Wednesday, October 20, 2021

House of Shadows by K.A. Linde Release Blitz

Available Now. House of Shadows by K.A. Linde. Amazon. Apple Books. Nook. Google Books. Kobo.

USA Today bestselling author K.A. Linde returns to the Royal Houses series with House of Shadows: the story of Kerrigan Argon, a half-Fae, half-human as she seeks her place in an unforgiving world filled with magic, mayhem, and romance. Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Holly Black, and V.E. Schwab.

Kerrigan Argon, a half-human, half-Fae, has joined the Dragon Society against almost everyone’s wishes.

A year of training is required with her dragon.

First she must travel with the dark Fae prince, Fordham Ollivier, back to his home in the House of Shadows. Nothing but slavery and death has ever awaited a half-Fae in their halls.

But something is wrong within their wicked world. A thousand year old spell is weakening. Cracks forming in the foundation. And Kerrigan may just be their ruin or their salvation.

Don’t miss our reviews of the rest of the Royal Houses series!
For book one, House of Dragons, click HERE.


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House of Shadows by K.A. Linde

Book 2
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It was always you.



Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

House of Shadows is the second installment in the Royal Houses series. Since it is a continuation in an epic fantasy series, book one, House of Dragons, must be read first to avoid confusion and to understand the complex world building.

Since it had been a long time since I read the debut, I was fearful I would be confused at the start of House of Shadows, but K.A. Linde flawlessly delivered cues to clue the reader in without massive amounts of info dumps, leading with a smooth transition from one book to the next as if ending one chapter and beginning another.

Kerrigan was abandoned at the House of Dragons when she was a child. While she was under the impression she was removed by her father due to her half-fae lineage, it was to keep her safe under the protection of the mountain.

After the events of the previous installment, which I won't highlight to avoid those reading this review before deciding to start the series, Kerrigan is training to become a full-fledged member of the society. Combat, history, and bonding with her dragon, while being targeted by Society members for not being full fae, she has a large target on her back.

Kerrigan is a strong heroine. She's as gifted as she is flawed. Nothing comes easy to her, trying with all her might to succeed even when she fails. She doesn't necessarily take things in stride, but that is what makes her feel more realistically human. Bridging the gap between all social classes, royals, fae, half-fae, human, and destitute human, Kerrigan becomes a symbol of hope.

House of Shadows is an adventure. While fast-paced, it was a long, complex journey filled with politics, battles, push-pull romance between enemies turned lovers, smoldering into a slow burn with the whisper of a triangle (quadrangle?) as Kerrigan is torn between what she wants, what she needs, what would be for the good of her people, and what would be good for the people she represents, not only in the Society or her royal lineage but for those she sees as her people.

Everyone fighting each other, inter-fighting and species fighting, I won't get into the overall plot, as that is something best dove into blindly. What I will say is that Linde is a master of angst. Not only is our Dark Prince a persnickety sort, stoic with a hot and cold personality, Kerrigan is dealing with the King of the dregs, feelings from her teen years quite possibly rearing their ugly head as he becomes protector instead of negotiator... then the royal line comes in to create mischief, dragging along a betrothal of the lost princess, one in which who needs her to be queen to his future king.

It's a year-long wait, which I will be anticipating the next installment, as it promises to deliver more of which readers voraciously read in the first and second installments. One thing I know not to fear is the seamless transition from one book to the next, no need to reread, but I will say the prospect is temping.

My guilty pleasure, sentient beings in a series, where they take on a life of their own. Be it an inner beast, a gargoyle or a pixie, or a sarcastic dragon partner. The relationship Kerrigan develops with her dragon, the witty repartee, the teasing, the little snips and digs, it brings life to a creature that is generally just on the pages.

Highly recommended to fans of both adult and young adult epic fantasy. House of Shadows is sure to please the masses.



That’s the thing about royalty. You don’t get to choose who your betters are.


Author Bio

K.A. LINDE is the USA Today bestselling author of the Avoiding series, Wrights, and more than thirty other novels. She has a master’s degree in political science from the University of Georgia, was the head campaign worker for the 2012 presidential campaign at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served as the head coach of the Duke University dance team. She loves reading fantasy novels, binge-watching Supernatural, traveling, and dancing in her spare time.

She currently lives in Lubbock, Texas, with her husband and two super-adorable puppies.

Connect with K.A.

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads
Facebook Group: K.A. Linde Books



Kerrigan may just be their ruin or their salvation.


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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of House of Shadows (Royal Houses #2) by K.A. Linde to read and review for this tour.

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Right Side of Reckless by Whitney D. Grandison

He’s never met a rule he didn’t break… She’s followed the rules her whole life… When they meet, one golden rule is established: stay away.

He’s never met a rule he didn’t break… She’s followed the rules her whole life… When they meet, one golden rule is established: stay away. Sparks fly in this edgy own voices novel, perfect for fans of Sandhya Menon, S. K. Ali, and Kristina Forest.

They were supposed to ignore each other and respect that fine line between them…

Guillermo Lozano is getting a fresh start. New town, new school, and no more reckless behavior. He’s done his time, and now he needs to right his wrongs. But when his work at the local community center throws him into the path of the one girl who is off-limits, friendship sparks… and maybe more.

Regan London needs a fresh perspective. The pressure to stay in her “perfect” relationship and be the good girl all the time has worn her down. But when the walls start to cave in and she finds unexpected understanding from the boy her parents warned about, she can’t ignore her feelings anymore.

The disapproval is instant. Being together might just get Guillermo sent away. But when it comes to the heart, sometimes you have to break the rules and be a little bit reckless…


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The Right Side of Reckless by Whitney D. Grandison

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Regan is a really sweet and caring girl, but she is a people pleaser. Early on, I found her inability to stand up for herself and what she wants annoying but that is all part of growing up and maturing. By the end of the story, I was really proud of her. Guillermo likes Regan but her mother is supervising his community service and has told him to stay away from Regan. Trying to turn over a new leaf, Guillermo goes out of his way to try to not get into trouble, but he and Regan keep crossing paths. But he makes friends with different types of people than those he associated with before he went to juvie, including Regan’s geeky younger brother.

I really enjoyed the growing friendship between Regan and Guillermo. Their interactions felt natural and age appropriate and I think the time taken to develop their friendship is part of the reason for this. And it was good to have a potential romantic relationship based on friendship, and where holding hands and kissing are all that is expected.

There are several important issues dealt with in The Right Side of Reckless. One is consent. The contrast between the way Troy, Regan’s boyfriend, treats her and the way Guillermo treats her shows the difference between what would have been acceptable when I was a teen versus what we expect now. Another issue is the issue of forgiveness. Guillermo really wants to do the right thing to regain the respect and forgiveness of his parents, but it isn’t always clear what “the right thing” is. Guillermo also needs to forgive himself for his past mistakes so he can move on.

It was so good to get caught up in a young adult novel. It has been a long time since I read one and The Right Side of Reckless reminded me why I enjoy them so much. Strong character development and growth, a good story, and a lovely romance. I loved The Right Side of Reckless. A solid four stars from me.



Author Bio

WHITNEY D. GRANDISON is an American young adult fiction writer. Some of her works can be found on Wattpad, one of the largest online story sharing platforms, where she has acquired over 30,000 followers and an audience of over fifteen million dedicated readers. Outside of writing, she is a lover of Korean dramas, all things John Hughes, and horror films. Whitney currently lives in Akron, Ohio.

Connect with Whitney

Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads



Inkyard Press

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Right Side of Reckless by Whitney D. Grandison to read and review.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent

Beware the wolf.

Powerful and compelling, this high-stakes, feminist reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood is perfect for fans of Stephanie Garber and Meagan Spooner.

For as long as sixteen-year-old Adele can remember, the village of Oakvale has been surrounded by the dark wood—a forest filled with terrible monsters. A forest that light itself cannot penetrate.

Unlike her fellow villagers, Adele cannot avoid the dark wood.

Adele is one of a long line of guardians: women who secretly take on the form of a wolf, in order to protect their village.

But when accepting her fate means giving up the boy she loves, abandoning the future she imagined for herself, and breaking her own moral code, she must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her neighbors safe.


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Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Red Wolf is a fantastical retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, from the imaginative mind of Rachel Vincent.

To be honest, I'm no fan of retellings, doesn't matter if it's my favorite tale. However, I am a major fan of Vincent's, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to escape in the Little Red Riding Hood world as she sees it.

I'm also intrigued by the dark and mysterious air that wafts around stories featuring primitive villages, with their intriguing folklore to explain the inexplicable.

There truly is a strong likeness in the overall feel between Red Wolf and The Village, which is an amazing thing, as I enjoy rewatching the film over and over.

Read from cover to cover, a dark and ominous vibe causing the pages to turn at a rapid rate, I immersed myself in the tale Adele has to tell. Longing to create a life of her own, with the loss of her father, the grief ever hanging over her, Adele wishes to settle down with the boy of her dreams, surrounded by family.

Traipsing through the Dark Wood to visit her grandmother at her mother's behest, Adele is put to a test, one she didn't even realize she was taking, the twists and turns creating an intriguing read.

On the cusp of her birthday, Adele learns of a world she never knew existed, altering her plans for the future. She is now the protector of her village, keeping the villagers safe from the monsters in the Dark Wood. What she wants and desires no longer matters.

While Red Wolf is a retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood, there are few similarities, ensuring the story has a brand-new feel, allowing the reader to be surprised, to experience the unexpected.

Word of warning, Adele is sixteen, growing up in an isolated village, the story told with a young adult mindset. Some grown adults may find her personality immature or grating, as she has a know-it-all type personality and a stubborn streak a mile wide. Keep in mind, she is a child, even if in her world she would be considered an adult. Her upbringing and the age of the era influences her personality and how she views the world. Strong and capable, Adele is innocent, thrust into a world where werewolves and monsters exist. It was easy for me to be empathetic, understanding why Adele was making the decisions she was making, even if I didn't agree with them, because I have the advantage of looking at the situation as an adult who had access to an education and a wide world view. Adele is an isolated teen in a fairytale, who sometimes rubbed me the wrong way, but I appreciated the authenticity of it.

Is this a romance? No. While there is an undercurrent of romance influencing Adele's choices, the story itself is supported by the fantasy, whimsy, and folklore surrounding Oakvale and the Dark Wood.

While not a cliffhanger, the ending is rather abrupt, which is both satisfying as a standalone while leaving the door cracked open for a sequel.

Honestly, I was surprised in how much I enjoyed it. Not because Red Wolf is Rachel Vincent's creation, but because it was a retelling (not a fan) and I was thoroughly absorbed.



Author Bio

RACHEL VINCENT is the New York Times bestselling author of several pulse-pounding series for teens and adults. A former English teacher and a champion of the serial comma, Rachel has written more than twenty novels and remains convinced that writing about the things that scare her is the cheapest form of therapy. Rachel shares her home in Oklahoma with two cats, two teenagers, and her husband, who’s been her number one fan from the start.

Connect with Rachel

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads



Harper Teen

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent to read and review.

Friday, July 2, 2021

The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon

All hail the king and king. The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon.

To save a fae kingdom, a trans witch must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind. This debut YA fantasy will leave you spellbound.

Wyatt would give anything to forget where he came from—but a kingdom demands its king.

In Asalin, fae rule and witches like Wyatt Croft… don’t. Wyatt’s betrothal to his best friend, fae prince Emyr North, was supposed to change that. But when Wyatt lost control of his magic one devastating night, he fled to the human world.

Now a coldly distant Emyr has hunted him down. Despite transgender Wyatt’s newfound identity and troubling past, Emyr has no intention of dissolving their engagement. In fact, he claims they must marry now or risk losing the throne. Jaded, Wyatt strikes a deal with the enemy, hoping to escape Asalin forever. But as he gets to know Emyr, Wyatt realizes the boy he once loved may still exist. And as the witches face worsening conditions, he must decide once and for all what’s more important—his people or his freedom.


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The Witch King by H.E. Edgmon

Book 1
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Inkyard Press (HQN)




Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is a fun young adult fantasy adventure with lovable characters and wonderfully complex world building. The story belongs to Wyatt, a witch with a dark past who is an outsider in both the fae and human worlds.

At its heart, this is a simple coming of age story. Wyatt must come to terms with his past and find out where he belongs as he becomes an adult. It’s not a completely fresh story. Fantasy and Urban Fantasy fans will recognise many familiar tropes. Fated mates, a reluctant heir, and an outsider with special powers aren’t new fantasy themes, but they do work well here.

Beyond Wyatt and Emyr, the character development in this story doesn’t feel completely consistent. Emyr is a complicated love interest for Wyatt. It is difficult to trust the beautiful prince – but it is also impossible not to love the tormented and reluctant heir to the throne. The rest of the characters feel somewhat loosely sketched. It’s a huge cast of witches, nobles, guards, and others. Without spoilers, I loved the world building and enjoyed the action. But I wasn’t invested enough in any of the other characters to feel any emotional impact from the action scenes and revelations at the end. The author leaves room to develop these characters further. The ending offers many exciting possibilities for further stories in this world.

I love that Wyatt’s trans identity is a non-issue. He’s a protagonist with a difficult past that has little to do with his gender. He’s a complicated survivor with a unique skill set and the potential to be a hero. This isn’t a book about being trans. It’s a book about a fabulous fantasy hero who happens to be trans. Sadly, that’s still a rare and special treat for modern young adult readers.



Author Bio

H.E. EDGMON was born in the Deep South but has had many homes, dropped out of school to do gay stuff, and is at least a little feral. In both their writing and daily life, they aim to center the voices of Indigenous people, trans people, and survivors of trauma. It is always their goal to make fascists uncomfortable. They have an eccentric little family of their own design, several very sensitive pets, and a lot of opinions. They can most often be found on Twitter.

Connect with H.E.

Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads



Inkyard Press

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Witch King (The Witch King #1) by H.E. Edgmon to read and review.

Friday, April 23, 2021

These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy Spotlight

These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy

Three Dark Crowns meets Wicked Saints in this queer #ownvoices retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale, by debut author Alexandra Overy.

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.


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These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy

Book 1
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Inkyard Press (HQN)




Chapter One

The prey wasn’t meant to be a child.

When Asya had smelled the sharp tang of magic—strong even before she emerged from the tree line—that possibility hadn’t so much as fluttered across her mind. It was never meant to be a child.

But the scent of magic was undeniable. That indistinguishable combination of damp overturned earth and the metallic copper of blood, cut through with the acrid burn of power. It was overlaid with the cloying sweetness of waterose, as if someone had tried to mask it.

A futile attempt.

And Asya was sure this time. The person they were looking for had to be here.

The comfort of the forest stood at her back, the dark canopy of trees stretching behind her in every direction. The fading sunlight could not break through the writhing tangle of branches, so in the shadow of the trunks, it was dark as twilight.

Most people feared the forest. Stories of monsters that lurked in its depths, witches who lured unsuspecting children in and tore out their hearts. But to Asya it had always felt safe, the gnarled trunks and rustling leaves were like old friends.

“This is it,” Asya said, inclining her head toward the clearing in front of them.

A slight smile tugged at her lips. Two years ago, when her great-aunt had first deemed her ready to try tracking herself—to follow the magic with only her mortal senses once they were close enough to the source—she’d found it impossible. More often than not, she just led them in circles until Tarya gave up on her. But today, Asya had managed it.

She might not be as unwavering as her aunt, as strong or as dutiful, but at least Asya had succeeded in this.

She glanced over at Tarya, waiting for her reaction. But her aunt stood stiller than the trees, an immovable presence in their midst. The shadowed light filtering through the leaves cast her face in stark relief, carving deep hollows into her snow-white cheeks and emphasizing the wrinkles at her brow. She could have been a painting—one of the old oil portraits of the gods, soft brushstrokes of light adding an ethereal glow to her stern face.

It made her look otherworldly. Inhuman.

Which she was. One of the creatures that prowled these trees.

While Asya, or any other mortal, could smell the residual magic, her aunt could feel it. No amount of waterose or burned sage—or any of the other tricks people tried—could hide magic from Tarya.

Her dark eyes flickered to Asya. “Correct,” her aunt murmured, a hint of satisfaction in her soft voice.

In front of them, the comforting trees gave way to an open paddock. It had been allowed to run wild, chamomile glinting yellow in the long grass, like sun spots on water. Purple-capped mushrooms pushed their way through the weeds, intertwining with the soft lilac of scattered crocuses.

The tinge of pride in Asya’s chest melted away, replaced by a thrumming anticipation. The paddock could have been beautiful, she supposed. But the cold apprehension burning in her stomach overshadowed it, darkening the flowers to poisonous thorns and muting the colors like fog. It was always like this. Ever since the first time Tarya had taken her on a hunt. Once she was left without a task to complete—a distraction—Asya couldn’t pretend to forget what came next. She’d hoped it would get better, but she still couldn’t shake the lingering fear.

She shifted her feet, trying to ignore the erratic rhythm of her heart. She hated waiting. Each frantic beat stretching out into an eternity.

She just wanted this to be over.

After all, her sister had always been the brave one.

But that was why Asya was here. Why she had to follow this path, no matter how she wavered. She owed it to her sister. They were the two sides of a coin, and if Asya failed, then her sister would too.

Tarya’s words—the words Asya had to live by—pounded through her. This is our duty. Not a question of right or wrong, but balance.

Her aunt stepped forward. She moved silently, slipping like a shadow untethered from its owner, from the gnarled trees and out into the overgrown paddock beyond. She didn’t speak—she rarely did when she felt a Calling—but Asya knew she was meant to follow.

Asya took a shaky breath, touching one finger to the wooden icon around her neck. An unspoken prayer. She could do this.

Far less quietly, she followed Tarya into the uneven grass, wincing at the snapping twigs beneath her boots.

The paddock led to a small cottage, surrounded by more soft crocuses. Their purple seeped out from the house like a bruise. The building’s thatched roof had clearly been recently repaired, and the gray stone was all but consumed by creeping moss. The stench of magic grew with each step Asya took. Wateroses lay scattered on the ground, interspersed with dried rosemary sprigs. The too-sweet scent, cut through with the burn of magic, made her stomach turn.

Tarya stopped by the wooden door. Marks of various saints had been daubed across it in stark black paint, uneven and still wet. Acts of desperation. They felt out of place in the idyllic scene. The sight sent a prickle of unease through Asya’s gut.

“Your weapon,” Tarya prompted, her voice as low as the rustle of grass behind them.

Asya’s fingers jumped to the curved bronze shashka at her waist. A careless mistake. She should have drawn the short blade long before. She couldn’t let the apprehension clawing at the edge of her mind overwhelm her. Not this time.

She had to be sure. Uncompromising. She had to be like Tarya.

Asya unsheathed the weapon, the bronze glinting in the fading light, and forced her hand to steady.

Her aunt gave her a long look, one that said she knew just how Asya’s heart roiled beneath the surface. But Tarya just nodded, turning back to the freshly marked door. Sparks already danced behind her eyes—deep red and burnished-gold flames swallowing her dark irises. It transformed her from ethereal into something powerful.


Asya swallowed, pushing that thought away. Her aunt wasn’t a monster.

Tarya reached out and pressed her palm to the wood. Heat rolled from her in a great wave, making Asya’s eyes water. A low splintering noise fractured the air, followed by the snap of the metal bolt. The door swung open. All that was left of the painted sigils was a scorched handprint. Asya’s mouth went dry. She couldn’t help but feel that breaking the saints’ signs was violating some ancient covenant.

But Tarya just stepped inside. Asya tightened her grip on the blade, trying to shake off the sense of foreboding nipping at her heels, and followed.

The cottage was comprised of a single small room. Heavy fabric hung over the windows, leaving them half in shadow. As Asya’s vision adjusted, she took in the shapes of furniture—all overturned or smashed against the cracked walls. Clothes were strewn across the floor in a whirl, along with a few shattered plates and even a broken viila, its strings snapped and useless. A statue of Saint Meshnik lay on its side, their head several paces from their armored body. The room looked like it had been ransacked, perhaps set upon by thieves.

Or like someone wanted it to seem that way.

Tarya turned slowly, her sparking eyes taking in the room. Then her gaze fixed on a spot to her left, and flames reared across her irises again. Asya couldn’t see anything. But she knew her aunt was not really looking at the wall, she was feeling—reaching for those intangible threads that bound the world and using them to narrow in on her prey.

Asya waited, her breath caught in her chest.

Tarya moved in a flash, as though Vetviya herself had looked down and granted her secret passage through the In-Between. One moment beside Asya, the next in front of the wall. Flames, as golden and bright as sunlight, sputtered from her wrists, licking along her forearms. She put her hands on the wall, and the flames eagerly reached out to devour.

They burned away what must have been a false panel, revealing a tight crevice behind. Three faces stared out, eyes wide and afraid. Two children, a boy and a girl, clutching onto a man with ash-white hair, now covered in a faint sheen of soot.

“Oryaze,” he breathed, terror rising on his face like waves over a hapless ship. Firebird.

Bile burned in Asya’s throat. She took a halting step back, staring at the huddled family. It’s the man, she told herself. It had to be. The thought murmured through her, a desperate prayer to any god or saint who might be listening.

The man leaped forward, spreading his arms as though hiding the children from view might protect them. As though anything he did would make a difference. “I won’t let you touch her!” he cried, grabbing one of the broken chair legs and brandishing it like a sword.

Asya clenched her teeth, a sharp jab of pity shooting through her. It would be no use. Nothing would.

The flames coiled lazily around Tarya’s wrists as she watched the man with a detached curiosity. “The price must be paid.”

He let out a low sob, the chair leg clattering uselessly to the ground as he clasped his hands together as if in prayer. “Please, take it from me. She didn’t know what she was doing.”

The room was too hot, the flames scorching the very air in Asya’s lungs. This is what has to be done, she intoned. This is our duty. The same words her aunt had hammered into her. Asya’s knuckles shone white on the hilt of her shashka, the cool metal tethering her to the ground, to this moment, and not the rising guilt in the back of her mind. A panic that threatened to crush her.

“I cannot,” Tarya said, her voice hollow. “The price must be taken from the one who cast the spell.” With a casual flick of her wrist, a burst of fire sprang at the man. He dived aside, toppling into an overturned table.

The little boy was crying now, soft whimpers barely louder than the spitting flames. But the girl did not cry, even as Tarya wrapped an elegant hand around her arm and dragged her forward.

Asya saw the stratsviye clearly against the milk-white skin of the girl’s wrist. A mass of black lines that coalesced to form a burning feather, seared into her flesh like a brand. The mark of the Firebird. The mark that meant a debt had to be paid.

“Please,” the man said again, pulling himself from the collapsed table. “Please, she didn’t mean to—”

“Asya,” her aunt said, without looking up from the mark.

Asya knew what she was meant to do, but her legs took a moment to obey. Muscles protesting though her mind could not. But she moved forward anyway, placing herself between the man and the little girl, shashka raised in warning.

No one could interfere with the price.

The man scrambled for the chair leg again, leveling it at Asya with trembling hands. “She only did it to save her brother,” he pleaded, emotion cracking through his voice like summer ice. “He was sick. She didn’t know the consequences.”

Asya’s gaze slid to the little girl. To the determined set of her jaw, her defiantly dry eyes. That look wrenched something in Asya’s chest. The resolve she’d so carefully built crumbled around her. She knew what it was like to have a sibling you would do anything—risk anything—for.

But Tarya was unmoved. “Now she will know—magic always comes with a price.”

He lunged. He was clumsy, fueled by fear and desperation. Asya should have been able to stop him easily, but she hesitated. A single thought caught in her mind: Is it so wrong of him to want to protect his daughter?

That one, faltering breath cost her. The man swung the chair leg at her, catching the side of her head. Bright lights danced in front of her eyes. She stumbled into the wall as the man let out a fractured cry and threw himself toward Tarya.

Tarya did not hesitate.

Another tongue of flame reared from her, forcing the man back. This one was more than a warning. The acrid smell of burnt flesh sliced through the scent of magic. A low, broken sob trembled in the air as the man clutched his now-scorched left side.

Tarya’s head snapped to Asya, flames flashing bloodred.

Ignoring the throbbing pain in her head, Asya darted forward. She grabbed the man’s arm and twisted, sending the chair leg tumbling to the ground again. It was painfully easy. The injury made his attempt to swing back at her fly wide, and her hands fastened on him again. She spun him, one arm wrapping around him, the other holding the shashka to his throat. Her chest heaved, and her head reeled. But she didn’t move.

He let out a low whimper, still trying to struggle free. Asya pressed the blade deeper, almost wincing as a trickle of blood ran down his throat. “Don’t,” she said, half command, half plea. “You’ll just make it worse.”

Tarya had already turned back to her prey. Her gleaming eyes, still threaded with flame, stared down at the girl. There was no malice on her face, just a cold emptiness. Asya wasn’t sure if that made it better or worse.

“You must understand, child,” Tarya said. “The price has to be paid.”

And in a breath, she transformed.

Flames devoured her eyes, spreading from the pupils until they were no more than luminous orbs. Twin suns, captured in a face. But the fire did not end there. It rose up out of her like a living thing. Glinting golds and burnt oranges twisted with deepest crimson to form hooked wings, spread behind her like a blazing cape. Another head loomed above her own, a vicious, living mask. It formed a sharp beak, feathered flames rising from it to forge the great bird’s plumage. They arched up into an expression of cruel indifference, mirroring the human features below. The very walls of the cottage trembled.

The Firebird.

Asya felt her hand go slack. A deep, instinctual fear sank into her bones. She had seen her aunt transform before, more times than she could count. But that primal fear never went away. The mortal instinct that she should run from this creature.

She was eleven when she’d first seen her aunt exact a price. Asya had been naive and desperate to shirk her new responsibility, to run back to her sister. Tarya had brought her on a hunt to see—to truly understand—the weight of this responsibility.

It had terrified Asya then. It still terrified her now, six years later.

Everything about the flaming creature exuded power. Not the simple spells mortals toyed with, but the kind of power drawn from the depths of the earth, ancient and deadly.

The girl could not hide her fear now. It shone in her dark eyes like a beacon as she tried to back away, but Tarya’s curled fingers held her tight. The boy was screaming. The sound rose in Asya’s ears to a high keening, writhing through her insides.

The creature—Tarya—looked down at the girl, head cocked to one side. Considering.

Asya wanted to close her eyes. To pretend she was somewhere far away, safe beneath a canopy of trees. But she couldn’t.

She had to do this. This was the duty the gods had chosen her for. The burden she had accepted.

And looking away would feel like abandoning the little girl.

Asya tried to take a breath to steady her whirling thoughts, but the very air was bitter and scorched. Please be something small, she thought. Not her heart.

She couldn’t stand back and watch that. Or, perhaps, she didn’t want to believe that she would just stand aside as this monster tore the girl’s heart from her body.

Because Asya knew she would. Knew she had to. That was her price.

The flames spread down Tarya’s left arm, coiling like a great serpent as they bridged across her fingers to the girl. A cry tore through the air, raw and achingly human. The greedy, blazing tendrils wrapped around the girl’s arm, as unmoved by the screams as their master. They consumed the flesh as if it were nothing more than parchment.

In only a few frantic beats of Asya’s heart, the girl’s left arm was gone. Not just burned, but gone. No trace of it remained. No charred bone, not even a scattering of ashes.

The price had been paid.

The flames receded, the creature folding back in on itself until it was no more than a spark in Tarya’s eyes. All that was left was a heavy smoke in the air, thick and choking.

Asya let her hand holding the shashka fall. The man threw himself forward—though Asya had a feeling he would have moved even if her blade had still been at his throat—and clutched the little girl, who was still half-frozen in shock. The boy flung himself at his sister too, his screams reduced to gasping cries.

Asya’s stomach curled as she stared down at the huddled family, enclosed in a grief she had helped cause.

She backed away. It was suddenly all too much. The suffocating smoke. The man’s ragged sobs. The blistered stump that had been the girl’s arm. Her aunt’s impassive face, as empty as the carved saint’s head on the ground.

Asya whirled around, pushing back through the broken door. She doubled over as she stumbled across the threshold, leaning a hand against the moss-eaten stone to keep upright. Bile rose in her throat.

It had never been a child before. Despite all the hunts Tarya had taken her on, all the training lessons, Asya hadn’t thought of that possibility—that it could be a little girl desperate to save her brother.

Something wet trickled from the wound on Asya’s head, but she barely felt it. Her insides had been hollowed out.

All she could see were the little girl’s eyes. The ghastly reflection of the Firebird in them, looming and monstrous. A creature of legend.

A creature that, one day, Asya would become.

Excerpted from These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy © 2021, used with permission from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.



Author Bio

ALEXANDRA OVERY was born in London, England. Ever since she was little she has loved being able to escape into another world through books. She currently lives in Los Angeles, and is completing her MFA in Screenwriting at UCLA. When she's not working on a new manuscript or procrastinating on doing homework, she can be found obsessing over Netflix shows, or eating all the ice cream she can.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson

What do you get when you cross a painfully awkward son, lofty comedic ambition, and a dead best friend? Norman.

A triumphant and touching debut about the unlikeliest superstar you’ll ever meet.

Twelve-year-old Norman Foreman and his best friend, Jax, are a legendary comedic duo in waiting, with a plan to take their act all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe. But when Jax dies, Norman decides the only fitting tribute is to perform at the festival himself. The problem is, Norman’s not the funny one. Jax was.

There’s also another, far more colossal objective on Norman’s new plan that his single mom, Sadie, wasn’t ready for: he wants to find the father he’s never known. Determined to put a smile back on her boy’s face, Sadie resolves to face up to her own messy past, get Norman to the Fringe and help track down a man whose identity is a mystery, even to her.

Julietta Henderson’s delightfully funny and tender debut takes us on a road trip with a mother and son who will live in the reader’s heart for a long time to come, and teaches us that—no matter the odds—we must always reach for the stars.


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The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson

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Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4.5 stars of poignant writing

This is a book which I started at 6am in the morning and didn't stop until I had finished it – it was a good thing I was on leave! I really did just read it from cover to cover – even taking it with me whilst I grabbed some breakfast, and waiting till I had done to get dressed. I say this just to warn you that you will just get so involved that you may forget other responsibilities.

When thinking about how to review this book, I realise just how rich the story is, and how much I know about the people that we meet along the journey to Edinburgh. There are wonderful vignettes of incidents which lend themselves perfectly to explaining what can happen when on a trip. But whilst the journey and arrival is important, it is in the very first few pages that the scene is set to give us cause to be concerned about how anyone on the front cover could suggest that this will be a funny book – and yet it really is, in a rather English understated, raconteur, or even observational comic way!

My absolutely favourite bit was when Norman's mum, Sadie, flicks through Jax's texts to her, him being the cheeky kid that he was, and yet the one who knew that reassuring her that Normie was safe was the right thing to do. But there are many fabulous parts to this clever, funny, and immensely readable book – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.



Author Bio

Julietta Henderson is a full-time writer and comedy fan who splits her time between her home country of Australia and the UK. The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman is Julietta’s first novel.

Connect with Julietta

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson to read and review.