Book Review: Shadows of the Archworld by Monica Leonelle

Shadow of the Archworld (Hallows & Nephilim: Waters Dark and Deep #3)Shadow of the Archworld by Monica Leonelle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review.

This is the third book in a series (“Waters Deep and Dark”) that keeps getting better as it progresses, and this time, I found myself reading the entire book in a single sitting. Ms. Leonelle fills in some of the blanks about her world, and the different plotlines are coalescing into solid threads as it becomes clearer who are allies, who are adversaries, and who’s willing to play both sides against each other – barring any unforeseen plot twists, of course.

The twists and character changes in this installment have been nicely set up by the previous books, though a couple of times I found myself having to go back to one of the earlier novels to refresh my memory of what had happened there.

I have to admit that after reading the first book, I was a bit dubious about the series, but there was enough that I enjoyed and a strong glimmer of promise that made me want to continue. I’m really glad I did.

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Book Review: “Instruments of the Angels” by Monica Leonelle

Instruments of the Angels (Hallows & Nephilim: Waters Dark and Deep #1)Instruments of the Angels by Monica Leonelle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a copy of “Instruments of the Angels” free in exchange for an honest review.

“Instruments of the Angels” is an interesting story with a lot of promise that gets dragged down by some confused pacing and odd characterizations. The plot of the story is good. Monica Leonelle does a good job of creating he world and introducing the reader to it, and her protagonists are – for the most part – distinct and likable, and her villains are suitably dark and ominous.

Two of the biggest issues I had with the book were trying to understand the timeframe during which the story takes place and the believability of the way some characters reacted to changes that come about because of the events of the story. When I talk about the timeframe of the story, I don’t mean this in regards to the era in which the story is set – is quite clearly in the present time – but rather in how much time passes between events and in the story overall. There are some places where it sounds like multiple days have passed during which the story takes place – especially since one character talks about dreams he has which then prompts him to take certain actions the next day – but there are other points where it seems like a considerable amount of the action is supposedly happening over the course of a single day. I found myself having to go back and recheck things I’d already read just to try to keep the timeline somewhat clear. As for the believability of the characters, one of the main characters learns information that’s would typically turn someone’s world upside down, yet she accepts it is true very quickly and without asking a lot of the expected questions one would normally have.

All that said, however, I truly enjoyed the story. It’s a fresh take on the concept of net for them and their involvement in our world and offers a few different threads of ministry – all of which feel vital and provide the characters with an appropriate motivation for their actions. Even though I had issues with this book that led me to have to give it a three-*rating, I’m interested enough in what I read that I’ll wanted to read the next installment, and hopefully some of these issues will have been cleared up by then.

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Book Review: “Court of Nightfall” by Karpov Kinrade

Court of Nightfall (The Nightfall Chronicles, #1)Court of Nightfall by Karpov Kinrade
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Below is my original review for the first, non-extended, version of the book. I recieved a free copy of the extended version in exchange for an honest review. Sadly, the extended version did not improve the book at all in my opinion – in fact, it took what had been a 4-star novel and turned it into a 2-star mess. The problems included ooccasionally inconsistent characteizations, some new material that felt a bit more like filler than a vital part of the story, and a few times where the plot snuck across the line of suspension of disbelief, but I could forgive a lot of that. What ruined it for me were the incredible inconsistencies in the timeline.

Starting with the event that changes our heroine’s life irrevocably, the time frames in which things happen are shockingly muddled. Things are presented in chronological order, but the characters switch back and forth between referring to the event as having occurred the previous night and as them having been a week ago. And while just the sheer amount of things that happen between the event that caused her to flee Montana for New York and her return to her home would probably need a week, it’s the 24-hour time frame that’s mentioned the most often.

The writing itself was good, and the story has many interesting twists and turns. Unfortunately, the confusing time references had me going back to check things over and over again, trying to sort out the whole mess, that I really wasn’t able to enjoy the strengths the book has.


4 stars

I have to admit, the reason I initially picked up this book is simply because my husband’s nickname is Nyghtfall, and it made me curious about the book, so I had no real expectations for the story. I ended up liking it quite a bit. I usually have 3 or 4 books I’m working my way through at any given time, but this one was interesting, fast-paced and good enough that I read it almost straight through.

The story is set in an alternate, dystopian reality where society is primarily controlled by the Knights of the Four Orders: Templars, Teutonics, Hospitaliers and Inquisitors. In the not-too-distant past, humanity had fought a war against the Nephelim – a race of half a human / half-angelic beings that essentially function like vampires with wings – which ended with the destruction of the Nephelim. Also in the mix are humans with “parapowers” known as Zeniths. Because their powers are feared, Zeniths are socially ostracized and politically oppressed. Against this backdrop we meet Scarlett Night, her uber-cool parents and her best friend Jax. When her parents are attacked, however, Scarlett learns that not everything is at it seems, and finds that she and Jax are no longer safe. With that our story its off and running.

Though the initial setup follows a well-worn path, once the action begins, the story really starts to come into its own. The world-building is nicely done – and done without any excessive infodumps. Meeting with the heads of the Four Orders gives an idea of what each Order is like, and the general atmosphere is communicated by how people act and what our heroes observe. The history of the war its likewise presented more through dialogue without just tossing a big history lesson into the middle of the action.

I really only had a couple of issues with the book, none of which are major, but they did have an impact on my enjoyment.. I’m not a big fan of vampire stories – in part because there are just so many of them coming out these days. When I realized the Nephilim are, for all intents and purposes, vampires, I felt a bit “tricked” by the authors. I suppose in some ways its not a bad approach, since I might have skipped the book if is known that’s what they were, but it still irked me a bit. I will say, though, that the Nephilim seen to be without some off the typical vampire tropes that have led to my disliking them: They aren’t automatically evil, nor are the overly sexual. Personality-wise, so far, at least, they seem mostly like normal humans, which is rather nice.

There are several references to a Nephilim named Nyx. Most references to Nyx use a male pronoun, but at least once the female pronoun is used. Nyx is also referred to as both a god of the Nephilim and the name is also described as being “used” by their leader, so perhaps the god is one gender (traditionally, Nyx is the Greek goddess of night) and the leader is the other, but it really wasn’t clear.

Lastly, I found myself surprised when the book ended. It felt like like the players had just gotten all of their pieces set and were about to begin the game when the emcee came out, thanked everyone for a lovely evening and invited us all back in a few weeks for more.

As I said, they’re really fairly minor issues and I will certainly be tuning back in when the game continues. Overall is a fun read and I’m very interested to see where the story will be taking us.

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Book Review: “Ignite” by Erica Crouch

Ignite (Ignite, #1)Ignite by Erica Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review

I read the prequel novella – Entice – for this series a couple weeks ago and was blown away – not just by author Erica Crouch’s ability to write stunningly beautiful prose, but also by her ability to weave a new telling of the story of the Fall of Man – including some serious theological concepts – into a paranormal romance that never felt overly heavy or preachy. And even though Entice is technically the second book in the series, it does a great job of setting up the world for the Ignite series, introducing us to the main characters, establishing how this version of the world works, helping us to understand the bond Pen and Azael share – and why she would follow him into Hell, even when she wasn’t sure if that’s where she truly belonged. I wanted to bring this up to encourage you to read Entice before reading Ignite. Even though it was published second, I found that what I had learned from Entice really enhanced the story in Ignite because of how well it set the stage for this truly extraordinary story.

As Ignite opens, we find the Pen and her twin brother, Azael – both demons – finishing up an assignment to collect a soul for Lucifer, when they are shocked to run into a young – and apparently quite new – angel claiming to be the archangel Michael, whose death they had witnessed centuries before during the war between Heaven and Hell.

This new Michael has the silver-feathered wings of an archangel and he carries the archangel sword that belonged to the original Michael – the only archangel sword known to exist. But, as Pen discovers while talking with him, he has no memory whatsoever of his previous life or of the time his soul was held captive and tortured for centuries by his brother, Lucifer. Instead of the arrogant, self-assured Michael of old, who was completely loyal to Heaven and never questioned anything, this new Michael is surprisingly innocent – and even more surprising, he’s asking questions – a lot of questions.

Soon Pen finds herself tasked with either convincing Michael to join the forces of Hell or kill him, while Azael is sent on a mission of his own, and this is where the book
really began to shine. As Pen and Michael interact, the affect each has on the other is profound. We begin to see the vulnerability Pen tries to keep hidden and the strength that this new Michael initially appears to lack.

What I love most about “Ignite”is that it’s an escapist, romantic fantasy that still has the ability to make you think. Pen and Michael are both searching for where they each truly belong. They’ve always been taught that everything is either black or white but are now doubting if that is really how it works.

Their conversations about what – if anything – might lie between those extremes is beautifully handled. Author Crouch provides a lot of good thoughts through Pen and Michael’s dialog while providing room for readers to form their own opinions.

There are many other aspects of the book that I also loved. With one exception, Crouch does a wonderful job of avoiding most of the more annoying cliches of romance books – and even in that case, she doesn’t drag it out overly long. I understand why she did it as it sets our characters up to be where they needed to be for the book’s climax, but I think she could have probably found a more creative way to get to the same place. Her prose continues to be gorgeous. The way she describes locations let me not just see the place in my mind, but to feel the atmosphere, hear the background sounds and sometimes even catch its scent for a moment.

She takes just as much care with her characters. The romance is sweet and the changes Pen and Michael go through as a result of their friendship are well-paced and believable. Likewise, while Azael plays a much more limited role in this book than he does in Entice, the growth he undergoes while working separate from Pen is handled well and helps emphasize just how close the siblings have been.

The book ends on a cliffhanger, which some may find annoying, but in this case, the story has earned the right to leave us hanging for a bit, and I am truly eager to see what’s next for Pen, Azael and Michael.

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Book Review: “Court of Nightfall” by Karpov Kinrade

Court of Nightfall (The Nightfall Chronicles, #1)Court of Nightfall by Karpov Kinrade
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Intriguing start to a new series

I have to admit, the reason I initially picked up this book is simply because my husband’s nickname is Nyghtfall, and it made me curious about the book, so I had no real expectations for the story. I ended up liking it quite a bit. I usually have 3 or 4 books I’m working my way through at any given time, but this one was interesting, fast-paced and good enough that I read it almost straight through.

The story is set in an alternate, dystopian reality where society is primarily controlled by the Knights of the Four Orders: Templars, Teutonics, Hospitaliers and Inquisitors. In the not-too-distant past, humanity had fought a war against the Nephelim – a race of half a human / half-angelic beings that essentially function like vampires with wings – which ended with the destruction of the Nephelim. Also in the mix are humans with “parapowers” known as Zeniths. Because their powers are feared, Zeniths are socially ostracized and politically oppressed. Against this backdrop we meet Scarlett Night, her uber-cool parents and her best friend Jax. When her parents are attacked, however, Scarlett learns that not everything is at it seems, and finds that she and Jax are no longer safe. With that our story its off and running.

Though the initial setup follows a well-worn path, once the action befins, the story really starts to come into its own. The world-building is nicely done – and done without any excessive infodumps. Meeting with the heads of the Four Orders gives an idea of what each Order is like, and the general atmosphere is communicated by how people act and what our heroes observe. The history of the war its likewise presented more through dialogue without just tossing a big history lesson into the middle of the action.

I really only had a couple of issues with the book, none of which are major, but they did have an impact on my enjoyment.. I’m not a big fan of vampire stories – in part because there are just so many of them coming out these days. When I realized the Nephelim are, for all intents and purposes, vampires, I felt a bit “tricked” by the authors. I suppose in some ways its not a bad approach, since I might have skipped the book if is known that’s what they were, but it still irked me a bit. I will say, though, that the Nephelim seen to be without some off the typical vampire tropes that have led to my disliking them: They aren’t automatically evil, nor are the overly sexual. Personality-wise, so far, at least, they seem mostly like normal humans, which is rather nice.

There are several references to a Nephelim named Nyx. Most references to Nyx use a male pronoun, but at least once the female pronoun is used. Nyx is also referred to as both a god of the Nephelim and the name is also described as being “used” by their leader, so perhaps the god is one gender (traditionally, Nyx is the Greek goddess of night) and the leader is the other, but it really wasn’t clear.

Lastly, I found myself surprised when the book ended. It felt like like the players had just gotten all of their pieces set and were about to begin the game when the emcee came out, thanked everyone for a lovely evening and invited us all back in a few weeks for more.

As I said, they’re really fairly minor issues and I will certainly be tuning back in when the game continues. Overall is a fun read and I’m very interested to see where the story will be taking us.

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Book Review: “Entice” by Erica Crouch

Entice: An Ignite Novella (Ignite, #1.5)Entice: An Ignite Novella by Erica Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review.

This is a really nice novella, and is part of Erica Crouch’s “Ignite” series. It’s listed as part 1.5 in the series, but it’s actually a prequel to the events in Ignite, so I read it first. Whether that will have an impact on how I perceive the next book (which is Ignite) I don’t know yet – but I do know that I’m quite eager to keep going with the series.

The story opens with a battle scene from the war between Heaven’s angels and the angels who fell with Lucifer. It is told from the perspective of Penemuel (but don’t call her that – just call her Pen) who choose to fall at the urging of her twin brother Azael, and is somewhat conflicted over her decision. Azael has no problem bowing to and “yes sir”-ing Lucifer – he’s a true believer in Lucifer’s cause, but Pen is more defiant, something that doesn’t go over too well with her new boss. This leads to a retelling of the story of the Fall of Mankind in the Garden of Eden.

Crouch’s version is original, even as it retains all of the traditional elements of the Biblical story, and the rest of the tale is quite well done. Crouch truly has a way with words and I found myself highlighting several phrases just because I really liked the way she put something. Even though this is a novella, she still manages to give us a good look at what the universe the story takes place in looks like as well as some excellent character building. The only thing keeping me from giving the book 5 stars is that there ars couple of apparent tips – one in particular that resulted in my spending about ten minutes trying to figure out what it was supposed to mean. Given that the book took only about 3 hours to read, having to take that kind of time to puzzle out a sentence made it just that much more irritating that a single typo like that would be in a longer book.

All-in-all, though, this is definitely a book worth checking out!

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