Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review & Giveaway - The Curse Giver by Dora Machado

Title: The Curse Giver
Author: Dora Machado
Release Date: July 4, 2013
Pages: 510, ebook
Goodreads Rating: 4.5 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Content Rating: Adult (While the sex scenes in this book are not super-explicit, I would say that the book is intended for a mature audience).

Summary from Goodreads: Lusielle's bleak but orderly life as a remedy mixer is shattered when she is sentenced to die for a crime she didn't commit. She's on the pyre, about to be burned, when a stranger breaks through the crowd and rescues her from the flames.

Brennus, Lord of Laonia is the last of his line. He is caught in the grip of a mysterious curse that has murdered his kin, doomed his people and embittered his life. To defeat the curse, he must hunt a birthmark and kill the woman who bears it in the foulest of ways. Lusielle bears such a mark.

Stalked by intrigue and confounded by the forbidden passion flaring between them, predator and prey must come together to defeat not only the vile curse, but also the curse giver who has already conjured their demise.

The Curse Giver is an action-packed epic fantasy with intriguing characters and fantastic world building!

Lusielle has been falsely accused (by her husband!) of practicing the odd arts.  Just before she is burned at the stake, she is rescued by a mysterious highborn stranger.  However, she discovers that her life may be in just as much danger as it was before - this stranger is supposed to kill her because of the mark on her back, though no one will tell her why.  So, why did he rescue her in the first place and why does she find herself trusting him even when he won't deny that he plans to kill her himself?

Lord Brennus of Laonia is cursed.  The only way to stop this curse from destroying his homeland is to find and kill the woman with the mark.  But when he finds her, he discovers that killing her is not so simple - and first he must save her from the evil forces that would like nothing more than for the curse to be realized.  

Lusielle and Bren's situation is impossible - unless they can break the curse.

The negatives:
  • Took time to draw me in.  The only real complaint that I have about this book is that for some reason I wasn't completely engaged in the beginning.  Honestly, I wasn't truly drawn in until I got to about 35% on my Kindle.  I especially found myself frustrated when the POV switched to either Hato or Severo, two of Bren's men.  I just wasn't invested enough in these characters to want to see the world through their eyes in the beginning of the book (that did change by the time I got to the second half).  That doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy the beginning of the book - I just found it a bit slower reading that I would have liked and I wasn't always 100% engaged (there were definitely times that I was).  Once the book hit about 35%, though, I was hooked.  By this point, I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next!
  • Mysteries of the curse are unfolded very slowly.  This is actually directly related to my first point.  I was very intrigued by the curse (and its devastating results) and definitely interested in its details.  But it felt like bits of information about the curse were few and far between at first. And most of what you're given isn't really understandable until almost the very end of the book.  And then, toward the end of the book, it feels like all of this information is being given to you all at once - it was almost overwhelming.  Of course, I wouldn't have wanted everything to be given away early on, but I would have appreciated some more understandable pieces to the puzzle throughout so that I would have felt like I was discovering more and more about the curse (and its reasons and results) as the book went on.  This is really just a personal preference, though, and might not bother other people at all!
  • The world building.  I thought that Machado did an excellent job of creating a fantasy world that felt real and was captivating.  There were so many amazing fantasy elements that added to the story - the curse giver, an inhaler of airs (a person who uses inhaled scents and forces them into someone else's lungs to divine truth), the dismal bog, the odd arts, yearlings (tiny water-dwelling creatures that will eat you from the inside out!)...  I could go on and on.  I was especially intrigued by Lusielle's potion-making - Machado gives us an amazing amount of detail about the ingredients and what they tasted and smelled like, their texture, their different uses, etc.  One of my favorite scenes of the book was when she extracted a giant parasite from a horse with a dangerously foul-smelling concoction (and had to stave off an attack from the creature!).  The description of the poultice and Lusielle's process for making it was so vivid that I felt like I could practically smell the horrid stuff!
  • Lusielle.  Lusielle is an amazingly strong and intelligent heroine.  She doesn't give up, no matter what the odds are against her (and the odds against her are often very high).  Not only that, but she inspires others to be better - nobler, stronger.  By the end of the book, there isn't a single character who hasn't been won over by her (well, with the exception of one or two "villains") and I could certainly see why.  Her sense of pride, her strength and her selflessness are pretty much amazing.  And yet, she somehow doesn't come off as a too-perfect character who can do no wrong - she fears, and her weakness comes out when she's faced with her husband (not that she lets that weakness win, but the fact that it's there makes her a more well-rounded character).  
  • Bren.  Just like Lusielle, Bren shows incredible strength of character. But he is tortured by guilt and pain because of what he feels forced to do by the curse.  He believes himself to be a horrible man - unredeemable - but with Lusielle he somehow starts to see the possibility of redemption.  His character is incredibly complex (as are his motives for his actions), which adds an incredible richness to the story!
  • The action.  There is a LOT of action in this book - Lusielle and Bren are being hunted.  Add to that the natural dangers that exist in the world that they live in, and Lusielle and Bren's lives are pretty much in constant danger.  This makes for a lot of heart-stopping, hold-on-to-your-seat action sequences!
The Curse Giver is a wonderful example of high fantasy, written with heart and intelligence.  While this story is definitely complete, the epilogue hints at a possible story for future installments?  I'm intrigued and will be watching to see if Machado graces us with another book in the series!  4/5 stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

Available from:
Click HERE for a free excerpt of The Curse Giver!

View the trailer HERE!

About the Author:
Dora Machado is the award winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books July 2013. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats. 

About Dora Machado's Novels:
Dora Machado is the award winning author of the Stonewiser trilogy and her newest novel, The Curse Giver. She is one of the few Latinas exploring her heritage and her world through the epic fantasy genre today. Her first novel, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, won the 2009 Benjamin Franklin award for best debut novel. Her second novel, Stonewiser: The Call of the Stone, won the 2010 Independent Publishers Book Award's (IPPY) Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy book of the year. Her third novel, Stonewiser: The Lament of the Stone, won the 2012 Independent Publishers Book Award's (IPPY) Silver Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy book of the year. All three novels were finalists in ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Category. Her latest novel, The Curse Giver from Twilight Times Books is available July 2013.

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1) One of three autographed books of Dora Machado's Stonewiser Series.
2) One of ten special edition bracelets commemorating The Curse Giver's EBook release.
This handcrafted, customized, limited-edition, 1/4 inch aluminum bracelet from Silver Statements is hammered and stamped with The Curse Giver's signature message—Knowledge, Reason and Awareness, and flanked by the stylized outline of butterfly wings. Inside, the bracelet is stamped with the word Strength. Aluminum is a great metal for jewelry. It won't turn your skin green, doesn't oxidize or tarnish, and its water safe. Plus it's so lightweight that you might even forget you're wearing it.
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Giveaway Terms and Conditions:
New subscribers to the blog and/or newsletter will automatically qualify to participate. Names will be selected at random from the list of new subscribers on November 15, 2013. Subscribers will be notified via e-mail. Winners will be asked to provide a mailing address for delivery.