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Other People's Books

Book review: Luna: La cité maudite, by Élodie Tirel

Luna: La cité mauditeLuna: La cité maudite by Elodie Tirel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a challenge to properly review this on the grounds that I’m very new to the French language–and this was the first book I tried to read in order to practice my reading comprehension with Quebecois French! So I have to comment on this book with the caveat that my understanding of it is therefore decidedly imperfect.

But that said, I was very pleased to be able to follow the broad strokes of the plot even though I missed a lot of the detail. Right out of the gate we start with a prologue in which the elf Ambrethil, a slave of the drow, is giving birth to a child. She’s scared out of her wits that her child will be born half-drow and a girl, which will run a huge risk of the baby being raised in the evil cult of the spider goddess Lloth. Ambrethil will have exactly NONE of this, so she arranges to have her baby smuggled out of the drow city, Rhasgarrok.

Commence the A plot, fast-forwarding twelve years, to when our young heroine Luna is being raised by wolves. Like ya DO. Her only bipedal family figure is a solitary mage, Le Marécageux, who taught her how to speak, read, and write. When her adoptive wolf pack is attacked and apparently wiped out by a drow attacker, Luna learns the truth of her origins from Le Marécageux, and resolves to venture into Rhasgarrok in search of her mother.

Meanwhile, over in plot B, the warrior Darkhan is also infiltrating Rhasgarrok on a mission of his own. He’s promptly captured by the sorceress Oloraé, who forces him to become a gladiator. Again, like ya DO.

I was entirely unsurprised that plot A and plot B eventually intersected, but was pleasantly surprised by what transpired then. Luna, despite her initial introduction being quite cliched (because of course she’s unbelievably beautiful and looks exactly like her mother, yadda yadda yadda), was quite a bit more mature and clever than Darkhan was willing to give her initial credit for. Sure, the whole “oh this sweet innocent young thing I must protect from the awful things in this city” thing is another heavily used trope, but Luna and Darkhan both carried it out in a surprisingly likeable fashion. Which is the overall thing about this book; it uses a lot of heavily used tropes, but it does it surprisingly charmingly.

And, despite how my ability to follow the French was rough at best, I was able to pick up on how there’s some surprisingly grim bits with Darkhan in the gladiatorial bouts. My rough impression of the interactions between Darkhan and Oloraé suggested there was probably innueundo there, too. But overall this certainly seemed appropriately written for a YA audience.

So if you’re an Anglophone looking to practice your French, this would be a fun way to do it. I’ll be checking out more books in the series, since they’re digitally available to US customers on a few different sites. I’ll give this one four stars, mostly out of pleasure for the language practice, but also for finding it generally charming.

View all my reviews

Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: The Guardian Circle Series, by Isabelle Santiago

Isabelle Santiago is another fellow former Drollerie author, who’s taken the series she previously published with Drollerie and re-packaged it on her own to sell–much like I did with Faerie Blood, in fact! She’s about to drop Book 3 of this series, and so the piece she’s sent me for Boosting the Signal is meant to tie Book 2 and Book 3 together, using the POV of a minor secondary character.

The series is YA fantasy with some romantic elements, so if you’re a YA fan, I hope you’ll consider checking these out!


The Guardian's Mark

The Guardian’s Mark

His dreams were a strange kaleidoscope of colors. A touch of the rainbow broken into pieces of shattered glass. It took her a while to realize they were actually gemstones–cut, carved and shaped by his loving hands. When she went deeper, further into his subconscious, she found a world she could get lost in, a place of rolling green hills and rich brown earth. A mountain range decorated the horizon and the blue sky stretched as far as eternity.

His world smelled of earth and bark and iron. There was a hut, his own private little place at the very end of the dirt road, past the little village with stone cottages and wooden roofs. Within it, she found a scorching, suffocating heat.

Items forged by his own powerful hands hung from the walls. Intricate swords with gemstone-crusted hilts. Sculptures and vases crafted of clay, heated and glazed. Jewelry with stones in every color, hanging like wind-chimes, glistening in the sunlight that broke through the small window.

He stood at the far end, his naked back to her, the strong curve of his dark shoulders angled as he rolled a glowing, golden ball of molten glass across the table with a blowpipe. He looked like some sort of god, his back and arms streaked in cinders, glistening with sweat as he sculpted and formed something so delicate, so beautiful.

There was a kind of purity to his mind, one that she had yet to find in any of the other Guardians. His memories were not polluted by remorse or jealousy, unrequited love or the burden of unwanted destiny. The walls of his dreamscape seemed infinite, as though his soul had no bounds, and just as clear as the cooling glass, as the very Air she personified.

She smiled. He was everything she’d expected and more. Much more.

He turned, sensing the breeze, and put down his tools.

They stared at each other for a long, silent moment.

He took a step toward her, a flare of recognition in his molten gold eyes, though they had never met. And when he stopped right before her, her breath caught, just a moment, in her chest.

The Guardian's Choice

The Guardian’s Choice

“Do you know who I am?” she asked, feeling foolish. Her cheeks flushed warm.

“Yes,” he said, on an exhaled breath. He reached out to take her hand.

Her skin was a pale, translucent alabaster, compared to his dark, sun-kissed brown. Her hands were soft and small, looking delicate and frail in comparison to his, so large and callous. He twined his fingers with hers, pressed his hot palm to her cool one, and looked into her eyes as though he saw her very soul.

Air blew between them and around them, caressing their hair, dancing through their arms, pushing them together. Two halves of a whole, separated for so long. Earth and Air, united like the earth and the sky in that distant place on the horizon.

He smiled. “I’m glad to finally meet you,” he said, and that shy, earnest look on his face warmed every part of her. “I’ve waited for you for a very long time.”

“So have I,” she said, wilting in return. “So have I.”


She watched him work from the shadows, hidden within her Element, exploring him as she could not in flesh. Her stomach fluttered, a cluster of butterflies scurrying to break free. He pounded at the red-hot metal of a steel blade with a large mallet, his naked back and shoulders slick with sweat. She traced the ancient script of his Mark with her eyes, from his neck down the length of his spine, stark black against the warm caramel of his flushed, sun-kissed skin.

His muscles tightened with each mallet swing. The four walls of the tiny, sweltering workshop quivered, ready to buckle, to bow to his power.

Bianca glanced at the room she’d long committed to memory–a room that had felt like a glimpse into his brilliant soul, full of trinkets made of blown glass and gemstones, carved of marble or stone, forged through fire.

Now, she noticed suddenly, those trinkets were gone. Cluttered with tools and raw materials, the room still felt bare, devoid of the life its craftsman had once breathed into its walls, giving them color and depth.

Something was wrong. Something had changed since they last spoke.

The Guardian's Fall

The Guardian’s Fall

Enki turned as though he heard her thoughts. She startled. A dark bruise marred his jaw below his cheekbone. A red gash split the corner of his full lips. Bianca gasped, losing her cover, materializing before him.

“I thought it was you,” he whispered, his mouth tilting into the ghost of a smile. He removed his work gloves and placed them on the table behind him. “I can always tell when you’ve appeared. You bring the smell of springtime and sunflowers wherever you go.”

“Enki,” she breathed out, taking a careful step in his direction, unable to rip her gaze from the unsettling nature of his bruises.

“I have missed our meetings greatly,” he said and she saw the truth of it in the molten amber of his eyes.

“What happened?”

“I tried to save her,” he said, but his thoughts were far away and his voice was soft and haunted. “I tried to save her but I failed.”

“Who? Who did you try saving?”

He looked away, clutching the edges of the table to steady himself. “Much has changed since we last met.”

Bianca swallowed hard, holding back tears, mourning days spent in the shed talking of sunflower fields and freedom or of a grandiose courtyard in the shadow of a glittering marble temple. It all came back to her at once, the smell of coal and fire on his skin, the warm sunshine coming through the open shutters of his windows. His smile; so earnest, so true.

They’d shared the entirety of their lives here between these four small walls, filled in the spaces where their paths had diverted so they could reunite and be as they were meant to, Earth and Air, two halves made whole.

“It doesn’t have to be different,” she said, desperate, letting Air caress his skin.

“But it is. And I’m afraid the things I’ve done have carved a hollow I cannot refill.”

Her heart broke for him, for the innocence lost, for the boy she’d first met and the tattered remains of the man that replaced him. His soul was still pure at its core, but she felt the differences in him, swallowing him.

The violence. The guilt. The regret.

She should have known. It was only a matter of time before this World got him too.

“I’m sorry, Bianca.” He broke, and she wrapped her arms around him then, breathing in his scent, letting her Element cradle and soothe him. “I am not the man you knew. I have the blood of many men on my hands. It sings to me from within the soil. Reminding me. Cursing me.”

“What have you done?” she asked him, clutching him tighter, wishing just this once that she was as solid as he felt.

“I tried to save her,” he repeated. “But I failed.”


Buy the Books: Book 1 – The Guardian’s Mark |
Book 2 – The Guardian’s Choice | Book 3 – The Guardian’s Fall, available March 31

Follow the Author On: Facebook | Twitter |

Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Stronger Than Blood, by Genevieve Griffin

Genevieve Griffin is a local writer friend of mine, about whom I’ve already posted, when I put up my review of her YA werewolf novel. But now I’m delighted to feature her on today’s doubleheader for Boosting the Signal, and to give you a chance to hear about her heroine, B!


Stronger Than Blood

Stronger Than Blood

The first real assignment that got dropped in my lap at Gilman High: write an essay about my most important goal.

I didn’t exactly dive into that with enthusiasm. It wasn’t like I had an easy answer, after all, considering my…unique circumstances. On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t simple for the normal kids, either. Lacey confidently dashed off an essay about non-profit work, which figured, but Madison muttered for a while about parental expectations versus what she actually wanted, and then, grumbling, went with the safe version just in case. Emily dithered. Lin went unexpectedly thoughtful, and wouldn’t show anyone a word. And Jake blew off the whole thing as a joke, regaling us all in the middle of lunch with his dreams of becoming a circus clown. The grammar alone was a crime against nature, but at least it was colorful.

Brandon, meanwhile, didn’t do his at all.

When the due date rolled around and Mr. McKay asked for Brandon’s essay, he offered nothing. He just shrugged and reclined in his chair. God only knew how he could recline in those painful, unforgiving things, but he managed it anyway. “I’m not really into the ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ question,” Brandon drawled. “Unless the answer’s ‘lounging on a beach somewhere.'”

Our teacher sighed. “Brandon…”

“Knock off the points if you want,” he said. “I don’t have it.” Then he shut his eyes, obviously considering the conversation over. There wasn’t much Mr. McKay could do except mark down an “incomplete” and glare.

That left me as the next to turn mine in. And of course I had to go limping up the aisle to deliver it.

I’m sure my wonky health and wonkier social skills would be enough to make everyone wonder about my prospects. Okay, then: the barely functional misfit is going to do what, exactly? Go into gymnastics? Star in the movies? Run for president? I still had no idea, and I felt stupid enough presenting the utterly clichéd, I’m-Gonna-Go-Be-Inspirational! version my brother coached me through.

(“You know it’s total bullshit,” I’d told Grey, after groaning over my own writing. “Me as some kind of motivational speaker? Exhibit A in overcoming obstacles? I’m not exactly Little Miss Plucky, here.” His sardonic reply was that high schools thrive on bullshit. Given the evidence so far, I decided he might have a point.)

But after all that, there I was anyway, handing over my so-called masterwork. I couldn’t exactly beat a hasty retreat afterward, but I did my best. Of course it meant I had to walk past Brandon again. At least he didn’t pull any truly stupid tricks this time, not like tripping me the way he did on my first day.

He did, however, do something almost worse. He smirked up at me and whispered, “So what did you come up with, werewolf girl?”

I stopped cold, went wordless, and stared straight back.

What was there to say, after all? How was I supposed to plan for the future when that was my problem? I wasn’t even human, not really. The things I wanted–having an ordinary, pain-free life. Not needing to lie about myself. Getting out of town and maybe even traveling the world, I don’t know. Even just something simple, like going on a full-moon date without ripping out the guy’s throat mid-movie. Anything–were pretty remote possibilities.

Brandon knew that. He and I were the only werewolves in the room, after all. And I guess he could smirk about it, being luckier than I was, somehow or other. He was the healthy one. He wasn’t waging a constant war against his own body every month, and losing, painfully, with every change.

Then again, his smile was turning oddly self-deprecating. It put me off-balance for reasons that had nothing to do with my aching knees.

For the first time, his question didn’t seem entirely like a tease–because he wasn’t even pretending he had an answer for himself, either.

So. What did you come up with, werewolf girl? I thought in echo as I walked off, oddly nervous now. What are your real goals in life?

Surviving? Healing? Maybe something a little bit more?

I didn’t even dare voice that. I just hunkered down at my desk, hiding under my long, tangled hair. I could tell that Brandon was peering back at me anyway. For now, I ignored it. Maybe there was more going on under the surface with him than I’d thought, but I still wasn’t ready to confide in him about anything.

On the other hand, he’d already started dropping hints to me about other things, too. Like the existence of an entire pack I didn’t know yet. Other werewolves. Other possibilities. And if that was true, maybe somebody out there might understand.

Okay, then, Mr. McKay, I thought, imagining this as my essay–and imagining his face if he ever actually got to read it. Here’s my goal. Meet an entire pack full of dangerous, deadly werewolves, convince them somehow to help me, maybe find a place I finally fit…and if that doesn’t work out, get me, my friends, and my brother out of this unscathed. How does that sound?

Almost as if he’d heard me, Brandon grinned. And Lacey leaned over to whisper, “Don’t worry about him. I think what you said was inspiring.”

I blinked, suddenly disconcerted. “Um. What?”

“Your essay. I read it, remember? That whole part about overcoming obstacles? I could tell you really meant it.”

I gave her a disbelieving look. Brandon laughed outright. And I turned away before either of them could see me blush, which meant I was looking at the calendar on my student planner instead. I touched the wide, white circle of the next full moon, looming all too close, and I chuckled wryly, too.

Yep. I had a goal, maybe even some help…and I had a deadline.

What could possibly go wrong?


Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

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Follow the Author On: Twitter | Tumblr

Other People's Books

Boosting the signal for Stronger than Blood, by Genevieve Griffin

Stronger than Blood

Stronger than Blood

A local writer friend of mine has just released her very first novel, the YA urban fantasy Stronger than Blood! I beta-read an early draft of this, and am proud to see it finally getting out into the world. Here’s what I said about it on Goodreads and Amazon:

(Disclaimer: the writer of this book is a friend of mine, and I beta-read this before its release! These remarks are based on my beta-read of the novel.)

Stronger Than Blood does a deft job of avoiding tropes I give the side-eye to in both YA and urban fantasy. It involves high school students, yet it avoids a lot of the angst I’ve seen in other titles I’ve sampled. And it’s urban fantasy with werewolves–but I found the heroine, B, refreshingly atypical. She’s not only not a stereotypical badass, her transformations cause her active, major health problems, and this is one of the neatest explorations of what exactly monthly shapeshifting can do to a body that I’ve had the pleasure to read.

And what does our heroine, B, have to deal with? Discovering that she is not in fact the only werewolf in the world, and that furthermore, the pack she discovers is not plagued with her health issues. But her initial quest to find out whether these other weres can teach her how to not only endure her transformations, but to get her strength back as well, is only the first layer of a nicely complicated little plot. B’s got to maneuver dangerous pack dynamics if she wants to survive not only her own changes, but her new place in a world that contains others like her.

So yeah, go pick this one up. And tell Genevieve I sent you, won’t you?

To which I’ll basically add here that if you like YA, and if you like werewolves, and if you’ve got a Kindle or any of the various Kindle apps, give this ‘un a read! You can find it for sale on Amazon right over here.

And you can follow Genevieve on Twitter here or on tumblr right over here!