Storm The Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells Review

Storm The Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells_Review

Storm The Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells (Shatter The Sky #2)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Pages: 368

Available through Bookshop & The Book Depository

Cover Artist: Chloë Foglia (Designer) and Olivier Ponsonnet (illustrator)

Summary: Let them burn.

Maren’s world was shattered when her girlfriend, Kaia, was abducted by the Aurati. After a daring rescue, they’ve finally been reunited, but Maren’s life is still in pieces: Kaia seems more like a stranger than the lover Maren knew back home; Naava, the mother of all dragons, has retreated into seclusion to recover from her wounds, leaving Maren at a loss on how to set the rest of the dragons free; and worst of all, her friend Sev has been captured by the emperor’s Talons.

As a prisoner of Zefed, Sev finds himself entangled in a treacherous game of court politics. With more people joining the rebellion, whispers of a rogue dragon mistress spreading, and escape seeming less likely with each passing day, Sev knows that it won’t be long before the emperor decides to make an example of him. If he’s to survive, he’ll have to strike first—or hope Maren reaches him in time.

With the final battle for Zefed looming, Maren must set aside her fears, draw upon all she’s learned about her dragon-touched abilities, and face her destiny once and for all. But when the fighting is over and the smoke clears, who will be left standing?

[Read an ARC: which I received unsolicited from the publisher]

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Storm The Earth is a character-driven conclusion to the Shatter The Sky duology! When Maren is eager to free the dragons of her nation, she also embarks on a journey to rescue a friend whose been taken prisoner. With political intrigue, additional layers to the world building, and well-rounded character arcs, this is a quiet YA fantasy adventure worth reading!

Early last year, I read a surprising debut that I personally feel went under the radar. Although I truly don’t talk about this series enough, Shatter The Sky easily became one of my new favorite books. If you have yet to read Wells’ book it can essentially be pitched as an “angry bisexual/dragon” novel.

The first novel follows Maren, a girl who lives in the quiet mountain nation of Ilvera and whose girlfriend gets taken by Aurati, seers of the empire. So, as she devises a plan to rescue Kaia, she believes the only thing she can do is steal the emperor’s beloved dragons and search for her. When her journey takes her to a stronghold, she goes undercover as an aromatory apprentice, learning more about dragons, her nation’s deeply rooted link to them, and perhaps her own special connection.

Now that Maren and Kaia are reunited with the great dragon Naava by their side, she’s hoping to uncover a lot more about her unique abilities of being able to communicate with dragons and her mysterious Dragon dreams. With Sev (who is actually a prince leading an undercover rebellion) having become prisoner by the emperor, Maren is unsure of where he could possibly be. So, while the Emperor is devising a plan to destroy the brewing rebellion, take control of the dragons, and bring an end to Maren’s plans, Sev hopes she won’t be too late. Then to make matters even more interesting, Naava decides to leave and recover, leaving Maren to discover how she’ll free the dragons on her own and determine what the dragons’ fates will be when she breaks their hold from the Emperor’s Talons’…to join her or be free.

The worldbuilding in this sequel for me, was excellent, which is where STS faltered just slightly. However what this sequel does exceedingly well is delving more into those different layers from the various nations, political ties, and how both the lore and history of dragons fit into all of it! While taking place across the Zefedi empire from Maren’s POV, her travels detail more of the location, neighboring towns, and the world feels even more grounded. While from Sev’s POV there is a much clearer picture to the tyrannical rule of Rafael and his empire.

What both Maren and Sev’s POVs offer to expand on this rich world that Wells has established are elements of economic class division, hierarchy of the court, even the Emperor’s Talons and the dragon’s forced to work for them.

I felt that telling this story from a dual perspective truly was a brilliant move on Wells’s part because at its core, this story is propelled by its compelling cast of characters, especially our main protagonists. They are each learning more about themselves and how the world is shaping them at every step. Maren and Sev both had equally strong arcs and I genuinely loved following them in this finale, seeing how their stories intertwine added a new layer to this already phenomenal series.

An interesting twist is how Maren has taken up the role as the “Chosen One” / Hero, where Kaia has become much more reluctant like Maren was at the beginning of her own journey. While it can seem like “miscommunication” is a big factor in their surprisingly uneasy dynamic, Well’s naturally explored a relationship that is shifting, changing, and left adrift. It felt quite realistic and with the focus on characters, it made perfect sense with how Maren’s journey develops by the end.

As Maren continues on her journey she also learns whether she can take up the role of “Dragon Empress” the world so desperately needs. Sev is the last remaining royal of his family after they were murdered some years ago. With Rafael knowing more about Sev’s work with the Dragon’s, his rebel group, he knows he won’t let him escape so easily. While under the Emperor’s control and influence, Sev becomes forced to face trials that make him rethink his own power as a leader while it slowly crumbles away through torture and being coerced into making innocent people suffer for Rafael’s own image.

My only complaint is that I felt there could have been a couple more plot threads, mainly across Sev’s POV because he is essentially just stuck waiting for a way to escape. There’s his Aurati watcher named Faris and Neve also makes a return, which was very exciting as she was another one of my favorite characters, plus Sev’s childhood crush Piera. I enjoyed their character arcs a lot, but again I just wish they had a bit more page-time because they were so interesting [Especially Neve, who is on the verge of demotion after what happened with Maren in Book 1!]. The pacing can feel a bit slow, but with how the building conflict adds more tension to the story, I didn’t mind so much the further I read.

Again, the new characters we’re introduced to were so well developed and despite only just meeting them in the finale, their arcs really felt complete by the end of the book. Also, the intense action scenes (especially near the end) were SO GOOD! Actually, those scenes in particular were probably some of the best I’ve read in fantasy in quite a bit. Well’s detail to movement whether it was a confrontation with a Talon, dragon, etc., were described in a neat way where I never really felt lost while reading them.

Shatter The Sky and especially this sequel also is focused on presenting Queer rep. in this fantasy world. I love how Well’s navigated Queer relationships in her world. It’s nice to see typical romantic tropes or established relationships through the lens of a normalized queer fantasy setting. In addition to the bisexual rep. there’s a character who uses they/them pronouns, and there’s also a sapphic relationship.

Once I reached the end, I was overjoyed at where the main characters journeys had ended and truthfully I’m still feeling a bit sad at saying goodbye to this amazing world. If anything Storm The Earth left me wanting to know so much more. Maren, Sev, Kaia, the little dragon Tasia, Tovin, Efren, Neve, Faris, etc. were such intriguing characters and really captured my heart throughout the story, leading up to the end!

Shatter The Sky was definitely a unique reading experience and this surprisingly quick duology, really took me on a journey. These books are in my eyes truly under the radar. Its such a great series worth checking out, highly recommend them if you are looking for Queer fantasy, more YA duologies, dragons, or just eager to read a story set in a distinct world!

Storm The Earth closes the chapter on the Shatter The Sky duology following a reluctant hero who learns to lead a rebellion. From a layered world that gets explored even more, stunning cast of characters, dragon lore, politics, and much more, this is truly a YA Fantasy duology worth the read!

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells Review

Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim WellsShatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells (Shatter The Sky #1)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Release Date: July 30, 2019

Pages: 304

Available Through The Book Depository: Shatter The Sky

Cover Design/Illustration: Olivier Ponsonnet

Summary: Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?

My Rating:★★★★☆ 

My Thoughts: Shatter The Sky is a quiet, character-driven YA Fantasy! When Maren’s girlfriend is taken by prophets of the emperor, she goes on a quest to rescue her! Wells’ delivers a tale with intrigue, politics, dragon lore, adventure, and much more!

Shatter The Sky is one of those books I’d had on my TBR and knew it would be a perfect fantasy adventure, but I just wasn’t able to get to reading it in 2019. Luckily my #Quietreadthon inspired me to look at more backlist titles and I’m glad I was able to finally pick this up!

This book was a wild ride and it surprised me in a lot of ways, which for me is always a plus. All I knew going into it was that it featured a F/F relationship., Bi rep., dragons & a rescue! But that definitely worked in my favor, because I was left pretty much unsure as to all the rest of the details of the plot, which went in very unique directions (from my perspective). This is a YA Fantasy book that feels like it went under many people’s radars and needs a lot more love!

First in a duology, Shatter The Sky follows Maren and her girlfriend Kaia who live in the mountain nation of Ilvera which, along with many other small nations, is part of an ever-growing, corrupt Zefedi empire. This empire has taken control of the dragons to use for its own benefit, many of which used to live among the people of Ilvera many years ago!

Very early on, I felt I could really relate to Maren! She finds comfort in her quiet town and unlike Kaia, doesn’t feel too eager to explore what else lies beyond. Its that comfort and uncertainty that makes her a “Reluctant Hero” as Wells mentions in this Q&A from We Need Diverse Books:

“The reluctant hero is one of my favorite tropes…Something I really like about Maren is that even though she’s a homebody (a trait I borrowed from myself) and very hesitant to do anything to mess with the equilibrium of her life, she is determined to do what she feels is right…”

What made Maren such a fun protagonist to follow was not only that the book was told from her perspective, but through her eyes you sense a deep connection to the world she’s familiar with. This makes her discoveries about the world, unlocking a more confident side to herself, even development to the layers/different sides to the setting itself, feel lived in and expansive!

When prophetic seers of the emperor known as the Aurati visit Ilvera to offer prophetic advice and take another girl with them to be among their ranks, Maren is surprised and heartbroken to learn that Kaia’s been chosen. However, she wastes no time setting out on a journey to find her!

With her parents support, Maren sets out on her adventure which leads to a position at an Empire fortress, where they have dragons! Her plan is to essentially find a suitable dragon and use it to break into the Aurati’s fortress to get Kaia back.

But during her time there, she realizes she needs to fit in. A cousin of her father luckily has a job for her, food taster! This gets her noticed by Neve, who’s the lead Aromatory. From there, she learns more about what it takes to train a dragon through the use of oils and how they impact dragons in different ways.

Maren and her nation of Verran’s have a history that has rooted them dragons. So, throughout her journey she tries to better understand her Dragon Dreams that show her Kaia and the Aurati’s that have her. The dragon lore, much like the world-building in this novel as a whole, is presented in different ways that provide layers and new perspectives to the world as a whole through Maren as she continues on her journey.

Verran’s cultural ties to dragons, ways of the aromatory, dragons roles and positions under the Zefedi empire, the dragon guard known as Talons, even what it takes to care for a dragon are all explored throughout different moments of the story! It’s in Maren’s  personal narrative that she learns more about dragons as a whole and discovers a newfound appreciation for more beyond her personal quest!

As Maren works in the fortress she meets guards (Lilin & Sev) that help her better learn about the Zefedi empire and open her eyes to different parts of her world she never really understood, all while she’s trying to keep her plan under wraps! While I really loved this section of the book looking back (because I’m fascinated by politics in fantasy), it really did take up a big chunk of the story. It felt like the urgency of the conflict slowed down. But I will say there’s so much she learns during her time there that REALLY becomes important later on in the story.

Following Maren Vilna’s perspective allowed me to feel such a deeper connection to the world and the people she’s close to― I never felt distant to the world, Maren’s discoveries just made me feel even more connected to it because different sides are explored throughout the story! She never thought she’d have to know about her Empire in such a way (with talks of a rebellion & lost prince), but the journey she embarks on really changes her perspective. Another important piece to her as a character is her personal growth! She learns to value more than just her personal mission and realize her own potential as well!

Neve, Maren’s Aromatory mentor was my favorite character! Maybe it’s because I’m no longer a teen and just felt even more of a connection to her? I’m not sure, but you can tell there’s so much she knows not just about dragons and her role and what it means for the empire (which is permanent), but just life beyond the fortress and there’s a snark/jaded air to her that made her fun to learn about (I hope she makes a return in Storm The Earth).

There’s also Sev and Lilin who become Maren’s friends, much to her surprise! I loved their dynamic and also how Sev gets a bigger role in the story as it progresses! Sev is the one who opens Maren’s eyes to the treatment of dragons and how Maren can do more to change her perspective. He’s interested in Maren and can tell she’s hiding something, but either way their dynamic is great and I also loved his dynamic with Lilin!

Lilin is pretty much the opposite of Sev, where she doesn’t give much thought or question to her role as a Zefedi guard. I never realized that until I finished reading, but I loved how she reflected Sev and showed two different sides to those who work for the empire!

The cast was great! I felt they all really stood out no matter how little page time and I genuinely loved learning about each of them! Sev and Neve were 2 of my favorite characters!

Politics, intrigue and the development of the world (both setting & dragon lore) play a big part in the “Fortress” section of the book and really allowed me to get more immersed in the world little by little.

Next I wanted to discuss the representation throughout Shatter The Sky! Through the different cultures presented, you can really get an understanding as to how big and diverse this empire is! I’ve read and loved a lot of YA Fantasy, but I applaud this book for weaving in such a prominent inclusive representation in different ways: Within the Zefedi Empire we learn about its 5 nations, Ilvera (mountain nation), Oskiath (where Maren’s father was from before Ilvera), Seda Serat, & I think the other nation was Deletev (don’t quote me on that 😂).

Characters are described as having light & dark brown skin, women are in positions of power and there’s normalized Queer relationships & a character that uses “they/them” pronouns. This is a beautiful fantasy world that normalizes Queer rep. and showcases women across different roles in the empire, it was great to see those elements presented throughout the story!

Themes of family, loyalty, love, and strength of self are developed through Maren and her journey, which really come together as the story progresses (especially in regards to loyalty & self).

Next I wanted to discuss why I personally rated it 4 stars, but will I read the sequel? ABSOLUTELY! This world really grows on you and I felt such a connection to it and the main cast that I felt sad when I reached those last few pages! The ending leaves you feeling hopeful, but also scared for a particular character…won’t say who!

Though I absolutely love 1st person POVs, I felt that because we were in Maren’s head it did make the pacing feel slow (particularly in the Fortress sections) where there’s an urgency to her mission it really slows down. While I also got a great sense of the world by the end, I felt description wise there was a lot about the settings/different nations as a whole that could have been developed a bit more to differentiate them more in my mind.

Because this is an introduction to the world I felt there’s still more detail that could have been presented on through Maren’s perspective that tied in with the underlying politics, culture, and so on since she does quite a bit of traveling/journeying!

This is a quiet, slow, and unique fantasy that I recommend you try out! Trust me that the further you read and root yourself into the world, you’ll see how the plot threads get more interesting with each chapter!

The ending, especially with its characters, left me wanting more and I can’t wait to read Storm The Earth!

Shatter The Sky is character-driven, expansive YA Fantasy steeped in dragon lore, politics, diverse cultures, and a cast of fantastic characters! Rebecca Kim Wells’ debut is an underrated fantasy well worth your time!

Book Bytes #16

Book Bytes Banner 2018~ 24hryabookblogBook Bytes is a monthly feature I created to share news in the world of YA!

Each month, posts can contain anything from new cover/title reveals, book-to-movie news, even the latest book deals!!
I’ve now split up the news into categories, to make it easier to jump to whichever book news you’d like to read about!

If there’s any book news I missed or any you want to discuss, definitely leave a comment!

Book Bytes #16 is wrapping up all the YA Book news from September!

Sorry last month’s Book Bytes is coming a bit late! I had college work + books/blog posts to catch up on!  😭✨

September’s biggest amount of YA Book News focused on cover reveals!

Adaptation News

1.The Witchlands Series Optioned by the Jim Henson Company For TV

According to Deadline, as of September 2 Susan Dennard’s Witchlands Series was optioned to be developed as a live-tv series.

No other news was announced!

2. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy Is Coming To Netflix

Announced September 12 through Julie Murphy’s twitter, was that the adaptation for her 2015 novel Dumplin’ is set to be released on Netflix this year!

Book Deals

1.A Song Of Wraiths And Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

Set to be released in spring of 2020 through Balzer + Bray, is Roseanna A. Brown’s debut, A Song Of Wraith And Ruins.

Its a dual-POV YA fantasy steeped in West and North African folklore. “17-year-old refugee, Malik, encounters a vengeful spirit that demands the death of Crown Princess Karina in exchange for the release of his captive sister. He disguises himself as a nobleman and enters a competition where he will be rewarded with Karina’s hand in marriage. Meanwhile, after the assassination of her mother, Karina uncovers a forbidden resurrection spell, but it has a steep cost” (Announced September 6).

2.Slay by Brittney Morris

Set to be released Fall 2019 with Simon Pulse, Brittney Morris’s debut, Slay centers around “17-year-old Kiera Johnson, a black teen game developer battling a real-life troll intent on ruining the Black Panther-inspired online role-playing card game she has created and that has become especially popular among black gamers worldwide. But when an African-American teen, Jamal Rice, is murdered during a dispute over the in-game currency (“Slay Coins”), Slay is widely disparaged in the mainstream media and elsewhere as a racist, exclusionist, and violent hub for thugs and criminals.

Faced with the threat of an anti-white discrimination lawsuit, Kiera suspects that a rich, white, male classmate at the private school that she attends, Wyatt, is behind it. Desperate to maintain her secret identity as Slay’s developer, Kiera proposes a virtual duel to resolve the dispute: if she wins, Wyatt drops the idea of litigation. If Wyatt wins, Kiera hands over to him complete control of the game” (Announced September 18).

Cover Reveals

1.The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton

Revealed on Bustle September 6, was the cover to Clayton’s The Everlasting Rose, the sequel to The Belles!

Alongside the cover reveal was also an excerpt!

The Everlasting Rose is set to be released March 5, 2019!

2.The Revolution Of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert

As of September 13, The NOVL blog revealed the cover to Brandy Colbert’s upcoming YA Contemporary, The Revolution Of Birdie Randolph!

“Dove “Birdie” Randolph works hard to be the perfect daughter and follow the path her parents have laid out for her: She quit playing her beloved soccer, she keeps her nose buried in textbooks, and she’s on track to finish high school at the top of her class. But then Birdie falls hard for Booker, a sweet boy with a troubled past…whom she knows her parents will never approve of.

When her estranged aunt Carlene returns to Chicago and moves into the family’s apartment above their hair salon, Birdie notices the tension building at home. Carlene is sweet, friendly, and open-minded–she’s also spent decades in and out of treatment facilities for addiction. As Birdie becomes closer to both Booker and Carlene, she yearns to spread her wings. But when long-buried secrets rise to the surface, everything she’s known to be true is turned upside down.”

The Revolution Of Birdie Randolph is set to be released August 20, 2019!

3.Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson

As of September 14, Bustle revealed the cover alongside an excerpt to Renée Watson’s upcoming YA Contemporary novel, Watch Us Rise!

Watson’s novel centers around Jasmine & Chelsea who “are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard. “

Watch Us Rise is set to be released February 12 2019!

4.Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Revealed through Happily Ever After as of September 17, was the cover to McQuiston’s upcoming 2019 Contemporary debut, Red, White & Royal Blue!

Its pitched as”A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…”

Red, White, & Royal Blue is set to be released June 4, 2019!

5.Shatter The Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

Revealed through Paste Magazine on September 17, was the cover to Rebecca Kim Wells’s 2019 fantasy debut, Shatter The Sky!

Shatter The Sky is set to be released July 30, 2019!

6.The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo

As of September 26 through EW revealed the cover alongside an excerpt to Acevedo’s sophomore contemporary novel, The Fire On High!

Acevedo’s upcoming novel centers on  “teen mom Emoni Santiago, who lives in Philadelphia and traces dreams of turning her talent for cooking into a career.”

The Fire On High is set to be released May 7, 2019!

Misc. Book News + Publisher News

1.The NOVL Cover Reveal Round-Up

Through The NOVL’s blog as of September 19, the site shared a cover reveal round-up for their upcoming Spring + Summer 2019 books!

Tours

1.Girls Of Paper And Fire by Natasha Ngan

Revealed through Natasha Ngan’s twitter, were the tour dates for her upcoming debut, Girls Of Paper And Fire, which will take place starting November 7!

Girls Of Paper And Fire is set to be released November 6, 2018!

And That’s The YA Book News For September! 😄✨📚

Thoughts on last months YA Book News? What was your favorite piece of Book News from September? 📚✨📰