Wednesday, April 10, 2013

RETURN by Charity Santiago

Today I am featuring a new YA Fantasy author.   I've become particularly addicted to YA books in the last three years because they tend to push the boundaries of cross-genre writing more frequently than adult books. I also love the drama. :)

The book I'm reviewing here is the first book in a trilogy by Charity Santiago.  The good news is she already has the other two books out--Regret and Redemption, so you don't have to wait for them. So, if you like this one, you can get all three right away.  

I love authors who are clever and title their books similarly, yet stay with the theme.  I also LOVE the cover of Return. The heroine looks like someone who can definitely kick-butt on her own. :)


For the last three years, eighteen-year-old Ashlyn Li has been running from her destiny. A free-spirited ninja, Ashlyn would rather loot an abandoned city or challenge a fiend to battle than assume leadership of Toryn, her father's kingdom. However, when a series of attacks reunites Ashlyn with the friends who helped her save the sun three years ago, she discovers that her kingdom is at war and her father has presumed her dead.

Suddenly Ashlyn is faced with not only fulfilling her birthright, but also making sense of her feelings towards two very different men- Drake Lockhart, the enigmatic vampire who captured her heart three years ago, and Vargo, the charismatic assassin who was once Ashlyn's sworn enemy.

Will Ashlyn ascend the pagoda and become Lady of Toryn?


Ashlyn frowned, trying hard to focus. "I only asked you to start thinking of yourself as a man,         Drake, instead of a monster. That's hardly the same thing."
"I'm asking you to think of yourself as a leader," he said. "You've spent so long running from responsibility that you think yourself incapable of fulfilling your birthright."
"We haven't seen each other in three years. You don't know what I'm capable of-- I don't even know what I'm capable of."
He grabbed her hand, abruptly, and brought it up to his chest. Through the cloth of his shirt, his skin was warm to the touch, and Ashlyn let him press her hand against the solidness of his shoulder, confused as to what he was doing.
"This," he said, his voice low, "is where I was struck by Devlyn's sword."
After a moment, he slid her hand lower, until it was resting directly above his heart. Ashlyn paused, entranced by the lack of a pulse beneath her fingers, the scent of him filling her senses and enveloping her like the rain against the roof.
"This," Drake said. "This is where I would have been struck, if you had not deflected the blow."
She met his gaze, breathing so hard that she felt light-headed. His eyes bored into hers, piercing her straight to her soul.
"I know what you are capable of, Ashlyn," he said. "I know better than anyone."

My Review

Note: This review is also posted at my Maggie's Meandering blog
First, I have to say that Ashlyn Li is a great character. I loved that she wasn't the typical girl--she's Asian and a ninja.  Second I loved her combination of snark and caring. It's pretty hard to write that type of character, and I think Ms. Santiago pulls it off. 

For the most part I enjoyed this book.  In the beginning, I had a love/hate relationship. I was drawn in by Ashlyn, the heroine of the story, and her immediate willingness to take responsibility for a war that started in her self-imposed absence.  I liked her lets-go-get-them-and-make-things-right attitude.  I also really loved Skye's down-to-earth and often profuond advice. On the other hand, I was frustrated with the two setups of the story that were too pat: 1) She didn't pursue a relationship with Drake because of a perceived slight when he smiled at another girl three years ago; and 2) Accepting responsibility for a war that occurred when she was gone--as if she had any control over that.  Also, in the first 20 pages or so I had some problems with the passive voice, a lot of telling to bring the reader up to speed on the background, and some missed editing.

However, after those first 20 pages or so, the character of Ashlyn made me forget those things as her combination of wit, caring, and youthful exuberance propelled her forward to right all wrongs. Like many young people, Ashlyn is very focused and when it comes to saving her kingdom, she is not going to stop until she's accomplished that. Being a ninja has always been her calling. Not only is she proud of it, but she is very good at fighting and killing if need be. It was her three year absence from her kingdom that set up the situation where it was taken over by the bad guy.

Once the reader is brought up to speed on the background, the book becomes non-stop action. There’s a definite love triangle with Drake and Vargo. I won't tell you who I like best, it is up to you to choose. Personally, I would have liked a little more relationship development but I can't complain about the page turning action.  I am definitely going to pick up the next two books in the series so I can see what happens to Ashlyn and her friends.

 This book is available for only 99 cents at Amazon. 
If the blurb, excerpt, and review sound good to you, run and take advantage of such a good deal.  The other two books are $2.99. So still a nice price.


In February 2011, Charity Santiago's 7-month old son was admitted to the hospital with severe respiratory issues. While Charity stayed at his bedside, she kept them both entertained by downloading several books on her new Kindle and reading them out loud. It was during this time that Charity learned about Kindle's self-publishing program, and realized that she had an opportunity to share her writings with the world.

Charity is a native of southeastern Arizona, and a writer since childhood. She wrote her first manuscript, Guinea Pig Code!, at age nine. When she’s not writing books, Charity spends her time wrangling children, watching Sylvester Stallone movies and pursuing a degree in Education.

Contact Charity on the Web: Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads 

* * * Giveaway * * *

Charity will be awarding one $10 Amazon gift card for a random commenter. She is also awarding a Grand Prize: winner's choice of any mini gift basket from (a $24.99 value).  All I can say is Yum Yum!!! 

Follow the Rest of the Tour

Remember, the more you comment on other blogs on the tour the better your chances of winning the prize.  Here are all the stops. Check out the one's before me and after me to learn more about Charity and her trilogy.
Tour Schedule

 4/1/2013 Unabridged Andra
4/2/2013 Beyond My Writing Space
4/3/2013 Margay Leah Justice
4/4/2013 Sue Perkins Author
4/5/2013 Straight from the Library
4/8/2013 Long and Short Reviews
4/9/2013 Racing To Read
4/10/2013 Maggie's Meanderings (You are Here!)
 and Stop 2 Maggie Faire YA
4/11/2013 Books in the Hall
4/12/2013 Let's Get BOOKED!

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