So as many of you saw, Monster Ball Year 2 released recently! (If you haven’t checked it out, DO IT!) This Royal Conquest Saga Series is a three-book series that spawned out of one of the short stories from the first Monster Ball anthology. Aerith and Jhaeros’s story in the Monster Ball season one was HOT and absolutely left you wanting to know more… and that is exactly what Nikki Jefford delivered with this series!
The awesome thing with the audiobooks is that they have included the short story from the first Monster Ball anthology at the beginning of the first book so you can get the view of the whole story, so if you missed it in the original anthology, NO WORRIES! we’ve got you covered.
I had the privilege of listening to all three books in this series, and I do mean privilege. Stolen Princess, False Queen, and Three Kings are sweepingly epic tales of political intrigue, crazy family dynamics, and the “love conquers all” concept at its finest. The series follows the story of two Elven sisters who get sucked into the ridiculous political machinations of the Elmray family, the ruling force in the Kingdom of Dahlquist. There is quite the cast of characters in these books but Nikki handles the ensemble cast very well and has created a rich world in which she can let her characters run wild.
The Stolen Princess primarily follows Aerith as she navigates the delicate political landscape she finds herself in after her royal husband is killed by his brother so that he can ascend the throne. Aerith’s marriage was not a love match by any stretch of the imagination so the loss isn’t one she really feels and she is more excited to get back home to the Elven Realm than anything. But when the newly crowned King Liri comes calling Aerith can’t escape and quickly finds herself torn between the man she loves, and her perceived duty to her now captors. There is no shortage of action, a heavy dose of magic, and an almost Game of Thrones level of backstabbing and intrigue that goes into Aerith’s story. The Plot took several twists and unexpected turns and kept me guessing for most of it. All in all it left me excited to pick up the second book and see where it was going to take the threads Jefford left dangling to entice the reader.
The second book in the series, False Queen, picks up pretty quickly after the action of Stolen Princess. The first few chapters, and the blurb for this book give you the impression we will be following Aerith again as she navigates ruling the kingdom in Liri’s absence and issues that arise from that. While we do see Aerith’s struggles and triumphs during her rule, this book ends up following her sister Melarue for the majority of it and her adventures in the human realm with Devdon for a portion of it, and then her experiences in Faerie for the rest. While the plot and action of the story are engaging and keep you wanting to know what happens next, I found Melarue really difficult to like in this book. She is supposed to be the younger sister, yes, but I found her almost painfully naïve and immature for most of the story. Even when she has her “big moment” I still wasn’t convinced by her motivation. That being said the supporting cast around Mel had me 1000%. I love to hate Liri.
The third and final book of the saga, Three Kings, once again mostly follows Mel as she fights for both Faerie and her home world. At times this book read as a series of vignettes, but they all wove together to create a gripping story that does not skimp on the action. I finally came around to Mel during this book and Ryo is just… everything. It is hard to write too much about this book specifically without giving away spoilers for the series, but I will say that it is a beautiful wrap up to this sweeping series and will leave you satisfied with where the characters end up. There were points it felt a little rushed but with so much going on, you can’t really expect anything different.
Overall this series is a sweeping epic of fantasy wonderfullness. It reminded me of why I love the fantasy genre so much and question why I haven’t read as much in it recently. I loved the balance Nikki found between the fantasy world, the action elements, and the romance… they all came together to form a beautifully rich world that you want to get lost in. There are definitely some steamy scenes and they are … well lets just say make sure you have a glass of water and a fan ready cuz they are good. I am a sucker for a sweeping fantasy that has a healthy dose of steam and this absolutely fits the bill.
The ending actually wasn’t something I was expecting but I would love to see more of that relationship dynamic (I don’t want to give anything away….) but I am really happy with how it all pans out. I would also have loved to have seen more of Liri and Hensley and their adventures in the human realm!
Em Eldridge does the narration for all three books and she does an AMAZING job! She handles the characterizations so well, I even love her male voices! Honestly, the narration might be part of why I had such a hard time getting behind Mel at the start, because Em does the “bratty teen” voice soooooo well. It works for the story in the best way. I will absolutely be looking up more of Em’s narrations in the future.
Overall I highly recommend this series if you are looking for a well developed fantasy world you can get lost in and enjoy the love, loss, and drama that comes with ruling a kingdom.