I've been putting off reading Stiefvater's Blue Lily, Lily Blue until I had time to savor it (also, as a reward for meeting some personal deadlines).I've been putting off reading Stiefvater's Blue Lily, Lily Blue until I had time to savor it (also, as a reward for meeting some personal deadlines). And it was lovely and satisfying in a lot of ways--but I don't think I can rave about it like some reviewers have.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3)In this third book of the Raven Cycle, Blue and the others are coming closer to finding (and waking) the sleepers, including the mystic King Glendower who has driven Gansey's obsessions for the last seven years. Blue's mother, Maura, has disappeared, and her disappearance may or may not be connected with the sleepers. The Gray Man's former employer, Colin Greenmantle, has shown up in town looking for the Greywaren with his wife Piper (a seriously unhinged, self-absorbed beauty). To be honest, while the plot does move forward, it also felt like it moved in some circles. Some threads get resolved here, new mysteries open up. But I don't read these books for the plot--I read for the characters and the complex world and Steifvater's exquisite writing.
What fascinates me the most about these books are the characters: I think I would read just about anything with them in them. I love that they are all fully realized, complex, complicated, and still developing. In this book, we get to see Blue stretch and change in good and painful ways, we see Adam become a little less prickly and more accepting, we see Ronan still wrestling with his nightmares and Gansey--well, Gansey is still Gansey, kingly and imperfect and trying so hard.
And this world Stiefvater has written is so vividly depicted it feels as though you've been there: I come out of her books feeling like I've woken from a particularly real dream. Though this book didn't have quite the same urgency for me as the others, I can't wait to see what Stiefvater does next: it will be lovely, heart-wrenching, and surprising, at the very least. ...more
There were a lot of things I enjoyed about Natalie Whipple's Fish Out of Water. (I was given an eARC in exchange for an honest review). Like3.5 stars
There were a lot of things I enjoyed about Natalie Whipple's Fish Out of Water. (I was given an eARC in exchange for an honest review). Like her other books, this is clever and clearly written.
Mika's looking forward to her summer vacation, days spent working at the pet shop (which she actually enjoys), working with her parents on their marine research, and building elaborate sand sculptures with her friend Shreya.
But two things happen, almost on top of each other, that upend her plans. Her manager hires his nephew Dylan, a spoiled rich kid who's at odds with his parents, and training him is a real downer. Then she goes home to find a crazy old lady ranting hateful, racist things about her neighborhood and her family--only to discover the woman is her grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer's. Between learning to care for her grandmother and coming to better understand Dylan, Mika finds her heart stretched in ways she didn't think possible.
I thought Whipple did a nice job with Mika: she's smart (I loved how much she knew about fish) and she's loyal. I thought the prickly interplay with her grandmother was spot on--I also had a grandmother who was hard for lots of people to deal with, so I know what it's like to love someone you're not entirely sure you like. And I liked that Mika's friendships felt real: complicated and warm and sometimes unpredictable. I loved, too, the theme of second chances: that people could do hard, terrible things, but that wasn't the end of hope for them. The book seems to suggest that people can change--but more importantly, we can change how we approach people we struggle with.
There were some things I struggled with though: I never quite bought Dylan's change of heart--he did something fairly horrific before coming into Mika's life, and Mika is rightly horrified when she finds out. But then she finds herself falling for him without really making him account for what happened. There's also a subplot involving one of her friends getting kicked out by her parents--and while the subplot underscores the theme of dealing with racism/prejudice in our families, it also felt a little unnecessary. The book had plenty of complexity without introducing the subplot, I thought. Finally, Whipple did a little bit too good a job making Mika's grandmother hateful. I felt sorry for her and her Alzheimer's and the way she'd let prejudice destroy her life, but I never actually liked her, so it was hard for some of the scenes to have the same emotional resonance for me.
That said, I think it's worth reading: I think it's a thoughtful, clear-eyed look at the complexity of our relationships when we love (as we always do) imperfect people. ...more
I've been looking forward to getting my hands on My True Love Gave to Me, a collection of holiday-themed stories written by well-known YA authors editI've been looking forward to getting my hands on My True Love Gave to Me, a collection of holiday-themed stories written by well-known YA authors edited by Stephanie Perkins--and overall found the book delightful. Not every story in it was for me--but that's the nice thing about a collection, for every story I didn't love, there was a story that I did. Rather than describe all twelve stories, I just want to highlight my favorites. (Also, a note on the cover: the couples ice skating are the couples from the stories--it was fun to try to match the story with the image).
"Midnight" by Rainbow Rowell
I've loved everything by Rowell that I've read so far, and this story was no exception. Told in alternating flashes of time on December 31st, the story follows Mags and Noel, best friends who meet one year on Christmas Eve and build a friendship that spans high school into college. But there's a problem: Mags is hopelessly in love with Noel, who always manages to find someone else to kiss when the clock strikes midnight. I loved the voice--but mostly I loved how Rowell managed to capture that perfect, aching tension of wanting someone who doesn't want you.
"The Lady and the Fox," by Kelly Link
One of the nice surprises in this collection is that not all the stories are straight up contemporary YA--some have very definite flashes of fantasy. This was one of the latter. Miranda has spent every holiday with her glitzy godmother, one of the infamous Honeywell. When she was eleven, she first spotted him: a young man in a an eighteenth-century embroidered coat standing alone in the garden while it snows. When the snow stops, the boy vanishes. She searches for him every year, but she doesn't always see him (he only appears when it snows). I loved the romance behind the mystery--who is he? why does he only appear when it snows?--and the sort of fairy tale ending Link conjures to the story.
"Krampuslauf," by Holly Black
In characteristic style, Black takes her "holiday" inspiration from the old story of the Krampus, a creature older than the devil, the son of a Norse god. But in Fairmont, the rich people use the krampuslauf as an excuse for to raise money for charity, sanitizing the whole idea behind the festival. The main character (I've been going back through and can't find her name--it's told in first person) and her friends dress up with appropriate horns and funky attire, and in a desperate attempt to wean her friend Penny off a toxic rich boyfriend (who has another, equally rich girlfriend), they invite them to a holiday party where the plan is for Penny to confront him. But when an unexpected guest shows up at the party, all expectations are off. The party itself was meh, in my opinion, but I loved how Black dug into the underside of holiday traditions and I loved the unexpected bits of folklore and magic.
"Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White
This story was adorable and heart-warming--the only story in the collection to actually make me cry. Maria lives in the dead-end town of Christmas, barely a blip on the already depressing landscape between Barstow and Baker, CA. She's desperate to get out of town, away from her mother whose grown more distant, and the step-father who's trying to intrude on her life. But when a new cook gets hired at the diner her mom runs, things start to change. Ben has a gift with food that starts to tie the town together and wins Maria over despite herself. What I loved about this was that so many people weren't what you expect them to be. I loved the sense of community and the overall warmth of the story. Not the most romantic of the stories, but one of the best.
"The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer," by Laini Taylor
Nor surprising that I loved this one--it has Taylor's signature lovely prose and curious unworldly creatures. Neve is an orphan, one of many girls seemingly at the mercy of the town's strange tradition: in the days leading up to Christmas, local men leave small gifts for the girl they're courting. In most cases, the girls say yes, because they are poor and they haven't other options. But Neve is being courted by the fire-and-brimstone preacher who has already buried three wives, and Neve would rather starve than marry him. But when her desperation reaches out and wakes the Dreamer nestled beneath their town, unexpected things start happening. ...more
I picked up Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before a few weeks back at the library. I tried starting it and couldn't quite get into it. I decidI picked up Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before a few weeks back at the library. I tried starting it and couldn't quite get into it. I decided to try one last time, and I'm so glad I did.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)Lara Jean is one of the Song girls, defined primarily by her place as the middle sister in a close family. But when her older sister goes off to college in Scotland, and someone accidentally mails all the unsent love letters she's written to boys (in an effort to get over them), Lara Jean's life starts to change. Already off balance by her sister leaving, Lara Jean is horrified to find that her sister's ex-boyfriend (and their next boyfriend) has received the letter detailing all the things she loves about him. To save face, she convinces her childhood friend Peter (another letter recipient) to pretend to be her boyfriend long enough to convince her sister's ex that she's over him. If it sounds complicated, it is, a little, but that's not really what the story was about.
Even if the title is dedicated to Lara Jean's loves, I think the story is much more a love-letter to sisters. I think Han perfectly captures the sister-dynamic: the way you can both love someone and be cruel to them at the same time, the way your sister can be the closest person in the world and also drive you insane. I loved that Lara Jean's family felt real, and that her father was present and involved and a little goofy.
Some reviewers have bagged on the book for being slow, or for Lara Jean's voice being too young. I don't expect a particularly fast pace in a character-driven novel, and I thought Han's voice here was lovely. Not all teenagers are particularly mature or edgy, and Lara Jean *was* immature (i.e., inexperienced) when it comes to boys. I don't think there's anything wrong with that--in fact, I think a diversity of YA experiences *should* be documented.
I would have liked more resolution in the ending, and I didn't always love Lara Jean's love interest, but I did love the book. Cute, sweet, and real. ...more
Rachel Hawkins does fun and lighthearted YA with a kick so well sometimes--the first book in Hex Hall was a delight from beginning to end. An3.5 stars
Rachel Hawkins does fun and lighthearted YA with a kick so well sometimes--the first book in Hex Hall was a delight from beginning to end. And a lot of that fun and delight comes through in Rebel Belle, just not quite as much.
For starters, there's the premise, which Hawkins herself described as Terminator meets Legally Blonde. Prom-queen hopeful Harper Price has everything together: her prom-queen nomination locked in, the perfect boyfriend, perfect grades. (Just don't ask her why she's so determined to hold it all together, or anything about her dead sister). But when a quick detour to the bathroom to reapply her lip gloss leads instead to a surprise liplock with the school janitor, who then dies in her arms, Harper's perfect life crumbles into chaos.
Suddenly, she's a Paladin, a super-powerful creature charged with protecting none other than her arch-nemesis, David Stark. Of course, this isn't part of Harper's plan, and it certainly doesn't make her boyfriend happy. So now she has to not only rock Cotillion, she has to save the world while she's at it.
As I mentioned, there was a lot to like here. Hawkins never lets her books get too dark, even when dealing with serious things (like the death of Harper's sister). And sometimes, when I just want to escape, I appreciate that. Harper and David had some great banter and good chemistry, and I thought it was to Hawkins' credit that she made me like David without making me hate Harper's current boyfriend. There were some fun twists in the story--but also some moments that didn't quite make sense to me.
Ultimately, a book I enjoyed reading, but not one that stayed with me long after the reading. ...more
I first heard of Michelle Cooper's A Brief History of Montmaray a few weeks ago, when it was compared to Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle,3.5 stars
I first heard of Michelle Cooper's A Brief History of Montmaray a few weeks ago, when it was compared to Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, which I adore. So of course I had to find this.
A Brief History of Montmaray (The Montmaray Journals, #1)And in some ways, there are a lot of parallels: both narrators are teenage girls, telling their story as journal entries; both live in a relatively reclusive world; and both live the paradoxical world of the impoverished nobility. Sophie is a princess, the niece of the King of Montmaray, a small fictional island somewhere between Spain and England. But she cleans the castle, cooks, and does laundry, as the populace of Montmaray is something less than ten people.
The narrator here is delightful: as a writer, it was interesting to see how the voice itself pulled me through the first half of the novel, which was quite slow. And for all that common writerly advice is that the main character has to want something and actively strive for it, Sophie's not that clearly drawn by her desires. Her role is primarily that of a passive narrator for much of the novel, though it's to her credit and the writer's credit that I still found her interesting and sympathetic.
Not much happens in the first part of the novel: Sophie pines over Simon, the housekeeper's son, who is living in London like her brother Toby, who's struggling with school. The king is mad, and Sophie tries to avoid him while curtailing the worst of her youngest sister's madcap behavior.
But then a pair of SS officers show up on the island ostensibly looking for clues to the Holy Grail, and the novel takes a sudden, and fairly dark, turn into adventure--the pace picks up dramatically at that point.
For all that I loved the narrator, I missed some of the delightful first romance in I Capture the Castle. So overall, a novel that I enjoyed but didn't love. ...more
Whenever I pick up a book by an author I know, I'm both excited and hesitant (excited because--look, I know her! And hesitant because if I don't likeWhenever I pick up a book by an author I know, I'm both excited and hesitant (excited because--look, I know her! And hesitant because if I don't like it, I never know what to say. Usually I don't say anything). Luckily, Jolene Perry's Stronger Than You Know was lovely--a perfect mix of drama and hope.
When the novel opens, Joy is struggling with just about everything: adjusting to her new school, a new life with her aunt and uncle and cousins, talking to anyone she's not related to. Sometimes just existing.
Because Joy has just escaped from a terrible, abusive environment with a mother who almost never let her leave their tiny trailer home, and who didn't protect Joy from her boyfriends in the most basic way a mother should.
What I loved about this book was how Perry managed to make Joy wounded and believable without drowning the book in darkness--it's easy to write dark. It's less easy to write hope that doesn't dissolve into schmaltz. I loved Joy--she was vulnerable, but there was an iron core to her. She'd gone through terrible things, but she wasn't willing to let those things define her. Watching Joy come out of the trauma of her past was one of the best parts of the novel.
I also loved that Joy was surrounded by good people. So often, it's easy to create drama in books by making everyone around the hero disagreeable. But Joy's aunt and uncle are warm and loving and wonderful. Justin was great, too, as the boy who sees something in Joy she doesn't yet see herself, but who's careful to only ask for what Joy is ready to give.
Overall, a powerful book about a survivor, one that made me smile as often (or more) than it made me cry. ...more
I adored Jennifer Smith's The Statistical Probability at First Sight. So maybe I can blame that book for not loving this book as much as I wa3.5 stars
I adored Jennifer Smith's The Statistical Probability at First Sight. So maybe I can blame that book for not loving this book as much as I wanted to. I keep picking up her books hoping to reclaim that magic--and though this was sweet and quiet it didn't have quite the same zing between the characters, maybe because they spend so much of the novel apart.
The Geography of You and MeLucy and Owen live very different lives, despite living in the same apartment building in New York. Owen, the building caretaker's son, lives in a small basement apartment and is still reeling from the death of his mother and his recent move to NYC from small-town Pennsylvania. Lucy lives half-way up the building, with a view, and parents who are rarely around as they are too busy jet-setting around the world. But one fateful day (the infamous NYC blackout), they happen to both be on the elevator when the power goes out. Once they get rescued, they find themselves drawn to each other and spend the evening wandering the dark streets of the city, marveling at the stars, and then the night on the roof of their building talking.
But then life intervenes and they find themselves heading in opposite directions--Owen, out West, and Lucy to Scotland and then London. Still, they hold onto some of the magic from that night by sending each other postcards from their different destinations.
I don't mind quiet novels, and I genuinely liked both characters. But despite the romance of the different places they inhabit (London, Edinburgh, Paris, Rome, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe), there wasn't quite enough romance here--they spend a lot of time yearning for each other without really knowing much about each other. And while I thought the novel was beautifully written, sometimes their parallel chapters seemed too much like a gimmick and not enough like realistic development.
I've loved everything I've read by Melanie Jacobson: her writing is clean, fun, refreshing and sweet. Painting Kisses is no exception. Lia Carswell h I've loved everything I've read by Melanie Jacobson: her writing is clean, fun, refreshing and sweet. Painting Kisses is no exception. Lia Carswell has left behind a hot-shot life in New York as a premier artist (leaving behind her not-so-hot ex-husband) for a quieter life in Salt Lake City working in a diner and helping her sister raise her niece, Chloe. After her experience with her ex, she's less than interested in dating, particularly not anyone who's handsome and confident, like Aidan, the construction worker who flirts with her at the diner--he rings all the wrong bells after her previous experience with romance. She's actually more interested in Griff, her nice-but-quiet neighbor, who doesn't scare her--but who also doesn't spark quite the same emotional response.
After getting an unexpected commission from a former New York contact, Lia finds herself doing something she never thought she'd do again: paint. As she rediscovers the joy of creating, she finds herself opening in other ways as well, including to the unexpected joys of a new romance.
I thought this was quite well done. The characters are real--and, seeing them through Lia's eyes, we make some of the same misjudgments that she does. I liked, too, that this novel had some unexpected depth: it wasn't just about romance and kissing, but about Lia coming to terms with her past. As an amateur artist myself, I also resonated with Lia's deep satisfaction in creativity, and I thought Jacobson's descriptions of that process were nicely done. One of my favorite lines in the book compares Lia's sisters to paintings: a radiant Klimt when she's rested, a muted Modigliani when she's exhausted. That was enough to conjure a near-perfect impression for me.
My only real complaint is that the book is too short! I wanted just a little more resolution to the love story. ...more
Sarah Rees Brennan is a master at moody atmosphere and tense relationships. Untold is the second of her Lynburn series. In the first book, Ka3.5 stars
Sarah Rees Brennan is a master at moody atmosphere and tense relationships. Untold is the second of her Lynburn series. In the first book, Kami discovers that the voice she's always heard in her head is not, in fact, imaginary, but belongs to a very real boy. One of the long-lost Lynburns, in fact, the almost-noble family that used to rule her small town. When the Lynburns return, they set the whole village of Sorry-in-the-Vale on its ears, including Kami, who, still reeling from her discovery about Jared, finds that the family are actually sorcerers who ruled through blood sacrifice, and someone wants to reinstate their rule.
In this book, Kami and her friends are trying to figure out how to face the dark sorcerer who has split the Lynburn family and divided the town. Kami has severed her bond with Jared, and she thinks he hates her (though its clear to the reader that this is not, in fact, the case). In fact, not much happens for the middle half of the book other than Kami and Jared trying to figure out their relationship.
I didn't mind. I found the story compelling--though as I read through it with a writer's eye I noticed that, after some initial plot fireworks in the first two chapters, months pass before the final, high-stakes confrontation. There's lots of down time, but it doesn't feel like that because Rees is so good at relationship tension. I kept reading to find out what would happen between two characters I'd come to love, and then kept reading because their world imploded. The ending is wrenching and devastating and I'm almost afraid to read book three, after seeing Rees retweet (with, it must be noted, considerable glee), readers' devastated reactions. ...more
Only days before Christmas, perpetrators unknown leave a dozen or so skunks in one of the local churches, and Meg's organizational ability is called uOnly days before Christmas, perpetrators unknown leave a dozen or so skunks in one of the local churches, and Meg's organizational ability is called upon to rearrange all the church events while the building is fumigated. But as the pranks escalate to arson and someone dies, Meg's has to use all of her skills to solve the mystery before it ruins Christmas.
This particular installment wasn't one of my favorites. It had all the right elements: bizarre crimes, Meg's eccentric family, the quaint setting. I liked it--I'll no doubt read the next one (I mean, I've read all sixteen so far)--but it wasn't my favorite. ...more
I've been a fan of Laini Taylor since her Fairies of Dreamdark series. But I didn't love Daughter of Smoke and Bone as much as I've loved her two mostI've been a fan of Laini Taylor since her Fairies of Dreamdark series. But I didn't love Daughter of Smoke and Bone as much as I've loved her two most recent books. That's rare in a trilogy, for the later books to wow me more than the original one.
Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)In this conclusion, Karou (a chimera) and Akiva (seraphim) struggle to reconcile their warring people, prevent Jael from acquiring nuclear weapons on earth, and put an end to his cruel rule (how's that for an awkwardly half-rhymed sentence?). As if that weren't enough, Taylor also introduces a new set of characters, PhD student Eliza who has (she thinks) put her family's crazy cultish history behind her, and a race of seraphim whose duty it is to protect Eretz from some unnamed threat.
As always, the stakes are high. And Taylor's prose is breath-taking. Heart-breaking.
I thought she did a terrific job of working together several very complex plotlines and keeping the pace moving forward. I was confused for a little while in the middle, but I was invested in the characters and kept reading anyway.
And if the end seemed a little drawn out and indulgent, well, Akiva and Karou earned it. ...more
I read quite a bit about the Grimke sisters in graduate school while studying nineteenth-century women's rhetoric (including both Sarah's treatise onI read quite a bit about the Grimke sisters in graduate school while studying nineteenth-century women's rhetoric (including both Sarah's treatise on the equality of the sexes and Angelina's letter to the Christian ministers of the South), so I was fascinated to find that Kidd had built her latest novel around their lives.
Although there were places where the pacing dragged a little for me, I thought Kidd did a nice job of presenting two distinct experiences with slavery: Sarah Grimke, who grew up benefiting from the practice but who resisted it (though she spends a long time trying to figure out how to shape that resistance), and Handful, one of her family's slaves. I liked that Handful never let slavery define her, and she did what she could to resist it (though her actual involvement with Denmark Vesey seemed a bit of a stretch--she also seemed to have an unusual amount of freedom to visit Charleston).
But I was more drawn to Sarah, mostly because I could relate to her struggle with knowing something is wrong but trying to figure out how to resist it. Sarah was a slow-blossoming character who didn't come into her own until her thirties--and I felt like that was a much more realistic approach than what I sometimes see, which is characters who immediately see injustice and know instinctively how to respond to it. I appreciated that Kidd focused her attention on the lesser-known of the two sisters, because I think Sarah has an equally interesting story (if not as flamboyant--if you haven't read Angelina's speech at Pennsylvania Hall, you should). ...more
A good friend of mine has been raving about Jojo Moyes' novels, so when I saw her newest at the library, I snagged it. And while women's fiction isn'tA good friend of mine has been raving about Jojo Moyes' novels, so when I saw her newest at the library, I snagged it. And while women's fiction isn't always my first choice of genre, I did quite enjoy this one.
One Plus OneJess is a young single mother, struggling to raise her ten-year-old math whiz of a daughter, Tanzie, and her ex's son, Nick, a sweet-hearted but odd loner of a teenage boy. She works two jobs to make ends meet, and her life pretty much revolves around her children. But she can't seem to figure out how to protect Nick from the local bullies, and when Tanzie has the opportunity to go to a fantastic private school on a generous scholarship, she can't seem to find the money she needs to make that happen.
But then a freak opportunity presents itself: a math Olympiad with enough prize money to cover the remaining school fees. The only problem: the Olympiad is in Scotland, Jess can't afford train fees for the three of them (not to mention their enormous black dog, Norman), and her ex's old Rolls Royce barely runs, and Jess doesn't have insurance.
Enter "Geeky Ed," the man Jess has met only occasionally--as his cleaning lady. Deeply embroiled in his own woes (accused of insider trading when all he really wanted to do was uncomplicated his love life), Ed wants nothing to do with Jess and her crew. Yet somehow, he finds him taking all three of them--and the dog--to Scotland. And no one's life will be the same.
It took me a while to get into the story: there's a lot of POV shifting in the first little bit. And I still think Ed agreeing to drive them all the way to Scotland is a little far-fetched. Setting that aside, I did really enjoy this. The characters are engaging (particularly Jess), and Moyes does a great job getting inside all their heads. The last quarter of the book was unexpectedly wrenching.
I've got mixed feelings after finishing Kate Hattemer's debut, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy. I loved the writing: I thought Hatteme3.5 stars
I've got mixed feelings after finishing Kate Hattemer's debut, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy. I loved the writing: I thought Hattemer was smart and clever and the English major in me admired the way she managed to weave in both Ezra Pound's Cantos and the rhetorical device of tricolon.
I liked the characters too: they were messy and flawed and they made mistakes and used snap judgments. Ethan's ultimate realization that he'd been idealizing people because it was easier than dealing with them in their messy contradictions and depth rang true to me.
But I wasn't entirely happy with the plot. In the story, Ethan and his friends attend a private high school for the arts that has been overrun by a reality TV series. When their English teacher introduces them to long poems as a form of social protest, Ethan's charismatic friend Luke decides they need to rebel--through poetry. (Note: I can't imagine very many places besides an art school where this would be considered cool, let alone rebellious). And for a while, it seems to work. Until Luke gets incorporated into the reality TV world and Ethan has to decide what it is that he really wants. The resolution to the whole reality show v. authentic art seemed far-fetched to me.
Aside from that, I think a lot of teens would like the fun relationships between friends, Ethan's hilarious triplet sisters, and the gerbil that's almost another character. Some readers have observed that the lack of romance (it never goes beyond the level of crush in any direction) makes the book seem young, but it seems true to life to me for a boy like Ethan who's still trying to figure out how to read romantic cues and doesn't know enough about himself to even know what he likes. ...more
I thought Charlie Holmberg's debut novel, The Paper Magician, was quite charming. I'm a sucker for historical fantasy (I adore Patricia Wrede and Car I thought Charlie Holmberg's debut novel, The Paper Magician, was quite charming. I'm a sucker for historical fantasy (I adore Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer's Sorcery and Cecilia), and I was hoping this would be in the same vein. To my delight, it was.
When the story begins, Ceony Twill is less than thrilled to apprentice to a Paper Magician. In her world, once magicians have bonded to a material, they are bonded to it forever. She'd studied hard in school and hoped for something more impressive, like metal magic. But there aren't enough paper magicians, so paper it is.
But Magister Thane is nothing like what she expected--and Ceony discovers unexpected wonder in Paper Magic, where complicated folds of paper bring things to life. I thought Holmberg was particularly successful in setting up the magic here--I wanted to try paper magic myself!
When a dark secret from Thane's past shows up in the form of an Excisioner, whose dark magic uses the material of the human body, and rips Thane's heart from him, Ceony has to use her limited skills with paper magic to try and save him.
The magic system here was fun, and Ceony herself was delightful. I liked that she was smart, independent, and knew what she wanted out of life. I wasn't sure about the speed at which the romance here developed, but I could see why Ceony found Thane appealing and intriguing. And I loved that Ceony had such limited resources for saving Thane--it made the stakes that much higher. So often in fantasy the heroine has this incredible power, but Ceony didn't have any of that. She was just an ordinary magician who barely had the training she needed to animate paper. It was refreshing.
I'll be interested to see where Holmberg takes the story in the sequel, The Glass Magician. ...more