Raven by Pauline Creeden – I didn’t realize when I picked up this book that it was Christian fantasy (it’s clear on Amazon, I had just forgotten when it came up in my Kindle); I think it will appeal to non-Christians too. I also didn’t realize it was steampunk when I picked it up, but if steampunk isn’t your thing, don’t be turned off – the steampunk aspects of the story were fairly restrained. I really enjoyed watching Raven Steele develop through the story; she was both a “strong female character” in that she was awesome at kicking tail when necessary, but also strong in other ways. She wasn’t perfect, and she grew through the story, although there is plenty of room for further character growth as the series continues. I’ll definitely be continuing the series as well as reading more of Creeden’s books. Also, is that cover awesome or what?! I love it.
Raven was originally published as a serial. The full novel is on sale right now for $0.99, but I don’t know how long that will last. The first episode is free (permafree, I think).
2014 GRACE AWARD Winner in Speculative Fiction
2015 IndieBrag Award Winner
Awarded the Crowned Heart for Excellence – “Prepare for an adventure that flies from moment to moment with breathtaking speed and intensity!” – Penelope Anne Bartotto for InDtale Magazine
Human life has value.
The poor living in the gutter are as valuable as the rich living in a manor.
The scoundrel is no less valuable than the saint.
Because of this, every life a reaper takes must be redeemed.
Raven has lived by this first tenet since she was trained by her father to become a reaper. But since his death, she’s been spending years redeeming the lives she’s taken. By her count, she’s even and it’s time for that life to end. If she settles down and becomes a wife, she might just feel human again. But on the way to the life she thinks she wants, the baron of New Haven asks her to complete a task which she cannot ignore… Just when Raven decides to give up on her life as an assassin, she’s pulled right back in.
This is the complete Steampunk Fantasy novel – all four parts of the serial in one volume! Also includes bonus features not found in the episodes ~
Traitor’s Masque by Kenley Davidson – A lovely retelling of Cinderella. I particularly enjoyed the way the prince was portrayed, as well as how Trystan’s (Cinderella’s) character changed and grew through the story. The plot wasn’t overly complex, but it added depth and emotion to the bare bones of the tale we all know. It’s also the beginning of a series of interconnected fairy tale retellings, and I’ll be following along as the series continues. Plus, look at that beautiful cover!
What if Cinderella didn’t go to the ball to dance with the prince?
What if she went to betray him?
Trystan Colbourne never meant to be a traitor. All she wanted was to escape the suffocating walls of the place she used to call home, where her stepmother’s hatred has made her an unwilling prisoner.
Desperate for a taste of freedom, Trystan accepts an offer of sanctuary from an old family friend, and for a moment, it seems as though all of her dreams are about to come true.
But dreams are fickle, and neither politics nor princes are ever quite what they seem. When she agrees to attend the royal masque, Trystan is plunged headlong into a nightmare of conspiracy, espionage and intrigue. With lives and even kingdoms at stake, she may be forced to sacrifice everything she thought she wanted in order to save the man she loves.
Traitor’s Masque is the first book in The Andari Chronicles, a series of interconnected fairy tale retellings that evoke the glittering romance of the originals, while infusing them with grit, humor, and a cast of captivating new characters.
Revolutionary Magic by Thomas K. Carpenter – This was fun and an interesting idea: magic + steampunk + a Russian spy + Benjamin Franklin (young-looking and way out of his time, due to magic that lets him live more-or-less indefinitely). A couple of things didn’t completely work for me. It’s a novella, not a full-length novel, and it felt to me as if there was too much going on for the length of the book; rather than intense and tight, it felt a bit scattered. There was a big logic leap that the characters made that I didn’t think was reasonable (in a world where pretty much anything can happen). Another quibble was that I didn’t really see why the narrator’s friend had to be Ben Franklin; I’m not sure that having him be a magically-life-extended statesman had any effect on the story. Maybe it will be important later in the series. It’s fun escapism but it didn’t have the emotional impact of some of the other books I’ve read lately.
Exile. Princess. Thief.
After years of running from the Emperor of Russia’s assassins, Ekaterina “Kat” Dashkova has finally found an unlikely home in Philadelphia under the tutelage of Benjamin Franklin.
When a mid-level government official is found wandering colonial Philadelphia without his clothes—and his last two years of memories—Ben and Kat suspect otherworldly forces at work. Neither of them know that a dark revolution lurks beneath the veneer of civilization, ready to unleash its malevolent magic unless Kat makes a grim sacrifice.
Dream Stalker by Amy Hopkins – This was a fun caper of a cozy mystery with magical elements and some likable characters, with hints of a much deeper world and extensive world-building that haven’t entirely come into play yet. I liked the boggart in particular. I will continue reading this series.
People are dying. Why doesn’t anyone care?
All Emma wanted was to sell her enchanted teas in peace; instead, she’s caught up in the chase for a killer who’s stalking the streets of London. He’s targeting half-bloods, people with limited magical ability. People just like Emma.
The police are baffled by the long string of deaths, but they’re not willing to put in the legwork to make an arrest. After all, magic users can take care of themselves, right? Except, those with real power don’t give a damn about half-bloods. So, when Emma wakes from a strange dream that nearly gets her killed in the waking world, she knows she has to deal with it herself.
With only her boggart shop-assistant and the two strange men who have offered to help, can she thwart the killer and make the city safe again?
The Fuller’s Apprentice by Angela Holder – I picked this up on a free promotion, but it’s well worth purchasing. This is a clean fantasy series, and this first book is a unique coming-of-age young adult story. It’s clean (like all the books in this post) but doesn’t completely shy away from some uglier, darker parts of life. But you, the reader, don’t have to see the ugliness in any detail that might be inappropriate even for younger readers. Recommended for readers looking for generosity and unashamedly altruistic characters. I’ll be following this series as well.
All Josiah wants is a little excitement. His work as an apprentice fuller is boring, and playing in the mill’s machinery isn’t that dangerous. Everything goes fine—at first.
All right, he’s lucky the wizard Elkan and his familiar, a donkey named Sar, are there to save his life. Even better, when his furious master fires him, Elkan offers him a job as his assistant. Josiah jumps at the chance. Traveling around Tevenar for a year, meeting all sorts of interesting people, helping the dedicated young wizard and clever donkey serve them with the Mother’s healing magic—what could be more fun?
But Josiah soon learns that while matters of life and death may be exciting, they’re seldom fun. Impulsive actions, even when taken with the best of intentions, can have devastating consequences. And some choices have the power to change the future of Tevenar forever.
Calling by Angela Holder – This is a novella-length prequel to The Fuller’s Apprentice, and it introduces Elkan Farmerkin, the wizard and mentor in the novel above. It stands alone but is also an excellent addition to the series. It’s permafree.
Elkan wants to become a farmer like his father, until a letter arrives that changes everything. The Mother has chosen him to become an apprentice wizard. If he accepts, he’ll learn to use her power to bring healing and help and truth to all the people of Tevenar.
There’s only one problem. Elkan’s father hates wizards. When he needed them most, they failed him. Now he’s dead set against Elkan traveling to the capital to join the Wizards’ Guild.
The Mother’s call wakes a deep longing in Elkan’s heart to serve her. But in order to respond, he’ll have to find the courage to abandon everything he knows and loves and set off on a journey into the unknown.