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Champion of Fate by Kendare Blake

Review: Champion of Fate by Kendare Blake

Champion of Fate by Kendare Blake

Champion of Fate (Heromaker #1)
Kendare Blake
Quill Tree Books
Published September 19, 2023

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About Champion of Fate

Behind every great hero is an Aristene.

Aristene are mythical female warriors, part of a legendary order. Though heroes might be immortalized in stories, it’s the Aristene who guide them to victory. They are the Heromakers.

Ever since she was an orphan taken in by the order, Reed has wanted to be an Aristene. Now, as an initiate, just one challenge stands in her way: she must shepherd her first hero to glory on the battlefield. Succeed, and Reed will take her place beside her sisters. Fail, and she’ll be cast from the only home she’s ever known.

Nothing is going to stop Reed–until she meets her hero. Hestion is fiery and infuriating, but what begins as an alliance becomes more, and as secrets of the order come to light Reed begins to understand what becoming an Aristene may truly cost. Battle looming, she must choose: the order and the life she had planned, or Hestion, and the one she never expected.

My Review

I haven’t read anything by Kendare Blake in a really long time, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I loved the concept. It hints at star-crossed lovers and magic and secrets, all things I love in a book.

And, boy, did it deliver those things. I loved the pacing of the romance between Reed and Hestion. I constantly wanted more for them, but loved every minute of their scenes together. The minor characters are amazing, from Reed’s often-absent mentor to her mentor’s lover and former Aristene to Reed’s fellow initiate. I liked that the order was made up of so many different kinds of women and that made for lots of different kinds of relationships between them. That was pretty cool.

The stakes heightened pretty quickly in the second half of the book especially. I felt like I flew through that last quarter with my breath held, wondering how things were going to turn out.

At the end of it all, I find the only thing I’m disappointed about is having to wait until the next book is released to know what happens next!

I think readers who enjoy epic hero stories– maybe things in the vein of Greek myth retellings or stories about paladins or spiritual warriors– will really enjoy this one.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Reed has tanned skin. Other characters are described as having darker skin. Two women are in a romantic relationship.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. Kissing between two girls. References to sex.

Spiritual Content
Reed and the other members of the Aristenes serve the goddess of glory. Other nations serve other gods. A prophet of all gods was recently murdered. One scene shows a man praying at the temple of the prophet. Reed participates in several rituals as part of her initiation into the Aristenes. One involves drinking blood to receive magic. Another involves drinking water from a well that reveals her path.

Violent Content
Lots of battle scenes and descriptions of battle. A man holds onto the decomposing head of a corpse, using it as a weapon.

Drug Content
Several scenes show celebratory drinking. A few characters get drunk and say or do things they regret later.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of CHAMPION OF FATE in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Breaking Time by Sasha Alsberg

Breaking Time
Sasha Alsberg
Inkyard Press
Published June 14, 2022

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About Breaking Time

Fate brought them together. Time will tear them apart.

When a mysterious Scotsman appears out of nowhere in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and it’s just the beginning of a deadly adventure. 

Klara will soon learn that she is the last Pillar of Time—an anchor point in the timeline of the world and a hiding place for a rogue goddess’s magic. Callum is fated to protect her at all costs. A dark force is hunting for the Pillars, to claim the power of the goddess—and Klara and Callum are the only two standing in the way. Thrown together by fate, the two have to learn to trust one another and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive.

My Review

I think I was hoping for a SEEKER vibe from this book. Long tradition of people trained to protect a magical portal or something. Time travel to stop the bad buy from stealing the magic. Something like that. BREAKING TIME isn’t that story, not exactly. Which is okay. I made assumptions from the cover copy that turned out to be inaccurate.

At the beginning of the story, Klara doesn’t know she’s anybody important. She doesn’t believe in spiritual stuff– she’s much more comfortable with things being explained by science. Then a sixteenth century Scotsman pretty much tumbles into her life, and suddenly her scientific explanations come up empty.

I liked the story and the tension between Callum and Klara. I wish that some questions would have been answered, though. Like, Callum travels in time, but how? The story didn’t explain that. Also, it seems like someone else killing Klara (or maybe even her doing that herself) would have also resolved the magical problem they faced, but that idea never came up, either. I wouldn’t have wanted that to happen, of course, but it seemed weird that the whole magic system that’s set up left that loophole wide open and no one ever addressed it.

BREAKING TIME ends in a whirlwind followed by a pretty steep cliffhanger, so I expect there will be a follow-up novel. Initially I’d assumed this was a standalone, but judging from the ending, I think it’s not.

On the whole, I liked Klara and Callum’s relationship and some of the historical details, but I wish there had been more explanation holding the pieces of the story together. I enjoyed reading it, but I’m not sure I would continue the series.

Fans of The Falconer series by Elizabeth May might enjoy this one.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Both main characters are white.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used somewhat frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Lots of kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Some characters are able to travel in time or manipulate time. Klara and Callum have encounters with monsters, spiritual beings, and a goddess. Some references to pagan or druid traditions.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. Battle scenes with some gory descriptions.

Drug Content
References to drinking alcohol. One character appears to be drunk in one scene. Klara remembers her grandmother smoking a joint.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of BREAKING TIME in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr

Swallow’s Dance
Wendy Orr
Allen and Unwin
Published on June 27, 2018

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About Swallow’s Dance
I wonder if the first day of Learning is always like this – do the girls on the hill always feel the ground tremble under their feet? Leira is about to start her initiation as a priestess when her world is turned upside down. A violent earthquake leaves her home – and her family – in pieces. And the goddess hasn’t finished with the island yet.

With her family, Leira flees across the sea to Crete, expecting sanctuary. But a volcanic eruption throws the entire world into darkness. After the resulting tsunami, society descends into chaos; the status and privilege of being noble-born reduced to nothing. With her injured mother and elderly nurse, Leira has only the strength and resourcefulness within herself to find safety.

My Review
I wanted to read Swallow’s Dance because something about the story reminded me of Tracy Higley’s City on Fire. Like City on Fire, Swallow’s Dance is the story of a family who flee from a natural disaster. Leira’s family loses everything when a tsunami and volcanic eruption devour her home and village. But Leira’s unconquerable spirit drives her onward, fighting to survive in places where her once prestigious heritage is spurned. Her strength and fierceness made me invest so much in the book. I found myself really wanting her to find peace and happiness.

Honestly, I found it easy to invest in all of the major characters. Even though Leira’s mom suffers a brain injury and barely speaks, she’s a colorful character and never has trouble expressing her emotions. Even the cranky Nunu won me over with her devotion to Leira and her mom.

The cultural details about the girls studying to serve their goddess and gathering saffron all added a richness to Swallow’s Dance. I don’t normally read historical fiction and I don’t know much about this time period, so I can’t weigh in on how accurate the details are, but it all felt very well-researched and I found it easy to get lost in the vivid setting.

I liked the way the story blended prose and poetry, too. I’ve never seen that done before, but often I didn’t notice the transitions. I read the poetry faster, so it really worked to have that in the higher action parts of the story, because it felt like things sped up since I was literally reading faster.

Historical fans and readers who enjoy female-centered books like A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay will love Swallow’s Dance.

Recommended for Ages 10 up.

Cultural Elements
All characters are Mediterranean.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
A couple very vague references to sex (like acknowledging that it’s a thing married people do which makes babies). Leira’s people wear ceremonial dress which leaves their painted breasts exposed.

Spiritual Content
Leira’s people worship an earthmother goddess personified by a volcano. Priestesses serve the goddess. Each town seems to have its own god and rituals. Some of these are described in more detail than others. At one point Leira witnesses a girl being carried off to be sacrificed to a local god.

Violent Content
Some scary or intense descriptions of earthquakes and injuries caused by falling rocks or buildings. Descriptions of the aftermath – references to bodies being found (no descriptions other than that they smell bad). Brief descriptions of slaves being beaten for disobedience.

Drug Content
Some references to ale being served as a beverage with food, not for the purpose of getting drunk.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.