Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard
A strange darkness grows in Allward.
Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea.
She soon discovers the truth: She is the last of an ancient lineage—and the last hope to save the world from destruction. But she won’t be alone. Even as darkness falls, she is joined by a band of unlikely companions:
A squire, forced to choose between home and honor.
An immortal, avenging a broken promise.
An assassin, exiled and bloodthirsty.
An ancient sorceress, whose riddles hide an eerie foresight.
A forger with a secret past.
A bounty hunter with a score to settle.
Together they stand against a vicious opponent, invincible and determined to burn all kingdoms to ash, and an army unlike anything the realm has ever witnessed.
I’ve previously shared how much I enjoyed Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series. However, Realm Breaker is a book that couldn’t be more different from her other series. Which is potentially good news and bad news. Good news if you didn’t care for Red Queen – you might actually really like this one. Bad news if you were hoping for Red Queen redux.
Realm Breaker evokes the best of classic high fantasy stories told with an eye for contemporary tastes. The chosen one is a girl for starters and we not only get representation for POC, there is representation for the LGBTQ+ community as well. All of this is achieved with a deft hand, widening the world of what otherwise feels like a love letter to the greats of fantasy (particularly to Tolkien, who was named as a huge inspiration by the author).
While Realm Breaker lacks the breakneck pacing of Red Queen, Aveyard shows her versatility in crafting a wonderful epic fantasy tale with multiple POVs. We are given a lot of detail about Allward, all its different kingdoms, and its past history. Fans of sprawling fantasy stories will definitely find themselves satisfied by the information that’s spooled out over many pages and POVs. Though some readers cited that they were bored by all this detail, this is one area where I think Aveyard understood the assignment of the genre and story she was going for. A+ from me. I also particularly loved how the “gathering of the Fellowship” or the “gathering of the dungeon party” trope played out in this book. Finally, Realm Breaker contained everything I loved about Aveyard’s writing and storytelling in Red Queen so as a fan of her debut, I was not disappointed by her new series.
With Blade Breaker releasing later this spring, I was left satisfied by the first book. I think this story is locked and loaded to really go off in the second act. I definitely have my favorite characters already and hoped nothing bad happens to my cinnamon roll, Andry!
God of Neverland by Gama Ray Martinez
Peter Pan is missing; Neverland is in trouble. For adults, that might not matter all that much, but for children–whose dreams and imagination draw strength from the wild god’s power–the magic we take for granted in the real world is in danger of being lost forever.
Such is the life of a now grown-up Michael Darling.
Michael returned from Neverland with the dream of continuing his adventuring ways by joining the Knights of the Round, an organization built to keep humanity safe from magical and mythological threats. But after a mission gone terribly wrong, he vowed to leave behind the Knights and finally live as a “civilian,” finding order and simplicity as a train engineer, the tracks and schedule tables a far cry from the chaos of his youth.
He hasn’t entered the narrative in years. So what could they need from him now?
Maponos–or how he’s better known, Peter Pan–has gone missing, and Neverland is now on the edge of oblivion. Michael realizes he has no choice and agrees to one last mission. Alongside the young Knight Vanessa and some old friends, Michael embarks on the ultimate adventure: a journey to a fantasy world to save a god. Determined to stop evil, fight for Neverland, and find Maponos, will Michael be able to save the magical and physical world? Or will his biggest fear come true?
The clock is ticking, and in Neverland, that’s never a good sign.
Is there anything better than when good things happen to good people? I met Gama Martinez several years ago when I attended Superstars Writing Seminars for the first time in 2018. It only took me about two seconds to realize that he is one of the nicest, kindest, and most dedicated people out there. An established writer on the indie scene, his career has since grown, and now his first adult novel is out this week from Harper Voyager! Congrats Gama!
I was lucky enough to get an early review copy of this book from Gama, and I devoured it in just a couple of days. With such a fun, interesting premise, God of Neverland quickly gets down to the business of adventure from the very first chapter. Easy to read and brimming with imagination, I found myself grabbing the book to squeeze in another chapter during lunch or treating myself to a quick reading break from work.
Even if it’s been a while since you visited the world of Neverland, Gama does a great job reminding you of the previous adventures of the Darling children and Peter Pan while putting a new spin on an old classic. Weaving together bits of other familiar stories and lore, this Peter Pan novel is less of a retelling and more of a sequential entry into an established world. Told with a refreshing sense of wonderment and humor, God of Neverland is a book for adults that doesn’t lean heavily on darkness and grit to tell its story. Instead, God of Neverland asks us to consider what it means to reconnect to the child-like part of yourself that never quite grew up. After the last few years we’ve had, it’s hard to overstate how nice it is to read a book that is just so unapologetically fun.
2021: the year the pandemic raged on, I struggled through it like everyone, and read some big, chonky books. Looking back over the year, about 1/3 of what I read was over 500 pages! I did read some good books though and I’ll be catching up on my reviews in 2022. If you missed my last post, my goal this year is to return to weekly postings here on the blog.
HOW MANY BOOKS READ IN 2021?
– 25 Fiction / 10 Non-Fiction
– 12 Male / 12 Female
OLDEST BOOK READ?
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926)
NEWEST BOOK READ?
Slushpile Memories: How NOT to Get Rejected by Kevin J. Anderson (August 26th, 2021)
LONGEST BOOK READ?
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (908 pages)
SHORTEST BOOK READ?
The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda Gorman (32 pages)
ANY IN TRANSLATION?
Not this year!
BEST BOOK READ IN 2021?
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
MOST BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN BOOK IN 2021?
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
MOST SURPRISING (IN A GOOD WAY!) BOOK OF 2021?
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
I would consider myself a fan of Leigh Bardugo, but until this year I’d only read her Six of Crows duology. I had heard some negative things about her first series and thought I might find it lacking after Six of Crows. While it wasn’t as good in my opinion, it did have all the signature aspects of her writing that I enjoyed with the duology: a strong voice, good banter, intriguing worldbuilding, and great pacing.
MOST THRILLING, UNPUTDOWNABLE BOOK IN 2021?
Origin by Dan Brown. In the latest Robert Langdon thriller, I was reminded why Brown is a master of this genre and why The DaVinci Code became a global phenomenon.
BOOK THAT HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON ME IN 2021?
The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda Gorman. The delivery of this poem during the inauguration was just phenomenal. I’m excited to see what’s next for Gorman.
BOOK THAT HAD A SCENE IN IT THAT HAD ME REELING?
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. This book has some really tough scenes in the middle. Pretty much every trigger warning you could have is encompassed in this book. Still, it is a stunning book and if you can depictions of physical violence, sexual violence, death, and racism, I would highly recommend the read. It didn’t win the Pulitzer for nothing!
BOOK I MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2021?
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin. I’ve been wanting to read this book for years and finally got to it.
MOST MEMORABLE CHARACTER IN 2021?
Amos from The Expanse series. I read 3 of these books this year. And then Vataea the vicious mermaid from All the Stars and Teeth.
HOW MANY RE-READS IN 2021?
BOOK I READ IN 2021 I’D BE MOST LIKELY TO REREAD IN 2022?
On Writing by Stephen King
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz
BOOK I RECOMMENDED TO PEOPLE MOST IN 2021?
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin.
FAVORITE NEW AUTHORS I DISCOVERED IN 2021?
James S.A. Corey, Shelby Mahurin, Adalyn Grace, Matt Haig.
MOST BOOKS READ BY ONE AUTHOR THIS YEAR?
A tie: 3 from Leigh Bardugo and 3 from James S.A. Corey
FAVORITE COVER OF A BOOK I READ IN 2021?
FAVORITE PASSAGE/QUOTE FROM A BOOK I READ IN 2021?
“The only way to learn is to live.”
– Matt Haig, The Midnight Library
DID I COMPLETE ANY READING CHALLENGES OR GOALS IN 2021?
No. I read A TON of chunky books this year which slowed me down and kept me from hitting my goal.
BOOK I CAN’T BELIEVE I WAITED UNTIL 2021 TO FINALLY READ?
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about The Expanse book series and tv show. Definitely really enjoying this one even though this is probably the most hard sci-fi series I’ve ever read (even if the authors don’t think they’re hard sci-fi themselves lol).
FAVORITE BOOK OF 2021?
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
An early winner from 2021. Short and easy to read, I highly recommend it!
I’m super excited to share that I have a story in this anthology that just came out this week, Particular Passages! My story, “The Pirate Prince of the Barbary Coast” is a historical fantasy set in nineteenth-century San Francisco.
About Particular Passages:
15 Stories, 15 Authors
Down a forgotten hallway lie rooms no one has entered.
Each room contains a world waiting to be explored.
Some beautiful and full of wonder, other dark and full of terrors.
You won’t know which until you step inside.
So take a deep breath, and open the door…
Featuring stories by Elmdea Adams, Jen Bair, David Boop, J.T. Evans, Todd Fahnestock, Arlen Feldman, Shannon Fox, Jessica Guernsey, Sam Knight, Chris Mandeville, Kim May, John D. Payne, Wayland Smith, Stephannie Tallent, and Marie Whittaker
An excerpt from my story The Pirate Prince of the Barbary Coast:
From his position behind the cargo crates stacked on the pier, James could just make out two men patrolling the deck of the S.S. Kingston. The rigging creaked eerily in the night as the ship bobbed on the water, occasionally obscured from view by the dense San Francisco fog. The ship had arrived from Honolulu earlier in the day carrying sugar, coffee, lemons, and the rumor of a prize that was worth more than all the rest of the cargo combined – a golden egg that had once belonged to Queen Liliʻuokalani herself.
James had watched the ship all day as they’d unloaded the cargo. And he’d observed other men peel off in pursuit of the wagons, certain the Queen’s golden egg was tucked into one of the packing crates inside. They’d never suspected that in order to keep the egg safe from thieves like them, it’d been left aboard the ship.
But James knew. He could feel the presence of gold, an insistent tug that beckoned him to come closer. He wouldn’t be able to resist its call for much longer. Nor did he want to. He didn’t plan to return home without that egg.”