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TBR Spotlight: The Trouble With Kings by Sherwood Smith

Back to the regularly scheduled TBR Spotlight this week, and I’ve rolled book #49, The Trouble With Kings by Sherwood Smith.

Princess Flian finds herself the unwilling object of desire of three royals. Is the one she wants a villain–or a hero?

Waking up in a strange place, Flian Elandersi at first doesn’t know who she is. One wicked prince tells her she is secretly engaged to an even more wicked king who wants to marry her right away. But before that happens, yet another wicked prince crashes through a window on horseback to sweep her off her feet.

Memory returns, and Flian realizes that all any of them seem to want is her considerable wealth, not her pleasant-but-ordinary self. She longs to escape the barracks-like, military atmosphere and return to civilization and her musical studies.

Flian endures another abduction, this time in the middle of a poetry reading. Who is the villain? Prince Garian Herlester–languid, elegant, sarcastic? Prince Jaim–he of the dashing horsemanship? Or King Jason Szinzar, whose ambiguous warning might be a threat?

Flian decides it’s time to throw off civilization and take action. The problem with action is that duels of wit turn into duels of steel–and love can’t be grabbed and galloped away.

Sherwood Smith is one of my favourite fantasy authors, but I think she’s very underrated as I rarely see anyone else talking about her. She writes exactly the kind of romantic, adventurous, slightly humorous court fantasy I adore, full of practical princesses, dashing-but-bookish heroes, and a smidgen of magic to liven it all up. They’re just the perfect antidote to the grimdark kick the fantasy genre’s been on recently, and though they aren’t necessarily low stakes or fluffy, they’re always kind of comforting to me. I think they hit the Tamora Pierce button in my brain very nicely. This particular book, The Trouble with Kings, has been sitting on my Kindle for absolutely ages – in fact, it’s the oldest Kindle book on my TBR. Flian sounds like a really enjoyable heroine and I love the sound of the plot. I think I’m going to make the effort to get to this very soon as it’s just what I’m in the mood for.

Have you read this one, or any other Sherwood Smith? I’d love to find some more fans!

Author's Note

#SweepUpYourSmols TBR!

Two TBRs in a week?! I know, it’s unheard of! But this weekend is the third round of #SweepUpYourSmols, my mini-readathon where the goal is to read as many books under 300 pages as you can. So, do you want to see the books I’m choosing from? There’s no way I’ll get to all of these, but I’ve got a nice selection!

I actually found myself really having to search for small books to include! I think I’ve been picking them off and leaving the longer chonks to wait, which is not ideal… Still, there’s an eclectic mix of things so I feel like I’ll be fine for some mood reading.

The Game by Diana Wynne Jones

I’m working my way through the few books on Diana Wynne Jones’s backlist that I didn’t read as a child, and this sounds like an interesting one – I’m in the perfect mood for one of her magical, fun stories.

Beauty and the Beast stories edited by Maria Tatar

This is a collection of different animal spouse fairytales from around the world – Maria Tatar’s name on it makes me sure it’s going to be interesting, and I always love adding new variations of fairytales to my repertoire!

Wood Angel by Erin Bow

I’ve seen lots of warnings that this is a pretty grim book for middle grade, violent and quite sad, but I was still tempted into it by its talking cat and witchy vibes, so I’ll give it a go, and if I’m not feeling the darker side of it, I’ll DNF.

Grayling’s Song by Karen Cushman

More witchy middle grade! This sounds like the kind of charming adventure I really love, with a girl out to stop a curse and rescue her mother. I think this would make a good bath read.

A True Princess by Diane Zahler

Diane Zahler’s fairy tale retellings are always great – a little dark, but really beautiful takes on their original stories. I’ve actually just finished writing my own take on The Princess and the Pea, so this might be a good time to read A True Princess!

Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B Larson

These next three were in my TBR during the last round of Sweep Up Your Smols – maybe this is the right time to get to this YA retelling of Swan Lake?

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

I don’t know too much about this one other than that it has a fantastic cover and queer female pirates, which honestly was enough to sell me on it!

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

This actually popped up in my TBR Spotlight a few weeks ago, so head there for more of my thoughts on it!

Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw

This Arthurian retelling has been on my shelf for longer than I can remember. I’m actually a lot pickier now with Arthurian stories than I used to be, so I’m not sure if I’ll get on with this one, but it’s a high priority for me to at least try it and see if it’s a keeper, or if I can have some more space!

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

I love The Princess Bride movie – who doesn’t? And I also love love love behind the scenes books, so I’m really looking forward to this look back at its filming, from the horse’s mouth. I read the introduction when I got this book and decided to save it for a rainy day, as it was just so charming.

Will you be joining in with #SweepUpYourSmols? I’d love to see your short book picks!

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TBR Spotlight: A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T Kingfisher

This week the random number generator has reminded me of a book I really need to get around to: #266, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking.

Fourteen-year-old Mona isn’t like the wizards charged with defending the city. She can’t control lightning or speak to water. Her familiar is a sourdough starter and her magic only works on bread. She has a comfortable life in her aunt’s bakery making gingerbread men dance.

But Mona’s life is turned upside down when she finds a dead body on the bakery floor. An assassin is stalking the streets of Mona’s city, preying on magic folk, and it appears that Mona is his next target. And in an embattled city suddenly bereft of wizards, the assassin may be the least of Mona’s worries…

I’m a huge fan of T Kingfisher’s fairy tale and fantasy work. The way she plays with the well-worn tropes, mixes humour and darkness, and creates genre-savvy, practical characters, just really appeals to me. I preordered the ebook of this, but I’m now at the point where “saving for a rainy day” has pretty much turned into “don’t know when I’m going to get to”, so I need to move this up the TBR stat. I know it’s going to be great.

Is this on your TBR, or have you read it? I’d love to know what you thought!

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TBR Spotlight: Swashbuckling Cats, edited by Rhonda Parrish

The random number generator today picked a book I think is going to be a lot of fun: #260, Swashbuckling Cats, an anthology edited by Rhonda Parrish!

If you think cats and water don’t mix, think again.

Plunge into worlds of piratical cats: on ships, in space, and beyond the veil.

Fourteen “tails” of adventure-loving cats, puns, and fun, featuring: Beth Cato; Krista D. Ball; Rebecca Brae; Grace Bridges; Lizz Donnelly; Megan Fennell; Chadwick Ginther; Joseph Halden; Blake Liddell; Frances Pauli; JB Riley; Rose Strickman; Leslie Van Zwol; and SG Wong.

Doesn’t this just sound brilliant? I think you know from the title itself if this collection of piratical cat stories is going to be your cup of tea or not, and I can say that it definitely seems like it’s mine! This was a birthday gift this year from the fabulous Moon and I’m saving it for a day when I need something silly, fun, and cheering. Pirate cats – what could be better!

Is this on your TBR, or have you read it? I’d love to know what you think!

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TBR Spotlight: The Broken God by Gareth Hanrahan

Quite a recent pick from the random number generator today: #317, The Broken God by Gareth Hanrahan!

Enter a city of dragons and darkness.

The Godswar has come to Guerdon, dividing the city between three occupying powers. While the fragile Armistice holds back the gods, other forces seek to extend their influence. The criminal dragons of the Ghierdana ally with the surviving thieves – including Spar Idgeson, once heir to the Brotherhood of Thieves, now transformed into the living stone of the New City.

Meanwhile, far across the sea, Spar’s friend Carillon Thay travels towards the legendary land of Khebesh, but she, too, becomes enmeshed in the schemes of the Ghierdana – and in her own past. Can she find what she wants when even the gods seek vengeance against her?

If this book is anything like its predecessors, it’s going to be amazing – and one I will really need to pay attention to. On the plus side, the author has a recap of the first two books on his website, so I won’t need to reread, but even so, there’s just so much going on in this world that I really want to read this when I can give it my whole brain. Books one and two were epic, weird, and enthralling (read my review of The Gutter Prayer here) and I’m excited to return to Guerdon and have my mind messed with again.

Have you read this series? I’d love to know what you thought!

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TBR Spotlight: Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

This week the random number generator gave me a relatively new book in my collection, #309, Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells!

A determined young woman sets out to rescue her kidnapped girlfriend by stealing a dragon from the corrupt emperor in this stunning fantasy debut that’s perfect for fans of Margaret Rogerson, Rae Carson, and Rachel Hartman.

Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?

Look, I’m a woman of simple tastes – I see a bi heroine in a book about dragons, and I’m sold. I bought this for myself back in March as I saw the price had dipped, but I haven’t managed to make time for it yet. It seems like it’s going to be a proper adventure story, and I really like two of the three authors used as comps, so I think this should be a fun read. It’s also pretty short – short enough to fit in a #SweepUpYourSmols challenge – so hopefully I can fit this one in before the end of the year.

Have you read Shatter the Sky, or is it on your TBR?

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TBR Spotlight: All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace

I’m late putting today’s post up, but here’s what the random number generator picked for me this week: book #290 from the TBR, All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace!

Through blood and sacrifice, Amora Montara has conquered a rebellion and taken her rightful place as queen of Visidia. Now, with the islands in turmoil and the people questioning her authority, Amora cannot allow anyone to see her weaknesses.

No one can know about the curse in her bloodline. No one can know that she’s lost her magic. No one can know the truth about the boy who holds the missing half of her soul.

To save herself and Visidia, Amora embarks on a desperate quest for a mythical artifact that could fix everything―but it comes at a terrible cost. As she tries to balance her loyalty to her people, her crew, and the desires of her heart, Amora will soon discover that the power to rule might destroy her.

I really enjoyed the first book in this piratical duology, All the Stars and Teeth (check out my review here), so I’m really looking forward to seeing how the story wraps up! This was a gift from Justine at I Should Read That for my birthday this year – I did also have an E-ARC from NetGalley, but these covers are so beautiful I really wanted to own the books in hard copy. I think I’m going to try to make time for this in August, because although the first book wrapped up in a satisfying place, there’s so much more to see of Amora’s journey and I’m really in the mood for something swashbuckling and exciting like this. It’s going to be a fun time!

Have you read this duology? I’d love to know what you think and if the second book lives up to the first!

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TBR Spotlight: Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

This week the random number generator picked book #89 from the list, Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West!

Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two – now three – after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince’s band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.

I have absolutely zero recollection of this book. It very much sounds like my cup of tea, and the blurbs compare the style to Kristin Cashore, Robin McKinley, Garth Nix and Naomi Novik, all of whom are favourites of mine, so I can definitely see why I bought it, but other than that I have no idea where I heard about it or when I picked it up! I’m intrigued to see how the blend of fairy tales and other sources works, and I’m hopeful that it will manage to swerve the traditional YA tropes as I’m a little bit burned out on some of them – but this sounds like a unique take.

I’ve not seen anyone talking about this book, I don’t think, so I’d love to know if you’ve read it or if it’s on your TBR!

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TBR Spotlight: The Impostor Queen

This week the random number generator gave me a very early entry on my TBR, book #43, The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine.

Sixteen-year-old Elli was only a child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic in service of her people. The only life Elli has known has been in the temple, surrounded by luxury, tutored by magic-wielding priests, preparing for the day when the queen perishes—and the ice and fire find a new home in Elli, who is prophesied to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between her love for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must choose the right side before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

Although I keep my TBR in chronological order, the first 100 or so entries were all done at once, and only in the order that I saw them on the shelf, so I actually have no idea how long this book has been around. It was published in December 2015, but I don’t know if I bought it on release or later – it’s a total mystery! In fact, although I remember the cover, I’d forgotten this was even on the list, so it’s very nice to be reminded that it’s there and waiting, as I can definitely see why I was interested – court intrigue, powerful girls, elemental magic. However, I’ve found myself quite burned out on YA fantasy in the past, so this may have missed its perfect time to be loved by me. I’m going to try to get to it soon and see!

Have you read this one? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone talking about it so I’d love to know if you have!

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TBR Spotlight: Savage Her Reply by Deirdre Sullivan

This time the random number generator picked a lovely round number, book #300, which is Savage Her Reply by Deirdre Sullivan!

A dark, feminist retelling of The Children of Lir told in Sullivan’s hypnotic prose. Aife marries Lir, a king with four children by his previous wife. Jealous of his affection for his children, the witch Aife turns them into swans for 900 years. Retold through the voice of Aife, Savage Her Reply is unsettling and dark, feminist and fierce, yet nuanced in its exploration of the guilt of a complex character. Voiced in Sullivan’s trademark rich, lyrical prose as developed in Tangleweed and Brine – the multiple award-winner which established Sullivan as the queen of witchy YA.

I’ve yet to read Sullivan’s fairy tale short story collection Tangleweed and Brine, though it’s also on my TBR, but I really enjoyed her YA contemporary horror Perfectly Preventable Deaths, which was wonderfully dark and witchy (review here). I was lucky enough to win a copy of Savage Her Reply from a contest the publisher ran on Twitter, and I’m really intrigued by it. I love the tragic story of the Children of Lir, and I’m looking forward to seeing a new take on it. I think this is going to be a dark, wintry book, so I might save it for later in the year, but I think it will definitely be powerful.

Have you read this one, or is it on your TBR? I’d love to know what you think!