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Book Review: Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews

Title: Emerald Blaze

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Hidden Legacy #5

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: As Prime magic users, Catalina Baylor and her sisters have extraordinary powers—powers their ruthless grandmother would love to control. Catalina can earn her family some protection working as deputy to the Warden of Texas, overseeing breaches of magic law in the state, but that has risks as well. When House Baylor is under attack and monsters haunt her every step, Catalina is forced to rely on handsome, dangerous Alessandro Sagredo, the Prime who crushed her heart. The nightmare that Alessandro has fought since childhood has come roaring back to life, but now Catalina is under threat. Not even his lifelong quest for revenge will stop him from keeping her safe, even if every battle could be his last. Because Catalina won’t rest until she stops the use of the illicit, power-granting serum that’s tearing their world apart. -Goodreads

The Review:

I loved this book! Complex plot, amazing characters, tons of action… one of the best they’ve done so far. And that’s sayin’ something!

If you’ve been following my reviews for any length of time, you’ll no doubt have noticed I’m a Ilona Andrews fangirl. Snatching the top spot as my favorite urban fantasy writers, these two continue to dazzle me at every turn. And they’re only getting stronger.

The concept for the magic system in this world is rad. It has origins in basic superhero development, where there are those among us who are just born with special abilities, but its presentation is highly original. And a lot of that can be attributed to the structure of the society and the many house politics included in the world building. I love that after five books in the series there are still things I’m learning about the different magical abilities. The concept is so expansive that they can afford to spread it out over multiple books, creating a lot of interesting moments within each one.

My favorite thing about Emerald Blaze specifically was all the moving parts. Far from a lazy plot, there’s a murder mystery to solve and magical shenanigans afoot. Between all of that, Catalina also had to deal with a certain handsome Italian who keeps insisting on complicating her life. The book really immersed in house politics. It also provided a strong sense of which conflicts are going to make up the finale of the series, and I can’t wait. 

There were so many specific scenes within this book that struck me to my core, I briefly considered doing a spoiler review just so I could geek out about all of them. Suffice to say, there were plenty of moments that will surely make all my fellow IA fans swoon as much as I did for this fantastic story.

Speaking of swooning – the marketing and covers would have you believe that the romance is the main draw to this series, but that is so not the case. I really enjoy the romantic component – the authors are amazing at providing slow-burn love story that grows organically through the series (truly, the only type I like reading about). But as good as they are at that, all of the other elements are so strong (especially in Emerald Blaze) that romance is almost secondary. It would be a totally kickass series without the romance, but its inclusion definitely gives the books better character motivations and a more rounded feel (i.e. it’s the total package).

I love Catalina. She’s vulnerable and compassionate and sincere, but she also has this fierce, almost frightening desire to keep those she loves safe. Much more so than her sister Nevada, this girl is willing to do whatever it takes and she has the cold, calculated ability to see it through. She’s patient and shrewd, yet the reader still gets to see how charmingly human she is by contrast. Uncertain of herself most of the time, she’s somehow able to put all of that aside to get the job done. Most of the heroines I read about (especially in this genre) also have many of these attributes. The difference with Catalina is that the authors makes you feel alongside her and really come to a visceral understanding of what she’s going through. I’m always one or two levels more deeply connected to Catalina, and that’s something I don’t experience often.

Recommendations: highly recommended! Don’t let the covers fool you – Hidden Legacy is one of the most robust, entertaining urban fantasy series I’ve ever read. Kate Daniels starts out a little slow then gains momentum. Hidden Legacy sweeps you up for a wild ride right from the start and only gets better from there. There’s a reason these authors are at the top of my UF list. I can’t recommend them enough!

I want to thank Harpercollins Publishers, Ilona Andrews, and Netgalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of Emerald Blaze – you made my year! :D

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Novella Review: Sweep with Me by Ilona Andrews

Title: Sweep with Me

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #4.5

Genre: Fantasy. Er, kind of. Scifi?

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: [Goodreads just has a stock-overview for the whole series. This one is about facilitating a meeting at the Inn between a cool magical being and a corrupt business man… among other things] Thank you for joining us at Gertrude Hunt, the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, during the Treaty Stay. As you know, we are honor-bound to accept all guests during this oldest of innkeeper holidays and we are expecting a dangerous guest. Or several. But have no fear. Your safety and comfort is our first priority. The inn and your hosts, Dina Demille and Sean Evans, will defend you at all costs. [But we hope we don’t have to.] Every winter, Innkeepers look forward to celebrating their own special holiday, which commemorates the ancient treaty that united the very first Inns and established the rules that protect them, their intergalactic guests, and the very unaware/oblivious people of [planet] Earth. By tradition, the Innkeepers welcomed three guests: a warrior, a sage, and a pilgrim, but during the holiday, Innkeepers must open their doors to anyone who seeks lodging. Anyone. All Dina hopes is that the guests and conduct themselves in a polite manner. But what’s a holiday without at least one disaster? -Goodreads

The Review:

Now we’re back on track! I really missed Dina and the Inn in the last installment (which was a great read, but it was more a spin-off than a true continuation) so I’m glad to see her back with flair. I really loved the conflict in Sweep with Me and the interesting characters who visited the Inn (the inclusion of so many non-human entities is what makes this series so fun). It hits the spot perfectly for that light-hearted palate cleanser between heavier reads, and sadly finishing this one puts me completely up to date with IA reads (::shrieks:: what am I going to do?!!?). This series has been excellent to recommend to people looking for something light, and it stretches nicely to fill a lot of spec-fic genres (it reads like an urban fantasy, the magic feels very fantasy, yet the concept and world-building is all modern scifi… I love it when books break molds). I can’t wait for the next one. :) Emerald Blaze (the newest Hidden Legacy book coming out August 2020) will have to hold me over!

P.S. I love the cook. He reminds me of Huido in Julie Czerneda’s Trade Pact Universe / Clan Chronicles.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews

Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews

Title: Sweep of the Blade

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #4

Genre: Fantasy… kinda

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Maud Demille was a daughter of Innkeepers. She knew that a simple life wasn’t in the cards, but she never anticipated what Fate would throw at her. Once a wife to a powerful vampire knight, Maud and her daughter, Helen, had been exiled for the sins of her husband to the desolate planet of Karhari. Karhari killed her husband, and Maud had spent a year and a half avenging his debts. But now all the debts are paid. Rescued by her sister Dina, Maud had swore off all things vampire. Except she met Arland, the Marshal of House Krahr. One thing led to another and he asked for her hand in marriage. She declined. Try as she might, she can’t just walk away from Arland. It doesn’t help that being human is a lot harder for Maud than being a vampire. To sort it all out, she accepts his invitation to visit his home planet. House Krahr is a powerful vampire House, and Maud knows that a woman who turned down the proposal from its most beloved son wouldn’t get a warm reception. But Maud Demille never shied from a fight and House Krahr may soon discover that there is more to this human woman than they ever thought possible. -Goodreads

The Review:

I hate to say it, but this is my least favorite Ilona Andrews book so far… although even a bad IA book is still worthy of 3 stars.

It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. The whole framework of the Innkeeper novels is built around Dina, her Inn, and the overall goal of finding her parents. This was a HUGE tangent from that, focusing on the sister (Maud) in a continuation of things that happened in the third Innkeeper book. It doesn’t take place on Earth and it’s plot is 100% removed from any momentum the series has built so far. I wouldn’t consider it a waste of pages, because it’s still and Ilona Andrews work and everything they do is enjoyable to read, but as far as series satisfaction is concerned, I’m annoyed. This should’ve been a spin-off (or a novella) instead of a continuation. Maybe if there had been even a thread of the original plotline present, I would’ve been satisfied, but no such luck.

All that said, it wasn’t a BAD book. It included fun characters, an exploration of a vampire home world (filled with vampire politics, scheming, and warfare), and most notably, continued a romance between two characters. I liked reading about all of theses things… it’s just not what I signed up for. Compound that with the fact the first 20% was a complete recapping of things I already knew from the book before it (just in more detail), and I’m still annoyed. It soothes the blow a little bit to consider that the chapters are first published as a free online serial, then compiled later into book format, so my rant may not be that justified… but still. 

Recommendations: I’m not saying skip it, but I’m saying I knew exactly what I wanted from a book 4 in a series, and this was not it. Even so, these authors dazzle me so often, even a book I didn’t care for from them gets 3 stars, so that’s still an endorsement for the quality of all things IA. I’m sure this will play into future novels, but suffice to say it wasn’t my favorite.

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by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Title: One Fell Sweep

Author: Ilona Andrews

Series: Innkeeper #3

Genre: Fantasy. Kinda

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Dina DeMille may run the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, but she caters to a very particular kind of guest… the kind that no one on Earth is supposed to know about. Guests like a former intergalactic tyrant with an impressive bounty on her head, the Lord Marshal of a powerful vampire clan, and a displaced-and-superhot werewolf; so don’t stand too close, or you may be collateral damage.

But what passes for Dina’s normal life is about to be thrown into chaos. First, she must rescue her long-distant older sister, Maud, who’s been exiled with her family to a planet that functions as the most lawless penal colony since Botany Bay. Then she agrees to help a guest whose last chance at saving his civilization could bring death and disaster to all Dina holds dear. Now Gertrude Hunt is under siege by a clan of assassins. To keep her guests safe and to find her missing parents, Dina will risk everything, even if she has to pay the ultimate price. Though Sean may have something to say about that!!Goodreads

The Review:

This was easily the best Innkeeper novel yet. The plot had a lot more depth. It’s clear where the series is headed now, and I find myself eager for the next book. I don’t know how they manage to hodgepodge so many genres without the story feeling clunky and piecemeal, but they do. It’s kind of brilliant – a fun blend of scifi (aliens), urban fantasy (supernatural characters), and fantasy (magic system). It also incorporates those very specific character dynamics the IA team is well known for. The actual conflict resolution for this one was a bit too tidy, but everything leading up to it was wildly entertaining. I loved the aliens (and the twist involving the aliens at the end), but I’ve always been a sucker for good creature creation, so that’s not surprising (I’d like to point out some similarities to another excellent scifi author – Julie Czerneda). Overall, everything these authors produce is quality, Innkeeper Chronicles being no exception! 

IA fans: for me this one ranks just above the Edge series and a notch or two below Hidden Legacy (however, if you plan on reading Edge, do those first to avoid some minor spoilers… wink wink). These books are functioning as perfect palate-cleansers between heavier series, and I’ve no idea what I’m going to do with myself when I run out of IA titles. I’ve been spoiled so far!

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by Niki Hawkes

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The Obsessive Bookseller’s Mini Book Review Blitz! [5]

Mini Book Review Blitz!


Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan

Book Info: Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan (Gods of Blood and Powder #2) [4.5/5 stars]

I’m not going to gush again. Okay, I’m not going to gush more than a paragraph. Wrath of Empire continued to solidify this saga as one of my new all-time favorites. I elaborate quite a bit in my reviews of Promise of Blood (where it all starts) and Sins of Empire (where it all continues), so suffice to say here that the level of quality in these books never diminishes. It has phenomenal characters, excellent relationship dynamics (non-romantic, just great human connections), on-point pacing, rounded world-building, and brilliant dry humor. It’s my favorite series to recommend at the moment, and I can only hope the final book in this second trilogy knocks my socks off too. :)


Bitter Blood by Rachel Caine

Book Info: Bitter Blood by Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires #13) [3/5 stars]

Word vomit review headed your way:

I swear this series could be tightened up considerably if the characters didn’t spend so much time rehashing things. I’d also prefer more focus on advancing external plot points. However, that’s not really the point of the story. The point is to spend time with the characters and really immerse in their thoughts and feelings. The bad guys are secondary. I like these characters well enough. I’ve read enough of Rachel Caine to note that we’d be compatible friends because we definitely don’t have the same taste in boys. I’ve been working my way through this series gradually for about ten years, and it’s interesting to me how much more often I notice relationship dynamics between the main characters that are really unhealthy. It certainly adds to the drama and perpetuates the series. But at the same time I now find it harder to read. A lot of the arguments seem senseless. But that kind of makes them the most realistic, which is oddly compelling. It’s probably why I keep coming back to the series – to see where everyone ends up in the end. I am getting tired of the “scary” vampires doing “scary” things but never actually hurting anybody thing that’s going on. It lowers any stakes (pun) I might feel because everything is so vanilla. However, that also means the violence is age-appropriate and I should probably stick to adult urban fantasy after this (I won’t) if I want something substantial. Overall, it’s a staple YA vampire series that I’ve mostly enjoyed. I’d have a hard time feeling good about recommending it to teens because of the toxic relationships and sexual content (nothing explicit, just promotion of underaged sex. The main character is quite young with a much older boyfriend), but I’d also feel off recommending it to adults because it doesn’t give a lot to sink your teeth into (another pun) other than teenage angst (which apparently is entertaining enough to keep me reading). The overall story arcs are a lot of fun, it just draws them out a bit too long. On the flipside, the novels are short, so if you can breeze through them your experience might be a lot better than mine. Haha how about that for a review? Happy reading, peeps!


Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

Book Info: Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews (Innkeeper Chronicles #2) [3.5/5 stars]

I liked the first book (everything by these authors is enjoyable), but the Sweep in Peace was better on all accounts. It took advantage of the excellent premise by actually highlighting different alien species (which is never a given in sci-fi… I’m so glad it wasn’t an opportunity wasted here ). It gave more depth to the relationships. And it even brought in a few familiar faces from other IA series, which was a total delight. This is another series that functions as a perfect palate-cleansers between heavier spec-fic reads. I devoured it in a single day, and it was a complete abundance of fun. This is a very genre-hybrid series. It reads like an urban fantasy in both writing style and supernatural content, has magical components usually reserved for high fantasy, but leans sci-fi because of how this universe functions and the inclusion of multiple extraterrestrials. I love it when books break the rules. This is a fun breath of fresh air, but it’s nowhere near my favorite work from IA. If you’re new to these authors, I’d say start with either Kate Daniels (the first book is so “meh” but the series rapidly improves from there and becomes amazing) or Hidden Legacy (please ignore the cheesy covers, lol) to see what these authors can really do.


by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Title: Clean Sweep

Authors: Ilona Andrews

Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy (kinda)

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast. But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night….Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything. -Goodreads

The Review:

Ilona Andrews are my feel-good authors.

It’s pretty much a guarantee at this point that I’m going to enjoy everything they produce. And they’re only getting better with time. Innkeeper happens to be my last unexplored series from them, and I plan to savor it.

Clean Sweep was delightful. One of the funniest I’ve read from them, it’s biggest selling point was how much fun they clearly had with it. The world building is wildly random compared to other books in the genre (low fantasy setting and feel, urban fantasy beings, and a slight science fiction influence) but somehow it worked. There’s a lot of unexplored territory that bodes well for an interesting expansion in future books… I can’t wait. :)

The characters were also 100% Ilona Andrews trademarks, meaning they were strong-willed, capable, cheeky, and a complete pleasure to read. Dina might be one of my favorites because she’s a little more understated and I like the depth of the backstory driving her actions. The male lead fits the carbon copy, but he’s just different enough that I didn’t mind it.

For such a quick read, the book did have a few small pacing issues. Everything was engaging and interesting, but I think there were too many info-drop scenes. It is a slightly more complicated world and setting than usual, but hopefully it will go more smoothly in the next novel. My rating also reflects comparisons to other books they’ve written, some of which have completely knocked my socks off! Clean Sweep was just a solid, entertaining story by comparison.

Recommendations: these authors (it’s a duo writing under one name) are among my favorites for a reason – they always produce fun, creative, and exciting stories. Clean sweep was an excellent start to this ongoing series, and I’d recommend it as a good starter if you haven’t tried an IA yet. I’m going to start calling Ilona Andrews my “instant mood-boosters.” :)

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by Niki Hawkes