I've been dying to get my hands on this one for months. I enjoyed the From Blood & Ash series, but I'd been hearing rave reviews of this one!

So let me say first: I did enjoy FBAA. However, it had some glaring issues for me early on. I give JLA a lot of credit for creating such a fun world, but FBAA is mostly world building. As an author, it's difficult to balance action and backstory, so I get it. I was excited for this one, but hoping it wasn't just a replay of FBAA.


Spoiler Alert: It wasn't.


Sera, the main character, is similar to Poppy in FBAA, but I liked her so much better. She was so much more cynical, and I really love that we saw what happened when she was supposed to become Nyktos's consort, instead of it being a build up TO that.


Sera's life was basically taken from her as a result of a deal made between her father and the Primal of Death. The Primal would take her as his Consort when she came of age and it would heal whatever is cursing the land. When the time comes, however, the Primal refuses Sera and states he has no need for a Consort.


Fast forward three years and Sera feels like a failure. Her mother, the queen, never treats her like a daughter. Her father died when she was very small, so all she has ever known is her mother's coldness, her step-father's aloofness, her a**hole step-brother (and in line for the throne) and her step sister. Only her step sister has ever treated her like family.


I love a character jaded by the world.


After three years, Sera is basically regarded as a handmaiden to the queen. But! She's also an assassin. While in town one night, she spies something curious: Gods wandering through the city and hurting people.


Enter: Ash. Yall. I can't even begin to tell you what it was, but Ash had me hooked from the START.


Now, it wouldn't be a JLA novel without the MC stabbing the LI right? Right! We love stabby heroines!


I don't want to go too far into detail because I'd really encourage you to read this, but let me say, when the Primal comes for her, everything changes. This one was so good, and I am dying for the next book!


Abbie

I picked this one up as genre research to find comp titles for Guns & Smoke. I knew little about it, but I picked it up, anyway.

I saw a video on TikTok of someone raving about how this was an LGBTQ+ feminist novel set in a dystopian/western world. Of course, I was so excited to pick it up!


When the story starts, the main character is a stowaway. She's hidden herself in the cart of the Librarians--women who are permitted to travel the country distributing Approved materials. Immediately, I was interested. I am a huge dystopian fan, so I was curious to see what America looked like in this new world.


Sadly, I was a little disappointed. This story was only a novella. I understand that when publishing shorter works, there is only so much world building that can take place. But it really felt like the author missed out on some key opportunities to make the world into something bigger than just these few characters.


The romance was honestly lackluster for me. Given that this wasn't marketed as a romance, I am totally okay with it. I truly want to feel my character's heart pounding when they're interacting with the love interest, and I didn't quite get that here.


One of my favorite things is that the love interested is a Non-Binary character. Early on, they tell the main character something to the effect of "when we're on the road, I'm they. When we're in town, I'm she." I really enjoyed reading this character. Not only were they funny and well written, I feel like this was a perfect example of seamlessly including diverse characters.


What ended up being the climax of the story felt lackluster as well. I didn't feel a build to this inevitable ending, which really left a lot open ended.


Honestly, I would have liked to see this story as a full length novel with a little more spice. While I wouldn't specifically say this is a good comparison title to Guns & Smoke, it's probably the closest thing I've found to it.


Thanks, Abbie

The finale of the City On the Sea series released!

At the end of book four, one of the key advisors of Brooke, the main character, was killed by one of the watchman when the "savages" from the sea cities attacked the settlement. With everything that happened, I really wasn't sure where Carson was going with the finale.


As much as I liked the first book in this series, the premise of this dystopian world, the finale fell flat for me.


Brooke is a strong, active character, but I really feel like the world wasn't developed enough to give her story this many novels. While I respect that this is an independently published work, I didn't really enjoy it. There was a lot of back and forth that made little sense in the romance, and I wasn't even really sure what that ending was.


That said, you might enjoy it. One thing I love about these novels is that they're relatively short, so you can enjoy them in one or two sittings.


Thanks, Abbie