All I Want for Christmas is the Girl Next Door (2021)

by Chelsea Bobulski
ASIN/ISBN: 9781953944115
Publication: Octoboer 28, 2021
Series: All I Want for Christmas #1

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

“Be careful what you wish for” is the warning offered by All I Want for Christmas is the Girl Next Door (2021). Like books and films with similar plots, this alternate reality seems like a dream come true until moments here and there make the protagonist recognize this new reality isn’t perfect. Graham has loved the girl next door for as long as he can remember, but she’s dating his best friend. After wishing on a falling star, he wakes up to find Sarah is his girlfriend. While his wish has come true, he’s not as happy as he thought he would be.

This is a light YA holiday romance with a protagonist I found only mildly tolerable. In the beginning, his feelings for Sarah made me sympathetic towards his situation, but then his behavior began to irritate me. He was jealous over someone other than his girlfriend. He was pushy and kept wanting Sarah to be like how she was before the wish. One particular moment that made me dislike him even more was how he treated Sarah’s family after asking them to let him participate with them in a Christmas competition. He was disrespectful about their competitive spirit despite insisting to be part of the team.

While not exactly along the lines of the blurb that being together brings out the worse in Sarah and Graham, being together doesn’t bring out the best in them. Their changed behaviors are part of the ripple effects of the wish, and I thought this was done fairly well. I liked how this gradual realization leads Graham to understand that a single decision can have unintended consequences. In turn, he grows as a character and belatedly comes to realize that the things you wish for are not always what is best. Yes, the grass is not always greener on the other side.

While the book doesn’t offer anything particularly new, it reminded me why I love books and movies with these plotlines. They’re reminders for us to appreciate our present, and maybe things happen for a reason. We might not get everything we want, and, sometimes, what we want isn’t necessarily what we need. There might be something even better waiting around the corner if we are patient enough. Readers who want a holiday read and are looking for a predictable plot without the angst will enjoy All I Want for Christmas is the Girl Next Door.

The Love Words (2021)

by Amy Alves
ASIN/ISBN: B09G11CK2L
Publication: September 30, 2021
Series: Landry Love #4

After moving away, Chloe finally decides to return to her beloved hometown. Unfortunately, her high school nemesis Hayden has also moved back. She refuses to allow her adversarial relationship with him to prevent her from living her life in Landry, so she’s more than willing to verbally fight back. When their constant bickering might negatively affect his daughter’s health, Chloe and Hayden agree to a truce, which leads to unexpected consequences–the touchy, feely kind. 

The Love Words had a lot of potential, but I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. I loved Chloe’s confidence. She was vocal and straightforward about what she wanted and deserved, refusing to settle for less. Hayden’s love for his daughter Kinsley and his desire to always put her first allowed me to understand why Chloe eventually fell for him. However, I was unable to absolve him of his past behavior, and Chloe shouldn’t have been able to do it so easily either.

They’re enemies because he made high school difficult for her. His reasons for doing so did not endear me to him at all, although it’s written in such a way that it’s supposed to.  I never got the feeling he had any remorse for what he did, and his apologies, especially so many years later, felt disingenuous. They were non-apologies. He was sorry he hurt her, but he wasn’t sorry for doing them because apparently, his heart was in the right place. It didn’t make sense for Chloe to fall for him so quickly and so easily given how strongly she disliked him and how long she held onto her dislike of him.  

One of my favorite features of an enemies-to-lovers romance is the banter, and Chloe and Hayden do plenty of verbal sparring throughout the first half of the book.  Their exchanges, however, lacked the chemistry for me to believe they would become lovers, leading to an attraction that largely appeared forced.  It was difficult to feel their attraction because I was mostly told there was an attraction. This also contributed to a transition into lovers that was too fast for me. 

While Chloe and Hayden both constantly declared their love for the town, I was not a fan. I like small-town romances, but this particular small town irritated me. Often in these small towns, residents look out for each other and there is meddling, but the extent to which Landry residents meddled was more than I could handle.  More time should have been spent on building Chloe’s and Hayden’s attraction and their relationship rather than focusing on so many other people in the town trying to have their say in the relationship. 

Because I didn’t care very much for Hayden and the romance didn’t provide me with the tension I was hoping for, the book felt long. My mind started to wander at times, failing to catch time jumps or subtle switches in locations. The book was fun in the beginning, but once their enemy status ceased, it was harder to keep my attention. I wanted more feelings and emotions, and the book was lacking in this area.  

You Didn’t Love Me Then (2021)

by Lily Baines
ASIN/ISBN: B09FPNW43W
Publication: September 28, 2021
Series: Riviera View #1

**I received an e-copy of the book through the author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Past and present collide as Luke and Libby accidentally meet again after fifteen years. Separately, they recall the stolen moments that eventually changed the trajectory of their friendship, transforming them from best friends into part of one another’s past. The chance meeting forces Libby to confront feelings she thought were resolved long ago, while Luke finally realizes what he left behind when he left Riviera View.

I can’t entirely explain how much I enjoyed this book, how it tugged at my emotions within the first few pages of Libby and Luke meeting again. (For the record, some parts were even more poignant and heartbreaking the second time around. Yup, I reread it already.) The book made me uncomfortable in a way only second chance romances can. My heart was at war with itself, fighting between my predisposition towards a happy ending but also wanting to prolong Luke’s suffering. It’s a slow burn romance that spoke to me on many levels as the pangs of unrequited love fulfilled their threats, inducing heartache and tears.

I immediately connected with Liberty because of her life experiences. She’s a strong individual who conquered multiple barriers to become the woman she is now. As a social worker, she’s a champion for other people. I admired her and found her completely relatable. She appears at peace with her life, yet, tones of unfulfillment and longing permeate her chapters. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was happy.

Luke, on the other hand, didn’t make my heart flutter as much as he infuriated me; thus derailing some of my excitement over their reunion. It’s not until he sees Libby that he begins to recognize why he’s returned home. In all the time he’s been gone, he’s never thought about her, and he failed to let her know he was back. Luke’s change of heart was too sudden, and I was unconvinced of his feelings (or maybe I refused to be convinced). And yes, I am bitter about it for Libby. This was my main source of discontent with the story, but it wasn’t enough to override how much I enjoyed the book.

Libby and Luke are often in their minds assessing their feelings and the situations they find themselves in rather than talking to each other. Their lack of communication eventually led to a misunderstanding, but it did not frustrate me because it made sense here. They’re no longer close friends, and their history makes it difficult to share their feelings. I was also more forgiving because I was completely immersed in the feelings the story ignited–I was too busy feeling. Liberty’s pain felt like it was my own, and I reveled in Luke’s belated heartache.

There’s also ample opportunity for the story to go astray, especially due to Libby’s and Luke’s line of work, but Baines never falls into this trap. There is no unnecessary angst. Everything that happens has a purpose, moving the story along and setting up encounters between Luke and Libby to help reestablish their connection. I never felt like my feelings were manipulated with unnecessary twists. The focus stays on our central couple and their individual attempts to reconcile their feelings toward each other. I loved how the tension just kept building, finally coming to a head in the third act. It was a third act I liked.

Although this is Luke and Libby’s romance, there are several secondary characters with fleshed-out backstories that contributed to a well-rounded story. Libby’s Aunt Sarah is one character I particularly liked. She doesn’t apologize for being herself and could care less about what people think of her. Some of my favorite moments are those between Libby and Aunt Sarah. Due to their respective situations with love, they understand each other in ways others might not. Their talk of the French Riveria was what ultimately broke me.   

If you’re expecting a fast-paced novel with a couple that races towards the sunset, this isn’t the book. The pace is slow, contemplative even, and filled with inner monologues and unreciprocated feelings that will splay your heart like it did mine. If you’re looking for an emotional friends-to-lovers second chance romance, You Didn’t Love Me Then is the perfect choice.

Attachment Theory (2021)

by Kayley Loring
ASIN/ISBN: B09HPD7ZDY
Publication: October 7, 2021
Series: The Brodie Brothers #2

Attachment Theory is the second book in Loring’s The Brodie Brothers series. It features the youngest Brodie brother Dylan searching for love. Unfortunately, his past partners–of which there have been many– have all been co-stars. Their relationships have never lasted longer than the length of their joint movies or projects. He keeps looking for that one person he can form a lasting relationship with. Scarlett is a marriage and family therapist. Having been betrayed by her ex, she is reluctant to date actors. A chance encounter with Dylan Brodie, however, left a lasting impression. When they finally meet again, in her office no less, it will take a lot of willpower to refuse his advances and ignore her attraction to him.

Kayley Loring has been strumming my heart and making me laugh for nearly a year. Attachment Theory (2021), while embodying everything I adore about Loring’s novels, surprisingly bears a tinge of sadness that hasn’t been nearly as present in her other novels. Much of it stems from both Dylan’s and Scarlett’s past. Scarlett is still recovering from her ex-husband’s betrayal and seems hesitant to start any relationship, especially with an actor. She blames herself for not being enough for him, but also believes that she has never really been in love. While Scarlett has put a pause on her love life, Dylan’s failed relationships haven’t stopped him from looking for “the one.”

Dylan isn’t the most likeable of Loring’s leads. He’s confident but there was also this arrogance about him that I didn’t really like. However, he displays a deep sense of insecurity along with a less pronounced vulnerability that also made me want to hug him. He’s looking for a relationship that will provide him sustenance, someone for him to love and to be loved in return. Despite having been programmed by his multitude of short-term relationships to believe he may not be enough, he continues to war his heart on his sleeve.

I’m torn about how I feel about this book because instalove isn’t my cup of tea, yet there’s something different about Dylan and Scarlett’s foundation–a woman in a red dress and the man who bends down to tie her shoelaces. It’s terribly romantic because this one moment is burned into each of them, feeding them until they see each other again. I enjoyed the slow burn of the first half as Scarlett struggled with her feelings. Unfortunately, the second half felt rushed just as their relationship was beginning to feel solid. I can’t quite be sure if I believe in their happily ever after because the ending felt so abrupt to me (e.g. more groveling was needed). The three epilogues didn’t make up for it either.

This would have been four stars, possibly even five stars, had the second half been as equally moving as the first. The ending was too sudden and would have fared better with an additional few pages or even a chapter. While fun reads, the three epilogues didn’t make me feel better, because I wanted better closure. Also, I’m looking forward to the audio book. I love the duet narrations. It’s really an ensemble when it comes to the text messages.

Additional highlights:

  • It was refreshing to have characters who had good relationships with their families. Scarlett’s relationship with her parents was a highlight for me. Her banter with her mom was probably my favorite as they traded sayings, her mom’s Chinese ones with her American ones. My mom and I have had similar conversations. We can agree to disagree. Hmm…
  • I love the character cameos. As a fan of her Name in Lights series, it was fun to see the mention of the That’s So Wizard family–Shane and Nico make appearances but, alas, Alex is only name-dropped.
  • I enjoyed the text messages and the emails. They add so much humor to the book and provide insight into the relationships between the characters, especially between the Brodie family.
  • The Garçon commercial. Everyone needs to watch the commercial.

Chances for Serendipity (2021)

by Natalie Chung
ASIN/ISBN: B099X6L8R2
Publication: August 16, 2021

Chances for Serendipity begins with a meet cute. While playing tennis with her best friend Liz, Serendipity (“Sere”) accidentally hits Aiden with a tennis ball. They spend an entire day together teaching kids to play tennis, and it’s not until years later when they meet again. Serendipity means “an occurrence of an event that happens by chance in a happy way.” Playing on the concept, the chapters in-between their first and second meeting is filled with time jumps. Sere lives her life, from helping at the bakery to contemplating college, all the while mildly paying attention to Aiden’s tennis career. While I ultimately enjoyed the book, it took me a while to warm up to it.

Serendipity takes a long time to hit. Because this is a contemporary romance, I was extremely disappointed when it took nearly half of the book for Sere and Aiden to meet again. With each chapter focusing on different moments in Sere’s life, the time jumps made sense with the overall theme. The problem was I kept expecting Aiden would show up any moment, but he didn’t. When they finally see each other again, it moved too quickly for me, and I wasn’t entirely on board. There are cute moments, one or two that made me all fluttery, but the lack of relationship development and interaction in the first half prevented me from being emotionally committed to their potential HFN/HEA ending. However, the last tenth of the book ultimately bumped it up by half a star. I wish the majority of the book had been more like this.

The themes explored are relatable ones, and that’s one of the highlights of the book. Family plays a strong role in both their lives. Sere’s indecisiveness over what she wants to do while also trying to fulfill promises she’s made to her family is apparent throughout the book. It’s difficult when you want to find what’s best for you but it potentially means disappointing those around you.  While the hints are placed throughout as to her decision, I was still left somewhat perplexed because her feelings about her passion always felt subdued to me. Aiden’s predicament is also hinted at in the beginning as his relationship with his father seems to be a tumultuous one.

Overall, I liked the concept of the book and its focus on serendipity. However, the book didn’t always hit the mark for me. As a side note, there is bonus material from Aiden’s point of view if readers sign up for the author’s newsletter. I enjoyed the bonus chapter. If most of the book had been like the ending and the bonus chapter, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. It’s a good first novel, and Chung is someone I will look out for in the future.

The Inheritance Games (2020)

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
ASIN/ISBN: 9781368052405
Publication: September 1, 2020
Series: The Inheritance Games #1

After her mother dies, Avery is left under the care of her half-sister. She discovers her financial struggles are solved when she unexpectedly becomes the heir to billions of dollars despite not knowing the man who left it to her. With a disinherited family that calls foul on her new position, the biggest questions become what is the link between Avery and the Hawthornes and what game has Tobias Hawthorne forced them into.

The book is fast-paced and kept me engaged the entire time. I couldn’t stop reading it. While the main plot is about trying to solve the clues left behind by Tobias Hawthorne, multiple subplots helped to make the book interesting, including the dangers that come with being the heir to billions and navigating a new school and relationships. The book invokes the importance of family as well as the influence of money on behavior. Both themes are prominent throughout the book and manifests itself in different ways, but especially through Avery’s relationships with her sister and the Hawthorne boys.

I was immediately intrigued by Avery with her willingness to help those around her, despite her current means, and her personality. Avery is smart, loves puzzles, and wants to be a statisician. I liked her as soon as I read that–I’m a nerd who also loves data and stats. Avery has to learn to adjust to her new life including a new school, having a security detail, and living with the Hawthornes. While her integration into this new world isn’t without its problems, she tries to remain grounded. She doesn’t give up and tries not to let the money corrupt her. One of the curious pieces of this entire puzzle is that her mind works scarily similarly to that of the Hawthorne boys, especially Jameson and Grayson, even though she has no idea of her connection to Tobias or the entire Hawthorne family. Barnes skillfully injects clues here and there to make the reader question what they think they know.

Aside from Avery, everything is a mystery, and I enjoyed unraveling the clues alongside her. The estate immediately reminded me of the Winchester House in San Jose, CA with the many mysteries and secrets within the Hawthorne House. Of course, the Hawthorne boys are also one of the biggest mysteries in the book. I couldn’t tell whether they were genuine about helping her or if they wanted to depose of Avery in a roundabout way. When Avery’s paranoia began to set in, I thought it was smartly written because even I started to question everyone around her, especially the boys. I did have a soft spot for Xander, the youngest of the boys, and kept hoping he had nothing to do with the danger lurking in every corner.

There is a budding romance, or should I say romances, although it’s not the main focus. As someone who abhors love triangles, I feel it is my duty to report that a love triangle is brewing. Avery’s indecisiveness contributes to it and I hated that. I get it, she’s still just in high school and trying to navigate a nearly nonexistent social life with the mystery of the inheritance so I’m sorry…but also not sorry. It had to be said. I didn’t like her confusing actions.

After finishing it, I completely understand the hype around the book when it first came out. Individuals who like a good mystery and scavenger hunt will enjoy The Inheritance Games. The book ends on a cliffhanger, which I had somewhat expected, so with The Hawthorne Legacy already on hand….Let the games continue!

The Orphan Witch (2021)

by Paige Crutcher
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250797377
Publication: September 28, 2021

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

The Orphan Witch is filled with loneliness and longing as Persephone May searches for a place she can call home. Because of the strange things that happen around her, she continues drifting from place to place. After receiving an email from her only friend inviting her to Wile Isle, she finally feels like she has found what she’s been searching for all her life. Her arrival puts her in the middle of a fierce family feud and a century-old curse.

It starts as a lovely book about finding family but slowly turns into something more suspenseful with secrets looming, dark forces lurking near, and magic demanding a price possibly greater than many are willing to pay. I was immediately charmed by the writing with its rich descriptions and the sense of yearning it evokes from Persephone’s desire to find a family. I appreciated the level of detail that went into the history of those on the isle as well as the magic system. The moderately slow pace worked well in the beginning, helping to create a comforting atmosphere as Persephone starts to feel like she belongs–I was completely immersed in the first half of the book.

As the mystery of the isle deepens and the rift between cousins begins to affect Persephone’s livelihood, the pace and certain plot elements began to impede what could have been a more exciting second half. The slow pace became frustrating as the time left to break the curse started to tick away, and there was still so much to do…and read. My frustration was further exacerbated by the miscommunication or misunderstandings in the story, preventing a very much-needed reconciliation that would have continued pushing the story forward. There were times when I just wanted straight answers and couldn’t get them.

Persephone was initially someone I easily sympathized with because I understood her longing for a place and people to belong to. This theme of belonging and a desire to be among family was a heartbreaking one. Anyone who has ever felt out of place will be able to connect with Persephone’s loneliness and desire for love. I desperately wanted Persephone to get a happy ending. The book managed to keep me engaged for the majority of it; however, I was not a fan of the ending. Individuals who enjoy slower reads and magical novels that emphasize love and family while also pitting good against evil may enjoy The Orphan Witch.

Yes, Chef (2021)

by Jasmine Luck
ASIN/ISBN: B09FHDM55L
Publication: September 21, 2021
Anthology: Love All Year 2021: A Holidays Anthology
Edited by: Elizabeth Kahn

**I was provided a copy of the book by the author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

“Yes, Chef” is part of Love All Year 2021: A Holidays Anthology, a set of multicultural short stories that feature non-Christian holidays and cultural celebrations. The short story centers around the Lunar New Year, and I completely adored it. Despite not being able to cook very well, Nate agrees to cook dinner for Lunar New Year. In need of help, his colleague connects him with her flatmate Zoey, who is a sous chef at an upscale restaurant. Within a few pages, I was convinced that Nate and Zoey would one day have their happy ending.

Rather than a full-blown romance, “Yes, Chef” focuses on the attraction between two individuals who share a cultural holiday, hinting at the potential of something more in the future. It’s a snapshot of a burgeoning new relationship, and I completely adored it. I enjoyed the pace and appreciated that the romance was not rushed. Zoey and Nate had great chemistry, which was further strengthened by inner dialogue that made me smile. (Ah, the butterflies that swarm and flutter when you find yourself liking someone and the insecurities that start lurking.) It was fun being in their heads as their attraction grew.

Lunar New Year is celebrated by more than a billion people throughout the world, but to many others, it might be a celebration they are not familiar with. Food and cooking is a clever way to not only connect Nate and Zoey but also connect readers to the celebration. Food, like music, is a universal language. We all can connect to the importance of not just any food but good food (preferably cooked by your mom…heh) during a celebration, thus making it easy to understand why Nate enlists Zoey’s help. Yes, there’s good food here. Yes, have food handy or you’ll have cravings.

The only thing I didn’t like about “Yes, Chef” was how short it was! Not only did “Yes, Chef” introduce me to a new author, but it also convinced me to read the anthology, so I’ll be doing that soon. I also have Luck’s recently released Say You’ll Stay on my TBR now. I hope I’ll be getting to that soon.

**Thank you to the author for providing me with a digital copy of the anthology.**

The Last Graduate (2021)

by Naomi Novik
ASIN/ISBN: 9780593128862
Publication: September 28, 2021
Series: The Scholomance #2

**Please proceed with caution. There may be spoilers for A Deadly Education.**

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.

El has survived her first three years in the Scholomance and has just one final year to go. With graduation looming, survival training is also around the corner because graduation isn’t walking across the stage to pomp and circumstance but a fight for your life against mals that are ready to pounce and devour you. With an alliance in place and friends standing by her side, El might have a real chance at freedom.

The Last Graduate continues El’s journey to subvert the prophecy that has dictated her life and the expectations of those around her. While there are changes to El’s life and her character, her growth since A Deadly Education and during The Last Graduate doesn’t turn her into a completely different person. Thank goodness because I love her just as she is. In this book, the layers are peeled back further to reveal El’s true nature, the one she’s tried so hard to hide underneath her prickly attitude and sarcasm. Her actions in the book and her vulnerability felt true to her character.

El learning to navigate her new relationships is a highlight of the novel.  Her friendships with Liu and Aadhya, which always felt tentative to her before, are strengthened and reaffirmed. Of course, her fight or flight response continues to rear its head when conflicts arise that may affect her new relationships, but she’s learning to understand what it means to have friends. They don’t up and leave at the first sign of trouble; they stick with you, especially when times get hard. They stick with you even when you give them an out. Finding friends and realizing she is no longer alone has also led to weight being lifted off her shoulders. She can smile and laugh, imagine life beyond graduation, and even want to change the world. These changes underscore how lonely she was in the first book even though she refused to admit it. El is such a complex character, and I completely adore her.

Orion’s appearances are sparser here, but he remains a thorn in El’s side, albeit one that doesn’t hurt as much anymore. She continues to be his advocate, and I love her for seeing him and treating him like the person he is rather than the oddity his family, his enclave, and mostly everyone else thinks he is. See? She’s all prickly and sarcastic, but it’s just to hide her big, bleeding heart.

The writing remains the same as in A Deadly Education with El explaining origins and context before she gets to what is going on. Because there was a learning curve to understanding the Scholomance, I didn’t mind it in the first book, but there were a few moments in The Last Graduate where I wanted to skip forward. The amount of information provided can be overwhelming–there is so much. I just wanted to know what was going to happen rather than what led to the moment she was in. However, skipping also meant potentially missing the connection between whatever she was talking about and her current predicament, so wanting to skip never turned into actually skipping. 

The Last Graduate is not as fast-paced as the first book, but it is nearly as engaging. Attacks by mals are expected, and people trying to kill you are just a normal part of the day. These aren’t as surprising anymore. I finished it quickly, but I needed to take a break to process the damn ending. To be honest, I’m still processing it. I haven’t been able to reach out for a new book because my brain is still asking myself why I didn’t see this being the particular ending when it was one of the alternate endings I had come up with. (Any else like to think up the many possible endings to a book?) I’m giving fair warning that it is a cliffhanger. I sort of wish I waited for the last book to binge the entire trilogy, but I didn’t have any self-control. Now, I have to wait a year to know what happened. If you enjoyed A Deadly Education, you’ll enjoy The Last Graduate. A year will feel like an eternity as I wait for the final book.

**Some remaining thoughts I wanted to put out there.**

One of the reasons why I like The Scholomance Trilogy is how it illustrates the prisoner’s dilemma. The prisoner’s dilemma happens when rational individuals pursue their self-interest, refusing to cooperate, and so end up with an outcome that is not as ideal as the one they would have received if they worked together. In the book, individuals must fight for their survival and learn to increase their chances of making it out alive by becoming part of a collective. With El’s focus on reciprocation–ensuring those who might ally with her know she always pays back favors to those she receives them from–she works toward securing an alliance that can help increase her odds of living through graduation. The Last Graduate gives a glimpse of how the prisoner’s dilemma can be solved, how building trust between individuals can be the difference between life and death. Yeah, I’m nerdy like that.

The Children of Camelot (2021)

by Amy Bartelloni
ASIN/ISBN: B0923Q8J82
Publication: June 15, 2021
Series: The Children of Camelot #1

**I was provided a copy of the book by the author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

At night on the island of Avalon, Arynn and Malik look toward the mainland, trying to guess the meaning of the colored fires. Unable to leave because of the ongoing war on the mainland, it’s all they can do. When Malik finds a way off the island, he asks Arynn to leave with him. Despite her concerns, Arynn agrees to go, and together they discover that they haven’t been told the entire truth about the war.

I was initially hesitant to read The Children of Camelot because while I love the magic and intrigue of the Arthurian legend, I dislike the love triangle. Bartelloni puts a twist I liked on the story and focuses on the children of Camelot. The story is told from Arynn’s point of view. She is somewhat shy and cautious, always trying to adhere to rules as best as she can. With magic forbidden and talk of other creatures not allowed, she hides her connection to dragons from everyone except her best friend Malik. Malik is Arynn’s opposite with his ability to easily charm people. He is constantly looking for adventure, willing to bend or even break the rules. Because of their close friendship, he knows Arynn will follow him if asked. Their friendship is an aspect of the story I liked, but it changed into something else too quickly and without much warning.  I wished their friendship had been better explored, building up to any hint of romance. When the romantic feeling bits do pop up, they sometimes feel out of place.

The book retains many familiar elements, including the round table and King Arthur, but it also introduces new characters along with an enchanting world. I enjoyed the world-building the most with its details and abundance of magical creatures.  It’s been so long since I’ve read a full-length book with dragons that as soon as I met Nissa and her kin, I knew I was going to enjoy it. Along with dragons, there are additional magical creatures such as fairies, dwarves, and elves. The vivid descriptions contribute to a new imagining of a familiar world.

While I liked the story, I sometimes felt like I was missing pieces of information that led up to statements being made or events occurring. The characters would jump three steps ahead, and I would be left wondering what just happened. I was also frustrated with the secrets surrounding the missing king because the secret could have been disclosed sooner. I was also curious about the magical system, which seemed unclear to me.

I generally enjoyed the retelling. As the first book in the trilogy, there is no big battle or confrontation, but it sets up what appears to be an impending fight for Camelot. I am curious to see how it all ends, so I already have the next two books lined up and ready to go. Fans of medieval fantasy and those interested in a new spin on the Arthurian legend will likely enjoy The Children of Camelot.