A Forest of Wolves (Uprising #2) by Chelsea Luna

This is the second book following the clash of Catholics and Protestants in 16th-century Prague. The first book, Lions in the Garden, was previously reviewed here.

A Forest of Wolves Front Cover

A Forest of Wolves Front Cover (Lyrical Press)

SPOILER WARNING: There will be some spoilers for the first book in the series.

THE PLOT: Mila Novakova is on the run from her father, Vaclav, Chancellor of Bohemia, and her maybe-kinda husband, Radek, Duke of Prucha. Since the marriage was forced and hasn’t been consummated, Mila’s true love, Marc Sykora, insists that the marriage hasn’t actually taken place. The Inquisition is getting into full swing, and Marc is the leader of the Protestant rebellion.

In the meantime, Mila isn’t exactly fitting into life with the peasants. Marc’s uncle has a hatred of Catholic nobles, and Marc’s childhood friend wants Mila out of the way so she can have Marc for herself. And when Marc is away recruiting for the cause, his brother Henrik is Mila’s best friend and support…but does he really want more?

Mila finds confirmation of a truth about her past, but she’s not sure how to use this information for good. No matter what she chooses, her own life is in danger and the people she loves face torture and death.

MY TWO CENTS: I was eager to continue this series; it’s a period I’m familiar with, but not the location. I’m really not as well-educated on the Holy Roman Empire as I should be. This series can definitely interest a reader into researching an unfamiliar period of history.

Mila is an engaging heroine, and as a reader, I want to see her succeed. I’m interested in the story. I know there are anachronisms, but they don’t bother me much when it streamlines the material for younger readers. And it’s definitely an engrossing story. You root for the good guys and hiss at the bad guys.

What a really don’t want to see is another love triangle. In the first book, there was a bit of a triangle with Radek and Marc, but in this book, since you already know that Radek is a villain, the triangle starts to form with Marc and his brother. Henrik’s interest in Mila doesn’t have to go beyond friendship, so I hope it stops right where it is, right now.

I read this book under the impression that it was the end of the series, but as I got very close to the end with unresolved plot threads, I realized it wasn’t meant to be the last book of the series. I do seriously hope the story continues. Should you read it without reading Lions in the Garden first? Eh…really, no. You should start there. While most of the backstory is explained, you don’t really get the level of emotional weight you should by starting with this one.

COVER NOTES: The first book showed Mila’s face, while this one only shows her from behind…in an absolutely stunning gown that would have been more appropriate for the first book than this one. When I flipped through my e-books, though, I saw that this cover was similar in concept to several other YAs on my Kindle…girl shown from behind in gorgeous ball gown. The colors in this are quite striking, and I’m sure it will appeal to the target audience.

BOTTOM LINE: Uses interesting characters to explore a period of history that is unfamiliar to me, and makes me want to know more. I hope the story continues, and especially that the villains get what’s coming to them.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available September 13, 2016, in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: While the author has stated on social media that she’s working on book 3, she can’t confirm when it will be published.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Wendy Darling: Seas (Wendy Darling #2) by Colleen Oakes

I loved the first book in this series–Wendy Darling: Stars, previously reviewed here. Based on the ending of Stars and the title Seas, I had an idea of what (or whom) this book would feature, but like the first book, there were unexpected twists and turns.

Wendy Darling: Seas Front Cover (SparkPress)

Wendy Darling: Seas Front Cover (SparkPress)

SPOILER WARNING: This review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series.

THE PLOT: Wendy and Michael have been fished out of the sea by Captain Hook’s crew.  Wendy figures they won’t be much safer in the hands of pirates than they were with evil, self-centered Peter, but she’ll do anything to keep Michael safe. The pirates, especially a nasty one named Smith, assure Wendy that they’d just as soon kill her as use her in their battle against Peter. When Wendy is brought to Captain James Hook, he promises his only interest in her is how she can help him defeat Peter. Yes, Peter is a homicidal maniac, but he’s obsessed with Wendy. Hook can use that weakness to his advantage. First, he needs to bring Wendy up to speed on his own turbulent history with Peter, and what Peter’s connection to Tink really is.

Wendy is all too aware of the precariousness of her situation. She would do anything to get her brother John away from Peter’s influence and get the Darlings back home to their parents…and Wendy’s first love, Booth. But Wendy’s time with the pirates will make her stronger physically and mentally, even while she faces horrible betrayals and mortal danger.

MY TWO CENTS: What do you need to know? First, Peter hardly appears in this book, except for the threat of knowing he’s out there watching. This one is centered firmly on the pirate ship Sudden Night, and it does a nice job of exploring the pirates.

We’ve seen various versions of Hook in many different versions of Peter Pan, but this one is different. He’s a very rounded character, neither all bad nor all good. He makes sure Wendy knows that he would have no problem disposing of her, yet they forge a friendship of sorts. Hook is firmly a pirate, but his actions may be an effort to actually save everyone. He is a man with very deep emotional ties to some people and studied indifference to everyone else. It’s almost easier to say which versions of Hook he is NOT, including the Disney version, the “Once Upon a Time” handsome anti-hero version, and the Dustin Hoffman version.

Wendy goes through quite a bit of development in this one, although she blushes entirely too often. (We get it, she’s on a pirate ship, the pirates not exactly going to respect her delicate sensibilities.) But where Hook’s primary goal is to destroy Peter, Wendy’s primary goal is to get home, safely, with both her brothers. Peter is just an obstacle, but he’s a fairly big, dangerous obstacle. It’s in Wendy’s best interest to ally with Hook and risk her life. It’s not just for him, or even for Neverland; as far as she’s concerned, those are just byproducts of her mission.

This does at times feel very much like the middle part of the story. For example, there are some overlong descriptions of the ship, and there are times where nothing is really happening, although those times help build tension. (Are the pirates good or bad? Is Peter lurking around the corner?) But the climax of the book is all up to Wendy, and her strength carries her through to a final twisting shock as a setup for the next book.

COVER NOTES: I love these covers. I love how you never see Wendy’s face, and the pleasing colors are reminiscent of the iconic blue nightgown we relate to Disney’s version of Wendy. I have to wonder if we’ll finally see Wendy’s face on the cover of the third and final book, as I’m sure she will rise as the conquering hero. So far, both covers show Wendy being pushed and pulled by the elements; I expect Wendy to become the element of the last book! Honestly, I like these covers so much that I will probably buy a set in paperback as well as the eformats I already have.

BOTTOM LINE: While bonding with Hook over their mutual loathing of Peter Pan, Wendy starts to become the player instead of the pawn. It’s obviously the middle of the story, but if you loved Stars, you’ll fall right into this one, too.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available September 20, 2016, in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: Wendy Darling: Shadow, book 3 in the series, will be published in Fall 2017. I’m looking forward to the Wendy/Peter showdown.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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