Two Monarchies Sequence by W.R. Gingell

You may have noticed that I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings.  So how about a whole series of them?!  W.R. Gingell delivers with the Two Monarchies Sequence, a lovely fantasy series with many fairy tale inspirations.  For the most part, these are not straight retellings, but rather stories that take a recognizable fairy tale concept and twist it all around.   The result is a series that feels comfortably familiar yet at the same time keeps you on your toes.

Also, if you judge books by their covers, these ones are gorgeous.

The series is set in the titular two monarchies, Civet and Glause, two countries whose history is…complicated to say the least.  There is also some time travel involved in several spots, which does not help clear things up! The series begins with Spindle, obviously inspired by Sleeping Beauty, in which Polyhymnia is awakened not by a prince, but by an absentminded-genius enchanter named Luck…and that’s just the beginning of her troubles.  Next follow Blackfoot (with some hints of Puss in Boots) and Staff and Crown, which follow unlikely hero Annabel’s path to the throne of New Civet.  

The last book, Clockwork Magician, will be released this week; it features Annabel’s friend and budding magician Peter, who is in truth a fairly annoying person, yet the author somehow manages to make him lovable.  That’s a kind of magic all on its own!

Also in the sequence is Masque, a murder mystery inspired by Beauty and the Beast; though this one is chronologically last, I actually read it first!  It’s one of my favorite BatB stories of all time. There is also a Little Red Riding Hood story, Wolfskin, in the same setting, though it does not cross over with any of the other stories.

What do all these great stories have in common?  Excellent quirky characters that will come to feel like friends, an intriguing system of magic, some mystery and thrills, and some lovely romance.  Occasionally it feels like the story or characters are moving a bit too fast to catch, but a touch of confusion is part of the charm of these books.

This series was my first introduction to Gingell’s writing, and it quickly made me a fan.  I’m sure it will do the same for my fellow fairy tale-lovers!

Fan Art Friday: Celestial Balance

Elf

Here is a fun little elf sketch from my high school sketchbook!  I drew this in conjunction with a short story I wrote around the same time, “Celestial Balance.”  The elf in the story has curly hair, but there was no way I was going to be able to draw that!

Keep reading for the story!

Continue reading

Shards of a Broken Sword trilogy by W.R. Gingell

I’m back with further recommendations from Tasmanian indie author W.R. Gingell.  I’ve already raved about her urban fantasy series, but if you prefer good old classic fantasy with elves and magic, check out her Shards of a Broken Sword trilogy.

This entertaining series of short novels has a lot to recommend itself.  It’s a very solid fantasy series, with a good system of magic and worldbuilding.  You’ll see some fairy tale tropes mixed in, but the stories give them some twists so that it feels more like original fantasy than a retelling.  In addition to fantasy, each has a bit of mystery/intrigue and romance. To break down each book a little further…

Twelve Days of Faery 

To start the series, an enchantress agrees to help a king stop the deadly curse that is being laid on any lady who catches his son’s eye. Her reward will be the prince’s hand, but is that what she really wants?  This book sets the stage for the trilogy by establishing some conflict between humans and fae, and uncovering the first shard of the titular broken sword. It’s also an engaging mystery with charming characters.

Fire in the Blood 

Next, a prince and his dragon must solve level after level of puzzles to free a princess from her imprisonment in a tower…but not all is quite as it seems at first. This one is my personal favorite, mostly because I loved all the puzzles in getting through the tower.  I also really liked how the dragons were done, as well as the subtle Asian/Middle Eastern influence. And I adored the princess’s crazy family and would love more stories about them.

First Chill of Autumn 

An epic conclusion that brings together characters from the first two novels, as a young woman tries to save her kingdom from a Fae invasion.  This one is the most complex, and the ending is bittersweet. For that reason I didn’t like it quite as much, though I think it is probably a stronger story for it.

As you may have inferred, each of the first two books can be read as a stand-alone, while the third one brings together themes and characters from each of the first two.  The characters are so engaging you will definitely want more of them. You can get the books individually or buy the whole series together (plus a short story) on Smashwords for $6.99.  There’s even a paperback version available on Amazon (but it’s expensive😢).

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Happy reading!

City Between series by W.R. Gingell

Hi. My name is Pet.

It’s not my real name, but it’s the only one you’re getting. Things like names are important these days.

And it’s not so much that I’m Pet.

I’m a pet.

A human pet: I belong to the two Behindkind fae and the pouty vampire who just moved into my house. It’s not weird, I promise—well, it’s weird, yeah. But it’s not weird weird, you know?

Between Jobs

The City Between series, consisting of five books with more to come, is W.R. Gingell’s most recent series and I think it is her best so far.  It’s a great place to start if you are new to her work. I’ve read the first two and am looking forward to continuing.

Unlike her more traditional fantasy or fairy tale-inspired stories, this series is classic urban fantasy.  There are vampires, werewolves, fae…and one human pet. Pet (we don’t know her real name) has been trying to get by, squatting in her old house after her parents are murdered there, when another murder takes place next door, and a strange set of investigators move in with her.  The “Psychos” as she calls them consist of two Fae and one snarky vampire, and they end up adopting her as their pet.  

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There are some great fantasy elements, like umbrellas that are really swords, and some spine-tingling action and adventure parts with just enough intensity and mystery, but my favorite thing is just how full of character the stories are.  From Pet’s regionalisms (like the author, she lives in Hobart, Tasmania) to Jinyeong’s sarcastic Korean, there are so many little details that draw you in and get you invested in the world and the characters. These are some of the most entertaining and page-turning stories I have read recently.  They are also relatively short, easy reads.

You can check out the first book in the series, Between Jobs, on Amazon for $0.99 until the end of January.  Flamin’ heck, that is a steal and you will get hooked.

(And just for the record, Athelas is my favorite Psycho, but I ship Pet and Zero.)

2019 Reading Review

Another year, more great books.  In 2019, I read about 145 books, of which about 2/3 were Regency romances.  The rest were from various genres, and I reviewed 17 of them here on this blog (you can check out the Book Reviews category to see them all).  Here are some highlights.

Fantasy

I really enjoyed the Wayward Children series of novellas by Seanan McGuire, starting with Every Heart a Doorway.  The characters and worlds of this portal fantasy series have stayed with me; read my full review here.  I also enjoyed exploring the novel length version of Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, which reads like an original fairy tale; read my full review here.

I read very little YA fantasy this year, and I what I did read was pretty average, nothing really outstanding.  I’ve been a little disappointed with the quality of current popular series.  Anyone have recommendations for recent must-read YA fantasy?

Comics

I highly recommend both the Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra comics by Kieron Gillen.  If you only read one Star Wars comic, I’d recommend the Vader Down crossover issue, which features the OT characters as well as Aphra, one of my favorite new canon characters.  It has everything you want: action, humor, great characterization.

Nonfiction

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I’ve been working through Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book of essays, We Were Eight Years in Power, since the beginning of the year.  These are essays on various topics previously published in The Atlantic (including “The Case for Reparations”), compiled here with his reflections on each piece.  It’s not light reading, but I feel like I’ve gained a lot of perspective, especially as we enter another election cycle.  And I’m so glad I discovered Coates’ beautiful writing.  I also enjoyed his run of Black Panther, and I can’t wait to read his novel debut, The Water Dancer.

As a relatively new mother I also enjoyed Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott. Everything she wrote rang so true to me!  Plus she is just an entertaining writer.

Author of the Year: W.R. Gingell

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Awhile back I raved about Gingell’s Masque, an inventive version of Beauty and the Beast, but this year I really started reading through her oeuvre, and the more I read the more I fall in love!  Luckily, she now works full-time as an author and is continuing to release several new fantasy stories every year.  So far, I’ve read her fairy-tale inspired Two Monarchies series (of which Masque is a part), her epic fantasy Shards of a Broken Sword trilogy, and her hilarious urban fantasy City Between series.  I’m going to do some more detailed reviews of these in the coming months,  but if you are looking for a quick, entertaining read, I highly recommend her work.  Also, check out her blog and Facebook page.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

At the end of last year, I made some reading goals for myself for 2019 and I think I did pretty well with them.

  1. Read from more genres.  I tried really hard with this one and I succeeded.  Some genres I read this year include: cozy mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, classics, historical fiction, memoir, non-fiction essays, short stories, poetry, comics, and YA.  I also listened to some more audiobooks; though I still don’t love them, I started to use them in conjunction with ebooks to allow me to continue the story wherever I am.
  2. Finish Heyer’s romances.  I read Venetia, which is one of her best, as well as a mystery from her.  I still have 2 more Georgian romances to read!
  3. Read books I already own.  Yeah…still working on that.  Definitely a goal to continue next year.
  4. Finish the books I started.  I did get better about this!  I finished most of the books I started last year, and while I still have a few I started this year that I’m in the middle of, I feel like it’s more under control instead of a revolving door of library loans.  I did have a couple of DNFs this year; mostly they had some element of mental illness that I couldn’t handle reading about at the time.

For 2020, I want to focus on getting back to reading physical books instead of being on my phone and Kindle all the time, as well as reading all the books that are already on my shelves.

What were your favorite books of 2019?  Do you have any reading goals for 2020?