Tag Archives: fantasy romance

Aspatria by John C. Adams Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

An invading army and the loss of all her male relatives forces young Dextra to become the Queen of Aspatria, and as she struggles to find her footing as the realm’s ruler, she must contend with an invading army and multiple suitors seeking her hand in marriage to secure the kingdom, all while struggling with her own romantic feelings in author John C. Adams novel, “Aspatria”. 

The Synopsis


After all her male relatives are killed in battle when the Eiran army invades Aspatria, AETHELINGA DEXTRA (18) is forced to take the throne of her country. The ruling council, the witan, choose her in preference to her surviving bastard half-brother CENWULF DARKWATER (18).

In the early days, with her reign still uncertain, Dextra accepts the need to marry a powerful prince to lead Aspatria’s fyrd into battle and to secure foreign alliances to support Aspatria. GORTAH VAN MURKAR (48) brings his youngest son, PRINCE EUGENE (18) to her capital to arrange a match. They are not the only members of royal houses heading to Brewchester hoping to win the hand of the Dextra of Aspatria.

Dextra refuses marriages offer from KHAN NICHOLAI (20), ruler of the Albins, and CROWN PRINCE JOHANN VON RELIATRA (15). She is not compatible with Gortah’s son Eugene and tells the Murkan king so at once. However, Dextra is very taken with Gortah’s adopted nephew LORD LUDWIG BERG (19).

The situation is soon complicated when Dextra insists upon staying true to her country’s heritage by taking two husbands. As he guides her through the early days of her reign, her admiration and regard for Gortah grow but he is incapable of overcoming his objections to her marrying twice.

Under Gortah’s tutelage, and despite her grief at the sudden loss of her father, uncle, brothers and cousins in war, Dextra’s confidence as a ruler grows. The young queen learns to bring the witan round to her point of view and rely on their advice as she establishes herself as a fair and strong ruler of Aspatria. The council stands behind her and she soon blossoms into the role of queen.

Dextra marries Ludwig on the night before battle. Gortah leads the fyrd into war with the Albins to expel them from Aspatria. The fyrd beat their foe back but Gortah finds himself laid low by witchcraft. The fyrd return to the capital and speculation intensifies that Gortah will marry Dextra and become her second husband. As Gortah recovers from his illness, Dextra’s position is made harder by his behaviour towards her. The spells cast over him make him overtly sexual and she is accused of already having been intimate with her august suitor and being pregnant with his illegitimate child. Dextra’s stepmother Queen Maureen is the prime suspect as the search for Gortah’s attacker intensifies.

Eugene heads to South Eira to lead the Murkan army in defending the border garrison of Dunath. Meanwhile, the Murkan fort at Belshan in South Eira is attacked by an army of ghost ships sent by the King of Eira’s mother.

Reliatra move their army through the mountain pass at Nordweig and enter South-East Aspatria to attack the burh at Westkennet. As the queen’s husband, it is Ludwig’s job to lead the fyrd in battle but he is captured. Back in Brewchester, Gortah overcomes his reservations about being the second of two husbands and proposes to Dextra.

Gortah sneaks into the Reliatran camp to rescue Ludwig and takes PRINCESS NOTBURG VON RELIATRA (18) prisoner. The feisty warrior is held as security until her father OTTMAR VON RELIATRA (40) can raise two million marks as compensation for his wrongful invasion of Aspatria.

Even though they are now engaged, Gortah is still struggling to overcome his reservations about being Dextra’s second husband. She remains concerned about how Gortah will respond if Ludwig fathers a son with her before he does. Will the powerful monarchs be able to settle their differences and find happiness together? Or will war between Murkar and Aspatria become inevitable? 


The Review

What an intricately plotted and massively built-out fantasy world! This was an exceptional fantasy read, blending the political intrigue and rivalries of Game of Thrones with the brutality and action of Vikings. The author did a great job of finding a balance between integrating well-known medieval-style fantasy world-building and crafting original settings and characters that make the world of Aspatria feel alive. 

The vast cast of characters was a sight to behold. The evolution of main characters like Gortah and Dextra was so well-rounded and engaging as a reader to delve into, while the blend of magic and realism in this fantasy realm heightened the drama between the characters, as well as the heart-pounding action and suspense as each character’s massive arc played out. 

The Verdict

A memorable, mind-bending, and emotionally-driven fantasy romance novel, author John C. Adams’s novel “Aspatria” is a must-read epic fantasy. The readers will be instantly drawn in by the gritty and brutal war that opens up the novel, and be drawn in as the romance and emotions between Dextra and the men hoping to win her heart play out on the pages, creating engaging and entertaining drama that is impossible to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

I’m a non-binary proofreader, editor, reviewer and author.

You can find out more about my proofreading and editing services here:


I review for the British Fantasy Society as well as placing reviews and articles across a wide range of blogs and magazines.

I have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University.

You can subscribe to my blog here: https://www.johncadamsreviews.com/

My horror novel, ‘Souls for the Master’, my fantasy romance novel ‘Aspatria’ and my fantasy and horror anthology ‘The Red Dawn and Other Stories’ are all free on Smashwords retailers. ‘Dagmar of the Northlands’, the sequel to ‘Aspatria’, and ‘Blackacre Rising’, the sequel to ‘Souls for the Master’ are also available from Smashwords retailers.

Although I write mostly long fiction, since 2015 I have had stories published in anthologies from Horrified Press, Lycan Valley Press, Fantasia Divinity and Jersey Pines Ink. My short stories have also been published in the Horror Zine, Swords & Sorcery, Sirens Call, Blood Moon Rising, Lovecraftiana and various other magazines.

Every emerging writer needs plenty of encouragement right at the start, and entering lots of competitions early on made a real difference to my confidence to press on with writing longer fiction and think about submitting short fiction to magazines and anthologies in due course. In 2012, I was longlisted for the International Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest for ‘The Visitors’ and again in 2013 for ‘We Can Finish Your Baby’s Brain For You’. My writing was also recognised by the Enrico Charles Literary Award (runner up in 2012) and by the University of Winchester Writers’ Conference in both 2012 and 2013, including a Commendation in the First Three Pages of a Novel category, and other nominations in poetry and short fiction.

I read PPE at Somerville College, and I am a non-practising solicitor. I live in rural Northumberland, UK, and I combine my career as an reviewer and critic with raising my kids and caring for a severely disabled relative. I’m always busy!


Secret Sky (The Gift Legacy #1) by J.P. McLean Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman finds her life literally taking flight as she must contend with shocking abilities and a secret society that challenges her to question whose side they are on in author J.P. McLean’s fantasy romance novel, “Secret Sky”. 


The Synopsis

An intrepid young woman. An incredible gift. A terrible price to pay.

Emelynn Taylor’s gift didn’t come wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a bow, nor can it ever be returned. Now, it’s taken over her life. It strikes without warning, strips her of gravity and sends her airborne, unchecked.

Haunted by terrifying flights she can’t control, Emelynn vows to take command of her dangerous gift. She returns to the seaside cottage where it all began. Here, she discovers an underground society whose members share her hidden ability, and a man who sends her heart soaring.

But the deeper Emelynn gets pulled into this secret society, the more she questions their motives. Are they using the gift for good or for evil? Unravelling the truth will plunge Emelynn into a fight for her freedom—and her life.

The first book in The Gift Legacy series, Secret Sky is a thriller that skirts the edges of reality in a world within our own. Buckle up and escape the ordinary: take flight with Emelynn Taylor.

(Secret Sky was previously published as The Gift: Awakening)

The Review

One of the more unique fantasy-driven narratives I’ve read in a long time, this was a remarkable opening chapter in a new fantasy series. In the first of six books, the author introduces readers to quite a unique world, where the gift many people around the world have always said they’d want is a reality for a select few, but it isn’t always the “gift” people assume it would be. 

The core of this novel resides in the protagonist, Emelynn. Her journey hits instantly when readers find her being transported to a hospital, and only gets stranger and stronger as time goes on. The mysterious circumstances of how she got her power, her wild introduction to the Fliers, and the complex web of emotions as she is introduced to new friends, new romance, and freedom she never knew before make her an engaging protagonist.

It was an especially inspired choice to set this story within the real world, and not an original land or world like many fantasy stories like to do. It made the inclusion of thriller and suspense elements in the narrative feel more natural and dynamic. The action and shocking twists and turns as the final pages came made this one of the best reads in the fantasy genre in years. 

The Verdict

A powerful, character-driven narrative like no other, author J.P. McLean’s “Secret Sky” is a must-read. The suspense and thrills that this book produces are equally balanced with the more fantastic and romantic genres this book inhabits, while the mythology and protagonist the author crafted help not only draw the reader in but keep them invested throughout the entirety of the novel. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this amazing read today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

JP (Jo-Anne) McLean writes contemporary fantasy thrillers with a provocative edge. She is best known for The Gift Legacy series. The

first book of the series received Honorable Mention at the WhistlerIndependent Book Awards. Reviewers call the series addictive, smart and fun.

Her books include endorsements from Ethel Wilson fiction prize winner, Jennifer Manuel, and Globe and Mail bestselling author,Elinor Florence, among others. The series has been described as fantasy light and is a good introduction to the genre for the uninitiated.

Jo-Anne neglects the gardens and housework to write full time from her home on Denman Island, off of Canada’s west coast. She writes best when she’s within sight and sound of water, even if it’s just a fountain, and hopes never to stop reading, writing or imagining the impossible.