The sun of the Chicome people has been destroyed six times. First by water, then by storm, fire, famine, sickness, and beasts. After each apocalypse, the creator goddess allowed one of her divine children to sacrifice themselves to save civilization. The gods paid their blood as the price for the lives of the people, and the people owed them blood in return.
Mayana is a noble descendant of the water goddess and can control water whenever her blood is spilled. She has always despised the brutal rituals of her people — especially sacrifices. She can’t even make it through a routine animal sacrifice without embarrassing her family. Prince Ahkin has always known he would be emperor, but he didn’t expect his father to die so suddenly. Now he must raise the sun in the sky each day and read the signs in the stars. But the stars now hint at impending chaos and the sun has begun setting earlier each evening. Ahkin fears he might not be strong enough to save his people from another apocalypse. And to add to his list of worries, he can’t truly become emperor until he selects a wife.
Mayana and six other noble daughters are sent to the palace to compete for Ahkin’s hand. She must prove she is a true daughter of water and face the others who have their own magical gifts from wielding the elements to the control of animals, plants and healing. And in a society centered on rigid rituals, Mayana must conceal her traitorous beliefs because if she doesn’t make Ahkin love her, she will become a ceremonial sacrifice to bless his marriage. But darker forces are at play and it won’t matter if Mayana loses if the world ends first…
Rich in imagination and romance, and based on the legends and history of the Aztec and Mayan people, The Seventh Sun brings to vivid life a world on the edge of apocalyptic disaster.
The Seventh Sun by Lani Forbes is a rich, fictional exploration of a culture I don’t see written about often enough. It was descriptive, magical, and kept me reading the whole night through.
This story has so many things going for it: a solid plot, detail-oriented world building, and a religious and magical system that kept me fascinated. In fact, that was my favorite part: the descriptions. Forbes does such a masterful job of painting detailed picture after picture for her readers. Especially in an environment as lush and rich as this, her style pays off in spades.
The main character Mayana is an interesting one to tell her story. In a sometimes brutal and intense world, she is known as someone who is— well, innocent. She is kind and sympathetic and throughout her journey that both helps her and hinders her equally. While I didn’t always relate to her choices, I always understood where they came from and was persistently interested in what she would do next. In particular, her resolve to and kind heart kept me rooting for her until the very end.
The only spot that I wish would have been more fleshed out was the side characters. While still intriguing and interesting, there was so much more that I wanted to know about them. I feel as if I was told who they were more than I was shown who they were. Especially Mayana’s friend Yoli, someone who came off as this badass female warrior, but- lacked the moments in which I wanted to see her assert that personality.
The only exception here is Ahkin, the Prince. His personality is relatively prince-like in what you’d expect, but what I loved about how this character was written is that he was also written with doubt. Doubt that he can rule well, doubt that he’s doing the right thing, doubt that he is enough. This made him feel relatable and real and I enjoyed that the author brought that aspect to a character who could have been very two-dimensional.
The Seventh Sun by Lani Forbes was dark, fast-paced, and thoroughly entertaining. If you’re looking for something action-oriented, plot-driven, and flush with rich, descriptive details of a beautiful world, culture, and society, this is the book for you. Check this title out when it hits shelves soon!
Lani Forbes is the daughter of a librarian and an ex-drug smuggling surfer, which explains her passionate love of the ocean and books. A California native whose parents live in Mexico, she now resides in the Pacific Northwest where she stubbornly wears flip flops no matter how cold it gets. She teaches middle school math and science and proudly calls herself a nerd and Gryffindor. She is also an award-winning member of Romance Writers of America and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
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A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.
Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.
Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.
To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.
I could not wait to pick up this new YA debut. Dark fantasy? Check. Original magic system? Double check. Character driven? Check again. Blending magic and religion and tattoos into one magical concept? Well..yeah, that too. I knew when I read the synopsis of Ink in the Blood by Kim Smejkal that I wanted to be one of the readers on her book tour.
Even better than all of that? I really liked this book.
Ink in the Blood is not your usual YA fantasy story. Not only is the prose dark and beautiful in a way that’s almost poetic, but the concepts are deep and vast and truly ask the reader to think about these things for themselves. I love dark fantasy, and when darker topics are threaded into a magical world, and this book showed off that strength in spades. Smejkal does an incredible job of still keeping the book light and quick, while also exploring some of the dark corners of our minds and our capabilities as human beings.
One of my favorite things about this book has to be the magic system. I was fascinated by this link between tattoos and religion and magic from the beginning, but Smejkal does not her readers down when it came to the meat of that concert. The magic system in this book is creative, original, fresh, and you can tell that the author thought a lot about how it worked and how she wanted it these powers to further the story. I thought it was masterful.
Another of the joys inside Ink in the Blood is the relationship between Celia and Anya. I love seeing more and more LGBTQ+ representation in YA, and especially in fantasy. I love reading stories that are queer stories, but that aren’t about the characters queerness, and this was a great one. Their relationship, and deep friendship, is fierce and relatable, not to mention a great example for all of the strong, young women today.
I’m not personally a huge fan of the circus/performer setting that’s big right now and also is used in this novel, but I will say this: it didn’t stop me from enjoying this book to its fullest. While it does take some time to ramp up into an un-put-down-able story, it does eventually get there and then you’re stuck. By the end of the story, I wanted more.
Ink in the Blood was dark, fresh, original, and full of magic and love and fierce women. If any of these things appeal to you, this book is right up your alley. And if they don’t, maybe try it out anyway. YA is continuing to go in more and more interesting directions and I look forward to seeing what else Smejkal writes for us in the future.
Kim Smejkal lives with her family on muse-satiating Vancouver Island, which means she’s often lost in the woods or wandering a beach. She writes dark fantasy for young adults and not-so-young adults, always with a touch of magic. Her debut novel, INK IN THE BLOOD, will release from HMH in early 2020, with a sequel to follow in 2021. She is represented by Daniel Lazar of Writers House.
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Bestselling author Laurie Faria Stolarz returns with Jane Anonymous, a gripping tale of a seventeen-year-old girl’s kidnapping and her struggle to fit back into her life after she escapes.
Then, “Jane” was just your typical 17-year-old in a typical New England suburb getting ready to start her senior year. She had a part-time job she enjoyed, an awesome best friend, overbearing but loving parents, and a crush on a boy who was taking her to see her favorite band. She never would’ve imagined that in her town where nothing ever happens, a series of small coincidences would lead to a devastating turn of events that would forever change her life.
Now, it’s been three months since “Jane” escaped captivity and returned home. Three months of being that girl who was kidnapped, the girl who was held by a “monster.” Three months of writing down everything she remembered from those seven months locked up in that stark white room. But, what if everything you thought you knew―everything you thought you experienced―turned out to be a lie?
I was immediately intrigued when I read the synopsis of this story: a kidnapping, a girl trying to reintegrate into her life, how nuanced and difficult that must be psychologically. I had to read it. Here’s the good news: I also loved it.
Jane Anonymous has made one of the biggest emotional impacts on me that I’ve felt from a book in a long time. In fact, my favorite thing about this book is the skill, honesty, and care that the author so clearly put into the emotional backbone of this story. Jane’s terrifying journey, her confusion, her desire to feel happy again while simultaneously not understanding why she can’t- so many of us can relate to these feelings. And even more so when an author writes them with such nuance and raw empathy.
Second, I found the balance between the two storylines, one emotional and one more immediately pressing, to be a perfect fit when it came to pacing. I was stuck on the edge of my seat trying to figure out who had taken her and why, reading that story and her story of escape. And then I was stuck in my chair feeling when Jane, free at last, chooses to isolate herself from her family, confused and not sure how to go on. I wanted to reach into the book and hug this character, all of these characters, and tell them they would get through this.
Last, but definitely not least— I hesitate to say much else, so as not to spoil it, but…oh man. That twist at the end. I did not see it coming and it hit me like a sucker punch. Such a surprise and just another thing I can add to my list of reasons why you should pick up this book and check it out.
Ultimately, Jane Anonymous is an empathetic, intelligent, nuanced and important story about a young girl who is just trying to survive in this world. Her circumstances are extreme, her situation dire, but everyone can find something to relate to in this entirely too human story. Such a fun read.
Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston.
Laurie Faria Stolarz is an American author of young adult fiction novels, best known for her Blue is for Nightmares series. Her works, which feature teenage protagonists, blend elements found in mystery and romance novels.
Stolarz found sales success with her first novel, Blue is for Nightmares, and followed it up with three more titles in the series, White is for Magic, Silver is for Secrets, and Red is for Remembrance, as well as a companion graphic novel, Black is for Beginnings. Stolarz is also the author of the Touch series (Deadly Little Secret, Deadly Little Lies, Deadly Little Games, Deadly Little Voices, and Deadly Little Lessons), as well as Bleed and Project 17. With more than two million books sold worldwide, Stolarz’s titles have been named on various awards list.
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When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide. Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…
Packed with high-stakes adventure, romance, and dueling identities, this gender-swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo is the first novel in an epic YA fantasy duology, perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, and Leigh Bardugo.
I was highly anticipating this one for 2020 and, for the most part, I got what I wanted. I enjoyed this big tale.
What was I expecting? Well, a lot, to be honest. It’s a Count of Monte Cristo retelling, which fascinated me from the get-go, it’s gender-bent and different enough to still be a fresh story, and I also have to admit I was impressed by the “perfect for fans of” authors too. I also happen to love all those authors. It seemed fated.
The book started off quick and really took off for a while. I loved the world-building and the straight-forward way of writing and dialogue throughout the story. These details made it feel easy to slip into the magical world and the passion of revenge. My favorite part was probably the main character’s inner voice: I liked the way she talked to herself and saw things from other angles than myself. This book was full of characters that I really enjoyed getting to know and I will probably read the sequel/finale (it’s a duology) just to find out what happens to everyone.
The book does struggle with pacing in some moments. It takes off like a rocket in the beginning and then drags a bit in the middle when everyone is planning and waiting. Thankfully, I do think it all came together in the end, somehow in a way I didn’t expect but also wasn’t surprising.
Overall, despite its slower moments, this was a fun, original and yet still familiar, and highly character-driven story that I enjoyed reading. If you like this story or retellings, or if you happen to like those authors (especially their character-driven) books– this might just be the book for you. Check it out! It’s available for pre-order now.
Tara Sim is the author of SCAVENGE THE STARS (Disney-Hyperion) and the TIMEKEEPER trilogy (Sky Pony Press) and writer of all things magic. She can often be found in the wilds of the Bay Area, California.
When she’s not writing about mischievous boys in clock towers, Tara spends her time drinking tea, wrangling cats, and occasionally singing opera. Despite her bio-luminescent skin, she is half-Indian and eats way too many samosas.
Tara is represented by Victoria Marini at Irene Goodman Literary Agency.
So I have a confession to make…I’ve been working on something secret for a while now.
And now…it’s here!
My gift to you.
What to Read in 2020 is a comprehensive guide of the most anticipated releases from upcoming 2020. Month by month, I’ll be taking you through what the hot new releases will be, what they’re about, and helping you to get organized for your reading year ahead! I’ll be updating this list as the year goes on, and also sending a once monthly newsletter containing more new release announcements and other goodies too! If you’re tired of trying to keep up with what’s new and what to read, then I made this guide for you.
I made this for you, my readers, because…well, because it’s been an amazing year here with you all. I am so grateful for all the support (and follows and likes and shares) that I’ve been given from this community, and also the friends I’ve made along the way. So I wanted to give something back. This list is the start of that new mission here at Story-eyed in 2020.
I never could have guessed, less than a year ago, that this community and so many of the people in it would be such a huge part of my life. Blogging has given me as much as I hope I’ve been able to give you, if not more.
Thank you all for joining me on this journey and thank you for your continued support.
I hope you enjoy this guide and that it’s a small piece of your amazing year ahead.
All of my love. x