AK Mulford

Författare till The High Mountain Court

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3.5 stars

I received this book for free, this does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review

Rumors had swirled for years that the last of the Gold Wolf line yet lived, that the Marriel princess named Briar had survived the fateful night of her birth . . . but no one whispered about another named Calla

A River of Golden Bones begins the trilogy about Aotreas, a land ruled by four Wolf Kingdoms. With a little bit of Sleeping Beauty inspiration, the story is told all from Calla, the secret twin sister of the Crimson Princess. Hidden in a small-town with a faery, backed by the power of their mother's dying wish, Calla has grown up learning to fight and protect her sister, who is betrothed to the Prince of the Silver Wolves, Grae. Calla and Grae were childhood friends until he had to leave for school and stopped writing her letters but he's back now that the sisters will be turning twenty and his marriage with the Crimson Princess is to take place. With the marriage, Grae's father says they'll help fight to take back the sister's Golden Wolf Kingdom from the evil sorceress Sawyn, who killed their parents and have been hiding from, and announce Calla's existence.

I was meant to pledge my loyalty to King Nero that night, but I ran. If Grae came with me, he’d be picking sides. I’d take away his family, his pack, and ultimately his life.

When the sisters get to Grae's kingdom, it becomes apparent that the king hasn't been fully honest and doesn't plan on helping them take back their kingdom but instead mine the gold on the boarder to enrich his own kingdom. The night of the wedding ceremony also throws all kinds of wrenches into everyone's plans when it's revealed that the Crimson Princess has a fated mate that is not the prince, along with Calla and Grae learning that they are fated mates. Wolves are a traditional society and messing with fated mates is frowned upon but while everything is in chaos, Sawyn makes an appearance and puts a sleeping curse on Calla's sister and takes the Crimson Princess' fated mate hostage. Calla wants to immediately go and fight Sawyn to free her sister but the king now wants to use Calla in her sister's place, leaving Grae in the middle and worried for Calla's safety. Concerned only for her sister, Calla runs away to travel to her home kingdom and fight Sawyn.

Before, my destiny had just been daydreams, and now, it was real and raw and vicious.

The vast amount of the story then becomes a road adventure where Calla joins up with a musical troop and learns that humans aren't everything wolves have made them out to be. Grae, along with two friends of his royal guard, meet up with them and Calla struggles with accepting to be his mate and how that fits into who and what she wants to be and get out of life. Some soldiers of Sawyn, Rooks, and Silver Wolf guards sent by Grae's father to bring them back, make appearances for some danger and battle scenes, while the push and pull Calla feels toward Grae has them working to develop their relationship, along with kissing for some romance. However, while the distant looming of Sawyn is always there, I would say this story is mainly about Calla and her struggling to learn how she wants to define herself.

Wolves clung to tradition and, for some reason, I’d thought those traditions would keep us safe. Yet as soon as I stepped outside of that world, I realized how hollow it all was. It wasn’t for safety. It was for power. And not my power.

With the help of the troop's leader, Ora, Calla gains some vocabulary and thought from humans, that the wolves' society didn't come equipped for her and Calla begins to gain knowledge, confidence, and strength in how she defines and views herself. This personal journey really felt like the main focus of the story and while the road adventure part helped flush out the worldbuilding for the continuing series, I did feel the middle of the story's pace dragged. The personal journey aspect did give this a little bit of YA vibes and I can see why some have tagged it as such but the romance that heats up hot in the latter second half (instead of open door bedroom you get open door wood scenes) would have me labeling this New Adult. There wasn't quite the adult intimacy in those scenes but straight to the raw; if you're looking for this would be awkward to read in public steam, they'd probably work but I like some deeper emotion in my romance. The aspect of the fated mates kind of took some of the journey of depth of emotion from these two and forced them to be together. Calla's constant misjudging of Grae's actions/emotions also started to strain and feel a bit forced to keep them apart.

“Who knows who we could have been,” Grae whispered, the candlelight dancing in his eyes. “But I’m grateful for who you’ve become.”

The last twenty percent has the group making it to Olmdere and the battle standoff with Sawyn. The ending does give a happily ever after for our main couple and their romance and since this author's previous series (The Five Crowns of Okrith) had each book showcasing a different romance couple but with a continued overarching world plot, I'm going to guess this is how this trilogy is going to go. There were two couples that seem like potential possibilities, two of Grae's wolf guards with humans from the troop. The fight to recapture Calla's kingdom may be over but to keep it seems to be the next battle as Grae's father and other wolf kingdoms might not like how Calla plans to rule with humans. If you're looking for more of a story about self-discovery than romance or fantasy but set in that world, this would be one to pick up.

“I think we’ve just started a war.”
… (mer)
WhiskeyintheJar | Oct 22, 2023 |
4.5 stars

I received this book for free, this does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review

They couldn't marry him.

Picking up right were The Rogue Crown left off, we have Talhan Catullus winning the hand of Neelo Emberspear after a duel set up by Neelo's mother, the Queen of the Southern Court. This series is set in a fantasy world where fae, witches, and humans live in five kingdoms. Each book stars a different main couple but also continues the storyline of the battles and politics happening in the fictional Okrith, with a progressive plot of some mysterious enemy behind all the disruption in each kingdom. While I thought it would be challenging but possible to jump into the series like I did with book three, I think this fourth addition would have a lot of newcomers too lost to start here.

A faceless storm was coming for their court, and they needed to unmask it before the South befell the same fate as the assassinated Western Court Queen.

Growing up in the pleasure seeking Southern court, Neelo, who is nonbinary and has social anxiety, never felt comfortable with the sexual pleasure seeking and free use of drugs society their mother encouraged and actively participates in. They dress in black baggy clothes to try and not be defined by their body and always carries a book/s with them to be able to disappear in when they get overwhelmed. With their mother fading even faster because of a new tea brew that seems laced with an even more powerful drug than usual, the time for them to take the crown and rule is here but they don't want it. Their solution is to try and find out who is supplying the tea and get deliveries stopped to save their mother, but this leads to them uncovering a plot that ties into the book series continuing plot of kingdoms being upheaved and finally uncovering who is behind it all.

Neelo immediately relaxed their jaw. “Maybe you just make me nervous,” they muttered.
“Maybe.” Laughter tinged Talhan's voice. “Maybe being nervous in this case is a good thing. Maybe you make me nervous too.”

If you've read the previous books, the name Talhan Catullus “The Golden Eagle” will sound familiar. He's the fae's best warrior and fought in a big previous battle that almost left him dead. He's the twin brother of one of the female lead characters in book three and he was childhood friends with Neelo before they were separated by the wars starting. It's pretty obvious from the beginning that he loves Neelo and is just gently but stoutly never going to leave their side and simply waiting until they trust in his feelings and work through their emotional issues of self-worth. This is a slow burn romance that I could see some tapping their watch for Neelo to finally relent but there were enough cracking scenes from Neelo that I thought there was enough burn scenes to carry it to the finally giving in end. I mean, we get a library desk scene, steamy bath house, and others to tide readers over.

“You know I'm not here for a crown or a title,” he whispered.

While the first half had me highlighting passage after passage and I loved how Neelo and Talhan's relationship was developing, you're going to have to want to focus on that romantic plot pretty fully for some duration. I know some fantasy readers want action but that doesn't come until the latter end of the book. I did find the story slowing some in the second half with the slow part of the burning dragging out for some pages too many and the tie-in continuing plot of discovering who is behind the disruption of kingdoms also taking one too many scenes to finally get to.

They dropped their eyes and Talhan reached out to bracket their cheek with his hand. His thumb slid under Neelo's jaw and tipped their chin up to look him in the eyes. “I'm not going anywhere,” he said. “Not even if you tell me to leave. That's just one more thing we'd have to disagree about. If I have to chain myself to a bookshelf to prove that, I will.” He lifted Neelo's chin higher and they smirked. “That's how much I belong with you.” Neelo shuddered and Talhan hummed. “Keep reading.”

The latter second half brought in almost all the previous characters from the earlier books and we get a few action scenes. Since I haven't read the first two books in the series yet, I'm not sure if they were more action heavy and these middle two books have slowed down before the series ramps back up again with a last big battle but if you're looking for less battle heavy fantasy with a starring main romance couple, this would definitely be for you. I liked the interaction and relationships all the characters seem to have and while I enjoyed how much we got of Neelo and Talhan, I would have liked to have these previous characters show up more because of how well they work as an ensemble.

“You are mischief, Neelo Emberspear, and I love it. No one else gets to see it: the boat-commandeering, book-stealing mischief-maker you are. But that's who you've always been around me and you never have to change.”
His footsteps didn't pause as if he was just casually chatting, but his words made Neelo feel like they were free-falling. They were mischief...and he loved it. There was something about them that Talhan Catullus

This was told all from Neelo's point of view but, like I said, Talhan's feelings were obvious from the beginning. I loved how quiet, reserved, kind of grumpy Neelo paired with outgoing, gregarious Talhan and how Talhan especially saw Neelo for who they were and liked them because of it and treated them the way they wanted to be treated, all while just waiting for Neelo to finally be able to grow to a place that they could accept Talhan's love. There were times of frustration by Talhan, but he was always there in the ways Neelo needed him to be.

“There is only one person who can wield this magic over me.” His eyes pinned Neelo with a heated look. “You are a magic all your own, Neelo Emberspear. I've known it my whole life.”

Along with Neelo finally accepting the love from Talhan and taking their rightful place in the Southern Court, the ending names the villain and gives the reason for why they're doing what they're doing. It's clear that the battle for the Eastern Court is next and I have a feeling Talhan's sister Carys and a certain Southern Court Lord of Arboa, Ersan, who once broke Carys' heart might be the main couple of that story. I'll be curious about that second chance love story, if a reappearing past villain will become King of the Fae, and if a violet witch will make do on her revenge.
… (mer)
WhiskeyintheJar | Jun 27, 2023 |
{First of 4 of The Five Crowns of Okrith; very steamy, witches, fantasy} (2022)

The five kingdoms (or Courts) of Okrith are inhabited by humans, witches and fae but are all ruled by fae families. Witches form covens depending on the type of magic and the colour it manifests as and each kingdom has (or had) a witch coven associated with it. The High Mountain Court and its coven of red witches was exterminated thirteen years before the start of the story by the Northern Court king. Remy may be the last red witch from there as the king has had a bounty on the witches who escaped since then and so she has lived most of her life in hiding. Now, as the story begins, Hale, a prince of the Eastern Court, asks her to help in his mission to counter the Northern Court king as he needs a red witch to help utilise the High Mountain magic of the hidden talismans that could defeat the king. Complicating matters is the fact that Remy and Hale are irresistibly attracted to each other.

My e-library book expired halfway through my reading it and though I thought it didn't have the highest quality of writing I was engaged enough in the story to continue to the end once it came around again. Once Remy and Hale finally got together it got very steamy (I wouldn't even classify it as 'romance'); they were always jumping into bed - or even foregoing the bed. From that point it got graphic, there was a lot of dialogue about 'my mate' which sounded awkward and the story dragged a bit. Despite the rocky writing I finished the book just to find out what happened in the end but I won't be continuing with this series.


May 2023
2.5-3 stars
… (mer)
humouress | 3 andra recensioner | May 29, 2023 |
Pretty standard fantasy - nothing new or super exciting but entertaining enough.
Not interested in reading further books.

book channel here: https://www.youtube.com/@starkissedstories
spiritedstardust | 3 andra recensioner | Jan 18, 2023 |

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