Friday, January 31, 2020

Diamond City by Francesca Flores

Good things don't happen to girls who come from nothing... unless they risk everything.

Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.

Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.

DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.

To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn't want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.

Full of action, romance and dark magic, book one of Francesca Flores' breathtaking fantasy duology will leave readers eager for more!

Add to Goodreads –

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Spoiler-Free Review

The premise hooked me straight away. Aina's story of being an orphan on the streets, forced to do anything to survive, fostered by the head of a gang who had ulterior motives. The Blade, Aina was an assassin, doing the gang's wet work for hire, fearing what would happen if she didn't do it, while also so desperately needing the validation, needing to make him proud.

On the side, Aina was the go-between in diamond smuggling, between its point of origin and the fence where it was fashioned into something else at the jeweler. In the world building, I was slightly shocked over how many diamonds go missing on a daily basis for a teenage girl to be in on the game.

The setting is during an industrial revolution, in an area where there is a diamond mine, the industry similar to the turn of the twentieth century. However, I couldn't place the time nor the location, especially with the paranormal magical elements added in. The setting and world building were fascinating to me, steampunk meets illegal magic/religion, but how it was presented wasn't to my taste.

There was excitement, action-packed scenes of pure violence, spying and slinking around, and many bodies on the floor, so many bodies I was confused as to how the city wasn't losing its population with how Aina wasn't the only assassin running around. In such a short span of time, we're talking hundreds of people dying and left to lie where they fell, by gangs worth of assassins.

As for the emotions, loyal friendships were important to Aina, but it was her need for validation from the man who groomed her that hit the hardest.

Aina was a solid heroine. Loyal, willing to do anything to survive, but also fiercely protective of those who she called friend. I'm all for not having a guilt-stricken heroine who hems and haws over what needs to be done, but I find it hard to believe that on several occasions Aina murders most of the guards and staff in the same house... like how did they get replacements so quickly? An entire household emptied of occupants. Twice? Thrice? By the end of the book, Aina had single-handedly executed an upwards of a hundred souls.

For someone obsessed with how her parents died and left her an orphan, Aina has no issue of creating dozens upon dozens of innocent orphans, if their parents merely get in her way. Like charging in the front door, slitting the necks of innocent maids and guards, who no doubt had children at home. All those new orphans have more of a reason to loathe Aina than Aina had to loathe the government for executing her parents, who were practicing acts that were widely known to hold a death sentence. Aina's parents were criminals (no matter if the law was ridiculous or not) but these random innocent maids and such did no one any harm.

An assassin by trade should be able to sneak around and only inflict death upon the ones they were hired to kill. It would be bad for business to take out entire households, several times over.

As I said, I don't want a guilt-stricken heroine, but I find it hard to swallow that she's killing so indiscriminately, as if all those people are worthless, meaningless, because she needs some coin for a "single" target. People who are also from the lower classes, who are just working to eat. Was she really good at her job if she takes out so many innocents while doing it? It's like using a nuke instead of a flyswatter for a single fly.

Where I struggled the most with the novel was the writing style. There was just something about the way the perspective was written that kept me from being able to fall into the story. My interest waned during monologues from the past, where dialogue and action from the past weren't italicized to show that it wasn't happening in the present time, the lack of transition confusing me and tearing me from the story itself. The flashbacks weren't denoted, and there were many flashbacks to be had, filled with info-dumps and meandering inner monologues that slowed the pacing.

As an avid reader, especially of all the elements within Diamond City, I struggled to read, taking me well over a week what should have taken an afternoon. I was curious to what the outcome would be, but the writing style, the way the perspective was written, and the execution made it difficult for me to be entertained.

Curious to see where this goes, I'm willing to give the next another try. If not, I'll have to pass on the author, due to the writing style not being my cup of tea.

Young Adult age rating: 14+ due to on-scene graphic violence.

Francesca Flores is a writer, traveler and linguist. Raised in Pittsburgh, she read every fantasy book she could get her hands on and started writing her own stories at a young age. She began writing Diamond City while working as a corporate travel manager. When she's not writing or reading, Francesca enjoys traveling, dancing ballet and jazz, practicing trapeze and contortion, and visiting parks and trails around San Francisco, where she currently resides.

Connect with Francesca

Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Diamond City (Diamond City #1) by Francesca Flores to read and review.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Spartan Destiny by Jennifer Estep

This Spartan makes her own destiny...

Most kids at the Colorado branch of Mythos Academy know me as Rory Forseti, the daughter of Reaper assassins. Secretly, I’m a member of Team Midgard, a group of students and adults tasked with stopping Covington, the evil leader of the Reapers of Chaos. For me, the mission is a deeply personal one, since Covington is also the man who murdered my parents.

When my friends and I get a lead on a powerful artifact that Covington wants to steal, we think we finally have a chance to thwart the Reapers and stop them for good. Team Midgard comes up with a plan, but everything goes sideways, and I’m suddenly in the fight of my life.

My worst fears might have come true, but I know what my Spartan destiny is—to save my friends, or die trying...

Add to Goodreads –

Book 3
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Spoiler-Free Review

Spartan Destiny is the third and final (I believe) installment of the Mythos Academy: Colorado spin-off. Not only do I strongly suggest reading the series in order to avoid any confusion, but I also believe it best to start with Touch of Frost, which is the debut in the Mythos Academy series, fully developing the world building throughout all the novels.

Rory and her friends at Midgard are still on Convington's tail, attempting to stop his mission of gaining all the mythical artifacts necessary in his evil plot. There is a definite vibe of urgency, as if they fail this time around, all hope will be lost.

Over the past novel, Rory stepped out from her cousin's shadow and finally came into her own as the heroine and narrator of the spin-off series. Whatever insecurities plagued her have finally shifted to confidence in how she fits into life. Fierce, protective, logical, yet also compassionate and empathetic. Rory has the strength to get things done, even while her world is falling down around her.

There's a strong thread of friendship woven into the series, proving that you shouldn't have to do it alone – the relationships built are important. The shared laughter, joy, tragedy, and companionship are what make life worth living, worth fighting the good fight.

Everything in perfect balance, the thrilling action, the paranormal elements, and the emotional connections, I have enjoyed every book in the Mythos Academy series.

Highly recommend Jennifer Estep for both adult and young adult urban fantasy and fantasy. By profession, I can hear an author's voice underlying on the pages, but Estep has a way of writing strong characters that are individuals, where if I read a quote, I could figure out which character was speaking. No two narrators are alike across all of her series, which is what has me eager to pick up whatever she publishes next.

Young Adult age-range: 12+

Also Available in the Mythos Academy: Colorado Series

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

For reviews & more info, check out our Spartan Heart post.

Book 2
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

For reviews & more info, check out our Spartan Promise post.

JENNIFER ESTEP is a New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.

She is the author of the following series:
The Elemental Assassin Series
The Crown of Shards Series
The Mythos Academy Spinoff Series
The Mythos Academy Series
The Bigtime Series
The Black Blade Series

Connect with Jennifer

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Spartan Destiny (Mythos Academy: Colorado #3) by Jennifer Estep to read and review.