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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Wine Club #Review of Seasons of Sorcery: A Fantasy Anthology by Jennifer Estep, Amanda Bouchet, Jeffe Kennedy, Grace Draven




41960984Title: Seasons of Sorcery Anthology
Authors: Jennifer Estep, Amanda Bouchet, Jeffe Kennedy, Grace Draven
Genre: Fantasy, Anthologies
Format: ebook 370 pages
Published: November 13th, 2018 by Brightlynx Publishing
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | B&N
Source: Author Assistant 
Reviewers: Lexi, Crystal, Linda
WINTER'S WEB BY JENNIFER ESTEP
An assassin at a renaissance faire. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, if you’re Gin Blanco. This Spider is trapped in someone else’s icy web—and it seems like they don’t want her to leave the faire alive . . .

A CURSE FOR SPRING BY AMANDA BOUCHET
A malevolent spell strangles the kingdom of Leathen in catastrophic drought. Prince Daric must break the curse before his people starve. A once-mighty goddess trapped in a human body might be the key—but saving his kingdom could mean losing all that he loves.

THE DRAGONS OF SUMMER BY JEFFE KENNEDY
As unofficial consort to the High Queen, former mercenary Harlan Konyngrr faces a challenge worse than looming war and fearsome dragons. His long-held secrets threaten what he loves most—and he must make a choice between vows to two women.

A WILDERNESS OF GLASS BY GRACE DRAVEN

The stretch of sea known as The Gray rules the lives of those in the village of Ancilar, including widow Brida Gazi. In the aftermath of an autumn storm, Brida discovers one of the sea's secrets cast onto the shore—a discovery that will change her world, mend her soul, and put her in the greatest danger she's ever faced.


Wine Club Review:

Lexi: Reading an anthology is like a wine tasting, you sample a handful of wines that share a similarity like being from the same vineyard or region. And the thread that binds all of these authors together is fantasy, and we couldn't think of any better way to review SEASONS OF SORCERY than to do a group review! I've got a bottle of Kendall-Jackson red blend and can't wait to see what you ladies thought!  So let's start with the first, WINTER'S WEB by Jennifer Estep which was a short for her Elemental Assassin series. It's been a while since I've been in one of Gin's stories but I recalled quickly that I love Estep's action scenes. Gin and her knives, taking down giants, fighting for Owen. Action scenes all the way!

Crystal: Oh, I like that analogy! Could you fill my glass please, we have a lot to discuss! 

Jennifer Estep's WINTER'S WEB is a short that I think Elemental Assassin fans will appreciate. It seemed like a fun and action-packed glimpse into Gin and Owen's life that would hold fans over nicely between books. However, as someone who has never read the Elemental Assassin series, it was difficult for me to get into. There wasn't a lot of insight into the characters and over-all series arc for new readers to obtain a good understanding of the world Estep has created with seventeen books (which is impressive in itself). While I appreciated Gin's take-charge attitude and the twist on "damsel in distress", as well as the obvious affections between Gin and Owen, I unfortunately never connected with the characters on an emotive level. 

Linda: I agree with Crystal. I read the 1st book in Jennifer’s Elemental Assassin series years ago. I’ve always meant to read more, but just haven’t found the time to do so yet. I feel that if I’d read more of the books in the series and had developed a previous emotional connection to the characters, it would have increased my appreciation of Winter’s Web.  While I also picked up on Gin’s take-charge attitude and the obvious closeness between Gin and Owen, I felt that the action sequences and the humor associated with the costuming were the highlights for me. That said, I’m betting that Jennifer’s legion of fans will love this tale.


Lexi: We all need to refill our glasses and then we're ready to jump into the next one, A CURSE FOR SPRING. It has been a long time since I've read the Kingmaker Chronicles by Bouchet but reading this one made me remember how much fun her writing is. Not that Rain and Daric's story is fun, for them. But I loved how much of a story Bouchet put into her contribution! There are goddesses, one turned mortal, and a cursed prince with a mystery to unravel. On top of all that, you have Rain who is still learning what it takes to be human while also striving to recall what it was to be a goddess. I would have loved to had this fleshed out into a full length novel to give Rain and Daric's relationship more time to unfurl but I really enjoyed it and now I'm excited for Bouchet's upcoming release, NIGHTCHASER.

Crystal: I’m a fan of Amanda Bouchet's writing and enjoyed her contribution to this anthology with A CURSE FOR SPRING  immensely!  The tale was intriguing and imaginative with a season, Spring, taking mortal form out of curiosity for a young boy and then becoming trapped in that body. Despite originating as a being who essentially had no emotions and but one purpose, Rain was a engaging character. Her willingness to sacrifice all for those she has come to love as a human was heartwarming. And while her relationship with Daric remained innocent throughout most of the story, the connection that they shared was palpable from the pages. Daric's dedication to his people was laudable and the trials that he faced at the end of the tale broke my heart. I also wished that this could have been a full-length story but think that it was nicely wrapped up with a beautiful ending and packed quite a punch for it's short length. 

Linda: This novella is written in a completely new and fascinating world – so there is no need to be familiar at all with her previous books unlike the previous entries.

I love how Rain developed from a character with no feelings or emotions to an individual who would and did give her all for humanity and true love.
From the very first, Daric seemed kingly. With no regard to himself, he put himself out there for his kingdom and his people. 
Why the villains in this tale felt entitled to cast a curse bestowing such terrible hardships on Daric’s people – all for control of Daric’s kingdom – is beyond me.
My animal-loving heart broke when I read what Daric’s intended did to Daric’s cat.
A Curse for Spring is actually my favorite story in the anthology. I am a fan of Amanda’s. I loved her Kingmaker series and am looking forward to reading Nightchaser soon.


Lexi: That brings us to THE DRAGONS OF SUMMER. I'm a huge fan of Kennedy's Twelve Kingdoms series so this one was an *at last* for me. I've loved Ursula and Harlan, the High Queen and the man who would slay dragons to protect her, since THE TALON OF THE HAWK. And even though they did get their happy ending in that book, there was still such turmoil in her kingdom it was a sweet treat to see them reach this point. For those who haven't followed the series, there is a lot going on with the overarching plot between Annfwn, Dasnaria, and the Deyrr, and some foreshadowing for what's to come with Harlan's discovering his long-lost sister's new name. So much to love! 

Crystal: This is actually my first read from Jeffe Kennedy's Twelve Kingdoms series! Though some of the aspects of the story that were obviously related to the over-all series arc went over my head, it was easy for me to get pulled in. I found THE DRAGONS OF SUMMER to be a tender love story between Ursula and Harlan. The intrigue surrounding Harlan's sister kept me glued to the pages, while his and Ursula's obvious affections caused my heart to flutter. There was plenty of action to keep the plot moving at a steady clip. I enjoyed working through Harlan's secrets and seeing that trust between him and Ursula strengthen.  It was clear to see what a strong couple they are and this novella has piqued my interest in the series. I'll be adding it to my wish list! 

Linda: I’ve only read one other novella by Jeffe Kennedy: The Snows of Windrover, set in her Twelve Kingdom’s universe. Therefore,  The Dragons of Summer was only my 2nd read in her Twelve Kingdom’s series.

I enjoyed The Dragons of Summer and never once felt lost. That said, it is likely that IF I’d had a prior connection to this series and its characters, I would have enjoyed it more. The dynamics between Ursula and Harlan were intriguing. Their esteem and respect for each other were evident from the beginning. They are both obviously strong characters, but I initially thought it strange that Harlan had elected to acquiesce control to Ursula. But, as I continued with the story, I realized that action did not make him weak – rather it showed how much he trusted and cared for her.
Ursula has obviously reluctantly matured into her new power role  as she had previously been a hands-on leader and would have preferred to remain that way.
I found the politics between Harlan’s home kingdom and Ursula’s to be fascinating. Reading about how Harlan stood up for his sister against his family showed what a wonderful man he was.
His family were not role models, for sure. It saddened me that her father and other brothers were okay with knowing that his daughter and their sister would suffer so – all for a power ploy.
I can only imagine Harlan’s pain believing that he was responsible for his sister’s demise.
I would like to know how things work out after the long-lost sister becomes reacquainted with her siblings. To discover that she survived her ordeal despite the odds against her, was uplifting.


Lexi: The last story, A WILDERNESS OF GLASS, also takes place in an existing world, Draven's Wraith Kings. I've read, and loved, a few of Draven's books but none in this world and I thought it was a well-done, stand-alone novella. I loved the Gray, the ocean, and the gloomy, mournfulness of it. So fitting to Brida's tale. Mermen/mermaids aren't my thing but Draven's writing made me feel and the villain of the story was excellent!

Crystal: A WILDERNESS OF GLASS by Grace Draven turned out to be my favorite story of the anthology.  I haven't read the Wraith Kings series, yet found this to be the perfect stand-alone. I craved more of this riveting and fantastical world by the end, and immediately added the entire series to by TBR list! Draven wove a spellbinding tale of passion, fantasy, thrills, and danger. Brida, who has given up on love after the death of her husband and who's only solace is the playing of her flute by the sea, was a strong, selfless, and admirable character that I instantly adored. And Ahtin, oh Ahtin... I found to be a stirring and sensual hero. I loved his determination to stick by Brida's side despite their many obstacles. I was hanging on tight to my kindle, desperate for a happy ending for these two but thinking their forbidden love hopeless. A WILDERNESS OF GLASS was a haunting tale that I simply could not get enough of.

Linda: I thoroughly enjoyed A Wilderness of Glass. I’ve read a few other novellas by Grace (all of which have been in other anthologies). I am not acquainted with her Wraith Kings series either. However, that did not detract from my appreciation of this story as this novella worked very well as a standalone.

I found this entry to be a highly emotional, haunting tale with characters I connected to easily. This novella had numerous scenes that have stuck with me long after I finished the story. One of those was the scene where Brida originally discovered the two merpeople in dire straits, I could feel Brida’s desperation and her determination despite her thorough exhaustion as she worked tirelessly to save them. I was on the edge of my seat hoping against hope that she would succeed. Brida’s and Ahtin’s love scenes were very well done.  The villain made my skin crawl and I’ve not been able to forget the scary scene when he initially confronted Brida. As the story drew to a close, I felt sorry for his Mom and for all those he targeted with his vile purpose.  I did not want this story to end.


In Summary...


Linda: In summary, I enjoyed every entry in this anthology. I never considered not finishing any of the stories. My rankings from my most favorite to my least favorite were as follows:

A Curse for Spring by Amanda Bouchet 5/5
A Wilderness of Glass by Grace Draven 4/5
The Dragons of Summer by Jeffe Kennedy 3.5/5
Winter’s Web by Jennifer Estep 3/5

Crystal: I enjoyed the anthology as a whole quite a lot as well. I relished a few of the stories more than others, but all in all it was a fun, magical jaunt into each of these talented authors prose. I think each story complimented the other and that SEASONS OF SORCERY has something for every fantasy romance fan to be swept away by. I would rank the stories as follows;

WINTER'S WEB BY JENNIFER ESTEP 2/5  
A WILDERNESS OF GLASS BY GRACE DRAVEN 5/5 
A CURSE FOR SPRING BY AMANDA BOUCHET 4/5 
THE DRAGONS OF SUMMER BY JEFFE KENNEDY 3/5

Lexi: Cheers, ladies! To another great wine club review, and to our next great reads! 



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