Queen of the Tearling

Erika Johansen


I read this book and the two that followed in one, glorious binge read over a couple of days. I was so enchanted and pulled into the story, I had to keep reading until the story was finished. It is the story of a young woman, raised in isolation by two people in the country. One day, a group of men-at-arms arrive, and hail her the Queen of the Tearling and take her away. From then on, she must learn what it means to be a queen.

The main character is so appealing and the task before her is so large, I couldn’t help rooting for her to overcome the odds against her.

An excellent story.


Son of the Shadows (Sevenwaters Book 2)

Juliet Marillier


It seems strange that this book is called *son* of the shadows when the main character is Liadan, daughter of Sorcha. It is she who carries the main action of the book. Perhaps the title refers to the Painted Man, who definitely lives in the shadows, outside of lawful society. Their paths cross when Liadan, a healer like her mother, is kidnapped to heal one of the Painted Man’s gang.

At first Liadan is angry and resentful at what happened to her, but she begins to see beneath the scars and tattoos of the Painted Man. Eventually their lives come together in an unexpected way.

This continuation of Sorcha’s story is every bit as satisfy at the first book in the series.


Daughter of the Forest

Juliet Marillier


This is the gateway drug to the Sevenwaters series, which I binge-read over a period of days. I was so enthralled by the series and so eager to find out what happened next, I’m sure I missed some of the subtleties of the series. I shall have to reread them soon to pick up what I missed.

This is basically a retelling of the fairy tale of the woman whose six brothers are turned into swans. Only she can reverse the curse by making them shirts, but must remain silent while she does it, or lose them forever.

Marillier has taken the bare bones of the fairy tale and woven a wonderful tale, full of love and pain. I recommend it highly.

Heirs of Grace

Tim Pratt


When artist Bekah receives word that she has inherited some money and a large isolated house in N. Carolina, she thinks this would be the ideal opportunity to get away and concentrate on her art, free of worries about supporting herself. When she arrives in N. Carolina, she discovers things aren’t as easy as she hoped. Apparently there are a brood of other relatives that think they have a better claim to the inheritance and are willing to kill to get it.

With the help of a young attorney, Trey Howard, Bekah learns what she needs to know about how to protect herself from the others who want her property. Protecting her heart will be more challenging.

I like trans-racial romance stories (Bekah is black, Trey is white), and magic realism is my catnip. Put them together and you have a very enjoyable book.

Den of Wolves

Juliet Marillier


In this, the third of the Blackthorn and Grim novels, circumstances threaten to tear them apart. A young girl has been placed under Princess Flidais’ care, needing Blackthorn’s attention. At the same time, the girl’s father hires Grim to help rebuild a home, fallen into disrepair, on his property. It is some distance from his home with Blackthorn, but the money is too good to turn down. It doesn’t take long for Grim to realize that there is more to the job than meets the eye.

Meanwhile, Blackthorn is finally offered an opportunity to help bring the man who imprisoned her to justice. The problem is that in order to make it in time to testify against him, she will have to leave Grim behind. Torn between her desire for justice and her growing love for Grim, who is in danger, she is faced with an impossible decision.

Unlike most series, Marillier wraps up the loose ends with this book. Much as I loved Blackthorn and Grim, I would be content if this is the end of them.

Tower of Thorns

Juliet Marilier


So, on to the second book in the trilogy. Prince Oran and his wife Flidais, who is pregnant, ask Blackthorn to help them to aid a noblewoman who has sought help in ridding her land of a monster. The cries of the monster are nearly driving people mad, and no one can reach the top of the tower where he is because of a hedge of thorns that surrounds the base. Grump as ever, and accompanied by Grim, she agrees to help.

She unlocks the secret of the tower with the help of the fae, but there is no happy ending for anyone in this sad tale. The main attraction is the growing depth of the relationship between Blackthorn and Grim.

Dreamer’s Pool

Juliet Marilier


I started this trilogy in the middle. Tower of Thorns turned up on one of my low-cost subscription lists, and I bought it. I hadn’t finished chapter one before I knew that I had to read the first book to learn how the unlikely partnership of Blackthorn and Grim had come to be. So I put aside Tower of Thorns and ordered Dreamer’s Pool from the library. OMG. So good. I put aside all my usual reading until I had finished all three of the books in the trilogy.

Blackthorn, a bitter, wounded women is set free from her captivity by one of the fae. He puts two conditions on her freedom: she much stay within the boarders of the kingdom of Dalriada, and she must offer her help to whoever asks it. At the end of seven years, she will be freed. Consumed with hatred and a desire for revenge upon the man who unjustly imprisoned her, she agrees. Followed by Grim, a fellow prisoner, she moves to the kingdom of Dalriada and sets herself up as a wise woman, a healer.

Smallfolk come to her for healing, but it is when the Prince of Dalriada asks for her help, that she is challenged to the maximum of her powers. Intrigued by the story of his betrothed, a woman who seems so different from the one he grew to love through her letters, she begins to unravel the truth.

When I finished this book I couldn’t wait to start on Tower of Thorns to find out what happens next.

Land of the Beautiful Dead

R. Lee Smith


Any time I start an R. Lee Smith book, I can kiss my bedtime good-bye. I know I’m going to be up reading at four in the morning because I just can’t put the book down and turn off the Kindle. This one was no exception.

Au fond this is a beauty and the beast story, only the beauty is nothing to write home about and the beast is so beastly that he bears the scars of the people who tried to kill him. Unfortunately for them, he’s already dead.

Lan, a worker in the peach orchards of Norwich, has traveled to Haven (formerly London) the capital of Azrael, the new ruler, to plead with him to stop the Eaters. These monsters turn the newly dead into more Eaters unless their bodies are burned. They are mindless, zombie-like horrors. and Lan wants them stopped. Lan doesn’t have any real hope of stopping them, but she has to do something.

Azrael is bored beyond comprehension. He is all-powerful, safe within the walls of Haven and feared as well as served by all. Even his children hate him. He is intrigued by Lan at first because she treats him as a man. A scarred, powerful, frightening man, but not a monster. Something begins to grow between them that surprises them both.

I think it is Smith’s world-building that sucks me in every time. I have read this book three times, and I’ll probably read it again. Each time there’s something new. And I cry at the end, every time.

The Fellowship of the Ring

J.R.R. Tolkien

The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings by [Tolkien, J.R.R.]

This is one of my favorite books, the other two being The Two Towers and Return of the King. I know I have read it at least 10 times since the first time in college some 50 years ago. Strangely I have never cared for The Hobbit.

It never loses it freshness, and there is always something new to notice. This time it is Aragorn’s grief at leaving Arwyn at the start of the adventure. They are preparing to leave the House of Elrond, and they are gathered on the steps, waiting for Gandalf:

Aragorn sat with his head bowed to his knees; only Elrond knew fully what this hour meant to him.

He and Gandalf are the only ones who know the challenge facing them and the odds against their survival. He may have seen Arwyn for this last time in this world. And yet he finds the strength and courage to go on. Somehow over the years and many readings, I had missed this little insight into Aragorn’s sacrifice.

This time through, I’m not skipping anything. I’m in no hurry to finish the books. Instead I savor every description that I used to skim through, anxious to get to the next action bit. Who knows what other gems I have overlooked?



Sister Light, Sister Dark

Jane Yolen


Jane Yolen uses three voices to tell the story of the white-haired child, Jenna, who is found by the warriors of the Hame: straight-forward story telling, folk songs, and academic analysis. Among the three sources emerges a world in transition, awaiting the white leader who is to take their world through a disruptive time to a new world order.

Jenna, also called Jo-ann-enna, learns that she is this white warrior. Her growth into the prophecy is rocky, resisted by the leaders of her world, accepted by some. The calling forth of her dark sister, Skalda, visible only by moonlight and candle light, helps her to accept her fate.

Jane Yolen has a gift for world building that creates an articulate, believable world for Jenna to come into her powers. This book, the first of three, is a solid introduction to her life and surroundings.