Kin (Tales of Beauty and Madness #03) by Lili St. Crow Update

So, this is gonna be a very short post. Lili St. Crow updated the Tales of Beauty and Madness page on her website and added the third book in the series: Kin. This is Ruby’s book and I couldn’t be happier about this. Ruby is my favourite character in the series and I am thrilled that she is getting her own book. The release date so far only says 2015, but it’s early yet so that’s no surprise. Ruby’s story will no doubt be a retelling of The Little Red Riding Hood and I am curious how St. Crow will make it her own as she’s done with the two previous books.

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Mistress of the Wind by Michelle Diener Review

Mistress of the WindI have been really looking forward to reading Mistress of the Wind ever since it first released. I finally got it day before yesterday and read it in one go. I kept my expectations from this book firmly grounded in reasonable territory since I had already read The Golden Apple before this and I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

In this book, we meet Bjorn, who was once a prince but is now in the form of a bear. His predicament is the result of an enchantment from a particularly powerful troll, Norda. The conditions are that he has one year to find the girl who might love him and then spend an additional year where she cannot look at his face. If he succeeds in both of these endeavours, then the spell will be broken and he will be free of the enchantment and from Norda. If, however, he fails, he will have to marry the her daughter. Bjorn eventually finds the girl he thinks will help him break the spell, Astrid. Except, he didn’t bargain for how headstrong she would be and that she is not easily cowed down and nor does she respond well to being ordered around. He finally manages to persuade he into leaving with him (bribing her father also helped) and together they travel to the prince’s palace that he hasn’t set foot in almost a year.

The Mistress of the Wind is a retelling of the fairy tale: East of the Sun, West of the Moon and for the most part sticks pretty close to the tale. I haven’t read the original in a very long time so my memory of it is a little fuzzy. The main point of differences is in the characters and most notably Astrid’s. In this story, she is the Wind Hag or the Mistress of the Wind and I thought that was a nice touch, that she was powerful in her own right. In her search for Bjorn, she visits the ends of the earth in search of someone who might know where Norda lives. On her travels she meets the mistresses of the Earth, Water and Fire and all of them help her discover and hone her power and also give her a gift that will help her find and bring back Bjorn.

This book was fast paced and I couldn’t stop reading it, not even to sleep. Part of that was because of the pace of the narrative, which is quite fast, and the other that there was always something happening in the book. There was rarely a lull or a dull moment. Also, there weren’t too many characters so it kept the narrative from getting too crowded. The world building was also good and definitely much better than The Golden Apple.

I absolutely loved Astrid. She was all the usual things that a book heroine is meant to be: strong, caring, loyal, etc. but she was also fiercely headstrong and would not be bullied into doing something that she did not want to do. Even after she fell in love with Bjorn, she did not let him dictate her actions. She usually had to rescue him from danger or another and she could always take care of herself. I loved that she was far from a damsel in distress; she was actually far more lethal than the Bear Prince. She was the Mistress of the Wind after all, and you can hardly get the wind to do your bidding. In this book, if anyone was a damsel in distress, it was Bjorn.

Bjorn definitely took a backseat in this book, Astrid was the real star, front and centre. But Bjorn was a nice character as well. His actions and all that he had suffered said that he really cared about his subjects and would be a strong, fair and honest ruler. He tried to as upfront with Astrid about the curse as possible except that there wasn’t much he could tell her.

There are some who might feel that they came together far too soon, but that too made some sense. Astrid’s family didn’t treat her nicely, well her father and eldest brother did not, Her mother and younger siblings had no power in the house and therefore they were powerless to do anything to protect her. For all practical purposes, they sold her to the Bear for gold. As for the Bjorn, he had no human contact in almost a year and then he finally found someone, he thought, could come to love him. They didn’t immediately fall in love but developed a bond, a friendship. He protected her and was kind and gentle with her and in turn Astrid gave him a chance. But she didn’t follow him blindly, she always followed her own instincts and even if she disobeyed Bjorn’s instructions, she was unapologetic (save for that one incident) It was by no means, an easy relationship.

Of Astrid’s family, her mother and her younger siblings, Tomas and Bets, were the only decent relatives (and even Tomas had a moment when he wasn’t quite likeable) But at least they cared enough that they could not enjoy the gold they had acquired by sending her off. They felt guilty and genuinely cared for her. Her father and elder brother were another case altogether. They were greedy and cruel and cared only about themselves. I wish they’d get their comeuppance in someway but the very fact that Astrid was happy and powerful in her own right was satisfying enough. Her elder sister was of little consequence, not openly cruel but not particularly worried for her sister either.

The three Elemental Witches were also a nice touch, with each exhibiting traits of their elements. The Four winds acting like children while also fiercely protective of Astrid.

Mistress of the Wind was a great read and I wish I had read it sooner. It featured great characters and a truly strong heroine. Like her previous books, the romance is perfectly balanced where both the characters are partners and supportive of each other and function on an equal footing. And my favourite part was that Astrid was the one saving Bjorn (time and again) and not the other way around. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Dangerous Madness (Regency London #03) by Michelle Diener Review

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Author provided a book for review.

I really enjoy reading Diener’s historical fictions and Dangerous Madness was no different. It is based in the same world as The Emperor’s Conspiracy and Banquet of Lies and I was happy to see some of the older characters return.

In Dangerous Madness, England’s Prime Minister is suddenly assassinated in the Parliament in broad daylight. The day before that happens, Phoebe Hillier’s fiancé, Sheldrake, breaks off their engagement and tells her that he’ll be leaving town as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Duke James Whittaker is contacted by Lord Dervish to investigate the murder of the Prime Minister and to see if the murderer was acting alone or if he had help. James and Phoebe find themselves helping each other when James learns of Sheldrake’s involvement and when there are two attempts to kill Phoebe. They start working together and try to make sense of what really happened.

As always, Diener seamlessly weaves historical events and persons with the fictitious ones, which makes for a very compelling read. What was really good about this book and also slightly different from other books in the same genre, was that there weren’t clues lying conveniently about, just waiting to be discovered. There was a real sense of frustration on the characters’ part when they hit one dead end after another. And when they did learn something, there was no evidence to back that up. It was one of the rare books, where there was no clear resolution. Bellingham was hanged and the real perpetrators, those that egged him on and made it possible for him to do what he did, did get away and didn’t have to answer for their part.

Dangerous Madness was a short book and a very quick read. I read it in one go; it was very difficult to put it aside. The pace of the narrative was quite fast throughout and there were times when I had to slow down to make sure that I didn’t miss something important. I couldn’t help but get caught up in the story and read fast to find out what would happen next. Her characters were beautifully realised and that is something Diener does consistently with pretty much all her books.

I really liked Phoebe and James. Phoebe was strong, bold and brave without being careless about her safety (as a lot of other heroines are, frustratingly so) But she also made it clear that she would not cower in her house, she would live her life on her own terms. Sheldrake did her the biggest favour possible when he broke off their engagement, it freed her from that oaf and made her realise that this was her life and therefore hers to live as she saw fit.

James was, in a lot of ways, quite similar to the other men in the Regency Series except that his public life was a carefully constructed façade. At the beginning of the book, he thinks he can finally rid himself of that life but when the Prime Minister is assassinated, he must go back to his old life, for a little while at least. What is most likeable about Diener’s heroes is that they aren’t threatened by a strong heroine. James was supportive of Phoebe. He was worried about her safety but he never forbade her from going where she wanted. He treated her like an equal.

It was good to see Giselle and Aldridge, Durnham and Dervish. Although, I missed Charlotte, it would’ve been nice to see her as well (she and Durnham remain my favourites) I was also sad that we did not see more of Georges. He was such a fun and entertaining character in Banquet of Lies, it would have been a delight to have more of him.

Dangerous Madness, was a quick and very satisfying read and I highly recommend it. It was entertaining and kept me guessing as to who could’ve been involved and in what capacity, just how far the conspiracy went. It was a great follow-up to the two earlier books and I would love to read more about these characters and their lives.

For now, I will eagerly wait for the next Parker and Susannah book, can’t wait to read more about those two.