Ruby Fever and Storm Echo coming out in the same month is wild for me. The fact that I got to read both books before their release date? Unfathomable and yet true. Of course, you’re reading this in the days after Storm Echo has released so that probably doesn’t seem as relevant to you. But nevertheless! The point is, I got to read some very exciting releases this month as ARCs and, in the case of Storm Echo, because a random bookstore on vacation had it out early and I figured to keep up the goodwill, I’d go ahead and review it for y’all. I’m bookending this set of reviews with two of my most anticipated books of the year. So first up, you’ll see my review of Ruby Fever by Ilona Andrews, which caps off Catalina’s trilogy in the Hidden Legacy world and it was absolutely marvelous in the way that it really tied up a lot of loose ends, while leaving us with plenty to continue on with an Arabella trilogy. (Please, Avon, please.) Ruby Fever drops on August 23rd. Then we have Wild is the Witch by Rachel Griffin, which is sort of a new adult fantasy romance and it is already available! Next up is The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen, which drops on August 23rd as well, and is a very unique fantasy with a hate to love/You’ve Got Mail type of situation happening. I received e-ARCs from Netgalley of Ruby Fever and Wild is the Witch, as well as an audio ARC of Wild is the Witch, and an audio review copy of The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy alongside a physical ARC that Aarya was kind enough to pass along to me. Then finally, we have Storm Echo by Nalini Singh, which came out yesterday, and is the latest installment in the Psy-Changeling Trinity books. Now that we’ve finally made it through this long intro, let us actually talk about the books!
Ruby Fever by Ilona Andrews
This was hands down my most anticipated book of 2022 and y’all, it did not disappoint. This book DELIVERED such an intense and wild ride. I was so stressed and so concerned about all of my favorites, because basically ALL of them are my favorites. The Arabella content has me DYING for her to have her own trilogy. The Nevada/Catalina scenes made me want to call my sisters and tell them I love them. The scenes with Victoria and Linus? I literally cycled through every emotion like I was one of the Baylor sisters. Like… I cannot cope with all of the things we found out in this book. And all of the Alessandro/Catalina scenes? I LOVE THEM. I could spend a million pages with them and it wouldn’t be enough.
So yes, even though I tried to make this a coherent review, it turns out I am still on Cloud 9 that I got to read this book and cannot say anything that makes sense. Just know that this book fully delivers. It is perfection. It is worth the wait. And I cannot wait to read it again and again while I wait impatiently for IA to get everything they want from Avon so that I can have Arabella’s trilogy.
I am genuinely so excited to re-read this book on release day in audio and, well, lets just say I won’t be surprised if that turns into re-listening to the entirety of the series.
Wild is the Witch by Rachel Griffin
The vibes in this book are really top notch if you’re looking for a book set in the Pacific Northwest where you can really get a sense of the forrest and the nature. I’m not really a nature girlie myself so the vibes were nice but not the main reason I was there. The main reason I was there is because the premise of this book is essentially that Iris writes a curse to turn Pike into a witch (a HUGE no-no) because she doesn’t like him, but also, she never intends for this curse to be, you know, effective. Then an owl swoops in and ingests the curse and she and Pike have to adventure into the woods to find the owl and stop the curse before things get real bad, but also Pike cannot know she’s a witch. Obviously, because this is a book with a perfect hate to love set-up, we get a hate to love relationship and I think that part was done so well, because you actually get to see Pike and Iris communicate. A novel concept it feels like sometimes. But I really liked the way you see their dynamic shift throughout this book and the slow way they come to understand that they never had the full picture of the other person before. Oh, and the mental health representation in this book is really visceral. The anxiety that Iris feels? You definitely get it. I thought it was extremely well done, but I also think that parts of it may feel triggering for some individuals.
The reason this book gets a four star from me rather than a five is because I don’t think this book committed to a particular path or, alternatively, it is meant to be a series, but that part isn’t announced? I just felt like there was a lot that was set up in this book and then not explored. Like, there is a whole friendship that we see established and break in the prologue and then the repercussions are felt throughout and at the end, we see that they’re going to reconnect, but you never really… see it. And similarly, this book has an explosive ending with the romance side of things, but it’s just not clear what or where it is going. So I think if you’re more comfortable with very open ended books this book might really work for you. For me, I just wanted a few more threads to tie together or to be explored throughout.
I will add that I listened to the audiobook (thank you, Netgalley) and Laura Knight Keating, the narrator, does an excellent job with conveying the vibes. She has the right kind of voice for this book, if that makes sense.
The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen
My true rating for this book is a 4.5 because as much as I loved the way this book felt so new and unique, I have a couple of small quibbles that are probably based at least half on the mood that I was in when I read the book. Everything about The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy felt new aside from the You’ve Got Mail inspired trope. But the world-building? I mean, I know I don’t read a ton of adult fantasy, but I’ve never encountered a world like this before and that was just so neat. I loved how Mercy was this fully-realized character who still needed to come into her own because of how much time she’d spent devoted to her family and how we got to see her push past her nerves and really open up to her family so they could better understand her. I loved how Hart really went through this character transformation from sad and lonely to slowly learning to let people in without ever really giving himself credit for that. I cannot even begin to describe the actual world to you because I’m still bewildered by the newness, not because it didn’t make sense (it did), but because I am still wrapping my head around a lot of it.
My small quibbles with this book really centers around the fact that I think that the end felt too rushed for me in multiple ways. I think this book struggled somewhat with identifying what genre it wanted to be the primary, the fantasy or the romance, and I say that because there’s this sort of mystery/question with two parts to it that gets revealed, but not like in a big OH MY GOSH kind of way. It just felt sort of crammed in there. And then with the romance, my personal opinion is that Mercy was the one who had sort of messed up and that she and Hart both were too hard on him. But that’s just me and like I said, those are very small quibbles. I just think with some slight smoothing out, this book could have truly been perfect!
There were two narrators for this audiobook, one for Hart and one for Mercy and I think they both did a fantastic job. Michael Gallagher voiced Hart and I think his voice acting was really well done and thankfully he never made Mercy sound like a small child. And then Rachanee Lumayno voiced Mercy and she did a fantastic job as well! I really enjoyed listening to this book just as much as I enjoyed reading it with my eyeballs.
Storm Echo by Nalini Singh
I would say it’s pretty much impossible for me to rate and review Storm Echo without being heavily biased due to my immense love for the world. There is such familiarity and comfort that comes from being reunited with this world and so many familiar characters. We’re introduced to two mostly new to us characters, Ivan Mercant had been previously introduced, but was not well known, and Lei Garcia. This book plays with time in an interesting way as there’s an accident and Lei loses her memory of a few days surrounding the accident, which just so happen to be the days that she and Ivan met one another. Storm Echo also brings us back into DarkRiver territory and it felt like it had been far too long since we got to spend time with Tamsyn and Nathan and to see Mercy and the pupcubs. I loved that aspect.
I even mostly liked Ivan and Lei. The part of this book I struggled with was how Ivan felt like a monster because his brain was damaged in utero by exposure to Jax. Now I know that brain chemistry can be seriously impacted by drug use in utero, but there is such a stigma associated with that and I just… It put me on edge a bit? I’m not sure I can explain my sense of wrongness with this plotline and the way Ivan felt about himself, but I really struggled with it.
Now as far as the overall plot for the series goes? I feel victorious in the extreme about one of the answers that I (think) we got. I’m definitely uncertain where we’re going from here, but there is still so much more to do to strengthen the PsyNet, so I’m really excited and ready to see where that is going in the next books in the series! Nalini’s mind is honestly just so incredible.
And there you have it! Four reviews this time instead of my usual three, but I figured I should pass along my good fortune in securing Storm Echo early. Have you read any of these books yet? Do you have any of them on your want to read list? Let me know!