This is an excellent fantasy that takes a look at the aftermath and impact war. It is after the great heroic battle with evil is fought and men are coThis is an excellent fantasy that takes a look at the aftermath and impact war. It is after the great heroic battle with evil is fought and men are coming back from the front (or not). Victory is never as easy as just winning. Bobet uses fantasy elements and excellent characterization to show how war can haunt those who fought it and those left behind. At its core it is a story about growing up, family, and community. I highly recommend it. ...more
This is a creepy fantasy based on folklore not often seen in western publishing, particularly children's books. It reads on the younger end of the MGThis is a creepy fantasy based on folklore not often seen in western publishing, particularly children's books. It reads on the younger end of the MG scale, and it is the perfect book to hand to children who enjoy being slightly scared. Honestly the cover for it is perfect. It is going to attract exactly the audience that is ready for the contents. Like most MG books, at its core this is a story about friendship and community. Baptiste winds these into her story very well and I loved the island setting. ...more
This is definitely a "it's not you, it's me" book break-up. I have a lot of friends who love this book, and I can see why. I really wanted to love itThis is definitely a "it's not you, it's me" book break-up. I have a lot of friends who love this book, and I can see why. I really wanted to love it too, but the disparity between the narrative voice and the dialogue was driving me up a wall so I have to set it aside. It didn't help that I don't ever see the need for using the old fashioned sounding language everyone speaks in. ...more
This is a great book to hand to 3rd-5th graders who love stories of magic, friendship, and family. I enjoyed the relationship between Maddy a3.5 stars
This is a great book to hand to 3rd-5th graders who love stories of magic, friendship, and family. I enjoyed the relationship between Maddy and her grandmother most of all. This is a story rich in history and tradition. The bayou setting is beautiful, detailed, and feels exactly as I imagine the bayou to be. The books only real weakness is its pacing. There are parts that are a little too slow and others that feel rushed. This may have been intentional for the plot, but it made for a disconcerting reading experience at times. ...more
This is a story of a young orphan adopted and moved to a village where strange things happen and her guardian warns of tricksters. After making a newThis is a story of a young orphan adopted and moved to a village where strange things happen and her guardian warns of tricksters. After making a new friend, Mary begins to wonder if she can trust her new guardian and what exactly is happening in the strange small village she now calls home. This is a lovely story reminiscent of many that have come before it, but that has its own special tone and feel. The characters are delightful and bring the tale to vibrant life. This is a great addition for any elementary classroom or library. ...more
I found A Snicker of Magic to be enjoyable and good to hand to students, but I wasn't as big a fan as a lot of other teacher/librarians. Still I wanteI found A Snicker of Magic to be enjoyable and good to hand to students, but I wasn't as big a fan as a lot of other teacher/librarians. Still I wanted to give Lloyd another chance to wow me. This did not wow me. A quarter of the way through the book there was still no coherent plot and the characters were so flat I couldn't bother myself to read the rest of the book even though it's not really that long. Lloyd's style involves a sentimentality that I find nauseating (this was a problem for me in her first book too), but this book seemed to contain a piece of fortune cookie wisdom on every page. I've never rolled my eyes so many times in 50 pages in my life. I know that this book will find an audience who loves it just as A Snicker of Magic did. That audience just doesn't include me. ...more
I throughly enjoyed My True Love Gave to Me, I have a thing for romance and holidays. When I found out that there was going to be a summer collection to accompany it, I was so excited. I was grateful to have an ARC as it was easy to pick up and put down in the busy week I was moving. I didn't enjoy Summer Days & Summer Nights as much as the holiday story collection. I expected it to be lighter and fluffier. (Look at the cover! Doesn't that cover scream fun, light, happy. The cover vibe does not match vibe of many of the stories.)
"Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" by Leigh Bardugo* This is a lovely romantic tale where the real world meets the fantastical. It is a marvelous way to start the book. If the entire book had continued like this story, I would have enjoyed it far more. This is a story about the disconnect between summer and the school year. It's about late afternoon ice cream cones, sticky bike rides, lazy days beside a lake, and the mystery of a summer boy. This story made me want to try more of Bardugo's writing. (I wasn't a huge fan of her first novel, but may give her newer stuff a go.)
"The End of Love" by Nina Lacour My initial reaction to this story was that it's not as strong as the one that comes before it and it was sort of boring. Having read the rest of the book, I still find it sort of boring but it actually stands out as one of the stories I liked more, which I wasn't expecting. The main character is taking a summer school class she doesn't need just to get out of the house as her parents divide up everything for their divorce. She reconnects with a group she knew as a freshman and an old crush she has rekindles. I liked how the friendship element in this story a lot. It was a stand out in that respect from the rest of the book.
"Last Stand at the Cinegore" by Libba Bray* Kevin is working the last night the Cinegore, a horror film venue, will be open. He's working with his best friend and long time crush both of who will be moving on to college at the end of the summer and leaving him behind. Things take a turn for the macabre when the horror on the screen doesn't stay there and Kevin must be a hero in more than just his own mind. I LOVED this story. The characters were great and it was incredibly funny.
"Sick Pleasure" by Francesca Lia Block This story is where things began to fall apart for me. First I was incredibly annoyed by the narrator's use of first initials for everyone and not actual names. I think this is meant to give it a sense of realism (protecting the innocent and all that). Heck, it's possible it IS a real story in the life of the author. What I know is that the characters didn't do much for me and I found it to be incredibly bleak. I really don't know what this story is even doing here. Some of the other stories have darker elements sure, but this isn't dark so much as lifeless.
"In Ninety Minutes, Turn North" by Stephanie Perkins This is actually a sequel to the story Perkins included in the holiday collection. (Note: I REALLY liked that story.) Coming of the depression of the previous story and into this one, my mood was definitely not in a good place to be confronted with the problem facing Marigold. I was just annoyed. I was annoyed through the whole thing even when it ended well. Story placement is so important in a collection like this. The funk the Block story left me in tainted my entire reading of this.
"Souvenires" by Tim Federle This chronicles the last day in a relationship between the protagonist and his summer boyfriend. It is their break-up day story-a day the agreed upon to say good bye as the summer ended. I enjoyed the realistic outlook of this story that didn't diminish the power of the feelings of the boys as they were happening. The inevitability of summer romance is that most end. Fedele manage to convey both the power of those summer feelings with this reality and stuck the ending perfectly.
"Inertia' by Veronica Roth So, Much. Angst. That is going to be perfect for some. (Probably not the people reading this book, because a person looking for angst is not going to pick up this book with that cover.) I wasn't reading this for angst thought and this was the fourth story in a row stock full of it. My annoyance level at this point was skyrocketing. This takes place in an alternate reality where as you are dying you can have a connection through brain waves (or something) with people of your choosing while you are in the process of being operated on but the doctors don't think you'll make it. Yeah. While the ending is happy, my annoyance for most of the story didn't let me enjoy it. I was promised sunshine and brightness!!!! Where did it go????
"Love is the Last Resort" by Jon Skovron* This is cute. This is exactly what I had in mind. It is a comedy in the same style as Oscar Wilde's plays: lively banter, people getting schooled, plots and schemes abound. It was so much fun. There is a huge disconnect between the form of the narrative and the modern setting, but I was willing to overlook that flaw because I finally had fun and sunshine and laughs.
"Good Luck and Farewell" by Brandy Colbert* I admit there's a fair amount of angst in this too, but it was balanced by a hot guy and a truly fun summer night romantic connection. I love the way Colbert describes and portrays Chicago in this and how her prose made me feel the heat and sadness the main character was feeling. Overall this story was just a better balance of angst and hope than that long line of depressing stories earlier in the collection. And I just love how Colbert writes anyway.
"Brand New Attraction" by Cassandra Clare This story is bizarre and kind of lame. Like Bray's story, it deals with the supernatural in the real world, but it takes itself waaaaay to seriously. Bray made her combination of the scary horror and darker forces work with her humor. Clare's story doesn't have any humor so the mix of the supernatural, romance, and horror doesn't work at all. As a result I was more bored than anything. That combined with the awkwardness of Clare's prose made this almost painful to read.
"A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong" by Jennifer E. Smith* This was a warm breath of summer air. It was cute yet serious in some places. I think Smith did a really fantastic job of portraying a character on the spectrum and making them a swoony romantic lead.
"The Map of Perfect Tiny Things"* by Lev Grossman And we're back with the angst. And death. And tears. The premise is the same as Groundhog Day but minus all the fun.
It's been a while since I've seen a cover so spectacularly fail at communicating what a book actually contains. Know if you are picking this up for a fun light beach read, you may want to rethink and save it for a rainy dreary day where your stuck inside. That way your mood when you finish most of the stories will match your surroundings.
I received an ARC from the publisher, St. Martin's Griffin, via Edelweiss. Summer Days & Summer Nights is on sale May 17th....more
Rachel Neumeier is one of my favorite authors. I usually unequivocally love her books, but this is one I wasn't able to get into wholeheartedly. It coRachel Neumeier is one of my favorite authors. I usually unequivocally love her books, but this is one I wasn't able to get into wholeheartedly. It contains the beautiful prose and complex relationships I've come to expect from Rachel. The last third of the book is gripping and difficult to put down. My main problem with the book is more about my expectations as reader which didn't match with what Rachel was doing. There is a point near the beginning when the protagonist Keri is meeting with her half brother Lucas and wonders if his mother, being a foreigner herself, had not taught him to "fear the countries of the Outside, despite their ambitious rulers and warlike people". Their country Nimmira is protected by a magical mist maintained by the Lord or Lady (a position now belonging to Keri) that keeps their neighboring countries from even knowing it exists. That mist has failed because of Keri's father's greed. She needs to restore it. I kept waiting for the whole "outsiders are bad and we need to wrap ourselves in a bubble" thing to be subverted, but it never was. Even though Keri comes to appreciate the support of a neighboring prince she can't wait to get him out (there are vague talks about a possible future alliance but only if his country manages to wall itself off too). That whole set up really bothered me. I don't understand how Nimmira functions this way. Centuries of closing itself off from the world would have to produce a fairly homogeneous society ruled by fear of the new and different. For the life of me I can't figure out why that's a good thing. The whole thing is incredibly isolationist. If you are a fan of Rachel's writing, this book definitely lives up to her others in terms of the beauty of the language and has her trademark political intrigue so I would still recommend it. You may have a different reaction to the other stuff than I did. ...more
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older is everywhere. Best of lists. Award buzz. Blogs everywhere. It's one of those books everyone is reading and talking about. I had it on my TBR but decided I definitely needed to read it before the year was out just so I could weigh in on one of the most talked about books of 2015 if asked. It is deserving of every good thing said about it. Every. One.
Sierra was looking forward to a relaxing summer break. Her plans involved hanging out with her friends and painting. They did not involve being chased by zombie like creatures and threatened by a magical power connected to her family's heritage she has never heard of. When murals begin fading all over her Brooklyn neighborhood, Sierra is perplexed. When her grandfather, who had a stroke, begins to apologize and starts repeating strange phases and insisting Sierra get the help of a boy she barely knows to help her finish her mural, Sierra is concerned but mostly about her grandfather. Then at a party Sierra talks to Robbie as requested and quickly finds herself being pursued by the bodies of people who used to be friends with her grandfather but are now dead. As Robbie explains to Sierra the mysterious power of shadowshaping, placing the spirits of dead ancestors into art to give both spirits and art more power, Sierra discovers her family's deepest secrets. Now Sierra, Robbie, and their friends have to fight to put to right her grandfather's biggest mistake and defeat a murderer intent on taking all the power of the spirit world for himself.
Every single character in this book is wonderful, led by Sierra. Young, talented, passionate, confused, defiant, stubborn, and full of snark, Sierra is a fully realized and powerful heroine. She is very much a teenager often acting on impulse and trusting blindly, but she proves to be brave and quick thinking when it is most important. She also has an amazing supportive community to fall back on. Her best friend Bennie is smart and helpful when it comes to research and dating advice. Also hair braiding. These girls are tight and have each other's backs in amazing ways. Their group is rounded out by two other girls, Izzy and Tee, who are dating each other and are masters at the art of banter. The scenes with the four of them together are the best. Sierra's brother Juan is a typical older brother, teasing, competitive, and willing to put his entire life on hold to run to his sister's side when he knows she is in danger and needs him. Robbie is a fabulous complement to Sierra. Equally passionate about art, deeply concerned with maintaining the balance of shadowshaping, and a fabulous dancer, his support and pursuit of Sierra is everything. EVERYTHING. I love how all of these characters are such teenagers too. They decide to make out at inconvenient times. They bounce back and forth between being deeply serious about what they are doing and goofing off. They don't always use their best critical thinking skills. They kind of fly by the seat of their pants a lot. And it all just rings so true to life.
The core of this book is about relationships and community. Sierra's family relationships have a lot of cracks. Her mother and aunt have no desire to even discuss shadowshaping. Sierra's grandfather had some misogynistic ideas about how shadowshaping should work. Sierra's lack of knowledge of her family's past and powers made her more vulnerable than she should have been. Rebuilding trust and filling in the gaps of what she missed is an important part of her journey. And I love that not all of that is completely resolved. Families are messy. Sierra's friends are important to her and their interactions were some of my favorite parts of the book. I really liked how this wasn't entirely perfect either though. There are times when they don't believer her. Not all of them are capable of standing up with her and being brave. Again, I liked the realism in this.
Then there is the relationship between Sierra and Robbie which is just amazing in every way. I like how Older wrote Sierra's realizing her attraction to him and how it grew. Their relationship develops fast and under fraught circumstances but it is believable and organic. I love everything about them: the art, the dancing, the flirting.
The setting of the book is incredibly important too and just pops off the page. I really felt like I as there with noises, smells, and sights of Brooklyn. Through this part of the book, Older is able to highlight some themes of gentrification and its impact on neighborhoods too. It works really well because it is a part of the lives these kids are leading. They see it and the way they are processing it is incredibly interesting. Adding this to the themes of community and family really strengthened the book. And all of that is on top of its thrilling edge-of-your-seat plot. I could not put this book down, but at the same time never wanted it to end because I didn't want to say goodbye to these characters and their world....more
I don't know how I missed this when it first came out, but I'm glad to have discovered a new book that I can recommend to the kids I know who loves stI don't know how I missed this when it first came out, but I'm glad to have discovered a new book that I can recommend to the kids I know who loves stories with dragons and magic. ...more
The cover of A Nearer Moon captured me the moment I saw it. That the book is written by Melanie Crowder whose release, Audacity, earlier this year completely captivated me guaranteed that I would want to read it. It is a brilliant work of fantasy with an amazing heart.
Luna lives in a village on stilts in a swamp. Luna has grown up on her grandmother's stories of the time when she was a child before the great trees fell creating the dam that turned their beautiful river into a swamp with foul water. Even one mouthful of the swamp's water brings on a wasting sickness with no cure. Three weeks to the day the unfortunate person swallows the water they die. When Luna's sister, who is the joy and spirit of her family, gets a mouthful of the water one day, Luna is determined to do anything to save her. Luna has never believed in magic or curses, but when the doctor in the floating city says she can do nothing to help an illness caused by magic, Luna becomes even more desperate and is willing to consider everything and offer anything for the life of her sister.
A Nearer Moon has so many aspects I adore in a good fantasy: faerie lore, strong determined characters, a community working to overcome harsh odds. At its heart and core, A Nearer Moon is a story about sisterhood. It's strength, bond, and love. Interwoven with the story of Luna and her sister is the story of twin water sprites, Perdita and Pergia. The sprites are part of the story of Luna's village too, the magical history she doesn't believe in. Sibling stories are a favorite of mine no matter what, but I particularly enjoy stories of sisters. In each case here, the sister are very different from each other, but they balance each other out. The thought of or reality of one losing the other is impossible to bear. It is a fantastical window onto a very real grief and sadness that so many experience. Luna's story in particular is a very real look at what grief can do to a family.
Luna is a brave and determined heroine. She is stubborn and unwilling to back down from a challenge. She is deeply frustrated by her mother's resignation to the situation. Many of her ideas and actions are reckless, but her motivation is so heartfelt. The sacrifices she is willing to make for Willow show a courage and devotion that is beautiful in every way. In contrast, Perdita's story is almost a cautionary tale in what can happen if you allow grief, anger, and rage to consume you. It shows how interconnected the world and everyone in it is.
I really enjoyed the way Crowder wove the two stories together and how the histories of the two sets of sisters are all tangled up together as is their hope for the future. The prose Crowder uses are perfect for the story she is telling. With few words she builds and creates a complex layered world with a fascinating history and interesting characters. The story is beautifully told and the language lyrical. The contents match the gorgeous cover. This is one of my favorite reads of the year.
I read an ARC made available by the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, via Edelweiss. A Nearer Moon goes on sale September 8th. ...more
R.J. Anderson is one of my favorite authors. Being a voracious reader, I have a lot of authors I really like, but she is included in a special group of authors whose books I would scoop up in my arms if I was escaping my house in a disaster. They are all excellent and stand up to multiple rereads. Anderson has written books about (awesome) faerys and amazing girls in a mind boggling sci-fi duology. Her latest book, A Pocket Full of Murder, is a MG magical murder mystery and it is a perfect book for me in every way possible.
Isaveth's family has fallen on hard times since her mother's recent death. Her father, a builder, lost a major job he was counting on and has fallen into despair. Her sister had to quit school to get a job in a sweatshop factory. Just when things begin to look better for the family and her father's commission is restored, a worse tragedy befalls them. When the man who had fired then rehired Isaveth's father is found dead by means of Common Magic, Isaveth's father is arrested. Isaveth knows her father is innocent, but she's not sure how to go about proving it. As she begins to investigate, she is joined by a street boy with an eye patch named Quiz who has eyes and ears all over the city and a knack for getting at information. Together they begin to try and discover the real murderer in a case that has too many suspects and disastrous consequences for both of them if they fail.
GAHHHHHH!!!!! I don't really know where I want to start with this. I have so much love for every part of this book, and my brain just keeps doing cartwheels and squealing LOVE LOVE LOVE. Trying to calm it down and act rationally is a challenge. I even waited a few days after finishing to give myself space so I could write this. But as soon as I started thinking about the book again, I got a rush of endorphins and lost control of my critical thinking skills. I will start with what I always love most, the characters, and hope my brain calms enough to cooperate.
Isaveth is smart, courageous, and stubborn. When her family is having hard times, she pulls down her mother's book of magic recipes and concocts spells to sell on the street to give them a little extra money. She has a passionate love for dramatic crystal set (radio) shows and writes fanfiction for it on any scrap of paper she can get her hands on. She is perfecting her craft. Her imagination is vast and she's bursting with twelve year old idealism mixed with the harsh realities of the life she is living. She is desperate to free her father, and her headlong rush into investigating the crime causes her to stumble into unfortunate situations at times and make rash judgements and mistakes. This includes not listening to Quiz on the occasions when he tells her to slow down and think something through.
Quiz is no stranger to dashing into dangerous situations without thinking them through first himself though. He is also a bit of an adrenaline junkie who rides down hills at breakneck speeds and is prone to getting into sticky situations in defense of those who need defending. He is adorably awkward around Isaveth at times. When he's interacting with her sisters you can see how badly he longs for a regular family and normalcy. Together Isaveth and Quiz make a fantastic team. He can go places and get information she can't, and vice-versa. He is there to give her rides when she needs them and generally back her up when she's in a tough spot. And when the tables are turned and he is in the tough spot, she does the same for him. I have all these FEELINGS for both of them, separate and together. Feelings I will never be able to properly put into words.
The mystery is a good old fashioned mystery where there are clues that seem to lead to everywhere or nowhere, lots of suspects, and a few good twists. (Some of which I saw coming due to reasons I imagine will not be the case for the majority of the readers of this book.*) The ways in which Isaveth and Quiz find their information makes sense for the world they live in, and they are reliant on those older than them for crucial things. Isaveth's older sister plays a major part in helping them collect information. The way the mystery all came together in the end was fascinating and the resolution complex and layered, but simple to understand for the intended audience.
The world Anderson created for this book is one where society is split between nobility and those who are not. The nobility has a very specific sort of magic they use to keep the world running smoothly. Common Magic is for those not so privileged and was a hard won ability for the regular people. The city of Tarreton where Isaveth and Quiz live is divided. The common people are tired of being abused, underpaid, and unable to make decisions. Rebellion is whispered of and unrest is high. These political issues are an integral part of the story and woven into the texture of the character's lives perfectly. Religion plays a part in this as well. Isaveth's family are Moshites (very similar to real world Jewish faith) and therefore looked on as outsiders, if not dangerous dissenters. It's part of the reason her father makes such a perfect frame for murder. Anderson presents the religious and political aspects as part of everyday life important in different ways to different people and this makes the world she has built all the more realistic as a result.
I highly recommend this book to all lovers of mystery and fantasy of any age. There is something here to enjoy for everyone. I can not wait until my pre-ordered copy arrives so I can read it again. And so my daughter can read it because this is exactly the sort of book she adores.
*I saw some of the twists coming because I am a fan of the source material that was Anderson's inspiration. A HUGE fan actually. If you are completely unaware of what that source material is or anything about it, you have lots of surprises in store. I'm including this note for those of you who know what inspired this and love it as much as I do. I just want you to know that Anderson did an awesome job with that. It's a nice little treat for those of us who know and love that particular literary detective. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, but want to, ask in the comments and I'll tell you. Not spoilers. Just what the source material is.)
I read an ARC made available from the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, via Edelweiss. A Pocket Full of Murder is on sale September 8th....more
I sat on this review for almost an entire week half scared to write it because almost every person I know who's read this book has raved about it. TalI sat on this review for almost an entire week half scared to write it because almost every person I know who's read this book has raved about it. Talk about being on the outside of a popular opinion. True, due to all those five star rave reviews and Newbery buzz, I went into this with some pretty high expectations.
As I began reading Circus Mirandus, I mostly just felt underwhelmed. It is an intriguing concept, but nothing about the way it was presented gripped me. The writing is adequate but nothing to get super excited about. I was perplexed because I read so much MG fantasy and so much of it is executed far better than this. I was perplexed because there are so many really great 2015 books that this doesn't come close to touching in terms of excellence. Why the Newbery buzz?
For about 1/3 of the book I thought this was going to be a relatively enjoyable but mostly forgettable 3 star read.
Then I started to get annoyed.
I'm a character reader. When I read a book, I want to believe the characters are real. Real people. Making real decisions. That make sense in terms of who they are. If a character does something that makes sense for plot purposes, but doesn't fit who they've been presented as a person, then I start to get annoyed. If it happens over and over again with every character in the book, the book's lost me. Beasley had a very particular story she wanted to tell, and her characters are props. I think this can sometimes be an intentional commentary in a book, but it's not here. It's just poor character development. Micah is an empty vessel into which the reader can insert himself/herself. All the supporting characters are shallow stereotypes who only briefly break from their assigned niches when the plot requires moving forward. I also had a major issue with how the book divided characters into "good" and "bad". (Those weren't the terms used, but it's what it boiled down to.) And if you're already in the "bad" camp there is no hope for your redemption. I actually really enjoy when MG authors present darker themes and characters in their books. Are there people who are mean and cruel who do terrible things to people they should care about? Yes. Are there people who hold on to grudges and never change? Again, yes. But the way all of that was presented in this, the way it was tied to the plot and the magic, really rubbed me the wrong way. It all felt so forced. (Particularly given that I think we were meant to like Micah's grandfather and see him as a secondary hero, but nope nope nope. That guy was not awesome. Are people sometimes thought of as heroes or sympathetic who don't deserve it? Yes. But again, this book isn't commenting on that. We're really supposed to root for this guy. NO.)
By the end of the book I was infuriated. The flat characters and their forced actions which ended in the conclusion all of that comes to left me wanting to hurl the book into the pool I was sitting next to. (I refrained. It was a library book.) It made me really confused about the why of it all too. What is Beasley trying to say with her symbolism combined with this forced characterization? What it the thematic purpose here? It was all too frustrating for me. ...more
Shadows of Sherwood by Kekla Magoon is a fun new update to the Robin Hood legend in which the majority of the gang is made up of girls. And it's pretty great.
Robyn Loxley likes to tinker with old tech and the best place to find that requires her to sneak out of her house in the middle of the night. On the Night of Shadows, one such excursion saves her life when Governor Crown sends the military police out to assassinate and/or remove from their homes any Parliament member who would speak against his rule. Spouses and children are included in his directive. On this night Robyn returns home to find her parents gone and blood in the kitchen. Her father has tried to prepare Robyn for just such an eventuality. As she goes on the run, she has a few clues to help her and picks up some friends along the way. But learning to trust other people and navigate the terrifying new world they find themselves in does not come easily for a loner such as Robyn.
Robyn is independent and likes to do things her own way. She seems to have had few friends in her old life, mostly missing her parents and not really mentioning any one else. It takes her a while to trust the friends she begins to make, and she does several things that puts them at risk due to her own unthinking bravado. The conflicts that result from these situations helps to round out her character and adds to her journey. It also helps to develop the other characters as well. Robyn is a mixed child, she has a black father and a white mother. It is because of this that she is set up to be such a hero in the world, and I loved that aspect. The rest of the gang is also interesting. Laurel is an orphan and an expert thief. The mysterious Key is good at knowing what is going on and gathering intelligence. He is also good at strategy and has a mysterious past. Scarlet is a tough girl who is a top-notch hacker who uses her talents to undermine the Governor's regime. Tucker is a divinity student who gives them all sanctuary when they need it. Merryan is the niece of the Governor who moonlights as a volunteer in hospitals for the needy and begins to question her uncle's rule. The team is still new and has its issues, but I enjoyed watching them all get to know each other and figure out how they would operate.
The book is set in a futuristic world. The world building is the book's one great weakness. There's a lot of stuff about moon lore that weighs the book down at times particularly when it is not quite clear what its import is or how it will impact the action. The political issues are harsh and real enough without this aspect. Without the lore the book would be shorter but also tighter from a plotting perspective. The story wanders a little too much and seems unsure of its direction due to the number of threads being used to weave it.
Right now the villains are fairly predictable and two dimensional. Little is known of Crown. His chosen head for the military police, Marissa Mallet Sheriff of Sherwood District, is the face of the villainy in the story. She makes an excellent villain but there is not much else to her but that-at least no yet.
I love the diversity and girl power in this book. I'm looking forward to recommending it to the kids I know who love these types of stories....more
This was awesome. I'm not going to write a full review for the blog as it is the last in the trilogy, and so much of what it is great about it dependsThis was awesome. I'm not going to write a full review for the blog as it is the last in the trilogy, and so much of what it is great about it depends on an understanding of A Corner of White and The Cracks in the Kingdom. Now is a good time to read the whole thing all at once since. It is well worth it. For already fans of the books I will say that I was quite satisfied with the conclusion and felt like it was perfect for the story Moriarty has been building all along. Not everything is perfectly wrapped up, but she does it in a way that is satisfying and still leaves room for the imagination to take over. (No ponderous details Epilogue! No Epilogue at all! YAY) It also contained a delightful moment where I was able to pump my arm in victory and yell, "I KNEW IT!" (Except I didn't really because Moriarty never made obvious and gave me enough cause to doubt myself that I was never completely sure.) There were plenty of twists and turns. My favorite part of the book though is that the plot involves a true split between Madeleine and Elliot for the first time. They both go through dark hard times but don't have the strength of each other's voices in the night to depend on. But I love how Moriarty uses that in the end. That power that's always existed between the two of them. How their voices in the dark mattered to them and both their worlds. Basically the book was everything I wanted it to be and some things I didn't even know I wanted but loved anyway. ...more
This series has been one of my favorites, but this volume fell flat for me. That could be because I expected it to be about something entirel2.5 stars
This series has been one of my favorites, but this volume fell flat for me. That could be because I expected it to be about something entirely different than from the set up at the beginning than it ended up being about. I thought the last 2/3s of the book would be away from the castle as the family began their journey to Luth's country. But it isn't. Arkwright needs to be captured. Again. The castle may be in trouble. Again. Celie feels like no one listens to or appreciates her. Again. This book rehashed a lot the elements of the first three books while not adding anything to the series. I will still read a fifth book if there is one, but it won't be as much of a priority. ...more
(This star rating HURTS. Really. I almost bumped it up to three based on my love of the author's other work, but in fairness if this was a book by an(This star rating HURTS. Really. I almost bumped it up to three based on my love of the author's other work, but in fairness if this was a book by an unknown author, it would get a two. Trying to stay honest here.)
It is always hard when an author you typically love writes a book that you don't really love. I've read every single book N.D. Wilson has written and usually I put them down full of love and ready to gush. My feelings about his latest work, the first in his new Outlaws of Time trilogy, are far more complicated and my reaction mixed. The Legend of Sam Miracle has some excellent parts, but there are some elements that made me uncomfortable.
Sam Miracle is confused. The life he leads at his home for boys is simple. He works. He learns. He relaxes with his friends. But there are moments when he is in his head living lives of adventure and danger. Unlike most people's daydreams, Sam's do not have happy endings. He dies in the end every time. But he still loves the dreams even if they sometimes cause him to wander off into danger unknown because in them is arms don't hurt and they bend as they are supposed to. In his real life they are useless, damaged beyond help in a horrible accident. When a new doctor shows up at the ranch to take a look at Sam, the world as Sam knows it is flipped inside out. The doctor is not a doctor, but an outlaw sent through time to track Sam down and kill him. Sam finds himself torn out of a time he thought was his own and discovering that his dreams aren't dreams, but memories. And he has one last chance to change the end of his story.
The world and plot of The Legend of Same Miracle is ambitious. These two elements of the story work really well. Wilson's imagery brings the American west to vivid life: the heat, the harsh sun, the dryness, the sand. This is a story of outlaws and cowboys very much steeped in the mythology of the old west. There is a lot of adventure, peril, and heroics. The villains are the sort who have no trouble torturing and killing young people. They've done it numerous times and pulled time apart to do it again. This gives the sense of peril in the book the realistic edge I expect from Wilson. His fantasies have teeth, and I've always appreciated that. Sam keeps getting another chance to get things right even after dying multiple times. The mechanics of this and the time travel are vaguely alluded to, but it isn't necessary to understand how it works to know that it does. The plot bounces between the linear story of Sam discovering (again) who he is and going about this attempt to make his story right and the flashbacks to his past lives. Once the adventure starts the reader also gets to see what the main villain is up to with some moments showing what Sam's sister Millie is enduring. The book is difficult to put down, and it has Wilson's signature descriptive prose that hooks the reader and holds them to the end. It also has quite a bit of humor. (The acronym for Sam's home is SADDYR and there are delightful motivational phrases to go with each letter posted on the wall.) Thematically the book is what I've come to expect from Wilson as well. There are a great many of lines that are quotable and had me nodding and smiling.
The problems I have are with the characterization. It is hard to feel connected to Sam because he is so confused and doesn't really know who he is for much of the novel. He is clueless and incompetent, which is completely understandable given everything he goes through. However the turn around on that is far too abrupt. This is partly due to how his arms are "fixed", but he has a major change in attitude too. It's like the first half of the book and the second half of the book have two entirely different main characters, and it's not clear how or when they were switched out.
My biggest problem with the characterization is with the other major characters. Three important people in Sam's journey are members of the Navajo nation. I know Wilson's intentions here came from a genuine place. He wrote about it here. The end result left me uncomfortable though. All three characters are very much the magical Native American. Their sole purpose in the narrative is to drive the story of the white hero. One of them sacrifices everything for him. These characters were problematic on several levels. It takes an actual Native hero away from the work with his actual people and nation and focuses his attention on this random white kid. The way they talked about communing with animals and had this strange magic made me squirm. It felt very much like Disney's Pocahontas-a white person's cobbled idea of what Native Americans are.
The Native characters made me uncomfortable. The female characters made me angry. One reason I have never really liked westerns is that the women in them either tend to be agentless bodies to be raped/tortured/murdered to advance the male protagonist's story or evil manipulators working for the baddy. Sam's sister is the former. And she's had to endure it a thousand times over. She has a brief moment of agency when she snarks the villain, but she still needs to be rescued at the end and the reader is left with no sense of who she is as a person outside of who she is to Sam. His motivation. (Blech.) The main female character is Glory. She is the daughter of Sam's foster parents, and for plot reasons gets swept up into the story. She has a little more agency than Millie. She actually chooses to accompany Sam and help him. It was a heroic thought. She does help in saving his life. Then she spends the rest of the book as his secretary (for all intents and purposes). Oh, and she also needs to be rescued by him. More than once. Again, I ended the book with no real sense of who she was apart from her role in Sam's life. The only other female character in the book is evil. This made me even more angry because I expect better of Wilson. I can't believe this is the same author who wrote Henrietta, Antigone, Diana, and Arachne. I KNOW HE CAN DO BETTER.
Will I read the second book? Yes, I will because Wilson's past seven novels have earned my trust. I'm willing to stick around to see how he deals with some of this later on. It's a book that I can't wholeheartedly recommend on its own merits though. And that makes me sad.
I read an ARC made available by the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books, via Edelweiss. The Legend of Sam Miracle is on sale April 19th....more
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty is a thrilling tale of mystery and adventure set at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC in 1899. Having lived in Asheville and visited the house several times, there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to read this. (Also it's MG fantasy, always a bonus for me.)
Serafina lives in secret in the basement of the Vanderbilt's spacious vacation home. She has lived there most of her life. Her father worked on the house as it was being built and is the mechanic who runs the massive generator and keeps the electricity going. Serafina is the chief rat catcher, slipping through the halls of her massive home secretly and quietly. She is light on her feet, sees well in the dark, and is quick enough to catch the vermin and keep them out. Serafina knows she if different and strange. Her father insists she stay hidden. But all that changes when one night Serafina witnesses a horrible crime. A little girl, a guest in the house, is fleeing from a cloaked predator who seems to consume her whole in his cloak before Serafina eyes. She soon learns that the young Clara is not the first person to go missing. In a daring move, Serafina decides to investigate the matter herself and meets the young nephew of the Vanderbilts, Braeden. The two children investigate the matter together. They know Braeden is the next victim and Serafina is determined to keep him, the only friend she has ever had, safe. To do so, she must face the evil that is stalking them and confront the truths about herself and her mysterious past.
Serafina is a bold and decisive heroine who doesn't always follow directions, but does what she believes to be right and good. The story focuses on the mystery of the cloak, who is wielding it, and what exactly it does, but through this we also get to see Serafina's inner struggles. She wants to fit in but knows she doesn't. She is desperate to understand who she is and where she comes from, but is also afraid of the answers she might find. I liked how the relationship between her and Braeden developed. Both children are loners and so their friendship is not as unrealistic as it otherwise might be for a barely servant and member of the family to have. Braeden's character is not as defined or nuanced as Serafina, but he has an interesting backstory and serves his purpose in the book well.
Beatty beautifully sets the scene for Serafina's tale. He does an excellent job of describing the house and the surrounding land and forest. How dark, forbidding, and dangerous the forest can be gives the story an eery feel. Added to this is the intense harrowing events that keep the reader flipping pages to see what happens next. The action is intense and there are scenes that involve blood and gore. The peril feels very real and the stakes for Serafina are high. It is an intense yet fun read, perfect for summer. There is a good balance between scary and humorous, but this is definitely a book for kids who are comfortable with creepy stories and aren't afraid of the dark.
As an adult reader, I found the end to be a little too perfect and a bit saccharine. This was particularly disappointing to me as I really enjoyed the book up until that point. There seemed to be a definite difference it quality of the writing as everything was tied into an extremely neat and tidy bow. Children readers will probably not have this issue as much, and I can see this becoming a favorite for many. It's definitely a must have for upper elementary classroom and school libraries.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, via NetGalley. Serafina and the Black Cloak is on sale July 14th....more
I like that this book exists for the teens I know who will eat it up like candy. Time traveling pirates is a concept that sells itself and I2.5 stars
I like that this book exists for the teens I know who will eat it up like candy. Time traveling pirates is a concept that sells itself and I already have several people in mind who I know will really enjoy this one. It did not work for me as a personal read however. It is incredibly predictable and the character development is shallow. The world building is not the best either. I really wanted to love this one so was pretty disappointed and underwhelmed by the whole experience.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss. ...more
Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier was one of my favorite books of last year. I basically wanted the sequel from the moment I closed the book. When its publisher, Strange Chemistry, closed its doors, I knew a moment of panic that I would never see it. Fortunately Rachel Neumeier is self-publishing the sequels. (I reviewed the collection of short stories a few weeks ago.) Pure Magic, the second novel, is available now, and it is fantastic.
Following a tragic flash flood that took the life of his mother, Justin is wandering with no direction. One night after accepting the hospitality of a priest, he finds himself the target of a vicious werewolf attack. Two other werewolves intervene and save his life. These two are more civilized, but very insistent that Justin come with them to a place called Dimilioc claiming he is Pure and that this attack won't be the last. In fact they're completely confused as to how Justin has survived this long not knowing anything about the magic running through his veins. They are also surprised that he is a Pure male. This is new. Justin finds himself reluctantly accompanying them to the mysterious Dimilioc to meet their Master and discover the dangerous heritage in a violent world he only vaguely understood from the new before this. There he meets the other Black Dogs and Natividad, a Pure girl who can help him unlock his abilities and teach him how to wield his power. But Justin is not convinced he belongs in this world, and he wants some answer. He decides to go and see what his grandmother learns and Natividad leaves with him on a mission of her own. There are dangerous and violent changes occurring in the world of the Black Dogs though and that danger is going to stalk the two Pure and help from their Black Dog allies may be too far away-and too distracted by their own troubles-to help them.
Coming into the world Neumeier created from an outside perspective in this second novel is an interesting way of reintroducing all of the important players and elements and also adding to the layers of the world. Justin is so much more than a vehicle for the reader though. Confused, angry, desperate, and so sad, he is overwhelmed by all of the new information coming his way when he was already feeling alone and emotionally wrecked. His reactions to being thrown into this world and experiencing the violence of the Black Dogs up close for the first time are completely relatable and serve as an interesting contrast to Natividad and Miguel's easy acceptance of the life they were born into. As a new character in the story, he also brought out aspects of the other character's personalities and revealed new things about them. Justin's relationship with Keziah does not start off well. There are expectations about relationships between Black Dogs and the Pure. Even though Justin is the first Pure boy anyone at Dimilioc has encountered, matching up with Keziah is the first thing that pops into everyone's heads. She's not happy about it. He is even less so when he realizes what everyone is thinking. She terrifies him (understandably), and he terrifies her in a different but no less potent way. I really enjoyed watching the two of them warily feeling each other out. Justin actually learns Pure magic quickly because he is a math genius and I loved this dimension of his character.
Natividad has just as much page time in this novel as Justin does and is still very much a main character. Her 16th birthday is rapidly approaching, and she is still trying to figure out exactly where she stands in Ezekiel's mind. Is she merely a convenience being the only Pure girl around or does he really want her? Natividad uses her road trip with Justin to work through some of her confused feelings. I loved the way both of these relationships developed over the course of the book. Natividad and Justin make a really good team and they bond rather quickly. Granted they have little choice but to learn to work together quickly or die. However, they do work hard to understand and learn from each other. The development of Natividad's relationship with Ezekiel is more complex. Again, Ezekiel is my favorite part of this book. (There is an added dimension to the tension here that comes from having read his story in the short story collection. You can still appreciate everything that happens here without reading it, but it's so good and adds so much that I highly recommend you do.) He makes some decisions that won't entirely make sense if you don't fully understand his past. It was a nice change to see him not so entirely in control in this and more than a little vulnerable.
There is a lot going on in the plot of this book. The Blood Kin, who the Black Dogs thought they had completely eradicated, seem to be rising again. There is a rogue band of Black Dogs wreaking havoc. With Dimilioc's decreased numbers from the war, they are vulnerable on every side. Justin and Natividad putting themselves at danger by going on a road trip without protection spreads Dimilioc thin. And basically all Hell breaks loose in more than one place and threats are everywhere. It is an action-packed thrill ride from start to finish and I could not put the book down. I love all these characters and thoroughly engrossed in their lives and the story unfolding. There are a lot of unanswered questions still as there is another three books yet to come, but this one ends in a satisfying way. (Though I still can't wait for the next book.)
I read an ARC sent to me by Rachel Neumeier....more
Part of my not being into this book may be due to the reading slump I was in when I tempted to read it so there is a chance that I will come back andPart of my not being into this book may be due to the reading slump I was in when I tempted to read it so there is a chance that I will come back and give it another try. I was mostly annoyed by how heavy handed it seemed. It was working way too hard to push home how different the future is and how everything that matters to us in the present is waste and unimportant then. It was a bit much. ...more
This is a fun ghost story. The main characters are likeable and the adventure and mystery aspects of the plot make it a fast paced read. I enjoyed howThis is a fun ghost story. The main characters are likeable and the adventure and mystery aspects of the plot make it a fast paced read. I enjoyed how the ghost aspect was handled especially. I didn't like it quite as much as I have the other books in the series, but it was fun seeing the characters I loved from the previous two books and being back at the Repository. I fell like what separates this from the other two is that the writing wasn't quite as strong. The dialogue felt very forced. I do like the interesting twist the collecting took in this one and how it went beyond mere objects. ...more
Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson caught my attention with the title and held it with the synopsis. This sounded like a great fit for me and the perfect read for the mood I was in at the time. While I have a few quibbles, it is a fun read that brought me much enjoyment.
Verity Newton is newly arrived in New York City after being not so gently pushed out the door by her father. Her trip to the city was eventful as the train she was riding on was robbed by the infamous Masked Bandits. Then upon her arrival, she meets up with the equally troublesome Rebel Mechanics who are not so quietly rebelling against the against the Magisters who are the ruling class of British aristocracy in the American Colonies. The Rebel Mechanics are trying to prove that they can build even better machines that run on science and engineering. Verity procures a position as governess in the home of the a young Magister who has the guardianship of his nieces and nephew (the three children also happen to be the grandchildren of the Governor). Verity becomes friends with several members of the Mechanics and is drawn to their cause, writing articles for the illegal newspapers they circulate. At the same time, she is being drawn deeper into the world of her employerShe soon finds herself torn between what she knows of both worlds she is straddling. And she is keeping secrets that could destroy her own life as well as the causes of her closest friends.
Rebel Mechanics takes place in an alternate 1888 where the American Revolution never occurred due to the ruling class of British having magic when the lower class citizens did not. But now that science and invention have taken hold in those classes, there is a fighting chance for actual change. Many of the Magisters don't even really know how to use their own powers relying on the ingenuity and work of their ancestors to keep their world running. It is a fascinating and fun concept, and I enjoyed how well Swenson drew her world without over explaining it. The machines the Mechanics have invented are interesting. The Masked Bandits add a dash of exciting capers to the mix. The politics are interesting and colored in exactly the right shades of gray to show the complexities of revolution.
Verity is a heroine I enjoyed following and rooting for. She is incredibly intelligent but has led a very sheltered life in her parents' home. She has had no interactions with Magisters and only faintly heard about the revolutionary aspects of her country. There is a sense of wide-eyed innocence about her. She is incredibly trusting. There were times as a reader where I knew she was being taken advantage of, but she didn't even suspect. It worked because it made sense for her. Verity is savvy though and she figures things out quickly enough that I never lost my belief in her as a character.
Talking about the rest of the characters is now hard without spoilers. I will say these things: I loved the three children. (Even Flora in all her teenage elitist snobbery.) I ship the ship VERY MUCH. I had a hard time liking the people taking advantage of Verity because I thought the way they were deceiving her was particularly gross and underhanded.
This leads me to my main quibble with the book. I found myself really frustrated through the middle because even though I understood how Verity would not see how she was being manipulated, I still wanted to move past all that and get to the part where she realized and did something about it. Also it was interfering with my full enjoyment of my ship.
I am definitely in for the rest of this series though and am looking forward to the sequel.
I read an ARC made available by the publisher, Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR), via Edelweiss. Rebel Mechanics goes on sale July 14th....more
I typically don't review books that are considered adult books on the blog. I think this is a first. I've always used the blog as resource for students and parents. But Uprooted by Naomi Novik has enough crossover YA appeal I'm making an exception. Also I just want to rave about how much I LOVE THIS BOOK.
Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.
This is how Agnieszka's story begins. She is one of the girls who will be lined up as a potential companion for the Dragon. She is not angry but not overly worried. Everyone knows what type of girl the Dragon chooses and she is not it. Her best friend Kasia is. Their entire lives Kasia and Agnieszka have prepared for the day when Kasia will leave and Agnieszka will be left behind. Except that's not what happens. In a startling turn of events-before Agnieszka can even begin to process it-she's the chosen one and in the Dragon's tower. He doesn't even give her time to say good-bye. Agnieszka stumbles through her first weeks alternating between fear, anger, and sadness. The Dragon, Sarkan, just seems overall fed up and exasperated with her. Soon Agnieszka realizes the strange magical interactions she is having with Sarkan are unique and something the other girls were not subjected to because she is a witch and she needs to be trained. Agnieszka isn't exactly amendable to the Dragon's training though and figure her own unique way of performing magic, one she can intertwine with his to make them both stronger. Before her training can get very far though, the dangerous Wood begins its first moves in a plan to bring down the entire kingdom. Agnieszka finds herself in the middle of a web of political intrigue and old dark magical debts to be paid.
This is everything I want in a fantasy novel written in such a way as to make it absolutely perfect.
CHARACTERS! CHARACTERS! CHARACTERS! Agnieszka is a wonderful heroine. Awkward and clueless in the beginning (as is anyone who is suddenly thrown into a life they never contemplated living), she soon discovers how to wield her new found power and figure out how to manage Sarkan at the same time. As the novel progresses she becomes more bold, assertive, and a force to be reckoned with. Her arc is truly wonderful and watching her grow is so much fun. She is clever from the beginning, and even though she is also naive, she learns so fast. And she does not suffer fools lightly.
Kasia is equally wonderful but in different ways. She has been trained to be brave. She has been trained to be the one who leaves not the one who is left behind and quickly has to adjust her entire way of thinking and deal with the fallout. Then her entire world is rocked even further, ripping her out of the life she was just adjusting to and sending her down a terrifying new road.
Sarkan is exactly the kind of hero I love. He comes across as a surly jerk, but it's because he is a lone nerdy wizard who has no idea how to socially interact with others. He's also a little vain and likes the comforts of life. He doesn't like change, and doesn't bend to it easily, but is able to when it is required.
Then there are all the minor characters, each of who stand out as important, three dimensional, real people. I cared about every single person in this book even the ones who were at odds with Agnieszka and co.
AMAZING RELATIONSHIPS! There are so many great relationships in this book, both major and minor. The friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia is beautiful. They see the worst each in other-not intentionally but it happens-and they emerge on the other side of it stronger. There is not much they won't do for each other. I love seeing amazing nuanced female friendships and this one is particularly well rendered.
I have lots of feels about the relationship between Agnieszka and Sarkan, which developed exactly as I hoped it would. I love how quickly they found equal footing with each other, and that Agnieszka was not dependent on him for much for long. Her magic is so different from his, and while he bristles at having to accept this new view that it's possible, he adjusts rather quickly to seeing her as an equal he can trust. Everything about how their connection unfolded was just perfect to me, and I loved its resolution as well. They are both powerful and important and together they make a great team.
I loved how much you could infer about all the other relationships in the book too. Parental, sibling, community, working, all of it is so well done. Form the small villages to the King's court in the capital you can see the threads of respect that bind people, and the discord that keeps some apart. It is woven subtly in to the text too without it having to be explained.
PLOT AND POLITICS AND INTRIGUE AND MAGIC The plot is a complex mix of magic and politics. My favorite kind of fantasy novel. There are fairy tale elements woven through it as well. It is a complicated and dark story with varying shades of gray. And not everyone gets the end they necessarily deserve which I always like to see because it is so true to life. I like how the book highlighted the complicated consequences of violence, war, and surfeit of ambition that can be easily manipulated to go astray. The way Novik pulled everything together in the end and made me believe the outcome was pure artistry.
I reread several parts of the book as soon as I finished because I didn't want to leave it behind. This is going to be a go to comfort reread for me. I can see that already. (I actually knew it about 50 pages in.) I'm so glad I went ahead and bought it when the library copy was taking to long for me to wait for. ...more
Fans of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes will most likely enjoy this companion novel. Full of Auxier's whimsical fun prose and adventures, the is aFans of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes will most likely enjoy this companion novel. Full of Auxier's whimsical fun prose and adventures, the is a wonderful follow-up to the original story. Focusing on a new character, it still has plenty of familiar faces and fits into the world Auxier created in his first novel nicely. It is a tad too long which is not something I remember thinking when I was reading the first book. I think this could have been cut down a good 100 pages and been truly excellent. ...more
Anne Nesbet is one of those authors who always surprises me. Her book like they will be one thing, but they have so many fascinating layers. The Wrinkled Crown is my favorite book she's written yet.
Linny has been tethered to Sayra all of her life. From the moment it became obvious Linny had a talent for music, she was put at Sayra's side to keep her safe. To keep her from even picking up a Lourka and allowing her talents to be realized. In the town of Lourka if a girl even brushes against a Lourka accidentally before her twelfth birthday, she is spirited off by mysterious voices to the Away. Linny and Sayra have developed a special bond, and they have secrets. Sayra allows Linny to run free in the woods. Linny unable to resist the call of music uses these times to craft her very own Lourka. Sayra feels she's failed Linny and wishes that Linny's fate would be hers. When that is what happens, Linny feels guilty but also determined to be the one to rescue her friend. In addition to music Linny possesses another gift: she never gets lost. She can find her way anywhere. With her Lourka on her back, Linny sets out to find a way to save her friend. Even if it means leaving her home and traveling to the Plain-a place no one from Lourka has gone to and then returned from. She is reluctantly accompanied by her father's apprentice, Elias who has his own motivations for rescuing Sayra. The Plain is not a welcoming place though, and soon Linny and Elias find themselves at the center of a political battle. Linny appears to everyone to be The Girl with the Lourka, whose return everyone is eagerly awaiting so that she can right the wrongs of the world. There are people who wan to exploit her and people who want to make her disappear.
The Wrinkled Crown is first and foremost a book about relationships. Friends, sisters, mother/child, ruler/subject, it covers just about everything (except romance). Linny is at the center of most it. She is a determined girl who is sometimes thoughtless and impulsive, but always willing to work hard to reverse the mistakes she makes. Most of the other characters are not as well developed as she is. I got a strong sense of Sayra from the few pages she's in, but she is absent for most of the book. Elias is funny and a good foil for Linny, but I didn't feel he was as well rounded as Linny is. The characters all work together well to form a cohesive whole for the story though. There is more than one antagonist Linny has to face as she make her way through the Plain and people try to use her as an ends to their own means. These characters are shown to have strengths and flaws, but to be ultimately selfish in their goals. This is a contrast to Linny whose only wish is to saver her friend and go home. I liked how there were minor characters who helped her out in small ways as well. The unsung heroes who did little things to move her where she needed to be.
There is an interesting twist on genre in the book. While it is very much a fantasy novel with a quest and an apparent chosen one (this is deconstructed a bit), it could also be classified as Science Fiction. The most fascinating aspect of the book to me is that the strongest theme is magic versus science. Faith versus intellect plays a huge role too. Linny with all of the magic she brings from the wrinkled hills, loves maps and the science too. She is a part of both worlds. The book is about finding a balance between the two. They are at war with each other, but do they have to be? This is by far my favorite part of the story.
This is an excellent tale of friendship and perseverance that will appeal to lovers of fantasy quests and music.
I read an ARC made available by the publisher, Harper Children's, via Edelweiss. The Wrinkled Crown is available November 10th. ...more