In this tale as old as time, Isabelle Hawking must tinker a solution to a heartbreaking mystery.
When Isabelle Hawking and her papa set out from London on a sea voyage, Isabelle is thrilled. Visiting foreign courts, learning from master tinkerers, and studying mechanicals is her dream. And it doesn’t hurt that the trip also offers Isabelle an escape from her overbearing and unwanted suitor, Gerard LeBoeuf.
But Isabelle never arrives. Swept up in a tempest, her ship is lost.
Isabelle survives the storm only to be shipwrecked on a seemingly deserted island. The magical place, dotted with standing stones, faerie mounds, and a crumbling castle, hints of an ancient past. Isabelle may be an unwilling guest, but her arrival marks a new beginning for the beastly residents of this forgotten land.
See how New York Times bestselling author Melanie Karsak puts a steampunk spin on the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale set in gaslamp London.
Of all the steampunk style stories I have read this is one of my absolute favourites. It has everything amazing and right going for it: we have a spunky, intelligent heroine, we have the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, we have faeries, and we have incredibly well designed tech that doesn’t quite make sense, for good reason. I loved so much about this, the redemption of the characters and how they grew with time, even those that we really didn’t like or expect to see again. Everyone and everything had a purpose, and the story was quite endearing. I often ended up into the late hours of the night wanting to read more, but too tired to do so. If you like steampunk, you like fairy tales, and you love Beauty and the Beast– this will become a clear favourite.
Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯
It takes more than passion and pixie dust to thaw a frozen heart.
With the 1814 London Frost Fair in full swing, actress Elyse McKenna’s performance in A Midwinter Night’s Dream thrills the crowd. But Elyse’s backstage has life is beginning to take on a distinctly Shakespearean flavor.
When she fell in love with Lord John Waldegrave, Elyse was prepared to keep their affair secret. But she wasn’t ready for her new love to rock her relationship with her dearest friend, Doctor Kai Murray.
Everything Elyse thought she knew about her feelings for her old friend is flipped upside down when an enchanting ship captain turns her attention to Kai.
If Elyse hopes to escape the Thames with her heart intact, she must discover the truth about the captain, Kai, John, and her own feelings—before it’s too late.
Ice and Embers is a retelling of the classic Snow Queen fairy tale set in New York Times best-selling author Melanie Karsak’s steampunk universe. Journey to gaslamp London during the 19th century to see how Melanie puts a steampunk spin in this reimagined fairytale.
I put off reading this, in major part because Snow Queen isn’t one of the fairy tales I’m overly familiar with, but I was pleasantly surprised by how very well done this was. I quite enjoyed the behind the scenes looks at being in the theatre and being a doctor/doctor’s assistant, but it greatly annoyed me with how many times pirouetting across the stage was mentioned, since pirouettes do not travel but rotate in place. Other than the dancing descriptions being off, I thought the story was overall lovely.
I loved how Elyse was so innocent and naive, despite being in a position where she’d see these roles and situations on a regular basis. I truly loved how A Midsummer Night’s Dream (and Shakespeare in general) was entwined with the book. If you love steampunk, Shakespeare, fairytales, dance and romance, I’d recommend this book for sure.
Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯
Princess Seren has always expected her life to be one of duty and order, and her upcoming marriage alliance is no exception: she’ll sail to Bytamia to marry the crown prince as expected. But what she doesn’t expect is for the voyage to her new life to be delayed by the whims of an enchanted map and an adventure to a mystical island rumored to contain a legendary treasure.
She especially doesn’t expect—nor does she appreciate—the unwanted attentions of the charming yet infuriating captain who seems determined to befriend her and who also possesses the uncanny ability to see beyond the mask she’s always shown the world. Seren feels her careful control rapidly slipping away as the captain breaks down her defenses one by one, forcing her to face her fears and vulnerabilities and causing her to experience feelings she’s never felt before.
But this voyage will soon involve more than ships, treasure, and a far-too-endearing and persistent captain; it will also lead Seren on a journey that will allow her to heal, discovering both her own true worth and the greatest treasure of all: love. But is love even possible with the duty Seren must perform, a duty that just may be her last chance to redeem herself?
Inspired by “King Thrushbeard”
I was quite worried that King Thrushbear would be about Lavena, and no one really wants to read about her!
I wasn’t sure I was going to like this story, because Seren was known for being nasty. Once you get to know her deeper and understand why she’s so flawed, it becomes easier to resonate with her. Unlike the other flawed females, I felt like Seren had a much deeper reason for feeling as she did, given how her family had treated her. I loved Ronan from the start, and I absolutely loved that he didn’t intentionally try to deceive Seren. I quite loved how everything developed between them and the epic journey they went on. There was such growth of both protagonists during the novel and I quite loved it, especially how true to the real world the journey felt/read.
Quite enjoyed it, and looking forward to reading more in this series as they come out!
Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯
When Maren runs away from the threat of a forced marriage, the last place she expects to end up is the Malvagarian Palace, home to the enchanted gardens, a cursed prince, and a magical rose that traps her there. Crown Prince Briar isn’t pleased to be stuck with a troublesome guest, especially one as mischievous and curious as Maren. She, on the other hand, is determined to escape, but instead finds herself inconveniently falling in love with him. Despite her lack of beauty, feelings steadily blossom between her and the prince.
Their budding romance is soon threatened when sinister magic begins to eclipse the enchanted gardens, a darkness which quickly spreads not only to the kingdom, but to the king himself. In order to stop it, Briar and Maren will both be forced to make a heart-wrenching sacrifice, only to realize that the gardens’ requirements may prove too high a price.
Inspired by Beauty and the Beast
So as we all know, I’m a sucker for enchanted roses. I’d been wondering and wondering where Briar would fall in this series, torn between the Beast and some odd hybrid of Sleeping Beauty, but my first inclination was correct. I was so glad to see that back home Briar has a slightly different demeanor and personality, as he was rather drained and unpleasant in Reflection. Maren, however, I wasn’t sure I would like. From the beginning, her self esteem issues were a bit annoying, though understandable given her father never showed her love. It was frustrating that despite constantly saying that she was used to it her actions proved that she cared far too much about other’s opinions on her “beauty” or lack thereof. Despite this, I quite enjoyed her quips and how prepared she always was to get into both mischief and not let others tell her falsehoods. I could resonate quite soundly with doing all sorts of things like Maren, however, my interests were always nourished and encouraged by family, and when others would make me doubt myself, it generally made me even more determined to become better at whatever it was.
I love the personification of the garden, and quite enjoy how Maren and Briar dance around each other. While originally hard to really understand Briar, Maren’s good nature prevails and his character is revealed in how he deals with tragedy as well as his own issues with self doubt. I also loved the background characters of Maren’s childhood, and how completely dastardly the men in her life reveal themselves to be.
I was so glad to see Prince Drake and Prince Rhea again but we were left with a lot of baggage regarding them that was never resolved. I do hope to see them and a resolution in a future book, though I’m not sure we’d see them in the next book about Seren (Aiden’s sister from the first book in the series, Pathways). Seren was almost as nasty as Lavena in this book, so while I originally thought the next book would be about Princess Lavena (featured in Identity) it is unsurprising to know that the King Thrushbeard story will fall to Seren.
Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯
Princess Rheanna’s self-esteem shattered when her former fiancé unexpectedly ended their betrothal. Years later, the rejection continues to haunt her, and now that she’s faced with yet another unwanted political engagement, Rhea will do anything to avoid another heartache.
When a mysterious lure draws Rhea to an abandoned turret of the palace, she discovers a magic mirror and is shocked to find a snarky man trapped inside. Although she agrees to help break Drake’s curse, things quickly grow complicated, for not only does she begin to fall in love with him, but breaking a curse proves quite difficult when she herself feels trapped––by her own self-doubts.
Rhea and Drake’s relationship sets in motion a series of events that threaten both herself and her kingdom. As she seeks to unmask the evil within the palace and overcome the poisonous doubts consuming her mind, Rhea must make a difficult choice between the path she’s expected to walk and the man she’s forbidden to love. But the more time she spends with Drake, the less convinced she becomes that doing her duty will be worth the sacrifice it will cost her heart.
Inspired by “Snow White”
I didn’t think I was going to like this book. I didn’t really like Rhea because she has such poor self esteem and self worth, but the further into the story we got, while I didn’t resonate with her particular situation, it became apparent why she thought that way. What really drew me into this story was Drake, and his snark. This is a double redemption book, in which both protagonists need to learn and grow.
I really liked how much honour and duty to one’s kingdom and subjects played in this novel, especially because it would be something that, even as a third or fourth heir, you have to keep in mind if you were royal. I did think there were several plot twists that were noticeable far before Rhea discovered them, but given she was emotional and distraught it can be forgiven.
I’ve never encountered a retelling of Snow White that had this type of twist, and I quite loved it. I absolutely loved the ending, and I think that the couple is incredibly sweet and perfect together.
I definitely thought that the goblet was cursed, and I was somewhat sad that it was such a normal issue instead.
Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯
Anwen’s uncanny resemblance to Princess Lavena has been a curse since the moment she entered her service, as the spoiled princess has frequently used it to her advantage by forcing Anwen to switch places with her. But Princess Lavena’s latest scheme is her worst—and most dangerous—yet: compelling Anwen to take the princess’s place in her marriage to her loathed fiancé, Prince Liam.
Bound by an enchanted contract not to reveal the charade, Anwen is forced to go through with the masquerade and endure a marriage to a man who despises the woman he believes her to be. As time goes on, Anwen struggles not only to maintain her identity, but to fight her deepening feelings as she begins to fall in love with her new husband, a man who not only isn’t hers to keep, but who has no idea who she really is.
Inspired by “The Goose Girl”
Maybe Liam is a bit like Rosie, but this story was by far one of the best. There were constant stakes, and while you were rooting for Anwen you cannot help but think like her about her situation and how it might turn out. Liam loves stories and adventures, and while he might start off cold and fierce, he becomes oh so easy to love. The tension between Liam and Anwen is delicious, and I cannot recommend this sweet book enough. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in The Kingdom Chronicles and hope they continue to delight me more and more, as the ones I’ve read so far have done.
Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯
Rosie is fairly certain that there’s nothing wrong with putting a love spell on a foreign prince. At least she hopes there’s not, because such a drastic measure is necessary in order for her to ensure that the perfect fairy tale romance she’s dreamt about her entire life includes her own prince charming. As the heroine in her story, she won’t be deterred by well-meaning friends, royal betrothals, hungry dragons, or the intriguing guard who stands in her way.
Luckily, Rosie has access to an enchanted bakery and a recipe book of spells, one of which will ensure she’ll win the royal heart she desires. Unfortunately, no story is complete without a few obstacles, and Rosie’s comes in the form of a most formidable foe—a stoic guard whom Rosie may or may not be developing feelings for, one who is committed to thwarting her at every turn. But nothing will stand in the way of Rosie’s happily ever after. After all, what harm can a simple love spell do?
Inspired by “The Frog Prince”
Oh my goodness, this was by far one of the cutest books I’ve read in a long time. The story is written from the standpoint of Rosie, and while one might have thought that the book would follow the footsteps of the the first book in the Kingdom Chronicles (review here) the heroine is so different that the entire world seems different. She isn’t cautious and standoffish, shy, like Eileen, but bold and full of stories. As a fellow hopeless romantic, always lost in my mind, a book, my own characters and stories, I absolutely adored seeing things from Rosie’s perspective, especially all of the stories. While I did think a few things were too obvious, Rosie doesn’t really tend to consider things beyond if they went the way she wanted them to. While being a protagonist is fun, especially if you’re trying to become a main character in your own story, this book does a brilliant job of showing risk versus reward, and reminding the reader that whether or not you’ve thought through what may happen, there are always consequences to actions, and one must be ready to take them– good and bad.
Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯
Eileen has never been interested in love. Ever since her father’s abandonment, she’s vowed to never experience such pain again. But the enchanted forest has different ideas. When the continuously shifting pathways lead her to a mysterious stranger, Eileen finds her promise to fiercely guard her heart increasingly difficult to keep.
One night when she becomes lost in a storm, the enchanted forest’s pathways lead her to the castle, home to the kingdom’s Dark Prince, where Eileen finds herself entangled in what many consider an opportunity but which Eileen believes to be a curse: competing for the Dark Prince’s hand through a series of tests that judge one’s royal worth. Eileen is neither royal nor interested in becoming a princess. But the mysterious stranger she met in the woods has his own reasons for helping her succeed, although the cost of his assistance may be too high: that of Eileen’s heart, the one thing she’s vowed never to give.
Inspired by “The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstiltskin”
I started this book at random on the kindle, not remembering the description, having found another book I’d gotten 42% of the way through lackluster. I am so unbelievably happy I did! While there were definitely Princess and the Pea and Rumpelstiltskin vibes, I absolutely adored the Forest (perhaps because growing up I spent a lot of time buried inside one myself). The tranquility and need to escape really connected both of them, and I was curious to see how Eileen’s walls would be shattered or rebuilt. I absolutely loved the “cost” of things, and how she gave in, despite not knowing the man she met in the forest, and technically never having bargained or agreed to anything for help he freely gave her. The way he carefully spoke was brilliant, as was her attention to details as she ended up caught up trying to become a princess, even if she didn’t want to. I definitely felt some Ever After vibes during their meetings, given how outspoken she was when they were alone in the forest. Greatly enjoyed!
Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯
To save the Hatter, Alice must work with the one man she despises so much that she might still love him.
Alice thought she’d turned over a new leaf. No more working for Jabberwocky. No more making deals with the ruthless Queen of Hearts. No more hanging around The Mushroom with tinkers, tarts, scoundrels, and thieves in London’s criminal underbelly. But she’d been bonkers to dream.
Hatter’s reckless behavior leads Alice back to the one person she never wanted to see again, Caterpillar. Pulled into Caterpillar’s mad schemes, Alice must steal a very big diamond from a very royal lady. The heist is no problem for this Bandersnatch. But protecting her heart from the man she once loved? Impossible.
Sometimes love is mad.
Curiouser and Curiouser is a retelling of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland fairy tale set in New York Times best-selling author Melanie Karsak’s steampunk universe. Journey to gaslamp London during the 19th century to see how Melanie puts a steampunk spin on this reimagined fairytale.
I will admit that Alice in Wonderland is probably one of the fairy tales/Disney movies I wasn’t that enamoured with, however I did quite love the Tim Burton movies. I did, however, find this as a completely interesting and unique take on the story and I quite loved it. The names might resemble those of the story, but nothing is quite like anything you’d expect from the other popular tales of Lewis Carroll and the reiterations thereof.
I definitely saw the connection with the Red Queen before it was revealed, but it was quite expertly tied together and I’m not sure the average reader would have had my same mindset going into it. There were still parts that I found chilling and disturbing, even though I had figured out major plot points long before they were revealed and was rather annoyed that Alice didn’t simply ask Caterpillar, or at least ASSUME what it might be that he botched.
As always, love Karsak’s book, and look forward to reading her next one!
Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯
After stopping a mysterious preternatural assailant wielding an enchanted dagger, Clemeny is on the hunt. Why is someone after Victoria? To find answers, Clemeny Louvel must travel to the one place she’s been avoiding, the Summer Country. Among the mist and standing stones, secrets about her case—and herself—are hiding. An ancient grudge with roots deep in the heart of Britannia is about to unfold on the Victorian stage.
Unless Clemeny can stop it first.
Finally! We get to learn more of Clemeny, her heritage and lineage, and how that influences her life– or doesn’t. One of my absolute favourite tie ins of this series was that between Clemeny’s lineage and Sir Richard Spencer’s! I quite enjoyed seeing this series completed, though I didn’t quite enjoy how some people ended up paired together. I will say that while the ending alluded to great things, I would very much love another book (or two, or three!) to tie things together with a neat crisp bow.
I also found myself quite enamoured with Agent Rose, and hope that someday Karsak continues with the stories of the Red Cape society, or at least lets us know Agent Rose’s back story!
Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯