Marthese reviews Not Your Average Love Spell by Barbara Ann Wright

Not Your Average Love Spell by Barbara Ann Wright

“Camille reminded herself that they had a lot of indoctrination to undo”

Not Your Average Love Spell is a not-so-average book that I discovered thanks to Netgalley, for which I am grateful. From the start, this book was one adventure after another, yet it didn’t feel rushed and was well-paced. Not Your Average Love Spell stars four main characters: Sydney – a knight, Camille – a master researcher, Rowena the Hawk – a witch and Ember – a homunculus.

This fantasy book is set in a world where the knights of the flame have been trying to capture all witches after the Witch Wars, which set people against witches. However, a new threat emerges, and Sir Robert instructs Major Sydney to make conduct with the Hawk to transport their troops in order to fight the Kells, who are dangerous because they believe other people are dreams. Sydney has Camille’s help as a master researcher. The two soon develop a fling. However, after the two are separated is when things get even more interesting.

Rowena, known as the Hawk, is a benevolent but grumpy and reclusive witch. She lives on top of a mountain with Ember, who she created and Husks. Ember is a highly energetic, curious and fiery woman who wants to go out and explore, though misses Rowena, and eventually has a ‘Rowena was right’ stage, like most youth when they grow up.

These four characters get tangled up together in all kinds of ways. Sydney and Rowena are rivals who reluctantly work together, sometimes admire each other, and for certain are too stubbornly similar to each other. Sydney and Camille were cute together, but something seemed off, and this was more evident once they found new partners that suited them better. I won’t give other dynamics away, but I liked the fact that even frenemies or new friends got time to put their heads together. I found this refreshing, because not a lot of books explore relationships in this way.

There was enough time for good character development. Characters learn to accept hard truths, to challenge themselves and their beliefs, to change their behaviours, and so on. The characters, and not just the couples, encourage each other directly and indirectly to be better. This was such a healthy way to portray relationships. This depth of characters is also shown by the fact that at first, I disliked the characters a bit (except perhaps Ember), yet as the characters developed, I couldn’t help but root for them and support them. All characters are flawed in realistic manners, such as their fears, snapping and shutting out others, and overcompensating. None of them come out as perfect from the start. The different forms of femininity and diversity of characters is definitely a plus too.

The adventures, as mentioned above, were plentiful. There are pirates and warriors, a yeti, giant spiders, a possible dragon, lizard people, and in general, a lot of tough-headed knights. The plot was definitely interesting, with a lot of twists and turns. It took me a while to realize that the Kells-plot was not concluded, but the whole overall plot was so great that I didn’t mind.

The writing was seasoned with beautiful writing and truths. The cover was lovely too! It was what first draw me to read the plot of the book so I’m grateful for that. The title is an overall hint to the character development and plot: it’s not average.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of fantasy and to those that want characters to be challenged to deconstruct what they know and learn how to live together. It’s a beautiful book!

Kit reviews For Want of a Fiend by Barbara Ann Wright


For Want of a Fiend / Barbara Ann Wright
Bold Strokes Books, May 2013. ebook.

Princess Katya Nar Umbriel’s uncle Roland rose from the grave, kidnapped her cousin, and stripped her of her greatest weapon—her Fiendish power. Without her Fiend, Katya doubts her ability to weather the storm her uncle is brewing. When she lacks what even the children in her family possess, can she even call herself an Umbriel?

In only a short time, Starbride has become the princess consort, a pyradisté, and a member of a secret order in charge of protecting the crown. Even steeped in responsibility, she’s still an outsider. While wading through court intrigue and resisting schemes to break her bond with Katya, Starbride must prepare for a covert war. Roland is waiting, watching, ready for any chink in their armor, and he doesn’t care who knows their secrets.

Long time no see, Lesbrary readers! I know, I’m only supposed to post once a month—how hard could it be? Thing is, it’s been a tricky couple of months—a new job, nicely combined with lots of surgery, where I let the nice orthopaedic men break my feet to make them better. The combination of exhaustion and pain killers has made it a bit hard to concentrate on stories in any form, be they audio or text. I did, however, know which book I wanted to read for you lot. It waited for me, taunting cheerfully through a haze of oxycontin:

Kztya and Starbride. You get to read MORE ABOUT KATYA AND STARBRIDE. WITH EXTRA PENNYNAIL. And if that isn’t an incentive to try and work through some pain, I don’t know what is.

For Want of a Fiend begins where The Pyramid Waltz left off: Katya battered and baffled, and Starbride still raw from the new power and responsibility that comes with being Princess Consort. Star is also living with the fact that, in order to save her beloved’s life, she had to take something away that, while it wasn’t exactly precious (seriously. Living with a fiend does not seem like a barrel of laughs) was still a crucial part of how Katya saw and thought of herself. Meanwhile, Uncle Roland is on the loose, Maia with him; Crowe is dying with too much to teach Starbride; and Katya’s brother Crown Prince Reinholt has regressed to a spoilt fourteen year old in response to his wife’s betrayal. Oh, and Starbride’s mother is coming. I just wanted to hug everybody.

The plot still moves at a fast clip, the alternating POV chapters showing Star and her princess as they try and solve mysteries, deal with courtiers and inlaws, and still find time to sleep. Their evolving relationship continues to be one of the loveliest things about these books, and the addition of Brightstriving, Star’s indomitable mother, was an excellent touch. Characterisation continues to deepen—Star’s relationship with members of the order of Vestra is in no way the name as Katya’s, and I love that. I love seeing a passionate, adoring romantic relationship flanked by friendships (and cute flirtations: Lord Hugo Sandy, your crush is still showing) of different weights and colours. Pennynail, just as I’d hoped in the last review, finds his voice. Katya also comes into her own as Reinholt goes rather delightfully postal, and her own relationships within her family are seen in a deepening, compassionate light.

The writing, while still glib (often to the good, only sometimes to the eye-roll!) and stylistically a bit odd, flows a little easier than in book one. I’m unsure if this is because of a better editing job or simply the joy of being fully immersed in Barbara Ann Wright’s world, but it gives me great hope for the rest of the series, even if it is hard to forgive a glorious, shout worthy cliffhanger that had me wishing I could get up from my bed and pace.

If you enjoyed The Pyramid Waltz, For Want of a Fiend is the perfect next step. If you haven’t read either, know that you’d be embarking on a joyous, funny, sweet and madcap ride around very dark things lovingly told, with characters who will stay with you for months after.

Kit reviews The Pyramid Waltz by Barbara Ann Wright


The Pyramid Waltz/Barbara Ann Wright

Bold Strokes Books, December 2012

213 pages – ebook

To most, Princess Katya Nar Umbriel is a rogue and a layabout; she parties, she hunts and she breaks women’s hearts. But when the festival lights go down and the palace slumbers, Katya chases traitors to the crown and protects the kingdoms greatest secret: the royal Umbriels are part Fiend. When Katya thwarts an attempt to expose the kings monstrous side, she uncovers a plot to let the Fiends out to play. Starbride has no interest in being a courtier. Ignoring her mother’s order to snare an influential spouse, she comes to court only to study law. But a flirtatious rake of a princess proves hard to resist, and Starbride is pulled into a world of secrets that leaves little room for honesty or love, a world neither woman may survive. — Kobo synopsis

Now, readers: not only am I an old-school Lynn Flewelling fan, but I’m also a queer woman with a pulse. If the dishabille exploits of Seregil of Rhiminee and his awed lover Alec had me grinning and giggling all over the place, then just imagine what the rakish, insouciant Katya Nar Umbriel and the intrepid Starbride did to me, and you have the heart of this book. The Pyramid Waltz has had me smiling for three days.

In terms of plot, it’s mostly what it says on the tin. Lots of chases. Lots of alleyways and castles and ballrooms and bedrooms. We meet the fiendish princess Katya as she is chasing a traitor across her father’s hunting grounds, all whilst Averie (who is quite possibly the best lady in waiting of all time) hunts deer for her so that she can keep up the ruse of being forever out and about after wildlife. Starbride, meanwhile, is tolerating being treated as an “exotic” oddity by the princess’s court only because it gives her accezs to the library, and to laws that will, she hopes, stop these richer neighbors from exploiting her land. They meet. Sparks fly. Sparkly things are exchanged, along with kisses and gorgeous— if broad—banter, All the dialogue seems to come from the Mercedes Lackey school of feel what you’re feeling before saying it adverbially, and the novel also reads a little bit as if Wright read Dianna Wynne Jone’s Tough Guide to Fantasy Land (tavern brawls and all!) and decided to follow it verbatim. But it is so much fun that I really don’t care. I also haven’t actually read this assortment of cliches in a world that is entirely unfazed by homosexuality or female power before. I think I love it.

The characters are all kindly drawn—keep an eye out for Katya’s blustering father, and a hilarious aside about his inability to read his children bedtime tales because he kept trying to find the racy bits. The masked Pennynail is also a hoot, and one of the few actually mysterious parts of the mystery. I also loved that while the relationship between Starbride and Katya was near-instantaneous, they also misunderstand each other regularly and tried to get into each other’s worlds—Starbride much more successfully than the more privileged Katya. One thing the novel does surprisingly well is address colonialism and white privilege, albeit briefly. There is a very strange take on master and servant relations in Starbride’s home might be dubious, but that was the only real quibble I had with The Pyramid Waltz once I’d settled in for the romp. Mostly, I’m just delighted this book exists.

(…and is there any waltzing involved, darlings? Read to find out!)