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(Alfheim Academy, #1)
Publication date: October 14th 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
A new series from internationally bestselling author S.T. Bende.
Aura Nilssen has spent most of her sixteen years in hiding. As crown princess of Alfheim, her life depends on avoiding the assassins who killed her parents and want to destroy her realm. When hunters corner Aura on Midgard (Earth), she’s immediately evacuated and enrolled at Alfheim Academy—a training ground where telepathic teenagers, daily combat lessons, and communication from beyond is the norm. She attends classes that enhance her energetic abilities, labs that fine tune her mental acuity, and workouts with a supernaturally good looking—and suspiciously evasive—training partner. But it’s what she learns outside the classroom that proves most difficult: as Queen of Alfheim, Aura’s grandmother played a heartbreaking role in the death of Aura’s parents . . . and her iron fisted monarchy is pushing the realm to the brink of extinction. If Aura doesn’t take her grandmother’s crown, the home she’s only just begun to love may be lost forever.
When an unprecedented attack threatens the very heart of Alfheim, Aura has to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to protect her new home. Her choice may mean the difference between survival and annihilation—not only for Aura, but for the world she’s always been destined to rule.
I leaned forward, trying to see who Viggo was talking to, but my balance shifted unexpectedly. As I sidestepped to avoid a fall, a branch cracked loudly beneath my feet. I quickly scooted behind a tree and held very still as Viggo called out in a threatening voice, “Show yourself.”
I could take him if it came to it. I’d pinned him in five out of nine sparring matches that week. Or was it three? I couldn’t remember.
“I know you’re behind that tree.” Leaves crunched as Viggo stormed closer.
I inched around the trunk as my training partner’s footsteps grew louder.
“Last chance,” Viggo growled. He was unnervingly close. My eyes locked in on the thickest part of the tree line, and I rose onto the balls of my feet, preparing for escape.
Before I could make my move, a thick hand whipped around the tree to clutch my neck. Viggo yanked me from my hiding spot, wrenching my body into view. He held his arm perpendicular to his six-plus-foot frame, so I dangled in his grasp. In his other hand, he gripped a thick dagger. Crêpes. My hands flew to Viggo’s wrist and I dug in my fingernails, intending to break his hold before my air supply ran out. But as I clawed against his grip our eyes locked, and Viggo opened his palm. I fell to the ground in a heap, then leapt to my feet, brushing broken branches off my pants as I stood.
“You.” Viggo’s normally charming tone had an edge. “What did you hear?”
“I heard enough.” I widened my stance in case I needed to deliver a roundhouse. Or worse. “You broke into Alfheim? What are you doing here?”
“You don’t know what you heard.” Viggo took a step to his right. I mirrored him.
“Fine.” We continued our dance, two animals squaring off for a fight. “Then why don’t you tell me. Because it sounded an awful lot like you broke into the realm, and you’re planning something dangerous.”
“Is that so?” Amusement danced across Viggo’s eyes as anger percolated beneath my skin. I took deep breaths until the emotion stilled.
“What would you call what you’re doing?” I pressed.
Viggo’s features hardened as he took another step. “How was your meeting with the queen? Lots to catch up on, I’m sure.”
My eyes narrowed. “What do you care?”
“I care when someone strips my realm of its freedoms. Not that you’d understand anything about that.”
The anger bubbled again, fiercer. Hotter. “I’ll ask you one more time. What were you doing just now?”
“If I thought you’d understand, I’d tell you.” Viggo’s hand flexed, and his dagger glinted under the filtered light of the forest. My hands balled into fists and I took a step forward. I didn’t have a weapon, but if that jerk thought he could silence me, he had another thing coming.
Viggo stepped into my space, his chest inches from mine. I ignored the piney scent wafting off his training clothes and focused on perfecting my glare.
“Go home, Glitre,” Viggo spoke softly into my ear. “Keep your perfekt little life in order.”
Laughter tickled my throat. “Perfekt. Right.”
Viggo leaned back just enough to meet my eyes. “Someone looked out for you from the minute you were born. From where I’m standing, that’s a pretty good deal.”
“You don’t know the first thing about me.”
Viggo shifted so our foreheads practically touched. Butterflies burst into flight in my stomach and at my shoulder blades. What the hell is wrong with me?
“I know you’re the heir to the throne,” he growled. “I know you met with the queen. And I know you haven’t stepped up to challenge her. I can connect the dots as to which side you’re on.”
A low whistle pierced the forest as I sucked air through my teeth. Viggo Sörensson had no freaking clue. “You know I’m going to tell Signy about this.”
Viggo shrugged. “Go ahead. But for the record, I’m warning you to stay out of it. If anything happens, it’s on you.”
“Noted.” I took another breath as Viggo leaned forward again. His shoulder brushed against mine as he walked by, and the nudging at my back became so adamant, I was positive something was about to crawl right out of my skin. But the jabbing ebbed as Viggo marched forward. He didn’t turn around until he reached the thicker tapestry of trees.
Even at this distance, I caught the pop of his dimple. “See you around, Glitre.”
Then he turned and disappeared into the forest, leaving me with a litany of questions.
What was Viggo Sorenssön up to?
Before finding domestic bliss in suburbia, S.T. Bende lived in Manhattan Beach (where she became overly fond of Peet’s Coffee) and Europe… where she became overly fond of McVitie’s cookies. Her love of Scandinavian culture and a very patient Norwegian teacher inspired her YA Norse fantasy series’ (Viking Academy, Elsker Saga, Ære Saga, and Night War Saga). And her love of a galaxy far, far away inspired her to write children’s books for Star Wars. She hopes her characters make you smile, and she dreams of skiing on Jotunheim and Hoth.
Showcasing released or upcoming indie books I want to read.
Title: A Turn of the Wheel
Author: Catherine Labadie
Pub Date: October 11th 2019
New Adult Fantasy
It is known that many harvests grow in the king’s orchard, both magical and mundane. So too has Aubria grown in her village community tending to the trees, bringing in a multitude of harvests, and partaking in the wheel of the year with her community. But not every branch grows the same way, and a newly betrothed Aubria finds that her heart and her longings for her future will take paths as winding as those leading through the sacred grounds of the orchard itself. The kingdom outside stands on a precipice, and the arrival of a Potioner carrying the weight of his convoluted past promises to make her change as no one born from orchard soil ever has before.
About the Author
Catherine Labadie lives in the mountains of the picturesque Carolinas with her husband and her dogs Fannie, Heidi, and Zoey. A Turn of the Wheel is her third novel, and she has many more stories waiting in the wings.
Title: Dragon Fairest (Dragon Ever After #1)
Author: Amberlyn Holland
Pub Date: March 26th 2018
Once upon a time, a rare white dragon, seven treasure hunting wolf-shifters, and a princess on the run joined forces to save themselves and the kingdom from the shadowy schemes of the Grey Enchantress.
Jack has three unbreakable rules of survival. One, never reveal his full dragon form. Two, steer clear of magic users at all costs. Three, always trust his instinct for trouble. And there’s no doubt a princess accused of cursing her own family is exactly the kind of trouble he should avoid. Despite Jack’s intention to keep Kynara at arm’s length, though, her intriguing mix of vulnerability and stubborn determination draws him like no one else ever has.
A fugitive from her own people, exhausted and alone for the first time in her life, Kyn is running out of options. Asking for aid from a band of treasure hunters is a risk, but she has nothing left to lose. To save her family and her kingdom, she’ll take any help she can get. Even from handsome, irritating Jack who despises her magic yet throws himself into danger to defend her.
With the evil Grey Enchantress tightening her grip on the kingdom of Ardell, Jack and Kyn may have to sacrifice everything to stop her.
I don’t have a lot to say about Dragon Fairest but it is a fun book with great potential to be even more enjoyable as the series progresses. Once Upon a Dragon (book two) sounds amazing and I’ll be reading more from this author again in the future.
If you like fairy tales, dragons, and sweet romances, try this series.
The Memory Thief
Published by: Blink
Publication date: October 1st 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.
Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal’s” memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.
To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world.
Q&A with Lauren Mansy:
- What was it like to write your first book and have it published?
Incredible! It’s been such a wonderful journey filled with many sweet moments. I began writing over seven years ago, and it’s definitely surreal that The Memory Thief is now on shelves! As of late, there have been quite a few teary moments—and I’m totally not a crier! I’m truly overwhelmed by every kind word, the support, and the willingness to walk alongside me as The Memory Thief has gone from something imagined to a real book. I couldn’t be more excited to share this story with readers!
- What was your inspiration behind TMT?
When I was a teenager, my mom was diagnosed with a heart condition, which led to an unexpected heart surgery. On the way to the operating room, her heart stopped six times, and the doctors warned my family that it was unlikely she’d survive. And if she did, she may not remember us due to the trauma she’d experienced throughout the entire ordeal.
I was sitting at her bedside when she first began to stir after her surgery, and I slipped my hand into hers and told her that it was me. Then she began to squeeze my hand three times, our signal for I love you! That’s my most favorite memory because I’d never felt such fear suddenly overcome by the most incredible joy. That collision of emotions was the moment which first sparked the idea for The Memory Thief.
Ever since then, I always struck by how memories make up so much of our identity and influence our relationships with others. It terrified me that my mom wouldn’t remember me, but I’m so thankful to say that she made a full-recovery. Though it was long and difficult process, she never gave up hope that things would one day get better. Her unwavering courage inspired me to want to share this story.
- What kind of impact did writing TMT have on you personally?
Writing TMT has had a huge impact on me. I first began writing after completing treatments for Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of lymphatic cancer. It was a very difficult time in my life, and writing fiction helped me express myself in ways that I’d never done before. It helped me process through some of my most difficult memories.
When I first began drafting The Memory Thief, I realized there were still some emotions about being faced with the possibility of losing my mom that I’d yet to express out loud. Writing this book proved to be a source of healing, and a wonderful platform for exploring truth in my own life through a backdrop of fiction.
This story is very dear to my heart, and reflecting back on the process of writing this book is what made the moment of holding it in my hands so amazing.
- What is your favorite part about TMT?
I think my favorite part is the relationship that Etta has with her mother.
Gwendolyn was one of my favorite characters to write because she’s full of opposites. Because of her coma, she hasn’t spoken a word in four years yet that entire time, she’s been teaching Etta how important it is never to give up, even when all the odds are stacked against you.
On her journey to save her mother, Etta discovers that Gwendolyn’s story is intertwined with Etta’s in ways that she never imagined. Writing this aspect of the plot was so much fun, and definitely one of my favorite parts of the drafting process, as well!
- What do you hope readers take away from TMT?
The main thing I hope readers take away is that it isn’t the hardships of the past which define us but the strength we find in overcoming them. Etta has been through a lot of difficult things, and she struggles with trusting others because she has a hard time trusting herself. At the beginning of the story, Etta has spent four years hiding from both the people and events which haunt her, but to save her mother, she’ll have to come face-to-face with the past. I hope her journey will inspire readers to never lose hope, even in the midst of impossible odds.
- How are you reflected in TMT (or, how much of you is reflected in the book)?
Because this story is based on my own journey with my mother, many of Etta’s worries, doubts, and fears are things I also experienced when faced with the possibility of losing my mom. The questions that Etta asks about how to deal with a situation like this are questions that I often pondered myself.
So when I first began writing TMT, I thought, “What if I wasn’t the only one who faced this fear? What if there was an entire society that feared their loved ones no longer remembering them?” It was these kinds of thoughts which ultimately let me to want to explore a world where memories reign over everything. Then writing Etta’s emotional journey also helped me process through a lot of my own memories, as well.
That’s one reason that I love not only writing but reading fantasy novels. Even though these characters live in worlds that are vastly different than our own, what they love, hate, and fear can often be so relatable. That often sticks with me long after I read the last page, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to share this journey with readers.
- What is your favorite thing to do to promote your book?
My favorite thing has been getting to know readers. I had the privilege of attending BEA and ALA this past summer, and I loved meeting librarians, educators, fellow writers, bloggers, and industry professionals. Writing can often be a solitary venture, but the publishing process has been filled with creating some wonderful relationships. I couldn’t be more grateful for this community!
- Why should readers be sure to place TMT on their TBR list?
The Memory Thief is a book full of secrets, lies, and betrayal. It’s set in a world where memories are currency, people are struggling to hold onto their true identity, and nothing is quite what it seems. And Etta is a very flawed character. She has a lot of regret and has made many mistakes, yet she never stops fighting to save her loved ones. If any these things appeal to you, I hope you’ll consider adding TMT to your TBR!
- What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned while being a writer?
I think the biggest lesson being a writer has taught me is the importance of the “story behind the story”. Though the publication journey is filled with exciting moments (like seeing the cover for the first time and holding the final copy!), the journey of getting here has changed me for forever. There have been highs and lows, moments of uncertainty coupled with unexpected encouragement, and wonderful support from family, friends, and even strangers! Writing fiction gave me a voice when I was still struggling to find mine, and I’ll be forever grateful that even as the last page of The Memory Thief ends, my own life story is still being written
- Additional thoughts?
If you’re interested in learning more about The Memory Thief, I have more information of my website, and I also LOVE connecting with readers!
Lauren lives in the Chicago area, where she’s spent years working with youth, from young children to high schoolers. When she’s not writing, Lauren is usually with her family or exploring the city to find the best deep dish pizza. The Memory Thief, which was inspired by Lauren’s own journey with her mother, is her first novel. You can visit her online at http://www.laurenmansy.com.