The Saga of Thistles and Roses, Books 2 & 3 by Karen Gray

See? I told you I only need a couple of days before directing my full attention back to the Other Books in the review list. The Warrior Queen trilogy in The Saga of Thistles and Roses was like my mother’s cooking on a cold winter’s night- consistently good, comforting and addictive. Sure, I truly felt like a spawned fish for most of the day at work because of lack of sleep, but it was totally worth it. I haven’t done a reading session as intense for quite while…

You can find my review for Book #1- For King and Country- HERE. I rated it 5 stars, by the way. Pure enjoyment for my inner bookworm and generally impressed by how good a book can be.

Chains of Blood and Steel, Book #2

29851431Hours after the mental onslaught by Edward, Mòrag is still trying to piece things together. She trains daily with Colonel Tesso, in an attempt to bring her physical skills up to the standard of her mental ones.

Brax continues to struggle with visions of his master and fears his presence will put Mòrag in danger as his mental chains are pulled tighter and his grip of reality begins to loosen.

The Spymaster’s daughter struggles to deal with her abusive father, hiding a secret she is prepared to take to the grave; while John, who’s life has been a lie, discovers the truth about himself through Ava. Brought together by a chance encounter, they work together to break the chains of blood and steel that imprison them.

Well I’ll be damned… the start of Book #2 was thunderous. Not only was I surprised by one major twist in the story which made me mentally go- “I knew it, you S.O.B!”, but a few pages later there was another major revelation to which I exclaimed (and pardon the bad language)

Mother…

…..

F*cker!

And in addition- I can’t believe I liked General Marcs even a tiny bit! What a…!

The thunderous start with surprising revelations set the tone for Book #2 and while I found out more about Ava and her relationship with her father, Gen Marcs; Mórag was still quite present in the story. The struggles Ava faced were really, truly ugly and I couldn’t agree with her refusal to sort the situation out until I found out why she was reluctant to save herself. And then, surprise after surprise. I shit you not, I was fully entertained. The elements of power, of ‘magic’, which some of the characters possess make for interesting soulsearching trips. And when I say soulsearching, I mean it quite literally.

I was so excited, that it reminded me of this dude (below; only 27 secs but laughs guaranteed!)

This was a book in equal measures very grim (which I enjoyed of course, psycho as I am, but only in parts where the bad guys received what was coming to them) but also focused around another relationship of blossoming love. In fact, this relationship was quite different to Brax’s and Mórag’s but will surely keep the romantics at heart fully contented. The characters are consistently enjoyable and… you know, basically, I can’t tell you anything about the story because I would just spoiler it for you and the enjoyment I got out of the twists and surprises was something I would not want to take away from you. So I’ll just say that I had a near conniption trying to read as fast as possible because I was hooked 100%.

I really got into the swing of Scottish words and loved that there is a Russian cat! I love Russians… I’m a Russian-loving Estonian, ha! But seriously… It was just something that was familiar and I did not need to check the glossary for the meaning of Russian words… *wagging own tail*

Overall, a strong proper continuation to book #1 which got my heart thumping and ended on a proper cliffhanger… Luckily, book #3 was available and so I continued my massive weekend readathon of The Saga of Thitles and Roses…

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Battle of Bannockburn, Book #3

29552149In the smoky aftermath of the still smouldering remains of several buildings in Sruighlea Castle, chaos reigns supreme.

Edward has assumed control of Sasann and proclaimed himself King, and with the Devil’s Dog back under the controlling hand of his master, no one dares challenge him.

Mòrag struggles with the darkness growing inside her, and without Brax’s calming companionship, her fragile control is slipping.

When Edward sends his pet to sack one of Alba’s border towns Mòrag retaliates by striking out at Edward’s own home in Lunnainn; triggering a freefall of events that culminate in a full-scale battle on the Bannockburn.

Is Karen Gray for real? Or is she some kind of Scottish voodoo vixen pulling a spell over the reader (I know, that doesn’t make sense technically, but… whooaaa!) Book #3 starts off right where Book #2 ended… I have no other way to put this but- brace yerselves and join the mad ride that is The Saga of Thistles and Roses.

When I thought Book #2 was grim with what’s happening to Ava I think Book #3 managed to top the darkness by being even more heartbreaking and full of scenes that were just out of this world for me.

“DOG, DOG, DOG, DOG, DOG…..”

Gray kept on surprising me with character development. Proper hard corner turns into new revelations making my head spin and me? Totally addicted. Each character is pushed to their very painful limits and because the delivery of the characters is so good from the very first book, I was heavily invested in all of them, whether in a good or bad way, and that added a massive impact. My heart broke over and over and over and over again and I was truly… totally oblivious to the real world around me as the story took me in.

Book #3 focuses on Nora and Aron, the spying twins, but all the other characters are also present which didn’t leave me questioning and wondering what was happening to our powerhouse of women- Morag & Ava… There were also new interesting characters added and the series just keeps getting better with the addition of new and exciting.

While the whole action is taking place in Scotland, we have John and Raymond who are actually Japanese and their cultural backgrounds add further flavor to the saga. My word, there’s just so much.. so so much in this story that is awesome.

The added element of giving some spotlight to the animals was nice. I chuckled when Mórag indicated that she didn’t mind what Rannoch is doing in the bushes… with whom? I can’t tell, it’ll be another surprise for the reader! Rannoch has his own history and past which for most part he can’t remember, but when he meets his old enemy, Silas, on the battlefield, glimpses start to come back.

Karen has created a truly abominable set of villains with no redeemable qualities to them. Simply repulsive! Add this to the fact of their nearly impossible to defeat powers and you got edge of the seat stuff right there!

But she has also created a set of villains that I came to love. Yes, you read it right. Not ‘love’ because the villains are so evil they’re giving you nightmares and the inner horror-loving freak revels, but ‘love’ in the sense of- You’re my new hero, please don’t die!

Where there’s darkness, there’s also light… The romantic aspect continues into Book #3 and for a a number of new couples. There is now also more, something extra- a true sense of family and friendship in the dark times and if that doesn’t display good balance, I don’t know what will. In the end, not all ends in a fairytale… I will just say, the ending of book #3 made me want to stamp my feet and cry for hours but I appreciate the need to keep things real. I understand and I accept. I will just miss that one character so much even thought in previous books ‘they’ were on the shit list.

Overall: This saga is hard to leave unfinished. Even with the vast amount of characters- each and every one is unique and will remain memorable, whether for their good or their bad. Gray managed to rip me apart, slowly, and then put me back together, a glimpse at a time. A new surprise at a time. Unbelievably fantastic!

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I think it goes without saying that both books get 5 stars from me. For the level of enjoyment they provided and for the level of entertainment. The twists and surprises, the dark and the light… All the love and hate… I cannot wait to  read the next book in the saga to find out how all the characters are doing… There is a natural progression of each and every one of them and as they fall or rise, I want to be there every step of the way.

17 comments

  1. Oh my goodness!! You make me feel like pulling a Tom Cruise on Oprah right here XD. I loved that you have finally discovered something again which makes you fangirl! ❤

    As for Marcs, I'd put his nuts in a grinder and then throw salt in his wounds. Seriously, what a dipshite eh? That surfer gif, though :'). Awesome review missy! Now I can only speculate about what's going to happen to who at the end of book #3! MY GAWD, is it John?! Wait, don't tell me. Don't tell anyone, obvs xD. But still…*strokes chin heavily after wiping away those grease stains*

    Liked by 2 people

  2. OMG! 😀😀😀 I’m literally just home from college to a house full of coughs, snots and general plague in the form of my 3yr old son (not to mention my bedridden hubster) and WHOA! What a surprise to be notified of on my phone!!!

    What a pair of reviews! I am actually so excited I danced round the livingroom! I also SOOOOOO glad you like the books! (See why book 3 is my favourite now?)

    I will need to see if I can quiz you some time over specific story elements 🙂 eek!

    I cannot tell you how happy this makes me eep!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, hope you’ll nurse the little one back to health in no time 🙂 But you’re welcome.. yes, as you can see, I enjoyed! 😀 Yes, book 3 is really really good, I got so many new fav characters… and happy to talk to you about it in more detail, pop me an email any time, even on Goodreads…
      hehehe, I was dancing cos the books are so good… well done Author Gray!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, I’ll deffo do that 🙂 The wee one is sadly prone to chest infections. He’s feeling very sorry for himself atm.

        Many of the new characters in book 3 are actually main characters of Series 2 (The Unwilling Empress.) Book 3 is the link to both the sequel and prequel series so in my mind it is the most important book all round.

        That’s where I’m glad to be an indie author, because if I had an editor to please the books would be cut to hell and I think I’d freak lol!!

        Thank you so much again for the amazing reviews. I’m fair chuffed so’n I am 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        • Aww, poor kiddo! It’s never nice when the young ones are feeling under the weather.

          a-ha! Book #3 is the link… makes sense and am now totally intrigued, if there’s a possibility to be anymore intrigued than I already am! 😀

          Yeah, the pros of being indie… I recently read a rather ‘spicy’ blog post by one of the indie authors who in the past had dealings with a publisher and he was not a happy man! oh no, not at all… and mainly for the reason of his book being chopped and shredded… no one wants to see that happening.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Publishers like to only think about single books. One at a time because they don’t want to commit to publishing more than is profitable to them so they chop the “un-useful excess” Thing is, in most respects it’s not waffle – it’s foreshadowing. At least it always is with me. I rarely ever cut anything from my books. I tweak and re-word sections, but it’s rare that I ever actually cut anything. (though I understand I’m in the minority in that respect) 🙂

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  3. Oh, yeah…now I understand! I added For King & Country after your review! I just had no idea what you were talking about earlier…I’m dense.
    So, you stayed up to read? Me too! Then it turned out that my home library had a copy of the book that was overdue (couldn’t be renewed because it came from a library that wouldn’t allow more than one renewal), so I returned the other library’s copy and checked out my home library’s book. Now o won’t have to rush and worry about late fees piling up (for now).
    So now I’m reading some of my NetGalley titles to get them off my shelf!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehehe, you’re not dense 🙂
      God, they’re really ruling thew library with an iron fist eh? I can kind of understand the need to have some sort of rules but at the same time, give the reader some slack and give them more than one renewal…

      ha, NetGalley.. I requested some stuf recently, got some accepted, others not… tbh I was relieved with the ones that got denied because the TBR pile is higher than a garden gnome and that’s grounds for me to feel anxious! 😀

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