*ARC Review* Prince of Secrets and Shadows by C. S. Johnson

secretsTitle: Prince of Secrets and Shadows, book two in the Order of the Crystal Daggers trilogy

Author: C. S. Johnson

Publisher: Prodigy Gold Books

Release Date: December 4, 2018

Genres: Young adult, Romance, Historical fiction, Fantasy

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary:

“How do I know you’re telling me the truth?” The last thing I wanted to do was hurt him, but if I did not find a way to break free of him, I would risk doing even more harm.

Ferdy met my gaze with his. “I promise you this, Ella, that as of now, I will never lie to you again.” He leaned forward and kissed me again, and I stood there, letting him, desperately debating whether I could trust him or not. His promise burned through me, his words scorched into my being. It was so tempting to believe him, more tempting than anything else I had ever faced in all my life.

Freedom was only freedom if I could trust it to be true.

PRAGUE, 1870

After joining the Order of the Crystal Daggers, led by her dauntless grandmother, Lady Penelope, Eleanora Svobodová set out to save her kingdom from oncoming devastation.
And she failed.

Following the attack on Prague Castle, Eleanora is determined to redeem herself. She sets out to win Karl’s trust while distancing herself from Ferdy, whose secrets and lies have done nothing to stop her from falling in love with him. As she struggles to let him go, questions about the mission and her mother’s past cause a rift between Amir and Lady Penelope and add to the growing discord between Eleanora and her brother. 

But when a cunning provocateur arrives in Prague, Eleanora discovers there is an even more deadly game afoot, one that reaches into Amir’s past and threatens Lady Penelope’s future. Now, the members of the Order must work together if they are to uncover the true enemy hiding in Bohemia. 

Can they work together despite their divisions? Or will their division lead to even more destruction?

With spies, secrets, and suspense, Prince of Secrets and Shadows is the second book in The Order of the Crystal Daggers, a spy adventure series from C. S. Johnson.


My review

Please note: this is the second book in the Order of the Crystal Daggers trilogy and may contain spoilers from the first book. You can check out my review of the first book, Kingdom of Ash and Soot, here


Dozens of authors write fantastic first books in a trilogy. And most struggle with writing an excellent sequel. Sometimes the sequel doesn’t live up to the first book, but it’s still good. And sometimes the sequel is just as good as the first book, if not better. In this case, Prince of Secrets and Shadows exceeds its predecessor, Kingdom of Ash and Soot.

“You are young yet, but even you know there are things worth dying for.”

I knew this book was going to be phenomenal when I started the first chapter. I adore books that start almost right where the previous book left off. It’s a wonderful way to refresh your memory and get a feel for the impact the first book left on the main characters. And just like the first book, C.S. Johnson starts the story off with an important scene, one that involves one of my all-time favorite characters. Johnson sets the boundaries straight in the first chapter and gets the reader ready for what to expect throughout the novel. It’s exciting and a great way to start a sequel.

And then enter the one known as the Prince of Secrets and Shadows. He was a very interesting character and added a lot of grief to the story, in the sense that he did not make it easy for the characters. He’s a double-edged sword and, frankly, not someone I would want to mess with. It’s not that he’s necessarily a dangerous character, but he plays a dangerous game of cat and mouse. And his role in this story thickened the plot in a way I did not see coming.

“I used to think being free meant an escape; I thought it meant I would be able to move away from authority and addiction, to be still against the forces of time and space. But as he held me there, pushed against a wall, I knew freedom was not an escape, but a coming home.”

In Prince of Secrets and Shadows, Ella struggles with deciding what she wants to do with her life. She’s in the Order because she wants to follow in her Mother’s footsteps. But her heart desires something different, something more than the life Ella has chosen. Ella wants freedom and love and not to be controlled like she has been most her life. And throughout this book, she starts to realize that freedom and love can decidedly be the same thing.

“Even if you deny your heart, your heart does not go away. That is why everyone lies, everyone has secrets, and everyone has regrets.”

Ella struggles with many of her relationships, in more ways than one. Her brother distances himself from her, causing an unforeseen rift in their relationship. She connects with one of her trainers in a way she didn’t expect. And her relationship with Lady POW grows stronger in a surprising way.

And then there is Ferdy. Oh, Ferdy. There isn’t a part of me that doesn’t love this character. He’s charming, considerate, and just an all-around great character and love interest for Ella. And though Ella battles with her heart and what she perceives as right, he never once gives up on her. Most of my favorite chapters consisted of Ferdy and the tension between him and Ella.

In the first book, Ella is a strong and courageous character. I’m not saying she isn’t in the second book (she’s quite brave and strong-headed), but she now realizes she has way more at stake than just her freedom. And to protect those she loves, she may have to knowingly play that game of cat and mouse.

If you haven’t ready Kingdom of Ash and Soot, I highly recommend. C.S. Johnson has beautifully woven a story that you will not soon forget. Kingdom of Ash and Soot is available now and Prince of Secrets and Shadows comes out next Tuesday, December 4!

Thank you to the author for sending an advanced e-copy for me to read and write an honest review! All quotes are from the advanced e-copy and may not appear in the final novel.

nikole

 

The Page 69 Test: Kingdom of Ash and Soot by C. S. Johnson

Happy Wednesday, everyone! It’s been a great week so far, so to continue that greatness, here is our third post of the Page 69 Test. The two paragraphs below illustrate what this post is about.

The Page 69 TestMy co-bloggers and I have started a new weekly blog post: The Page 69 Test! Have you heard of the page 69 test? If not, it’s basically where you read page 69 of a book you think you will like. If you liked reading page 69, chances are you will enjoy reading the rest of the book.

Instead of posting the full page, we will be posting the first 10-20 lines of that page, starting with the first full sentence.

The book for this week is by a wonderful author, C. S. Johnson. I recently read Kingdom of Ash and Soot: The Order of the Crystal Daggers, and it was absolutely breathtaking (you can read my review here). I was completely immersed in the world and the characters are spectacular. Check out the start of page 69 below!

“Seemingly hours later, I watched Ben as he mindlessly picked at the dirt underneath his fingernails. We were stationed outside of the library, both of us silent.

I had a feeling Ben was going through the same tumultuous turmoil as I was; as I gave him an overview of what happened in the dining hall, his expressions shifted constantly, ranging from amused to angry to suspicious.

‘Do you think she’s really our grandmother?’ I finally asked Ben.

‘No one with that kind of coach and team would come to our manor in Bohemia if it were not for real,’ Ben said. ‘Besides, it makes sense. She is British, as Mama was, and she’s clearly a member of the higher social circles. And remember, when Mama left us, she was headed for London.’

‘And then her ship went down.'”

See the summary for Kingdom of Ash and Soot below. And get ready to swoon over Ferdy (trust me, you will!).


Synopsis of Kingdom of Ash and Soot by C. S. Johnson

39604038“I want to be free.” The words came rushing out of me before I could think through their implications and consequences.

“There are two things you need to know about yourself if you want to be free—what you stand for, and what you stand against.” Lady Penelope held up her hands, brandishing a pair of daggers that had been hidden in her skirts. “This world lives enslaved to its destruction, and so long as you are living, as long as you are fighting, you will be free.”

I gazed at the daggers, transfixed. Each blade was clothed in a leather scabbard, but the silver and obsidian of the daggers’ hilts winked at me, as though it was calling for me.

PRAGUE, 1870.

For the last ten years, nineteen-year-old Eleanora Svobodová has worked as a servant in her stepmother’s household. Along with her older brother, she dreams of the day they will be free to live life on their own terms.

But everything changes when their estranged grandmother comes to Prague on behalf of Queen Victoria. Throughout Bohemia, a string of murders and secret whispers hint at a larger coup. As the leader of the Order of the Crystal Daggers, an ancient order of spies and soldiers that protect kingdoms and their rulers, Lady Penelope is determined to mete out the perpetrators. Now, Eleanora must make the choice between a life of intrigue and saving the lives of others.

Can Eleanora find a way do the right thing and still find freedom?

With a fun blend of historical fiction, true love, castle intrigue, and family dysfunction, The Order of the Crystal Daggers is the latest adventure series from C. S. Johnson.

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*ARC Review* Kingdom of Ash and Soot – C. S. Johnson

Cinderella meets Mission Impossible in this spy adventure series full of political intrigue, family secrets, and a determined heroine.

39604038Title: Kingdom of Ash and Soot

Author: C.S. Johnson

Publisher: Prodigy Gold Books

Release Date: July 3, 2018

Page Count: 352

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:

“I want to be free.” The words came rushing out of me before I could think through their implications and consequences.

“There are two things you need to know about yourself if you want to be free—what you stand for, and what you stand against.” Lady Penelope held up her hands, brandishing a pair of daggers that had been hidden in her skirts. “This world lives enslaved to its destruction, and so long as you are living, as long as you are fighting, you will be free.”

I gazed at the daggers, transfixed. Each blade was clothed in a leather scabbard, but the silver and obsidian of the daggers’ hilts winked at me, as though it was calling for me.

PRAGUE, 1870.

For the last ten years, nineteen-year-old Eleanora Svobodová has worked as a servant in her stepmother’s household. Along with her older brother, she dreams of the day they will be free to live life on their own terms.

But everything changes when their estranged grandmother comes to Prague on behalf of Queen Victoria. Throughout Bohemia, a string of murders and secret whispers hint at a larger coup. As the leader of the Order of the Crystal Daggers, an ancient order of spies and soldiers that protect kingdoms and their rulers, Lady Penelope is determined to mete out the perpetrators. Now, Eleanora must make the choice between a life of intrigue and saving the lives of others.

Can Eleanora find a way do the right thing and still find freedom?

With a fun blend of historical fiction, true love, castle intrigue, and family dysfunction, The Order of the Crystal Daggers is the latest adventure series from C. S. Johnson.


Kingdom of Ash and Soot is beautifully written, offering alluring and intense character-driven scenes that make you feel like you are standing next to Eleanora the entire time. The historical parts of the novel are compelling and so intricately woven into the plot. The twists and turns will leave you guessing and when the pieces finally come together, you won’t be disappointed.

I’ve read a ton of books that have traces of Cinderella, but never one that includes action scenes, political intrigue, and the incredible spy component like Mission Impossible. There’s the stepmother and the god-awful stepchildren that torment Eleanora and her brother, Ben. And then there’s the wonderfully stubborn grandmother that comes to their rescue, to take them out of servitude and give their lives more meaning and to give the two siblings what they have always wanted: freedom. But as some know, freedom comes at a cost. Always.

It comes at a cost that Eleanora is willing to pay.

Eleanora is a strong and courageous character and refuses to let anything, and anyone, break her. She controls her own destiny and refuses to let anyone tell her otherwise. Family is important to her, and putting up with her stepfamily is what she does to ensure her and Ben have a future. She’s a lovable main character and one that deserves a happily every after.

Though I loved Eleanora and her bravery and her desire to do what’s right, I loved Ferdy more. Ferdy is such a lovable and fun character and, of course, he sounds so attractive on the page. I was more excited about the scenes with Ferdy than I was for any other scenes (I’m hoping there’s a ton more of Ferdy in book two). He showcases charm and his dazzling intellect, all the while trying to sweep Eleanora off her feet. Ferdy brings a giddiness to the book that I feel would be missing if he didn’t exist. All in all, Eleanora is one lucky girl to have a character like Ferdy vying for her attention. I also very much enjoyed Lady POW in all her stubborn and sassy glory. There were so many enjoyable characters in Kingdom of Ash and Soot that once I finished the first book, it felt like I was leaving family.

When I read the last line of the book, I was like, “That’s it?!” I craved more of Eleanora’s story (and Ferdy, of course), and I cannot wait to read the second book. Eleanora’s journey is no where near its end; her journey has just begun, and I’m determined to watch her finish it.

Kingdom of Ash and Soot comes out Tuesday, July 3 (only a few more days!). But you can pre order the book today from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I have my copy on pre order; I loved the story of Eleanora so much that I had to order a paperback copy!

If you love the spy element, romantic intrigue, fierce action scenes, swoon-worthy love interests, and character-driven plots, then I highly recommend Kingdom of Ash and Soot.

First Line Friday – Kingdom of Ash and Soot – C.S. Johnson

Welcome to First Line Friday, where we share the first line in a book! What we’ve been doing lately is sharing the first sentence of an upcoming novel.

In this case, that novel this week is Kingdom of Ash and Soot by C.S. Johnson, which comes out next month.

Check out the amazing first line below!

“My father’s hands, stained with darkened sunlight and roughened sores, were cold as I touched them for the last time.”

Dang, that first line gives me the chills, and also makes me a little sad. I’m currently reading Kingdom of Ash and Soot and it’s really good so far!


Synopsis of Kingdom of Ash and Soot by C.S. Johnson

39604038“I want to be free.” The words came rushing out of me before I could think through their implications and consequences.

“There are two things you need to know about yourself if you want to be free—what you stand for, and what you stand against.” Lady Penelope held up her hands, brandishing a pair of daggers that had been hidden in her skirts. “This world lives enslaved to its destruction, and so long as you are living, as long as you are fighting, you will be free.”

I gazed at the daggers, transfixed. Each blade was clothed in a leather scabbard, but the silver and obsidian of the daggers’ hilts winked at me, as though it was calling for me.

PRAGUE, 1870.

For the last ten years, nineteen-year-old Eleanora Svobodová has worked as a servant in her stepmother’s household. Along with her older brother, she dreams of the day they will be free to live life on their own terms.

But everything changes when their estranged grandmother comes to Prague on behalf of Queen Victoria. Throughout Bohemia, a string of murders and secret whispers hint at a larger coup. As the leader of the Order of the Crystal Daggers, an ancient order of spies and soldiers that protect kingdoms and their rulers, Lady Penelope is determined to mete out the perpetrators. Now, Eleanora must make the choice between a life of intrigue and saving the lives of others.

Can Eleanora find a way do the right thing and still find freedom?

With a fun blend of historical fiction, true love, castle intrigue, and family dysfunction, The Order of the Crystal Daggers is the latest adventure series from C. S. Johnson.


I am totally loving that cover, by the way! I hope you all have a great weekend! 🙂

♥Nikole