Sky in the Deep

Adirenne YoungBREATHE FIRE— I’ve always had an infatuation with Norse mythology and the Vikings, and I’ve always wondered why no one had written about them through the lens of a YA novel. When I first heard about Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young, I was like “FINALLY. Someone is finally doing it!” Knowing what I do about reading a new author for the first time, I tried not to get my hopes up too high because I’ve been let down in the past. But Young really delivered with her tale, and I’m so pleased to tell you guys that this book has become near and dear to me. It definitely deserves 5/5 stars and I likely won’t ever stop recommending it. So, let me tell you a little about it!

“I stood at the entrance of the ritual house in the falling snow, holding basket piled high with yarrow. The huge archway was a detailed carving of the mountain, the trees etched into it in slanted patterns and the face of Thora, mouth full of fire.”

Sky in the Deep follows seventeen year old Eelyn, a viking warrior from the Aska tribe set on the coast of the snowy Fjord, who lives by the code “vegr yfir fjor” or “honor above life.” Her clansmen have an ancient rivalry with the Riki clan, who worship the goddess Thora above the Aska god Sigr. She lives to fight, and fights to survive. That is the ways of her people, and that is all she knows. Five years after the death of her beloved brother Iri, a brother who she’d seen fall in battle, she is revisited by his ghost fighting alongside their rival clan. But when she notices how corporal he appears, and how he has seemingly aged with time, she cannot fathom the truth. It is no longer a possibility that Iri is an apparition sent by her god—and her heart refuses to accept the harrowing truth of his deception.

Every five years, the Riki and the Aska converge in the mountains or alongside the coast to fight to the death. It is the way of their worlds, and a tradition that had been kept since the age of their gods. But when Eelyn tries to find her brother amongst broken bodies and swinging axes, she is nearly killed by Fiske—Riki’s new, adoptive brother. Iri pulls them apart before they tear murder one another, but Eelyn is then taken prisoner and sworn to secrecy about her brother’s lineage.

Eelyn must face her brother’s betrayal and live amongst his people, the Riki, and work as their servant if she hopes to survive the winter to then venture back home to her father. When the Riki village is suddenly raided, she must put her life in the hands of the man who nearly took it—Fiske. Her brother’s friend, and her captor, try to figure out how to unite the clans to defeat a deadlier enemy. But some rivalries run too deep, with too much blood spilled, and old rivals will never be truly at rest until their god’s thirst for blood and war is satisfied.

The setting takes place in a vague, Nordic country where one scene goes from thickly iced over lakes to snow-capped mountains where trees tower over the nestled villages. Young’s descriptions of the meeting halls and forests are gorgeous. I loved her writing style, because it easily hooked me from the first page and didn’t leave room for errors. In other words, anything I guessed that would occur actually didn’t occur, even with my close reading. It was a well thought out and characterized story, especially in regards to character development. A major theme throughout was the idea of giving in and changing. When to change, whether or not to change, and who to change for—which ultimately leads to the protagonist’s self-discovery and newfound outlook on life. The best part about this book is definitely following along as Eelyn struggles to find herself in two different worlds. Fiske fights the same inner battle, as does Iri, and all three of them go through this change differently and with contrasting perspectives. It was all very intriguing and stimulating to read.

I also really enjoyed how Young didn’t focus heavily on romance in this story. While there is romance, it isn’t a main aspect to the plot. There are no affairs, love triangles, or unrequited lover tropes involved whatsoever—none of these warriors have time for that. SKY is a story about self identity and coming of age, and Eelyn was a wonderful protagonist whose main concerns rested with her father, her tribe, and understanding how two groups of people can come to live in peace.

Overall, this was an amazing book. I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of the T.V. series Vikings (on History), or if you haven’t seen that show but loved the book…watch it!! I’m biased because Vikings is my favorite television series, and some of the characters in the book reminded me of characters from the show. Also, the soundtrack to the show is a wonderful companion if you want to listen to music while reading.


I have to give a massive thank you to St. Martin’s Press for granting me an early copy of this book and setting up a Q&A with the author, Adrienne Young! Below are the questions Young responded to for the Sky in the Deep Blog Tour.

  1. What inspired SKY IN THE DEEP? How did the idea and Eelyn come to you? DO you have any favorite Viking stories?

The sibling betrayal was definitely the first inspiration for this story. I was driving in the pouring rain on this country road and the first scene just hit me—Eelyn seeing her brother on the battlefield after thinking that he was dead for five years. I pulled over on the side of the road and scribbled a million notes on an old envelope. I was immediately hooked to the idea and I wanted to know what had happened. I started writing that first chapter and I just never stopped.

2. What type of research did you do for your character and world-building? What languages did you study to implement the languages of that the Aska and the Riki speak? What was the strangest thing you had to research for this book?

I did a ton of research for this story. I actually really love to research things so it was a lot of fun. A lot of it was stuff like clothing, landscape, weapons, food, etc. But I did a lot of research into Norse mythology as well to build a foundation for this world. The language used is Old Norse, but it’s a dead language so studying it was really difficult. There is a lot of controversy about it among scholars and there’s no real way to fully understand it, so I just did my best based on my own investigation. I’m definitely not an expert! The weirdest thing I had to research was how to tear out someone’s eyeball. Yuck.

3. What was your writing process like for SKY IN THE DEEP?

Complete and utter obsession. When I draft, I get really buried in the world and I don’t really come up for air until I get to the end. I write as much as I can and list my intake of other influencers that could mess with my mindset. I don’t watch TV or movies or listen o music thats not on my playlist, and I kind of don’t have a social life until it’s done.

4. What was your hardest scene to write? What was the easiest?

I really didn’t struggle to get this story on the page the way I have with other books, so I really don’t know what the hardest scene to write was. But the easiest was the first chapter. I wrote it so fast and it just clicked in so perfectly.

5. Which of your characters are you the most like? Who was your favorite to write?

Eelyn! We have so much in common and she really inspires me. But I think Halvard was the most fun to write. I really, really love him.

6. Do you have a soundtrack for SKY IN THE DEEP? Can you share a couple of songs? What would Eelyn’s favorite song be?

Yes! Music plays a HUGE role in my writing process and I have a playlist for every project. The ones I probably listen to the most while drafting SKY are To the Hills by Laurel, Bare by Wildes, and Rise Up— Reprise by Foxes. But a link to the whole playlist is on my site!

Listen to Young’s playlist here.

7. What books have inspired you to write? What books are you looking froward to reading this year?

The ones that inspired me to write are nothing like my books. One of the most influential ones for me was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, because the human element is so beautiful and the author explores so many things in that took that really took my breath away. I wanted to write stories that went deep like that, but I love fantasy so I try to write it within that realm.

8. Any advice on querying? Or writing advice for aspiring writers?

Querying—do not just sign with any agent who will take you. Make a dream agent list of qualified agents who have good reputations and make consistent sales. Query them. If they don’t bite, then write another book that they might want. Believe me when I say it is worth waiting or the right agent!

9. Any details about the company novel?

I cant say anything about the companion novel yet! But I’m hoping that we can start talking about it soon because I am really excited about it!


And because I loved this book so much…I made my very own playlist for it! You can follow THIS link to listen on SoundCloud. Most songs are by Wardruna, who I’ll be seeing this spring in concert (aahhh)!Sky in the Deep_cover image

Runaljod // Wardruna
Pertho // Wardruna
Snake Pit Poetry // Einar Selvik
Sacrifice for the Crops // Trevor Moris
Skaldens Song Til Tore Hund // Ivar Bjørnson
Heimta Thurs // Warduna
Resan // Forndom
Burizas // Draugurinn
Dance with the Trees // Adrian Von Zieglers
Viking Boaters Dancing in Scotland // Adrei Krylov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cry of the Firebird

You know that feeling when you’re really in the mood for a specific book but finding it seems nearly impossible because theres likely nothing published that will match what you’ve conjured up in your mind? Yeah—that’s me with all of my reads. Lately, however, I’ve been craving Slavic folklore retellings. I find those fairytales to be the most intriguing, and I love the dark atmosphere they usually bring. But seeing as Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente and Uprooted by Naomi Novik are two of my all-time favorite books, the rest I come across have a lot to compete with.

What initially drew me into Cry of the Firebird by Amy Kuivalainen was the synopsis. “Firebird” being in the title was one thing, but “…a noir paranormal series that brings to life the bloody fairy tales of the North” made me cross myself and thank whatever Gods have been guiding me along my search. Honestly, it couldn’t have sounded better to me.

The ebook for Cry of the Firebird is FREE on iBooks right now, and if that wasn’t another sign for me to start reading immediately than I don’t know what else to tell you. Naturally, I stayed up until 4am for two nights before finishing the massive book (to be fair, its not super long but the online version was roughly 1,450 pages) and here’s what I’ve come to think of it.

It didn’t let me down, but it also didn’t exactly live up to my expectations. The writing is a little choppy at times, and there were a few phrases being overused when there wasn’t any need for them to be. I’d say that the first 30% of this book had me on the edge of my seat, but it kind of dwindled after a while and I felt as though I was reading the same scenes over again for chapters. There is also an influx of characters that come into play one after the next, and while I love books that have tons of characters I felt as though these ones weren’t getting the development that they deserved. The author draws you in with their stories, you grow attached, and then she leaves you hanging as to what will become of them. After all, there are so many to keep track of.

What I did enjoy about this book was the setting, plot, and the quirkiness and individuality of each character. For as many cons as I’ve listed, it balances out all of the pros. I’m still unsure how I truly feel about this one, but I’m leaning more towards a positive vibe because for all of its flaws, the good parts are too good to look over.

The characters—all one-hundred of them—are wonderful. I frequently find that with side-characters there are many authors who will bundle them together in similar mindsets so that they only serve the purpose of the main characters. That’s definitely not the case here. I loved nearly everyone, and it was wonderful to read how such a diverse cast came together for the sole purpose of defeating a threat to their realm. That’s was something I wasn’t expecting to happen, and it couldn’t have come as a nicer surprise.

World-building is definitely Kuivalainen’s strong suit.

We are brought across the Russian wilderness to a dark forest in an otherworldly spirit realm, back to Russia, all the way to France, and then eventually to Budapest. Each character is from a different country, a different era, and no two people (seemingly) share the same ‘species’ so to say. Bare in mind, everyone has a supernatural ability of sorts…or an unnatural talent with knives and guns and riding motorcycles.

I wasn’t expecting this to be a series so when I read the final page, a cliffhanger no less, I was ready to scream until I saw the prologue for the next installment. I’m definitely going to read all of the novels in this series because I need to know what happens next.

Perhaps this one isn’t great for getting out of a book-slump because of its length and swapping point-of-views, but it’s great if you’re looking for something new. Fans of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo will likely enjoy this one.

My Rating: 4/5 
Goodreads Review
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Autumn Book Tag

Autumn Book Tag

Some people might think that perhaps this is too early, but I’m here to remind you that its never too soon for fall (the best season of the year). I’ve never partaken in one of these book tags, however I have seen a few of them floating around other blogs and YouTube channels. Instead of tracking these ones down, I’ve decided to recreate my own! Feel free to use these questions for your own tag.

  1. Best autumnal themed book cover?
  2. Which fictional friend group would you trust with a Ouija board?
  3. Which book setting would you love to be celebrating in during Halloween night?
  4. Best autumnal food description inside of a story?
  5. Which fictional character would you dress as?
  6. An antagonist you would pledge your allegiance to?
  7. The creepiest book you’ve ever read?
  8. A book you’ve yet to read but will read this October?
  9. Which fictional character would you put in charge of the decorations for a Halloween party?

 

1. Although I have yet to read this book, I instantly fell in love with the cover art when I first saw it. Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood is a modern take on “Alice in Wonderland” with an eerie twist. Alice, the protagonist, moves into her grandmother’s estate only to realize that the creature’s from her grandmother’s tales are more tangible and dangerous than she’d ever imagined. This book comes out January 30th, 2018.

2. I can’t say just how much of the supernatural world I truly believe in, but I have played with an Ouija board before and there are some things I still can’t seem to find an explanation for. With that in mind, it’s important to be playing this game with a group of people you trust and who equally have the same open-minded attitudes. For this, I would invite Donna Tartt’s cast of characters from her novel The Secret History. All five of those morally grey protagonists believe to a certain extent of a world we’ve yet to breach, and I think it would be exhilarating to watch up close as Henry Winter tries to summon spirits. (Side note: It would be just as entertaining to witnesses Francis Abernathy in any perilous scenario. He’s too cute.)

3. On Halloween night, I would love to be in the Autumnlands— a woodland realm set in the whimsical backdrop of Margaret Roberson’s debut novel An Enchantment of Ravens. Knowing that those trees already have a mind of their own, and that the land is saturated in magic all revolving around the essence of fall, I can only imagine what festivities would befall the land on such an occasion. It would also be nice to see Rook, the Autumn Prince, in all of his glory.

4. There’s no debate over this one. Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus wins all. It is lush with descriptions of Victorian London and the darker parts of carefree magic. The whole novel felt like a dream, but the scents and the food imagery is definitely something to notice.

“The circus looks abandoned and empty. But you think perhaps you can smell caramel wafting through the evening breeze, beneath the crisp scent of the autumn leaves. A subtle sweetness at the edges of the cold.”

5. Each year I’m faced with this question and each year I save it until last minute where I end up changing my mind a thousand times. However, this year I’ve decided upon a single character and I intend to stick with her: Joan of Arc. Now, I realize she’s not fictional. But enough tales have been written about her heroine acts (and chainmail is freaking awesome) that it seems too good to resist! My backup, however, will be Lagertha from the television series, Vikings.

6. I would gladly pledge my allegiance (and heart) to the Darkling from Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. He has done some royally heinous acts in his time, but I’ve always understood his motives and found them to be justifiable, albeit dangerous and corrupt. Sign me up for the next war.

7. The creepiest book I’ve ever read would have to be the Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susan Cokal. The whole story revolved around a plague and while there were other thematic elements at work, I could never get past the gory descriptions and the terrifyingly realistic tone of the sickness that swept through the kingdom. I suppose it was more frightening because it really did happen some centuries ago, but reading it firsthand made me nauseous and fearing for my life.

8. While I’m still incredibly existed for the publication of An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson, I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy and for that I will have to change my answer to Leigh Bardugo’s Language of Thorns. These Grisha inspired folkloric novellas not only sound promising, but the artwork going into the book itself will be beautiful as well. This book will be published on September 26th, 2017. (The same date as An Enchantment of Ravens!!)

9. There were many characters that I could have chosen for this particular question, however Lucien from Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series will always be me favorite fall-themed character. I bet he’d know exactly what shade of apple to purchase for games, and what pumpkin carvings would befit wax candles. Just the prospect of a modern-day (AU) version of Lucien has me near tears. I would befriend him so fast.

 

Everything You Need Before Reading: AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS by Margaret Rogerson

Processed with VSCO with p5 presetWith the release of Margaret Rogerson’s debut novel, AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS, burning down to a little over a month’s wait, I figured now would be a wonderful time to talk a bit more about why this book has become so dear to me. Of course, before even reading the book I knew I would end up loving it because it embodied aspects which I enjoy most in any story: faeries and autumn. However, I really didn’t anticipate becoming so enraptured by this tale. I highly encourage you to pre-order this book and join me in the count down to its publication date: September 26th, 2017. And what better way to make you want to read this book than to provide you with fan-casted character inspiration and a playlist to accompany your future read?

This book has brilliant writing, imagery, diverse representation, and an empowering love that will soften the toughest of hearts. Its everything I wanted it to be and everything I needed it to be; all wrapped up in autumn foliage. You won’t forget where you are for even a second, and these characters will demand your attention at every moment. It’s equal parts dark and poetic, with humor and often tenderness that I hadn’t been expecting but welcomed with an open heart. Simply put: it blew my mind.

You can read my full review here, or on my goodreads.

Without further ado, here are my choices for a fanciest! *Note that below I quote directly from the ARC (Advanced Readers Copy). These sentences are subject to change upon the official publication. Also, I avoided incorporating anything I deemed a potential spoiler, but please read at your own risk. 

Rook— “With his head ducked before me I only saw his hair, which was unruly—wavy, not quite curly, and dark, with just the slightest red tint in the sun. Its fierce unkemptness reminded me of a hawk’s or raven’s feathers blown the wrong way in a stong wind. And like Gadfly, I could smell him: the spice of crisp dry leaves, of cool nights under a clear moon, a wildness, a longing. […] There was his flaw: the color of his eyes, a peculiar shade of amethyst, striking against his golden-brown complexion, which put me in mind of late-afternoon sunlight dappling fallen leaves.”

Model: Vito Basso

 

Isobel— “Her (Aunt Emma) eyes squinted open. They were the same dark brown, almost black, like mine—large and intense. She had the same freckles spattered across her fair skin and the same thick, wheat-colored hair.”

Model: Beth Fanshawe

 

 

Gadfly— “Gadfly appeared to be a man in his thirties. Like every example of his kind, he was tall, slim, and beautiful. His eyes were the clear crystal blue of the sky after rain has washed away the summer heat, his complexion as pale and flawless as porcelain, and his hair the radiant silver-gold of dew illuminated by sunrise.”

Model: Ton Heukels

 

Foxglove— “A woman with arresting hazel eyes emerged victorious. She adjusted her hat back into place with a queenly smile as she swept forward, placing her hand in Gadfly’s. She wore a lilac dress with a high lace collar that strangled her slender neck, and the flaw in her glamour, unnaturally sharp cheekbones, was more subtle than most. Like many of the other fair folk present, she was fair-skinned—a common spring court characteristic, whereas the autumn and summer courts tended towards richer completions like Rook’s, ever shade of sunlight-gold and acorn-brown and deep umber.”

Model: Jessica Brown Findlay 

 

Lark— “…her long blond hair flying, the many layers of her periwinkle-blue gown frothing up an down like waves. When she reached us, she startled me by seizing both my hands. Her skin was cold and flawless as china. Were she human I would have guessed her age at around fourteen.”

Model: Helena McKelvie

 

Aster— “She was perhaps a little less tall, but not remarkably so (than the Fair Folk). Flowers were woven into her wavy, waist-length black hair. Her skin looked starkly pale in contrast, which only accentuated her glamour’s flaw; she was inhumanly gaunt. Her collarbones and ribs protruded frothier chest above her gown’s neckline, and her shoulders looked as fragile as a bird’s bones. She watched me closely with brown eyes nearly as dark as mine.”

Model: Amelia Zadro

 


 

Another thing I love to have while reading a new book is a playlist to accompany me. Often times I’ll just listen to my favorite film scores– like Game of Thrones and even music from Skyrim— on repeat. Adrian Von Ziegler is a wonderful composer for when you’re in the mood for Celtic vibes and fairytale hymnals. Below I’ve listed all of the songs for my An Enchantment of Ravens inspired playlist, but you can also click on the links to my Spotify and 8tracks accounts to view them there!

Prologue, Keaton Henson
Billie Holiday, Warpaint
End of the Affair, Ben Howard
Brighter Than the Sun, Dustin Tebbutt
Dawn, Jeremy Soule

Sparks, Jesse Woods
Arrival of the Birds, Cinematic Orchestra
Cinder and Smoke, Iron and Wine
Death Favors No Man, James Newton Howard

The City Gates, Jeremy Soule
Dance with the Trees, Adrian Von Ziegler
What the Water Gave Me, Florence Welch
Deeper Than Shallow, Roo Panes

For the Realm, Salim Daïma
Oliver Dalston Browning, Keaton Henson
In the Wind, Lord Huron
Shades of Gold, Sea Aleena
West, Sleeping At Last
Sitting Room, Beta Radio
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, Fleet Foxes
Where’s My Love (acoustic), Syml

The Wolves and the Ravens, Rouge Valley


 

And to top everything off, you might as well enjoy a treat while reading this book. I am, by no means, a chef of any kind (unless you count occasionally baking brownies.) The recipe below is one I’ve tried a few times and found to be fairly easy to recreate! All credit goes to Amy Lee Scott! You can click here to find more of her recipes.

 

 

Faerie Book Recommendations

Faerie Book Recommendations

Faeries, elves, dwarves, and druids are only a few of my favorite fictional creatures. I’m constantly searching for fantasy series that incorporate these characters, and although the fairy/faerie trope has recently skyrocketed thanks to authors like Cassandra Clare and Sarah J. Maas, I feel as though those are only certain types of Fae, being portrayed in drastically different manners with different parts of folkloric inspiration. And while I once enjoyed both the Seelie characters in Clare’s books, and all of the Fae in Mass’s stories, I’ve grown tired of the same few representations of these mythical beings. (This applies to almost every YA faerie book I’ve read— but needless to say there are many books that I find could replace the word “fairy” with “vampire” or “witch” and the readers wouldn’t notice the difference so long as said characters are still dark, sexy, and magical. I suppose the pointy ears are the only real giveaway.)

I’m not writing this post with the intent to bash popular authors. However, if you’re looking to move on or recover from a series and want books similar to it that are perhaps even better than the original… look no further. I’ve loved the Fae since I was a little girl, and the fact that there are so few known books about them makes me sad. That being said, here’s a list of all the faerie books I’ve read or will be reading this year! Beware the fair ones, friends.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

aeor coverIsobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

The Dreaming Tree by C.J. Cherryh

It was that transitional time of the world, when man first brought the clang of iron and the reek of smoke to the lands which before had echoed only with fairy voices. In that dawn of man and death of magic there yet remained one last untouched place—the small forest of Ealdwood—which kept the magic intact, and protected the old ways. And there was one who dwelt there, Arafel the Sidhe, who had more pride and love of the world as it used to be than any of her kind. But fear of the world of Faery ran deep in the hearts of men, and when Ciaran Cuilean, Lord of Caer Wiell, a man with Elvish blood in his veins, found himself the object of increasing distrust and suspicion from his men, his king, and even his own family, he knew he must once again put his humanity aside and return to Ealdwood. For shadows of a newly awakened evil swarmed across both lands, and unless Ciaran reclaimed his haunted weapons from the Tree of Swords and joined Arafel, he would see this evil overtake not only the warm hearthstones of the mortal keeps but the silvery heart of Ealdwood itself!

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

pendelum sun coverCatherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.

Rhapsodic by Laura Thalassa

Callypso Lillis is a siren with a very big problem, one that stretches up her arm and far into her past. For the last seven years she’s been collecting a bracelet of black beads up her wrist, magical IOUs for favors she’s received. Only death or repayment will fulfill the obligations. Only then will the beads disappear.

Everyone knows that if you need a favor, you go to the Bargainer to make it happen. He’s a man who can get you anything you want… at a price. And everyone knows that sooner or later he always collects.

But for one of his clients, he’s never asked for repayment. Not until now. When Callie finds the fae king of the night in her room, a grin on his lips and a twinkle in his eye, she knows things are about to change. At first it’s just a chaste kiss—a single bead’s worth—and a promise for more.

For the Bargainer, it’s more than just a matter of rekindling an old romance. Something is happening in the Otherworld. Fae warriors are going missing one by one. Only the women are returned, each in a glass casket, a child clutched to their breast. And then there are the whispers among the slaves, whispers of an evil that’s been awoken.

If the Bargainer has any hope to save his people, he’ll need the help of the siren he spurned long ago. Only, his foe has a taste for exotic creatures, and Callie just happens to be one.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marlier

High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.

But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom–an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop.

wildwood dancingWhen Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine–tests of trust, strength, and true love.

Spindle Fire Lexa Hillyer

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria—even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a remarkable quest into the dark and miraculous—in pursuit of love and the utterly impossible.

Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

When the ancient evil of the Blackbringer rises to unmake the world, only one determined faerie stands in its way. However, Magpie Windwitch, granddaughter of the West Wind, is not like other faeries. While her kind live in seclusion deep in the forests of Dreamdark, she’s devoted her life to tracking down and recapturing devils escaped from their ancient bottles, just as her hero, the legendary Bellatrix, did 25,000 years ago. With her faithful gang of crows, she travels the world fighting where others would choose to flee. But when a devil escapes from a bottle sealed by the ancient Djinn King himself, the creator of the world, she may be in over her head. How can a single faerie, even with the help of her friends, hope to defeat the impenetrable darkness of the Blackbringer?

At a time when fantasy readers have an embarrassment of riches in choosing new worlds to fall in love with, this first novel by a fresh, original voice is sure to stand out.

Under the Green Hill by Laura L. Sullivan

Meg and her siblings have been sent to the English countryside for the summer to stay with elderly relatives. The children are looking forward to exploring the ancient mansion and perhaps discovering a musty old attic or two filled with treasure, but never in their wildest dreams did they expect to find themselves in the middle of a fairy war.

under the green hillWhen Rowan pledges to fight for the beautiful fairy queen, Meg is desperate to save her brother. But the Midsummer War is far more than a battle between mythic creatures: Everything that lives depends on it. How can Meg choose between family and the fate of the very land itself?

The Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell

It began with the chiming of the tiny copper bell on the mantel, warning them someone was passing the ward stone her mother had placed on the path to their house …

One terrible day, Makenna, a young hedgewitch, witnesses her mother’s murder at the hands of their own neighbors. Striken with grief and rage, Makenna flees the village that has been her home. In the wilds of the forest, she forms an unexpected alliance. Leading an army of clever goblins, Makenna skillfully attacks the humans, now their shared enemy.

What she doesn’t realize is that the ruling Hierarchy is determined to rid the land of all magical creatures, and they believe Makenna is their ultimate threat – so they have sent a young knight named Tobin into the Goblin Wood to entrap her.

In this captivating fantasy adventure, the difference between Bright and Dark magic is as deceptive as our memories, hopes, and fears — and the light of loyalty and friendship has a magic all of its own.

A young Hedgewitch, an idealistic knight, and an army of clever goblins fight against the ruling hierarchy that is trying to rid the land of all magical creatures.

Elfland by Freda Warrington

Rosie Fox is a daughter of the Aetherials, an ancient race from the Spiral—the innermost realm of the Otherworld—who lives secretly among us. Yet she and her kind are bereft of their origins, because on Earth, in a beautiful village named Cloudcroft, the Great Gates between worlds stand sealed.

elfland coverHer parents, Auberon and Jessica, are the warm heart of Cloudcroft and of Rosie’s loving family. But on the hill lives the mysterious, aloof Lawrence Wilder, Gatekeeper to the inner realms of Elfland. Tortured by private demons, he is beset by trouble on all sides: his wife has vanished and his sons Jon and Sam are bitter and damaged. Lawrence is duty bound to throw open the Gates every seven years for the Night of the Summer Stars, a ritual granting young Aetherials their heritage, their elders vital reconnection to their source. Lawrence, however, is haunted by fears of an ever-growing menace within the Spiral. When he stubbornly bars the Gates, he defies tradition and enrages the Aetherial community. What will become of them, deprived of the realm from which flows their essential life force? Is Lawrence protecting them—or betraying them?

Growing up amid this turmoil, Rosie and her brothers, along with Sam and Jon Wilder, are heedless of the peril lurking beyond the Gates. They know only that their elders have denied them their birthright, harboring dark secrets in a conspiracy of silence.

When Sam is imprisoned for an all-too-human crime, age-old wounds sunder the two families…yet Rosie is drawn into his web, even as she fears the passions awoken in her by the dangerous Wilder clan. Torn between duty and desire, between worlds, Rosie unwittingly precipitates a tragedy that compels her to journey into the Otherworld, where unknown terrors await. Accompanied by the one man most perilous to her life, she must learn hard lessons about life and love in order to understand her Aetherial nature…and her role in the terrifying conflict to come.

Midwinter by Matthew Sturges

Winter comes to the land only once in a hundred years. But the snow covers ancient secrets: secrets that could topple a kingdom.

Mauritaine was a war hero, a captain in the Seelie Army. Then he was accused of treason and sentenced to life without parole at Crere Sulace, a dark and ancient prison in the mountains, far from the City Emerald. But now the Seelie Queen – Regina Titania herself – has offered him one last chance to redeem himself, an opportunity to regain his freedom and his honor.

Unfortunately, it’s a suicide mission, which is why only Mauritaine and the few prisoners he trusts enough to accompany him, would even dare attempt it: Raieve, beautiful and harsh, an emissary from a foreign land caught in the wrong place at the wrong time; Perrin Alt, Lord Silverdun, a nobleman imprisoned as a result of political intrigues so Byzantine that not even he understands them; and Brian Satterly, a human physicist, apprehended searching for the human victims of the faery changeling trade.

Meanwhile, dark forces are at work at home and abroad. In the Seelie kingdom, the reluctant soldier Purane-Es burns with hatred for Mauritaine, and plots to steal the one thing that remains to him: his wife. Across the border, the black artist Hy Pezho courts the whim of Mab, offering a deadly weapon that could allow the Unseelie in their flying cities to crush Titania and her army once and for all.

With time running out, Mauritaine and his companions must cross the deadly Contested Lands filled with dire magical fallout from wars past. They will confront mounted patrols, brigands, and a traitor in their midst. And before they reach their destination, as the Unseelie Armies led by Queen Mab approach the border, Mauritaine must decide between his own freedom and the fate of the very land that has forsaken him.

Atmospheric Books

How we rate a book has a lot to do with not only the characters and the plot, but the setting as well. We might not realize it, but a vast amount of our emotions are placed in the background scenes and subconscious environments. To be fair, most books arguably have their own original settings wherein no two books will ever take place in the same fantasy kingdom or high school, however there are a few books that surpass all others in regards to being wholesomely atmospheric. Books that not only include an environment, but make that environment vital to the storyline. I adore books of the such, because they are the ones that I feel as though I can really submerge myself in and escape reality.

These books emphasize the whimsical aspect behind many genres, not only fantasy, because they seem so surreal yet they were designed to bring forth our own personal encounters and nostalgia in order to raise our emotional awareness. These atmospheric books do wonder for our minds, so I’ve compiled a list of my favorite ones!

Don’t just read books— fall into them.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

“There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.”
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenster


“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
“The Night Bazaar had ensnared me. I could smell its perfume on my skin—of stories and secrets, flashing teeth and slow smiles.”

The Half Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker

“She rushed across the fields and into the woods, where some shadowed grove would still shelter winter’s snow. She found a cache of not yet melted snow in the roots of an oak, and there she sat, numbing her hand, while the sun set.”
The Secret History by Donna Tartt

“White Sky. Trees fading at the skyline, the mountains gone. My hands dangled from the cuffs of my jacket as if they weren’t my own. I never got used to the way the horizon there could just erase itself and leave you marooned, adrift, in an incomplete dreamscape that was like a sketch for the world you knew -the outline of a single tree standing in for a grove, lamp-posts and chimneys floating up out of context before the surrounding canvas was filled in-an amnesia-land, a kind of skewed Heaven where the old landmarks were recognizable but spaced too far apart, and disarranged, and made terrible by the emptiness around them.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

“It was a palace of vaulting glass and shimmering tapestry and, woven through it all like light, magic. The air was alive with it. Not the secret, seductive magic of the stone, but a loud, bright, encompassing thing. Kell had told Lila that magic was like an extra sense, layered on top of sight and smell and taste, and now she understood. It was everywhere. In everything. And it was intoxicating. She could not tell if the energy was coming from the hundreds of bodies in the room, or from the room itself, which certainly reflected it. Amplified it like sound in an echoing chamber. And it was strangely—impossibly—familiar. Beneath the magic, or perhaps because of it, the space itself was alive with color and light. She’d never set foot inside St. James, but it couldn’t possibly have compared to the splendor of this. Nothing in her London could. Her world felt truly grey by comparison, bleak and empty in a way that made Lila want to kiss the stone for freeing her from it, for bringing her here, to this glittering jewel of a place. Everywhere she looked, she saw wealth. Her fingers itched, and she resisted the urge to start picking pockets, reminding herself that the cargo in her own was too precious to risk being caught.”

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

“The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.

The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a wind it would have sighed trough the trees, set the inn’s sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumn leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with coversation and laughter, the clatter and clamour one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of the night. If there had been music…but no, of curse there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.”

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

“As the sun shines low and red across the water, I wade into the ocean. The water is still high and brown and murky with the memory of the storm, so if there’s something below it, I won’t know it. But that’s part of this, the not knowing. The surrender to the possibilities beneath the surface. It wasn’t the ocean that killed my father, in the end. The water is so cold that my feet go numb almost at once. I stretch my arms out to either side of me and close my eyes. I listen to the sound of water hitting water. The raucous cries of the terns and the guillemots in the rocks of the shore, the piercing, hoarse questions of the gulls above me. I smell seaweed and fish and the dusky scent of the nesting birds onshore. Salt coats my lips, crusts my eyelashes. I feel the cold press against my body. The sand shifts and sucks out from under my feet in the tide. I’m perfectly still. The sun is red behind my eyelids. The ocean will not shift me and the cold will not take me.”

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

“Marya watched from the upper floor as once again the birds gathered in the great oak tree, sniping and snapping for the last autumn nuts, stolen from squirrels and hidden in bark-cracks, which every winged creature knows are the most bitter of all nuts, like old sorrows sitting heavy on the tongue.”

In the Woods by Tana French

“…the solitude was intoxicating. On my first night there I lay on my back on the sticky carpet for hours, in the murky orange pool of city glow coming through the window, smelling heady curry spices spiraling across the corridor and listening to two guys outside yelling at each other in Russian and someone practicing stormy flamboyant violin somewhere, and slowly realizing that there was not a single person in the world who could see me or ask me what I was doing or tell me to do anything else, and I felt as if at any moment the bedsit might detach itself from the buildings like a luminous soap bubble and drift off into the night, bobbing gently above the rooftops and the river and the stars.”

 

Wintersong by S. Jae Jones

Read this review on GoodReads.
My Rating: 5/5

“She was never a hothouse flower. She is a sturdy oak tree. If her leaves have fallen, then she will bloom again come spring. She was not ready to die when she gave her life to me. But she did anyway, because she loved, and loved deeply.”

I went into this book with high expectations….and those expectations we’re blown away entirely with the magnitude of this story. It was phenomenal. This book truly resonated with me. It’s rustic, atmospheric quality compared with it’s whimsical plot and even more estranged characters made for an epic fantasy like none other I’ve read in a long time. Fans of Uprooted by Naomi Novik will appreciate the eerie personification that nature plays in this tale. What felt like a folkloric retelling but was actually an original, genuine piece of literature, Wintersong follows a young girl as she rediscovers her childhood self through love, responsibility, and sacrifice… all while doing so beneath silt and soil of the Earth.

Nineteen-year-old Innkeeper’s daughter Liesl has grown up in a sleepy village on the boarders between woodlands and Bavaria. While her younger sister is being groomed for marriage, and her brother preparing for an upcoming apprenticeship with a renowned composer, Elisabeth is constantly fussing over the wellbeing and success of her siblings. The only time she allots for herself is to revel in her passion— composing music of her own dark, melancholy nature. As a child, Liesl would roam deep into the Goblin Grove and play for the Goblin King—luring him out from beneath the earth to sing and dance and revel with her. But as time passes, Liesl’s fiery nature fades into the recesses of her soul. She focuses on everyone else around her but herself. It isn’t until her sister, Käthe, is stolen by the Goblin King to be his bride that our protagonist is drawn from her grey stupor and thrown back into the world of spellbinding fantasy. But Elisabeth has known all this time that no fantasy comes without a price, and her childhood adventures with Der Elkönig, The Goblin King, won’t compare to the game she is about to partake in. Elusive, powerful, and ferocious, Wintersong is a book that forces you to read it in two sittings or less.
Jones’s writing style reminds me of early British literature, not because it was hard to follow, but because of how smoothly it all flowed— as if being read like a song rather than a novel. Very fitting, indeed, for a book with a large element of music! Taking place in nineteenth century Bavaria, a lot of the terminology was derived from Germanic languages, which I thought made the setting seem more potent. Don’t worry though, it’s not overused and I found the occasional non-English quotes to be easily understood even though I can only speak English (but am learning a few other languages at the moment. *Props to my bilingual friends! You’re all incredibly talented). Most often the terms Der Elkönig (The Goblin King) and Mein Herr (My King) are used, because we never truly find out the main male protagonist/antagonist’s name until quite late into the story (if at all).

One of the most endearing things about this tale is how Jones offers the heroine’s character development in light of her younger self. She portrays not a protagonist who was once a meek, quant little thing with barely a kindle to a bonfire— rather, Elisabeth was always a bonfire of her own making, and her development resided in remembering how to live carefree and brave like she was as a child; playing her violin for the Goblin King deep in the woods. Jones created a main character who goes through two types of character development: the one where the heroine experiences new things that morph her journey for the better, and the second where the heroine revisits old strengths and embraces what was always within her, molding it into armor. That being said, I found Elisabeth to be a very intriguing and insightful narrator. I was definitely a fan of reading this story through her perspective. (But personally, I’d die to read some of these scenes via Der Elkönig’s perspective!)

There are many aspects that I’m still curious about, but of course we will most likely find those answers in the sequel! For starters, although most of this novel was spent Underground, back in the mortal realm Josef, Elisabeth’s younger brother, is transforming into a famous musician…with a very endearing young man to help compose alongside him. Käthe, their sister, is a peculiar character that I’m still curious about and hope to read more of, because she was vital to our heroine’s adventure so I desire to see her sister’s own journeys in the sequel. And of course, there’s the huge spoiler that shall not be revealed that will invoke plenty of stress and tears once you’ve read the tale to it’s bitter end. I would very much like to see the answers to THAT plot twist. (Side note: painful ending + long wait = sobbing, theorizing, and fanfiction!)

Wintersong will be a book that I always remember. It’s unique in it’s design, and highly imaginative. The way the story made me feel while reading it is an emotion indescribable, but a powerful one nonetheless. I can only hope that at least one other person experiences this tale the way I did—because now I’m craving a walk into the woods whereupon I’ll sadly attempt to play an instrument to lure out my own King of the Goblins. So do yourself a favor and read this book. I will forever recommend it.

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And because I enjoyed this tale so wonderfully, here’s a little soundtrack I’ve composed that made reading it slightly more magical!

SoundCloud link.

Tracklist

no.1  Winter Breath by Adrian Von Ziegler
no.2  Vow by Julianna Barwick
no.3  A Winters Tale by Jeremy Soule
no.4  Winter Rain by Hanan Gobran
no.5  Winter (full) by Antonio Vivaldi
no.6  Arrival of the Birds by The Cinematic Orchestra
no.7  Saturn by Sleeping at Last
no.8  Love by Daughter
no.9 Willow Tree March by The Paper Kites