Provided for Review: Hag of the Hills (The Bronze Sword Cycles #1) by J.T.T. Ryder

“Nothing is unconquerable; even our gods can die.”

Brennus is destined from birth to become a warrior, despite his farmer’s life. But when the Hillmen kill his family and annihilate his clan, he now has the opportunity to avenge those who he loved.

Brennus must survive endless hordes of invading Hillmen and magic-wielding sidhe, aided by only a band of shifty mercenaries, and an ancient bronze sword.

Failure means his family and clan go unavenged. Victory will bring glory to Brennus and his ancestors.

This book was provided for review by The Write Reads and the author. Thank you!

Historical-based fiction has long been a favorite genre of mine. Regardless of the era – from paleolithic such as Clan of the Cave Bear to the Victorian Era with my beloved Sherlock Holmes stories – tales set in another time are quite enjoyable. So one can easily imagine I would enjoy reading J.T.T. Ryder’s Hag of the Hills. And they would be right.

Hag of the Hills follows Brennus, a young man who longs for the fame and prestige being a warrior brings. His father was known far and wide for his bravery and Brennus wishes to follow in those footsteps. His destiny however centers around farming life regardless of whether he likes it or not.

A poor decision on Brennus’ part leads him to make a kind of Faustian deal with the hag of the hills. She offers Brennus the fame he seeks but at a price. And it is only when his clan is decimated does Brennus understand just how high the price might be.

Hag of the Hills could almost be labeled a “sword and sorcery” type of book. Though the book is based on a factual time in history, there are magical elements to it that add a supernatural feel to the story. Goddesses, witches, and giants make appearances and there are mentions of other types of non-human creatures. They live side by side, the influence of one always being felt on the other.

One thing that might detract some readers is how this is a violence-heavy book. It is true, that there is a good deal of violence. It was a part of everyday life and Hag of the Hills does not shy away from that fact. Wars and raids were common, and taking prisoners and slaves were expected.

Another thing that some might take issue with is how one-dimensional the handful of female characters are written. On the surface this is accurate, the few female characters are little more than background fodder. But when one realizes Hag of the Hills is written as the Brennus recounting his younger years, it makes sense. One doesn’t have to like it, but it does fit the narrative.

It is obvious to see the amount of research Ryder put into writing Hag of the Hills. It is also not surprising to know he is an archaeologist specializing in the Iron Age, specifically the time this story takes place. The characters are well thought out and well written and while I did not always agree with their decisions, neither could I blame them.

My readers who are real history buffs will likely enjoy reading Hag of the Hills. I encourage all of my readers to give it a try.

Provided for Review: The Dollhouse by Sara Ennis

Alfred needs Dolls. Blonde, blue-eyed human dolls that will help him rewrite his past and change his future.

When Peter Baden’s daughter Olivia was abducted nearly a year ago, he left his career as a respected journalist to find her. Now he spends his days searching for Olivia, and helping other families of abducted children survive the emotionally and physically exhausting experience of finding a missing child.

Twins Angel and Bud are used to making do. Their dad is in prison, and their mom won’t win parenting awards. Bud thrives on neglect, but Angel isn’t so strong.

Now they’re captives in a place called the Dollhouse, and things have gone from bad to worse. The Dolls are forced to re-stage old photographs, but satisfying Alfred is not easy. He has a twisted sense of humor and a violent temper that explodes when things don’t go his way — and sometimes when they do.

Angel knows that if she and the other Dolls are to survive this warped playtime, she can no longer be needy and afraid. She must prove how strong she can be — fast.

There aren’t many photos left …

Trigger Warnings: Physical torture, psychological torture, emotional torture, kidnapping, rape (mentioned, happens off-screen), murder, death of an animal (mentioned, happens off-screen), suicide

Everyone has moments from their childhood they would like to do over. Moments where if we had only done one thing differently then maybe everything could have changed. Moments we often think about later in life, replaying them over and over again in our minds.

How far would you go to truly replay those memories?

The Dollhouse by Sara Ennis is a book that explores this idea – albeit in a very creepy and disturbing way.

There are times when writing a review can be very difficult. When I find myself struggling to come up with the words to convey how a particular book made me feel. Whether it be because I did or did not enjoy the book, or like in this case how troubling the subject matter is.

The Dollhouse is a disturbing book. It is creepy and strange and dark. It is not a happy book and even though the ending could be considered a “good” one, it really isn’t. There are scenes of physical torture as well as psychological torture. The kids in the book are put through a LOT.

Normally, when I review a book I say whether I would recommend it to my readers or not. Whether I think it would be enjoyable to a specific group or for everyone in general. The Dollhouse is one of those that I hesitantly recommend. Is it a good book? Yes, I thought so. But it is also a deeply triggering book. Some readers could have a very difficult time with it.

So while I do recommend The Dollhouse, I also urge anyone looking to read it to pay attention to the trigger warnings.