Book Review · From the Vault

From the Vault – The Madness Project by J. Leigh Bralick

I’m so excited to bring this review back from the vault! J. Leigh Bralick became one of my favorite authors when I read Down a Lost Road (Amazon link) a few years back. Fast forward to this past year and I’ve finished out that trilogy, read The Madness Project (Amazon), and even beta-read A Dark So Deep (Amazon), which releases tomorrow! It truly is dark and twisted, but those are things for another day (like tomorrow, THE RELEASE DAY, perhaps). The Madness Project, the first book in The Madness Method series, left me desperate to know what will happen next. Y’all have certainly not finished hearing all about this series from me!

This review originally appeared here.

Cavnal has been at peace for nearly a century. Magic, once revered, is now the object of contempt. And anyone unfortunate enough to be born with its powers has been banned from the nobility and pushed to the fringes of society.

All his life, Prince Tarik has known that if the world discovered his secret—that he was born a mage—he would lose everything. But when a wave of violence in the city points back to an underground society of mages, everything changes. Only Tarik has the power to infiltrate their ranks. Only he can learn the truth about a plot that could destroy everything he loves.

But nothing can prepare him for the life of lies he will have to live to win a place in that society. Or for Hayli, a shape-shifter mage who is unlike any girl he has ever met. She might be the one to destroy all his plans…or she may be the only one who can save him from himself.

Together they face a dangerous web of sedition, crime and violent ambition, where nothing is as simple as either of them believed. And what they discover will challenge everything they thought they knew about loyalty and betrayal, love and honor.(Goodreads)

This fantasy steampunk world is filled with politics and magic.

Prince Tarik has, since the age of 5, been hiding the secret of being a mage. Now that he is 17, his father, King Trabin, has asked him to utilize the magery Trabin despises so much. Tarik has no idea what he’s getting into, and finds out that not everything is as it seems.

Hayli is a young mage, struggling with feeling like she doesn’t belong anywhere and learning how to control her shape-shifting ability.

Tarik and Hayli have several run-ins before Tarik is given his mission, and little do they know how large her role will be in its execution.

This story touches on topics of identity, race, and peer family, for sure, as well as disparity between the poor and the rich. It is written in first-person, alternating between Tarik and Hayli, which makes for an interesting read (and also forces you to read the chapter header to know who “I” is). Each of the characters were unique and distinguishable from the others.

So, a break-down:


  • Good pacing with a great storyline that kept me wanting to read on
  • Believable/unique characters
  • Interesting setting (I don’t think I’ve read anything steampunk before…)
  • Magic system explained enough to make sense but remain magical, and there is definitely more to learn in the upcoming books
  • Depth of thought put into Tarik’s magic, especially, to be able to accomplish his mission
  • Cavnish slang
  • Touches on topics related to issues in today’s world such as race, poverty, and politics
  • There is a line shared between Zagger and Hayli which (to me) was fairly powerful
  • Slow-burn romance
  • Adventurous and emotional


  • I don’t have any complaints about this book


  • I want to know the rest of the story, but the other three book aren’t out yet


So, there you have it, I would definitely recommend checking out this book if you are looking for an adventure you won’t soon forget!


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