because this author can freakin’ write! It was probably one of the most intense romance/erotic novels that I’d ever read in my life, and I’m not even talking entirely about the sex scenes. The author weaved a complex story as a great base for everything, and her prose were actually incredibly beautiful! Sierra Simone paints a pretty impressive picture, check this little snippet out:

I’m nothing, I’m everything, I’m the light and the dark and the air and the void. Strong force, weak force, gravity, electricity, magnetism are all pinning me underneath this violent, tragic soldier.

– Sierra Simone, “American Queen”

Pretty hot stuff, right?

(Side note: this isn’t even one of the best written lines in the whole book, but it certainly makes a strong case, am I right? *nudge nudge*)

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Maxen’s Dark Side…So big surprise (not really though), the lead Male has a tragic past, and is into some dark, kinky stuff… Yes, I do mean BDSM. Nothing most of us haven’t read before…but there’s a scene that gets more graphic about it in the story, and I just found that it’s probably the part I liked the least in the whole book. I’m not too familiar or all that informed with the BDSM lifestyle choice, but I still find it a bit off when someone loves someone deeply, but still wants to whip them too? For me personally, it’s not going to be my cup of tea, but I also noticed how controlling Maxen gets throughout the story. He’d go from 0 to 100 real quick, at least during the love scenes, and it felt almost dictator-ish how Embry and Greer would sometimes look down and stay silent and be like, “Don’t do or say anything to upset him,” and while there are plenty of hot moments in the book, this controlling side of him was something I’m not particularly fond of.
  2. The Presidential Factor…While it would be absolutely amazing to have two incredibly gorgeous men in their thirties be the President and Vice President of our country. It’d certainly make me more interested in politics, but it felt a little far fetched in terms of realism and believability. Maxen becomes president by being a war hero, similar to Dwight Eisenhower back during WWII, but it felt like this aspect was added only because Greer had been around politics her whole life. Him and Embry could’ve just stayed Military men, and the story wouldn’t have had to change all that much…
  3. The Cliché Romance Male Lead…I complain about clichés a lot on here…but no apologies, so get over it. Anyways, the whole “Dark haired, light eyed, masculine male who’s in a position of power, has lots of money and a tragic backstory, and now has a dark sexual appetite” is SOOOO played out, I feel like it’s every other male character you’d read in any of the Romance/Erotica novels/series out there nowadays. WE GET IT…If we hate the 50 Shades of Grey crap on paper so much, why do we still go back to it?

(Side note 2: this trilogy along with others like the Crossfire series, are like 50 Shades, but SO much better written.)


I found myself enjoying this title a lot, and I can say that despite a few clichés that will probably not go away anytime soon, it is something enjoyable that really sticks out amongst other titles. I recommend to anyone who loves intense, erotic romance and is into sexual exploration. I certainly have become a fan of the author after this title, and will continue to read her other works should they interest me. Anyone who like the 50 Shades-esque stories with gorgeous men with a secret dark side and lots of money and power will love it, and that cliffhanger is a doozy, so watch out!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell