The Holidays are fast approaching us and we are all starting to wonder what books to put on our wishlists this year. As readers, we know all about this brand new releases (and probably already own most of them), so every year it’s getting trickier to find something you’ve never heard of. There are so many books out there that it’s very easy to get lost in the mist of the most popular ones, and missing out a bunch of truly incredible books. Well, just in case you’re in need of a little bit of help, I’m here to do some Christmas magic and recommend you a few books that may have gone under your radar this year, but you’ll definitely want check out!
Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven
Synopsis: Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses. But this year is different…
Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. And unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.
To protect her family and village, she will risk everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more.
I rediscovered Grace Draven a few months ago all thanks to this book, and I’m so glad I did because she truly has amazing books. There’s something about her stories and the way she writes them that makes them feel so real, the words literally come alive on the page. Phoenix Unbound is definitely one of those books, it talks about love and hardship in such a beautiful way, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. With two strong lead characters, and a fantastical slow burn romance, this story will completely enthrall you from the very first page!
Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf
Synopsis: Zera is a Heartless – the immortal, unageing soldier of a witch. Bound to the witch Nightsinger ever since she saved her from the bandits who murdered her family, Zera longs for freedom from the woods they hide in. With her heart in a jar under Nightsinger’s control, she serves the witch unquestioningly. Until Nightsinger asks Zera for a Prince’s heart in exchange for her own, with one addendum; if she’s discovered infiltrating the court, Nightsinger will destroy her heart rather than see her tortured by the witch-hating nobles.
Crown Prince Lucien d’Malvane hates the royal court as much as it loves him – every tutor too afraid to correct him and every girl jockeying for a place at his darkly handsome side. No one can challenge him – until the arrival of Lady Zera. She’s inelegant, smart-mouthed, carefree, and out for his blood. The Prince’s honor has him quickly aiming for her throat.
So begins a game of cat and mouse between a girl with nothing to lose and a boy who has it all. Winner takes the loser’s heart…
A girl desperately wanting her heart back, needs to betray a prince in order to steal his heart, and all for the price of her freedom? If that premise alone doesn’t pick your interest, you need to trust me because this one may surprise you!
The first thing that comes to my mind whenever I think of Bring Me Their Hearts is humorous, because let me tell you, this book is really funny! Sara Wolf combines the perfect amount of adventure, action, with a hilarious main character and a complicated-yet swoon worthy romance. If you’re looking for something fun and quick to read, this is the right choice! Zera will make you laugh, cry, and probably even try to steal your heart!
Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez
Synopsis: Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.
As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.
Sweet Black Waves is a retelling of the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Iseult, something I’ve personally never read of before. With elements of Celtic folklore, pirates, magic, and forbidden romance, Kristina Pérez makes her YA fantasy debut with an epic love story. The writing in this book is beautifully whimsical, and something I truly can’t get enough of, her characters pour emotions all over the page. It’s definitely one of those books that you read on a cozy rainy day and completely devour in one sitting. This sweeping tale will make you laugh, cry, and completely fall in love with the characters and its magical world!
Dance Of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson
Synopsis:When the patriarch of the Ballenger empire dies, his son, Jase, becomes its new leader. Even nearby kingdoms bow to the strength of this outlaw family, who have always governed by their own rules. But a new era looms on the horizon, set in motion by a young queen, which makes her the target of the dynasty’s resentment and anger.
At the same time, Kazi, a legendary former street thief, is sent by the queen to investigate transgressions against the new settlements. When Kazi arrives in the forbidding land of the Ballengers, she learns that there is more to Jase than she thought. As unexpected events spiral out of their control, bringing them intimately together, they continue to play a cat and mouse game of false moves and motives in order to fulfill their own secret missions.
Mary E. Pearson for me is one of those writers that no matter what she writes, I know it will probably become an instant favorite. I cannot explain why, but there’s something about her stories that simply resonates with me in the most magical way. She has a way with writing that constantly leaves me mesmerized, making you feel things with her words. With characters that are both complex and full of life, Dance of Thieves is a tale about love, lost and family, that will completely capture your heart. If you’re in the mood for a good romance book, Kazi and Jase’s beautiful love story will probably break your heart, but in the best possible way!
The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen
Synopsis: Lara has only one thought for her husband on their wedding day: I will bring your kingdom to its knees. A princess trained from childhood to be a lethal spy, Lara knows that the Bridge Kingdom represents both legendary evil – and legendary promise. The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom controls all trade and travel between lands, allowing its ruler to enrich himself and deprive his enemies, including Lara’s homeland. So when she is sent as a bride under the guise of fulfilling a treaty of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture the defenses of the impenetrable Bridge Kingdom.
But as she infiltrates her new home – a lush paradise surrounded by tempest seas – and comes to know her new husband, Aren, Lara begins to question where the true evil resides. Around her, she sees a kingdom fighting for survival, and in Aren, a man fiercely protective of his people. As her mission drives her to deeper understanding of the fight to possess the bridge, Lara finds the simmering attraction between her and Aren impossible to ignore.
Her goal nearly within reach, Lara will have to decide her own fate: Will she be the destroyer of a king or the savior of her people?
I couldn’t finish this list without recommending one of my favorites, yet most underrated reads of this year. The Bridge Kingdom is a lush tale about kingdoms at the brick of war and an arrange marriage that’s meant to save everything. Full of betrayal, political intrigue, and with one of the most angsty-yet amazing romances I’d ever read, I completely devoured this book in a matter of days. The really interesting thing about this book is that you can only ‘read’ it via audiobook (it will be published in book form sometime next year I believe), and that added a lot to the experience. For me it’s one of those books that as soon as you finish, you immediately want to start it again. Lara and Aren’s story will completely captivate you, and you won’t be able to forget it for a long time!