I was introduced to Laura Ruby through my Twitter feed courtesy of Anne Ursu. She is an expert ranter about the things she is passionate about, and as we are passionate about many of the same things, I jumped at the chance to pick up an ARC of her new book, Bone Gap. I already knew she had a way with words and I couldn't wait to see how that manifested itself in a fiction narrative. It turns out Ruby is even more amazing when writing fiction.
This book is one that needs to be read. It begs to be read. Nothing I say in this review is going to do this book justice. It's one of those books you simply have to experience. Just read the book.
Bone Gap is a tiny midwestern town full of fences, cows, chickens, corn, and gaps. Gaps a person could disappear into never to be heard from again. Bone Gap is a place most people can't wait to get out of. This is true for the O'Sulivan boys as much as anyone. Older brother Sean had dreams of going to medical school, but put them on hold to stick around for his kid brother after their mom leaves them for an orthodontist who doesn't like kids. Younger brother Finn is in the summer between his junior and senior year of high school and working hard to get ready for his college applications. They will be his ticket out. But the brothers are currently both reeling from the disappearance of Roza, a beautiful girl who mysteriously entered their lives, and then just as mysteriously left them. Sean has resigned himself, figuring she chose to go of her own accord just like so many others had, including his mom. Finn knows better. He saw the mysterious man who came and took Roza away. Unfortunately he can't remember enough to help find her. As the summer continues, Sean's anger and resentment toward Finn grow. Finn, haunted by nightmares of Roza's disappearance, takes to going out at night and meeting up with Petey, the girl he's always had a crush on. As their relationship grows and the time since Roza's disappearance lengthens, Finn begins to feel better. But soon discoveries are made that make it impossible for everyone to ignore some harsh truths about themselves and life in Bone Gap.
Bone Gap is told in third person and follows the perspectives of several characters, mostly focusing on Finn and Roza. The reader also gets several glimpses into the mind of Petey and Sean. I loved the switching perspectives and how they give such a complete picture of what is going on. At the same time though, the way Ruby pieced these perspectives together gives the book a thrilling, edge of your seat, sense of urgency and mystery. Bone Gap is a puzzle where each piece is handed out one at a time, ending in a beautiful picture of family, community, love, friendship, and hope for the future. But some of the pieces are dark. Very dark. And that is part of the beauty of the finished picture. Ruby pulled it all together so well. And she has some great things to say through both Roza's story and Petey's story about the expectations society has for women and how that can trap a person. There is so much richness and depth to the whole book.
Bone Gap itself comes to life and is just as important to the story as any character. I have said before I have issues with small town books that are full of quirky characters. Ruby managed to stay balanced on the fine line between necessary oddness and too much quirk with Bone Gap. Bone Gap is a weird place for many reasons beyond being a small town. Reasons that become more evident as the story unfolds. The residents themselves are fairly typical people with their own little quirks and foibles, but there is never an overwhelming sense of it being too strange to be real. The people in the town and their stories are real and are brought to wonderful life.
As amazing as the plot, themes, and setting are, the characters are what truly won my heart. I'm a character reader and Ruby does characters well. There is a richness and depth to all the characters that make them feel so real. I haven't been this thoroughly immersed in the lives of the people in a book for quite some time. Finn and Petey in particular have my heart. They are both so odd and awkward. She is prickly and angry much of the time. He is confused and muddled. Together they manage to find peace and happiness, but even then things aren't easy. It's just so real. And I love how their relationship developed from the giddiness of first experiences to dealing with the harsh realities of fitting together two individuals with insecurities and problems. Sean and Roza have a similar dynamic with their own set of issues, and I like how the two relationships contrasted each other. Roza's story, for all its steeped in the magical, is all too real and harsh. They all have so much to offer as people, and so much to overcome to be able to do that. They are people I want to know, and this book makes me feel like I do know them. Like I'm part of their story.
This is my favorite read of 2015 so far and I've really liked all the books I've read this year so that's saying something. it is one of those books that I'm going to be telling everyone about and harassing them to read.
I read an ARC received from the publisher, Balzer & Bray, at ALA Midwinter. Bone Gap goes on sale March 3....more
Well written and creepy enough that it may keep sensitive kids up at night (my own 10yo would not find this at all scary), The Swallow is mostly a sloWell written and creepy enough that it may keep sensitive kids up at night (my own 10yo would not find this at all scary), The Swallow is mostly a slow moving story about two girls with very different lives who are connected by some coincidences. The narrative switches back and forth between the two girls' first person narrations. It is a good thing each girl's part is labeled, because if they weren't, I would not have been able to tell them apart. Their voices were far too similar. As it was, there were a couple times I had to flip the page back to remember which narrator I was reading (and their parts are VERY short-this probably speaks to my level of engagement). Unless they were talking about a specific thing pertaining to just them, they were indistinguishable. My other issue with this book is that I figured out the twist almost immediately and as a result, I noticed the gymnastics the narrative was attempting to cover it up. Writing a sneaky first person narrative is HARD. Having that narrative stand up to an analysis by someone who knows the twist is harder. This is the same problem I had with another book from this year that did the same thing (a super popular over-hyped YA book). ...more
Christmas stories. I love them. I can't get enough of them. I spend most of mid-November through December desperately trying to do fit in as many new ones as I can find and doing rereads of old favorites. (This has been a particular challenge the past couple of years as I've also been a first round Cybils panelist.) Needless to say when I found out My True Love Gave to Me was going to be a thing, I was excited.
This is an anthology of short stories written by YA authors. As a whole, I would say it is definitely worth reading and that you can read it leisurely as each story is its own little gift. It is as diverse as the authors who contributed to it, and that is its greatest strength as a book. There are, of course, some stories I like more than others. I'm going to just say a couple things about each story. I've put asterisks on my favorites.
*"Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell: This is a compilation of the midnights celebrated on New Year by a group of friends over four years and the romance that comes grows between the two main characters. Sweet and short, it is all about a friendship to love relationship and is probably my second favorite thing Rowell's written next to Attachments.
"The Lady and the Fox" by Kelly Link: This is a Christmas Tam Lin retelling. It's not the most original Tam Lin story I've ever read, but it was such a delightful surprise to find it in a place I was not expecting to. I love Tam Lin stories.
*"Angels in the Snow" by Matt De La Pena: This is a wonderful story that highlights some troubling truths while managing to be fun and romantic at the same time. Too few books deal with the fact that people don't have enough to eat and are truly starving. I also l loved how this highlighted the transition that college is and how difficult it is to completey step out of the world you were born into and enter into something wholly different.
"Polaris is Where You'll Find Me" by Jenny Han: Not one of my favorite stories. It is an Elf type story about a girl who is adopted by Santa and lives at the North Pole. Except there is no Will Ferrel, and this isn't funny. Kind of creepy in some aspects actually.
*"It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins: This book takes place in Asheville, NC. I used to live there and it was fun to actually get every single reference in this story to things I knew. Beyond that it's just a really good story about two young people ready to move on in life, but unsure how to get what they want. They know where they want to go, just not how to get there. Then they end up finding each other. And it's pretty awesome.
"Your Temporary Santa" by David Levithan: This story is nothing that I'm looking for in a Christmas story. While the end is sweet, it's actually kind of depressing. I know some people find Christmas depressing and they should have stories too. Just not my thing.
"Krampuslauf" by Holly Black: This story is a little strange, but I liked that it dipped into a mythology that few people really know anything about. That was fun.
*"What the hell have you done, Sophie Roth?" by Gayle Forman: Freshman year of college. So hard. Especially if you are a fish completely out of water. This is a story of two such fish finding each other and finding the spirit of the holidays they both needed. Lovely.
*"Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus" by Myra McEntire: This is my FAVORITE. I have never read a book by McEntire but I think I need to change that. I could write an entire review on this one story. The character growth in a few short pages is remarkable as is McEntire's ability to convey much with few words.
"Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Keirsten White: This is cute, if completely predictable. I found myself wishing it would move a little faster.
"Star of Bethlehem" by Ally Carter: This is another fun yet predictable one that was good, but that I wouldn't ever feel the need to reread.
"The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor: Beautifully written as is everything Taylor writes, but also not at all my thing. Taylor and I seem to have that problem meshing. I love her writing but not what she writes about. Sigh.
I definitely recommend this if you are in the market for a fun compilation of Christmas tales. There is bound to be something that satisfies everyone here.
Note on Content: Some references to alcohol use; Some strong language...more
I read the first Wingfeather Saga book when it came out. It was okay, but not great enough to make me want to continue the series. I only read this beI read the first Wingfeather Saga book when it came out. It was okay, but not great enough to make me want to continue the series. I only read this because it was nominated for the Cybils. I have to say going into this one not having read the middle two was rather confusing. There are a lot of characters and place names to keep track of. It is epic fantasy so that is to be expected, but the fourth book in a series is probably not where you want to start. And this book is looooong. Too long. I won't lie: I skipped huge chunks of the middle. Like not just skimming but whole chapters. Honestly I wasn't any more confused doing that than I was reading every chapter. A lot of the text is superfluous. I know there is this general consensus among epic fantasy writers that if their book isn't long, they must be doing it wrong. But you know what? I'm going to say that even Tolkien could have used some better editing (gasp! horror!), and just because you think it is crucial to the world doesn't necessarily mean it is. More people need to go to the Megan Whalen Turner school of saying lots with fewer words.
My biggest problem with this book though is the problem I had with the first book. Who is this for? The absurdity of the villains and the lack of any true urgency makes me think it is intended for a younger MG audience, but there's no way that audience could access this text. A few of them could, but the majority wouldn't be able to. Is this intended to be a read aloud for that group? I just don't know.
That all being said, there is a good redemptive story arc for the characters, which is why this is getting two stars rather than just one. But honestly, there are books that do even that far better without the verbiage. Like these....more
Last year Bit read and fell in love with Dark Lord: The Early Years by Jamie Thomson. She highly recommended it, but I kept putting it off as new bookLast year Bit read and fell in love with Dark Lord: The Early Years by Jamie Thomson. She highly recommended it, but I kept putting it off as new books came in to read. When the sequel, Dark Lord: School's Out, was nominated for the Cybils I decided it was the perfect time to try the series. I'm happy to say that it is amusing and you can start with the second book and still know what is going on.
Dirk Lloyd is a Dark Lord trapped in the body of a middle school boy, his evilness diminished, and exiled from his home. When his attempt to return to the Darklands goes wrong and his friend Sooz ends up there instead, Dirk must work extra hard with the help of his foster brother Christopher to bring her back. Many obstacles stand in his path including being stalked by minions of the White Wizard who want to destroy him for good. In the meantime, Sooz wins the loyalty of Dirk's minions thanks to his ring which she now possesses. The minions assumes they are engaged. Soon she also wins their devotion as she makes changes that improve life for all in the Darklands. But the Hasdraban the White is not so easily defeated, and soon takes Sooz captive. Now Dirk must risk everything to rescue Sooz and reclaim his land. But will returning to the Darklands turn Dirk back into a true monster?
This book is super fun. It is brimming with kid appeal. It's not exactly my type of humor, but it does what it sets out to do well. The characters are what particularly appealed to me. It is an interesting look at stereotypes and the assumptions we make about people due to our preconceived notions. There is also the interesting question of people working to meet that preconceived notion or forging their own path. Sooz likes Goth and the idea of vampires, but is in no danger of succumbing to the nonsense that vampires are good in reality. Dirk is more complex. In many ways his living in human boy form has changed him. He has had to rely on others. He has had to help others in return. This has caused him to forge bonds of loyalty and friendship even though the is loathe to admit it. Watching him fight between these feelings and the person he always was in the Darklands, is fascinating. I am interested in seeing where Thomson takes these ideas in further books.
The book is a quick read and moves forward quickly. For the most part this works, but the end is a bit abrupt and feels like its missing a key scene. Mostly I liked the quick pacing though.
For kids who like fantasy and fun humorous books, this is a perfect pick....more
The Time of the Fireflies is an engrossing read. I was quite pulled into the story and fascinated by the secrets Larissa was uncovering about her famiThe Time of the Fireflies is an engrossing read. I was quite pulled into the story and fascinated by the secrets Larissa was uncovering about her family. I love stories that have old family history elements. I thought the mystery here was played out well, and the doll was certainly creepy enough to keep kids awake at night. Larissa as a character was sympathetic, but far from perfect. The hardships of her family were a nice balance to the more fantastical elements. I wanted to like this book more than I did because it did really draw me in. Little is a talented storyteller, but too many of the magical elements didn't make sense to me. ...more
Pathfinder is a fun book and works well as the beginning of a new series. There are a lot of adventures, great magic, and brave characters. I do feelPathfinder is a fun book and works well as the beginning of a new series. There are a lot of adventures, great magic, and brave characters. I do feel like I may have enjoyed this slightly more if I had read Sage's Septimus Heap series. I felt like there were a lot of inside jokes and information I was missing and always felt removed from the story as a result. While Tod's story and character were vastly interesting to me, enough time was spent on the characters from the other series that I didn't really feel as engaged as I might have. ...more
UGHHHHHH! I could just leave it at that, but boy do I have issues with this book. Lots and lots of issues.
As I started reading, I was intrigued. PutUGHHHHHH! I could just leave it at that, but boy do I have issues with this book. Lots and lots of issues.
As I started reading, I was intrigued. Put off a little bit by the multiple elements clearly taken from Harry Potter, but intrigued. That quickly turned to snorting, eye-rolling annoyance as it turned out to not just have HP elements but seem to be a straight up HP what if....? fanfic. And one that wasn't very well written at that.
Before I get to the spoiler specifics of things I didn't like, I will begin with the more general things: *The world-building isn't doing it for me. In creating a magical school, Black and Clare fell far short of their inspiring mark. I was bored by most of the details and the classes made little sense because no context was given for them. As I was reading, I couldn't help but wonder how it took two people to write this and it wasn't any better.
*The pacing is out of control. Jamming an entire year into a three hundred pages and having it flow takes major authorial skill. This book is not evidence of that skill.
*For huge chunks it's just plain boring.
*The characterization is completely flat. Words are used to describe the characters, they do things, but they never became more than words on a page to me.
Now for the spoiler full rage: (view spoiler)[ *A student makes an accusation of abuse against a Master that gets that Master fired. Turns out that accusation is false. I don't know why that had to even be in there. Why that particular evil deed? In a world where we want children to come forward about stuff like that but they don't because they think no one will believe them because they think this very thing happens....I just can't.
*The big reveal about who/what Call is about sent me through the ceiling. I would have preferred they had done the predictable thing and made him the Makar/hero boy (though I was pretty excited that turned out to be Aaron), had him just be the loyal counterpoint (or whatever) for Aaron, OR had him be Chaos-ridden. Those things I could handle, but the whole Enemy of Death's soul entered the baby Call so he wouldn't die and YOU ARE THE ENEMY. UGH!!!! No. Just no. I don't even care if this turns out not to be true, and they fix it later, they've lost me. For good. Like the whole evil person who's afraid of death's soul ending up in a baby next to the body of his mother thing has never been done before? Um because that is a little too much like Harry Potter to be accidental. But WAIT! Let's explore it from the angle that said baby then really IS the evil one completely and totally. Or is told that he is. Blergh.
*I don't understand why, if Alistair really believed his son was not his son, but contained the soul of The Enemy (really with that name? and I thought He Must Not Be Named was a ridiculous nickname) then why didn't he bind Call's magic long ago?
It's been a long time since I've wanted to send a book sailing across the room in a rage.
Needless to say I won't be reading book two.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I can see why so many people like Hook's Revenge a lot, but it is not written in a style I find particularly enjoyable so reading it was more of a choI can see why so many people like Hook's Revenge a lot, but it is not written in a style I find particularly enjoyable so reading it was more of a chore than not at times. I do say hurrah for an intrusive narrator who talks to the reader without making himself obnoxious. Well, no more obnoxious than intrusive narrator is automatically. In the beginning I found Jocelyn to be entirely unlikeable and only made sympathetic by how much more unlikeable and gross everyone else around her behaved. This doesn't ever work for me as a tool for characterization. However, by the end of the books some actual real character development had happened, and I liked Jocelyn very well indeed. Her adventures in Neverland are perfect, as is her quest. And I absolutely loved the characterization and treatment of Peter. ...more
Super hero books are always a lot of fun, and Almost Super by Marion Jensen is no exception.
Every Leap Year any Bailey that has turned 12 since the last Leap Year gets their super power. Because the Baileys are a family of Supers. This time its Rafter and his brother Benny's turn. On the much anticipated day, disaster strikes. Instead of getting amazing powers to help their family of supers fight crime, Rafter and Benny get silly ridiculous powers. Benny can change is belly button from an innie to an outie. Rafter can strike a match on polyester. This is bad, and the boys are worried because they go to school with Juanita Johnson. The Johnsons are a family of super villains and Juanita was supposed to get her power too. But she didn't get an amazing power either. The Baileys suspect the Johnsons are up to no good as usual, and the Johnsons suspect the Baileys are up to no good. After Juanita confronts Rafter and Benny at school, it is clear that there is much confusion. Because the Johnsons think they're the heroes and the Baileys are the villains. When all the supers lose their powers, it is up to Rafter, Benny, and Juanita to figure out what has gone wrong and save the day.
I have said it before, but it's always worth repeating. Kids love stories where the kids run circles around the grown ups when it comes to being the heroes. Almost Super is a book that captures that well. In the process it makes all the adults seem a bit too ridiculous, but for the tone of this book it works just fine. I enjoyed all three of the kids, but Rafter and Juanita steal the show in this one. They both have a fierce sense of what is right and a desire to do good. Rafter can not wait to take on the mantle of hero. Juanita is more reluctant, but has her reasons. She definitely comes through when her friends and family need her though. I thought Benny's character acted a little younger than his age, but that could be his immaturity next to Rafter. He seemed more like an 8 year old than a 12 year old though.
The mystery in this was a fun one, and watching the kids figure out what the grown ups have been missing for decades is entertaining. There are also exciting gadgets, hidden lairs, and everything that makes a good super hero tale. This is on the younger side of MG, perfect for 3rd-5th graders who love super hero stories but aren't quite ready for Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities or Sidekicked yet....more
This is an adorable and fun read perfect for 3rd-4th graders around Christmas time. It would probably make a great 2nd grade read aloud too and wouldThis is an adorable and fun read perfect for 3rd-4th graders around Christmas time. It would probably make a great 2nd grade read aloud too and would fit very well into a study of the way different cultures and countries celebrate the holiday season. I enjoyed the characters, and the adventure was a good one though the level of peril was quite low. I do find it hard to understand why any parents would leave a 12 year old home alone with a baby, but okay. ...more
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel is a fun adventurous story that is historical fantasy of a time we don't see often.
Will's father was a train brakeman and worker on the transcontinental railroad in Canada. Will pores over his father's letters seeping up all the adventures he's had, including an encounter with a Sasquatch. When Will is finally reunited with his father the day the railroad is finished, an accident causes a tremendous reversal in their fortunes and Will's father eventually runs the rail company taking the new and innovative train, The Boundless, for its maiden run across Canada. But there are those who feel they were cheated in the building of the railway, and they want their due. These villains are willing to risk anything including the lives of the passengers and any worker who stands in their way to get it. Will ends up witnessing a murder and with one of the two keys that access the car which holds the great treasures The Boundless carries. Hiding out among a traveling circus on the train, Will must make hard decisions about who to trust, how far he's willing to go to protect the treasure, and come to terms with where his future is headed. Does he become the company drone his father wants him to be or does he make his own path?
I enjoyed how Will is not the stereotypical fantasy hero. He is a talented artist and decent human being, but for the most part he is an ordinary boy who always feels like he's watching life happening around him. He sees the stories, he's never a part of them. He longs for more. After the reversal in his family's fortunes, he went from being a starving urchin to an educated and polished young man. He longs to go to art school, but his father wants him to begin as a clerk with the railway. Will reluctantly knows that he will cave to his father's wishes. Once the action really gets underway, it isn't so much Will's intrinsic bravery as his survival instinct that keeps him going. He also has a keen sense of right versus wrong though, and he desperately wants to do what is right and be stand-up sort of man. As a foil to Will, we have Maren, a tightrope walker with the circus. Maren is a determined girls with plans and sees nothing wrong with bending certain rules and laws to make those plans happen. She does defy gravity on a regular basis after all. Her courage, gumption, and survival skills inspire Will while his loyalty, conviction, and trust move her. They make a great team. Mr. Dorian, the circus master, is the most fascinating character in the book to me. Also not above bending rules, he isn't even likeable most of the time, yet he hides Will, provides for his workers well, and commands their loyalty. He is not without honor even when he goes about attempting things not quite honorable. I really liked the duality of his character, which is in all ways a lighter variation of another great literary character bearing the same name.
The book is an alternate history in which Sasquatch and creepy swamp witches exist and attack humans. There is also the sort of technology that can make a miles long train stay together as it travels across a continent. The combination of this alternate history and the historical setting make for an adventurous and fun read. It was hard for me to put down and I couldn't wait to see how it all ended. Also, it appears to be a standalone and we don't get enough of those anymore....more
This is the beginning of a new series by Brandon Mull who is particularly good at cranking out series sure to entertain MG students everywhere. This oThis is the beginning of a new series by Brandon Mull who is particularly good at cranking out series sure to entertain MG students everywhere. This one kicks off to a particularly dark beginning. A group of 5th-7th graders kidnapped en masse and sold into harsh slavery in a world not their own is some serious stuff. That sense of peril never lessens making it hard to put down. The world building is interesting, and I like all the main characters. Mull has another good one on his hands with this. ...more
I think this will be a fun series and this is an interesting beginning. There wasn't anything super new or exciting to it that drew me into the storyI think this will be a fun series and this is an interesting beginning. There wasn't anything super new or exciting to it that drew me into the story in any special way, but it's entertaining. ...more
I was pretty excited to read Nightmares! mostly because of the authors. I adore Jason Segel (or maybe I just adore Marshall-hard to say.) And I love Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike books. A book written by the two of them together was too good a prospect to pass up. While fun, I didn't love it quite as much as I expected to.
All his life the mysterious purple mansion on the hill has fascinated Charlie Laird. But now that he's living in the mansion, he's not longer so excited about it. Another thing he's not excited about is his new stepmother, Charlotte. He's convinced she's a witch. What other explanation is there for the witch who haunts his dreams at night? After all the witch looks too much like Charlotte to be a coincidence. Charlie is doing everything he can to stay awake so the nightmares don't come. Then Charlie discovers his friends are also having strange recurring nightmares and the mysterious new principal features in a lot of them. When the witch from his nightmares takes his brother into the Netherworld (world of nightmares) through a portal in the mansion, Charlie follows and has to face and defeat his worst nightmare.
Charlie is having a rough time and he's taking it all out on the people around him driving those who love him away. He is angry and resentful. He is still highly sympathetic because it is clear he misses his mother, his old house, and doesn't know how to embrace the changes in his life if it means letting the past go. His relationship with his brother and father are suffering. He feels like his life is being consumed by darkness. Charlie's story is peppered with many doses of humor and at times their is a lighter treatment to the issues, but it is a hard journey. I did like how the darker themes were balanced with enough lighter elements to make it fun and have depth at the same time.
The concept of a world in which nightmares live is an interesting one. I enjoyed how the kids only had to face their fear-what the nightmare truly represented-and defeat it to be free. It wasn't necessarily easy, because first they had to figure out what the underlying fear was. And it showed how nightmares can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Though I feel Charlie's confrontation with his "worst nightmare" didn't ring true with the rest of Netherworld, but it was a scene that made me cry.
This is a book that will have a lot of appeal and is well done. I can see kids really loving it. And the cover is marvelous....more
A fun collection of stories that you can tell were written by someone very young, but with the potential for great talent. Most of the stories in thisA fun collection of stories that you can tell were written by someone very young, but with the potential for great talent. Most of the stories in this collection are not my particular cup of tea, however, as a whole the collection works really well. It's sure to please young readers and would make a fantastic read aloud. ...more
I enjoyed Spirit's Key. While I was reading it, it was difficult to put down. It is one of those books that sucks you in due to the mystery,3.5 stars
I enjoyed Spirit's Key. While I was reading it, it was difficult to put down. It is one of those books that sucks you in due to the mystery, which is incredibly well done. The hints are given out slowly and just enough to keep you engaged and waiting for the next tidbit. I was also pleased that I was only able to half figure out what was going on. The book left a lot of unanswered questions in my head as well. I was never able to fully suspend my disbelief enough to completely buy into the fantasy element. This seems to be a problem just I have. Most others seem to be dealing with it just fine. It is a good book and a wonderful recommendation to give to kids who love fantasies and animals. ...more
Rose's story picks up almost immediately where it left off in Rose and the Magician's Mask. She and the family have returned to London from Venice. Miss Fell has joined the family and taken on both Rose and Bella as pupils, not only to grow and focus their magic but to train them how to be proper ladies. As the lessons continue, she seems to be testing Rose in particular. Bella suspects why and shares her theory with Rose. The girls embark on a dangerous and somewhat misguided plan to uncover the truth of Rose's past, her seeming connection to Miss Fell, and the reasons for the years Rose spent in an orphanage. With the help of a ghost they find in a mirror belonging to Miss Fell, the children and Gus the cat are lead into a world of underground crime lords and exploitation of magic.
Rose and the Silver Ghost is a wonderful conclusion to the journey Rose began in the first novel. She has grown in her magic and come to see that she must choose a life. She can not remain both servant and magician. Her desperate need for a place, to feel like she has a home, is one that readers of all backgrounds and lifestyles can relate to. She just wants to know who she is and understand where she came from so she will know where she is going. Through the course of the novel, all the secrets of Rose's mysterious past are revealed. Some of the revelations are surprising, some less so, but they all combine to make her story richer. I also appreciate how well Webb developed all of the other characters too. Bella, Freddy, and Bill have all grown over the series too. They are wonderful friends to Rose. Gus is still my favorite though. Because you just can't beat a snarky grumpy talking cat with a heart of gold.
Fans of the Rose series will enjoy seeing how everything comes together in this book. I think that it is the final one in the series. It ends in such a way that the story is complete. I wouldn't mind having more though.
I read an e-galley received from the publisher, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, via NetGalley. Rose and the Silver Ghost is currently available in the UK and goes on sale in the US on March 3....more
I adore the Rose series. Seriously adore. They are just wonderfully fun, full of magic, and Rose is such a great character. The newest (US) installment, Rose and the Magician's Mask, lives up to the previous two and adds to them in interesting ways.
This installment picks up where the last installment left off. Rose and her friends are trying to track down the evil mastermind behind the plot in Rose and the Lost Princess. When a series of events leads them to believe he has absconded to Venice with a priceless and dangerous national treasure, there is only one solution. Road trip! Mr. Fountain must track down the artifact and the criminal. He takes Rose, Freddie, and Bella with him. Then Bill decides to stowaway too. Basically, all of my favorite characters in this series teamed up to go on a journey for a famous artifact and defeat the evil bad guy trying to take over the world via magic. It is a high fantasy quest novel wrapped up in the delightful alternate historical fantasy it has always been. It was the most perfect combination. There were even some hints given to Rose's mysterious past and how she is most likely higher born than she believes herself to be. So perfect. The beginning does start off a bit slow as a lot of the previous books are rehashed in typical kid series fashion, but once I got past that, I could not put this book down.
Rose continues to grow in her magic, as do both Freddie and Bella. They are all three growing as individuals too. Rose is showing a desire to be more bold and to figure out more of who she is an what she really wants in life. She is no longer content to hide in the shadows. Freddie is learning to broaden his horizons and give people more of a chance. Bella is learning to respect and listen to others. Bill was a wonderful addition to the magical team, even though he is not capable of magic himself. His common sense and fierce loyalty make him the perfect foil for the other three as they adventure. He has skills the others do not, and they come in handy more than once. Gus is, of course, still the best part of these books with the exception of Rose herself. He shows himself to be capable of far more than the others had previously seen and leaves them astounded in many places. There is an addition to the team in this book too. Miss Fell is a powerful magic worker, knows a lot about the world, and clearly suspects something of Rose's past. She is also one of those brilliant adults who allows the kids to go on their way being heroes with some assistance but also the knowledge that sometimes they must put themselves in danger and risk much to be those heroes.
This series just keeps getting better and better with each new volume. I am sad to see there is only one more book to go, Rose and the Silver Ghost, which will be released in March of 2015 in the US. It is currently available in the UK.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, via NetGalley. Rose and the Magician's Mask will be available for purchase September 2. ...more
Last year I read The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston and fell in love. I fell in love with the characters, the town of Trondheim, the world Johnston created, and the voice that told the story-Siobhan. I immediately began looking forward to the sequel, Prairie Fire. Now that I've read it, I'm sort of wrecked but only the best of ways.
Prairie Fire is very much a sequel in the strictest sense of the word. It is the second half of Owen and Siobhan's story. While you could probably read it first, the emotional pay off will be far greater if you don't. If you haven't read The Story of Owen, go and do that. I don't know what's been holding you back anyway.
Spoilers for The Story of Owen ahead. You've been warned.
Siobhan, Owen, and Sadie have graduated from high school and are beginning their service to the Oil Watch. Siobhan has mostly recovered from her encounter with the dragon that left her hands burned, but she will always have limited mobility. She is learning to cope. She has found a different instrument. She still feels a strong sense of purpose. Siobhan is Owen's bard, and she does not take that commitment likely. Hailed by much of the populous as heroes, Siobhan and Owen are not looked on quite as favorably by their government. They find themselves stationed in Alberta on the edge of the Canadian prairie-an assignment that's kind of a slap in the face given Owen's talent and proven ability. But their support team is top-notch and they've bonded. They find the other two novice teams, one American and one Japanese, easy to work with. All three teams forge new ties and friendships, bonds needed living in the realm of the most dangerous dragon species alive with an instructor who is a frowned upon rule-breaker and a general who scorns all the things Owen and Siobhan stand for.
"When Lieutenant Porter said 'it's our busy season', what he'd meant was 'Shit there are dragons everywhere. Duck.'"
This quote sums the book up nicely. There are a lot more dragons, dragon slayings, and close encounters with dragons in this book than the first. There was quite a lot of set-up in the first book. It was a time to get to know both Owen and Siobhan, time to get to know the world, and to fully understand what it was the Thorskgards were fighting for. True, there were plenty of dragons to be found too, but in this second half they're everywhere. Also in this book the reader is introduced to the mother of all dragons-nearly unbeatable and scary as everything. The pace is much faster than the first book. It feels like a head long rush to the explosive and shattering end.
Siobhan's recovery is rather skipped over. Her emotional recovery happens much faster than seems reasonable until you remember how young she is. And young people often can bounce back and find new routes quicker than adults. She still has her music. It's just different. I think too that her being a rather even tempered individual from the start helps the believability of this. The story becomes Siobhan's more than ever as she and Owen are separated for quite some time. The government is trying to keep Siobhan's influence over public opinion to a minimum. They want the people to forget Owen's a hero. Owen's presence is still felt even in his absence though, and Siobhan still works on ways to get what he is capable of out there. These two have an amazing relationship, a friendship that is truer and stronger than average. I love how much they give to each other and complement each other. Siobhan gave Owen a voice. Owen gave Siobhan a story. And it is absolutely beautiful.
There are a number of new characters introduced in this story and I loved them all-Courtney the engineer and Porter the lieutenant especially. The other two dragon slayers add so much to the story as well and I love the interactions between them. (Nick, the American from NYC, was a particular favorite and I wished we had just a bit more from him.) The characters in the first book are all back though we see far less of them now that Siobhan and Owen are away from home. Sadie is present for much of the first half, but is assigned to the UK while Siobhan and Owen remain in Canada. I enjoyed her when she was there though. She is a perfect balance to both Siobhan and Owen.
Thematically this book is even more brilliant than its predecessor. The slayers and their teams are all so young. All serving their countries and the world in a noble pursuit. But bureaucracy and politics being what they are, they can't always do it effectively. They are dedicated, bold, and brilliant. What they do has a high cost though and Johnston shows that beautifully.
Basically this book left me sort of wrecked, but in a brilliant way.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher, Carlolrhoda Books, at ALA Midwinter. Prairie Fire goes on sale on March 1st....more
I waited too long to read this book. Seriously. When it came out back in March, I was intrigued. Many people I trust said read this. It's good. Why did I wait so long? The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston is a perfect blend of myth, reality, sly humor, and exhilarating action-adventure.
As the title implies, this is the story of Owen, a teenage dragon-slayer-in-training who helps guard the small town of Trondheim from dragons while trying to pass Algebra. Yet this isn't just the story of Owen. In fact, it isn't even mostly the story of Owen. It is really the story of Siobhan, the gifted musician who Owen encounters on his first day at his new school when they are both late for English. Like it was fated. Except not that kind of fated. Siobhan's talent makes her the perfect partner for Owen. Even though the tradition has long since died, every good dragon-slayer needs a good bard and Owen and Siobhan are about to resurrect the art. Siobhan is the one telling this story, in a voice that is both straightforward and trickily slides away from the telling the whole truth at the same time. The Siobhan telling the story is telling it from somewhere in the future. The writing is well done and has a dry wry wit that is subversive and oh so well balanced. I like both Siobhan and Owen, but I really like their partnership and how we see it unfold and grow. Their loyalty towards each grows in a natural way as the book progresses as does the strength of their companionship. And I love that is all their relationship is. I hope it stays that way in the future volumes. I love romance and am hopeful that there will be some eventually, but not between the two of them. One other thing I appreciated about both of them is that they are not super-heroes. They are kids who are talented yes, but who work at what they are good at to make themselves even better. And they work hard. I also really liked the supporting cast of characters, particularly Owen's aunts, Lottie and Hannah. I do feel that Siobhan is lacking in emotional depth enough that she kept me too removed from the story. I think that is probably due to the device of her being a bard and telling the story from the future, carrying we only know what baggage, wounds, and heartache. But it felt as though she didn't feel strongly enough about anything or anyone. Even the descriptions of her music have a vaguely detached air (which makes a bit more sense at the end), but the effect of all that was I wanted to know everyone and feel this story more deeply than I did. That is my one and only complaint though.
The world-builiding here is excellent. It is our world set in modern times with all our modern gadgets and technology. The difference? Dragons. Dragons have been a scourge on humanity in this alternate world for all of history but with the beginning of the age of modern industrialization they became an even bigger scourge. Dragons, you see, crave carbon fuels. It's like candy for them and they instinctively seek out anywhere they can find it. Cities with factories, roads with cars, water with boats, if you are anywhere these things are chances are you will be attacked by a dragon. The political ramifications of this are so well done, and Johnston raises so many provocative questions about our own world and how things are managed through them. Siobhan, Owen, his family, and some of their friends are trying to change the way the world works, but change does not come easy or free. I enjoyed how the world-building was so detailed throwing in so much history, not only maintaining my interest as a reader, but heightening it. It is also through the world-building that the major themes are developed. One thing that is highlighted is how easy media and history are to manipulate and I appreciated that aspect particularly. Siobhan is not just there to be a cheerleader for Owen, she is in charge of shaping perception not just about him, but dragon-slayers in general, and advancing the political and social causes their group deem important. It's fascinating stuff.
The writing brings this world to vivid life. What I felt it was lacking in character emotion, it more than made up for in terms of top rate plotting. The humor in the book is dry and tongue-in-cheek, something else I truly appreciated.
I highly recommend this for all fans of fantasy, particularly if you enjoy a good Nordic tale retold. It has all the feel of Beowulf, while being set in the present time. Truly excellent. ...more
I love "Beauty and the Beast" in all its variations and have a difficult time passing up retellings of it. When I discovered Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen, I was elated that it was not only a retelling of my favorite fairy tale, but also gender swapped. A girl beast. Family secrets. Magical forest. Creepy castle. Check all my favorite things off right there, and Hellisen does some interesting things with her story.
First: Two thumbs way up for the cover designer on this one. It is beautiful.
Sarah has spent her entire life moving. Her mother seems to be running away from cold. Her father seems desperate to keep her mother happy. Until one night when her mother stops running with them and runs away from them. There's nothing her father can do to stop it. In the days that follow Sarah notices her father turning in more and more, becoming a little wild around the edges. Then he takes her to live with the grandparents she never knew she had and Sarah discovers secrets and lies twisted through her family's history. They are cursed. Cursed to turn into beasts when they fall in love, unless the person they love loves them back. But the curse, born of jealousy and hateful revenge is more twisted than any fairy tale Sarah has ever read. It doubles back on itself and entraps everyone into a hideous future they can't break free from making her realize stories may not always have a happily ever after.
Sarah is so determined. She is determined to help, to fight, to break the curse, to never fall in love, to remain true to herself, to save every member of her family. She tries so hard. She fails at so much of it. Yet she keeps getting back up and trying again and again. Her determination wavers occasionally but it never dies. It drives her. She is the ultimate heroine as a result. Sarah is active in her own story. Many parts of her life are beyond her control, set into motion long before she was born and propelled by forces out of her control. Despite that, she makes her own choices and works within the parameters of the curse to enforce her own will. I loved that so much. I think that it is important to have books where we see a bit of failure but not for lack of trying, and then also get to see how the characters deal with that failure. How they try to make the best of the situation given them. Sarah's relationship with almost every other character in the book is tragic in some way, but she fights for all of them as much as she fights for herself, and it is a beautiful thing to see. I also really enjoyed what Hellisen did with the character who inflicted the curse in the first place. She is a horrible person, but Hellisen gave her depth too. I think the way the situation between her and Sarah resolved was absolutely perfect. I think the conclusion for every person touched by the curse was done exactly right.
Beastkeeper does what the best retellings do and thoroughly twists the tale and adds new dimensions. What Hellisen did with the original story is intriguing and profound. The fear of loving someone beastly, knowing that you are the only thing keeping them from being a hideous shadow of themselves-that's a terrible burden to carry. What might it possibly do to a person? I was throughly impressed with the how intricate Hellisen made the curse, and how completely and utterly it trapped every single person connected to it in the most terrible of ways. I love that she was unafraid to go to the darker places the story required and that it isn't all sunshine, daisies, and happily ever after in the end. There is tragedy. There is uncertainty. But there's also hope.
I loved everything about Beastkeeper and highly recommend it.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., via NetGalley. Beastkeeper is available for purchase on February 3....more
The start to Monstrous is slow. There is a lot of set-up and sometimes the story drags. The language used and the writing itself is beautiful though.The start to Monstrous is slow. There is a lot of set-up and sometimes the story drags. The language used and the writing itself is beautiful though. I did find the end to be a little too abrupt and was disappointed as a result. ...more
I probably wasn't the best reader for this book in the first place. I loathe The Swiss Family Robinson. Loathe. It. But this looked so short I figuredI probably wasn't the best reader for this book in the first place. I loathe The Swiss Family Robinson. Loathe. It. But this looked so short I figured it might be a better, more fun update of the same concept. It's only short because it is the first in a series. (If I had known that, I wouldn't have read it.) That in itself is not enough to make me dislike a book as much I disliked this one. So what are my reasons? It begins like one of the WORST made for Disney Channel movies. The parents are ridiculously clueless. The kids, newly brought together by their parents' marriage, are self-absorbed and obnoxious. It even has the famous two boy and one girl formula that Disney uses for everything and each of them fit into some caricature-the smart snotty one, the super geeky quirky one, and the stoic brave level headed one. There is little to no character development done beyond that. The plot trips along in an absurd manner until halfway through the family is stranded on an island after the boat begins to sink in a storm and the Captain dies. The island is all kinds of mysterious, but we can't tell exactly what kinds yet. It is hinted in just a few short pages that there are possible ghosts, weird people-chasing-weather-phenomena, and animals the likes of which one would find residing with Dr. Moreau. Then the book ends. Just. Like. That. Like this is a TV pilot and they want you to be sure to tune in again next week to see what happens next. I know that works great for TV shows, when you only have to wait A WEEK. But nothing makes me angrier than when books do it, because the next book isn't coming out next week. It's an even dirtier trick to pull when you do it with a book. The parents, being the type of people they are, haven't clued in to the strangeness of the island yet. So what is the sensible thing for the kid who has experienced the strangest aspects to do? Lie about it, of course! Even when it means contradicting his step-sister and making her look like an idiot. Needless to say, despite the best efforts to get me to read the next book with that cliffhanger ending, it will not be happening.
I read an ARC received from the publisher at ALA Midwinter. ...more
I really wanted to love Exquisite Captive. I would like to read a book about a jinni that I can fall completely into. Since I read and absolutely adored Heather Demetrios's Something Real earlier this year, I thought this might be the one. Alas, no such luck.
What I Liked:
*Nalia's character. She is strong, smart, and proactive. She does not accept situations as they are easily and fights for what matters to her. She is involved in a conflict between what she feels and what everyone else tells her she should be. During her early life, it was her mother and the other jinni of her kind telling her. Now it is her master, and, to a lesser extent, Raif once he arrives on the scene.
*The relationship between Nalia and Malek, her master. This was incredibly well done. Demetrios did an excellent job of showing the psychology of such a relationship. Malek is a despicable person, but he has some good qualities as well and knows how to turn on the charm. Nalia spent two years in open rebellion against him and one in reluctant subjugation. He is now trying to change the nature of their relationship and the way Nalia, starved of any kind and loving interaction for far to long, reacts to this is completely realistic. I love how she knows and acknowledges his horridness while also feeling confused by the way she longs for the solace he offers. There is never a moment when she forgets who they both are and why there can not be a balanced relationship between them though.
*The politics of the jinni world and the intrigue of the Dark Caravan were fascinating.
What I Didn't Like: *The world building felt superficial, as though the author threw in every thing that could possibly say JINNI! into the book, but it didn't truly feel authentic. And there was a disconnect to how the Jinni on earth were behaving for me.
*The multiple descriptions of skin tone with foods. Almond. Cinnamon. People are not food. Stop. This.
*The specialness of Nalia. I like her so much as a character, but does she really have to be THE ONE AND ONLY of her kind left, completely different from all others?
*The convenient plot device that made any actual development of a relationship between Nalia and Raif unnecessary. Or apparently unnecessary. I could have used some development. I LIKE watching romantic relationships develop. If you're going to put a romance in a book, I want to see it develop. What's the point otherwise?
*The writing is a bit too descriptive and detailed in places. The kind of too descriptive that found me getting bored.
Will I read the sequel? Maybe. I wasn't super excited about the end. I'm not sure I like where this is headed. This first book didn't leave me invested enough to go through a lot of drama and angst with these particular characters.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Balzer & Bray, via Edelweiss. Exquisite Captive has a release date of October 7. ...more
Last week was the week for reading books I hadn't read yet by my favorite authors. Frances Hardinge is definitely one of my favorites. While I don't always love each individual book, I always appreciate them for the works of art they are. The Lost Conspiracy (Gullstruck Island-UK) is one of those books that swept me away on a tide of beautiful imagery and left me clinging to each page ready to know what happened next.
The Lost Conspiracy is a book that does so much right it is hard to no where to begin. The setting is beautifully treacherous, an island with jungles, volcanoes, dangerous aquatic animals, and cut off from any other part of the world. Harginge brings the island to life in vivid colors, sounds, and feelings. As Hathin and Arilou journey throughout, the reader goes with them and experiences it with them.
Hathin is an amazing heroine. Her entire existence is based on serving her sister. It is what her entire life has always been for. She is Arilou's quiet unobtrusive shadow. People barely even realize she is there most of the time, which works out well for her because it allows her to observe and then manipulate the situation to go where she needs it to go. This life has developed her mind into a strategic, sharp instrument for getting what her sister and her people need. These skills serve her well as her world is blown apart by a conspiracy, and it is up to her to save her sister, herself, and all the Lace people of the island. There is a strong cast of supporting characters that surround Hathin from beginning to end, changing and multiplying as the story goes on. Each of these are intriguing in their own right and fully realized (I don't think Hardinge knows how to write characters any other way), but this story is Hathin's story. She deserves all the credit and glory due her for every hardship and triumph.
The plot is complicated and twisty involving centuries of myth, misunderstanding, and miscommunication. Hardinge has created a razor sharp look at colonialism and its affects with this story. The Lace are one group of the island's indigenous people. It has been a couple hundred years since the settlers came and while they intermarried with many of the other tribes, the Lace remained separate. This is mostly due to an unfortunate incident that involved kidnapping and sacrificing settlers to the volcanoes. Through the history of the island and the current politics tearing it apart, Hardinge depicts perfectly how a clash of cultures, a misunderstanding of tradition, and the easy way prejudices can be used to ignite hate, fear, and violence can cause a ripple affect that is felt and used for generations. I like that while there is clearly a villain, there is also a lot of horror that occurs because ordinary people allow themselves to be manipulated, carried away by a mob mentality, or simply don't stand up and do what's right. I like the shades of gray in that, something else Hardinge is typically good at depicting.
Some favorite quotes that show Hardinge's command of language and her themes: There was a shout of laughter at the idea of the little Lace girl kidnapping the burly towner and taking him away to sacrifice. It was a joke, but centuries of distrust and fear lay behind it. Soon somebody would say something that was sharper and harder, but it would still be a joke. And then there would be remark like a punch in the gut but made as a joke. And then they would detain her if she tried to leave and body would stop them because it was all only a joke...
And so ended the conference of the invisible, in the cavern of blood and secrets, on the night of the mist.
"You see," Therrot added in what was probably meant to be a comforting tone, "revenge doesn't need to be face-to-face. Maybe you're not made for sticking a knife in someone...but would you feel the same way about planting a little fistful of leaves and roots?" Hathin tried to imagine herself using her sickle to dig root space for a sly, slow killer. The idea did feel different, but she was not at all sure it felt better.
My one complaint is that it is a little long. Hardinge's books often are yet usually I can't think what would be cut out. Here I did feel there was a lot of detail in the middl portion that could have been pared down or combined to make the pacing better. This is one small detractor for me in a book that is full of amazing elements. Hardinge is a fantastic storyteller and if you haven't read this or her other books, you definitely need to pick one up. ...more
The Thickety is an interesting fantasy world with a fast-paced and engaging plot. Kara is a strong sympathetic main character and the life she lives iThe Thickety is an interesting fantasy world with a fast-paced and engaging plot. Kara is a strong sympathetic main character and the life she lives is not easy. I can't really love this book for reasons that are such a personal bias that I don't even feel it is important to share them, but I can see how it would appeal to a lot of young readers.
*REVISED REVIEW: After a recent conversation with a friend, I have decided to drop this book's star rating. While there was much I found problematic with it originally, I realize now that I glossed over something I should not have. This is why I love the book and blogging community. Because discussions with friends help me find strengths in books I had not previously seen, and they also open my eyes to my own privilege and how I could allow a serious issue to slide by without commenting. The villain in this story is a girl born with a disability, a disability that she uses to manipulate other and be generally mean, spiteful, and specifically plot awful things toward the protagonist. While her environment can be blamed for how she turned out, the way she is portrayed ties her disability too closely to the evil machinations of her mind. Also, the word "cripple" is used to describe her, which is not acceptable in anyway.
Do I understand that evil and cruel intentions are something that people with disabilities can have? Of course! I'm not naive. However, kids with disabilities see themselves so little in books as it is. When they do have the opportunity to see themselves in a book, do we want them to see themselves as the villain? That is worse than them being the sympathetic sidekick (looking at another popular MG book from this year). We need more books like Handbook for Dragon Slayers where these kids get to see themselves as the heroes.
This combined with the issues I already had means I can't endorse this book in any way. Upon further thinking of the book, I've also decided that the writing isn't of the quality enough to save it from it's weaknesses. ...more
After reading The Floating Islands a couple of years ago, I immediately put The City in the Lake on my TBR. There it sat despite the fact that I adored The Floating Islands, House of Shadows, and just really like Rachel Neumeier as a person too. After reading and loving Black Dog earlier this year I decided I needed to read this sooner rather than later and the Shelf-Sweeper challenge gave me the perfect opportunity for that. And I loved it so much.
I would really love to know what it is like to live inside Rachel's head, because all of her books are distinctly different, wildly inventive, and not what I think I'm getting when I start reading. You would think by now I would stop being surprised by that, but I continue to be amazed at her creativity and how her writing style alters to fit each world she has created. In The City in the Lake we get a quest story set in a fantasy world. If you think you know what that looks like and you've seen it before, you are wrong. You haven't seen this one. I loved the world here and how vast it is, yet contained in a rather small setting for the story. It is impressive how Neumeier is able to convey that vastness with few words. (Those who read this blog regularly know that is a trait my favorite authors all tend to share.) I loved the idea of the two cities, one in the lake and one on it, that reflect each other. The Forest in all its mysterious darkness is brought to full intimidating life and Timou's small village is rendered in just the right way. Reading this book, I actually felt like I was in all of these places and experiencing them in the same way as the characters.
The book's action centers around the royal family and Timou, a Mage's daughter, who never knew her mother. When the prince and then the King go missing, the King's older bastard son is left in charge and Timou's father has disappeared into the city to try and help. Timou follows when he doesn't return and discovers twisted secrets and a whole lot of family drama. There are a lot of characters involved and they are all well developed despite the shortness of the novel. I loved how Timou is a character of quiet strength. She has incredibly powerful magic and yet is not at all tempted by power. She is patient, stubborn, and hardworking. Her feelings are always kept under tight control, a trick she learned from her father, but one that has her confused when she begins to have feelings for Jonah, one of the men in her village. Jonah also has a quiet strength. He is not a sword wielding, run-into-danger type of hero, but his heroism and what he chooses to do with it are even more impressive as a result. I also really loved both of the princes, who are very different in all the ways brothers are. Neill, the bastard, is a fascinating character. He is the one who caught my imagination the most due to the choices he makes-and the ones he didn't but could have. Cassiel, the heir to the throne, is young and has many traits you would expect from being the younger, favored son, but he also has a core of steel and courage that is impressive. His charm and humor only make this more appealing (even if I was choosing between them, I would choose to like his brother more.) In dress, attitude, and actions, the villain is one of the creepiest I've read in some time. The symbolism Neumeier uses to introduce the concept of the villain into the story does an excellent job of adding to this terrifying calmness of evil the villain presents.
The City in the Lake is exactly the sort of fantasy I love and now I'm kicking myself for not having read it sooner. The world, characters, and story all combine to make an enthralling read and Neumeier's evocative prose put me right in the story. Woven in to the magic and intense political drama is also a great tale of siblings. All of my favorite things in a fantasy plus stuff I never knew to ask for. READ IT NOW. ...more