Orphans? Victorian London? Alchemy? Witches! Mist-monsters! TALKING CATS! I am SO THERE. Ashley even said, “DefiOriginally published at yAdult Review.
Orphans? Victorian London? Alchemy? Witches! Mist-monsters! TALKING CATS! I am SO THERE. Ashley even said, “Definitely sounds like a you book.” And it was. Rose is an orphan for only a few chapters before Miss Bridges comes and whisks her away to work for an alchemist. We have a little hint that Rose may have some supernatural ability in the first few pages, so this seems pretty convenient (but I liked it anyway). This is the kind of middle-grade that has such a good plot and characterization that anything that may otherwise have seemed rushed or off didn’t register that way to me. When we reach Fountain’s home, there’s a little bit of an Upstairs/Downstairs feel, which is something I really enjoy. We don’t meet the alchemist for awhile, but we meet his snobby daughter and his lazy apprentice. Rose is bombarded by the magic of the house, but she manages to make friends with Bill, a servant who came from the boys equivalent of Rose’s orphanage.
At first, Rose fights her magic because the servants are all so afraid of it, and Rose just wants to fit in. She wants it to go away and hopes it’ll fade if she ignores it, but an encounter with Freddie and Gustavus the TALKING CAT :D proves she has to face her fear of her abilities. I loved Mr. Fountain in this, because he’s powerful but fallible, something magicians aren't sometimes in novels. Following the people below stairs is one of my favorite parts of historical fiction, and adding magic to it just made it that much better. Seeing Rose grow into her power was a lot of fun, and I really recommend this one!
THIS REVIEW HAS EXTRAS!
Holly Webb herself has gifted us with some extras to post along with this review and I’m really excited about it. It’s her fantasy cast list for Rose, and I think it’s perfect. Thank you to Holly Webb for taking the time to do such a thing and thanks to Abbie Digel at Sourcebooks for providing us the material!
Rose — Chloe Moretz This is so difficult! Rose needs to be brave, determined, but quite matter-of-fact. She’s horrified by her magic at first, as she wants to be a maid – she’s amazed that she’s been lucky enough to get a job, and she thinks the magic will spoil everything. So whoever played her would need to be able to get that determination across, but be overtaken by the excitement of the magic growing inside her. At first I thought of Kirsten Dunst, as she was amazing as a child vampire in Interview With the Vampire, but of course that was years and years ago. Actually, if I could have any child actress from whenever, I think I would go for Mara Wilson, who played Matilda in the film. She seemed quite as I imagine Rose – pretty, but not beautiful, very sensible, but with a sly sense of humour lurking underneath. I wonder if Chloe Moretz (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Hugo) would be able to look young enough to play Rose? In the book Rose thinks she’s ten, but she’s not quite sure, and the hard life at the orphanage, and having to be grown-up very quickly, would make her look older.
Mr. Fountain — Colin Firth But only if he could grow a large, curly moustache.
Miss Sparrow — Emma Watson Miss Sparrow needs to be very beautiful, possibly too beautiful – not to spoil the plot, but her looks are magically enhanced. I’d love to see Emma Watson play another magical character, but this time, an evil one. (Thinking about it, Emma Watson would also have been wonderful as Rose!)
Bill (or Freddie!) — Asa Butterfield Bill is another of the servants at Mr Fountain’s house. He’s an orphan too, and he loves being a little bit older and more used to working than Rose. But he’s actually very kind, although he does his best to hide it. He needs to sound like a Londoner, which I think is probably easier for a British actor. But then I can see Asa Butterfield as Freddie, the snotty, conceited magician’s apprentice, too! He has a magical look to him. Can I have him twice with different-coloured hair, please?!
Gus (voice) — Alan Rickman Because he has a lovely voice! Gus is Mr Fountain’s spoilt white cat, and one of the first magical things to happen to Rose is that she realises she can hear him talking. He’s proud, lazy and obsessed with fishpaste sandwiches. I first saw Alan Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply a long time ago but he can also be fabulously nasty (as the sheriff of Nottingham and of course as Snape in the Harry Potter films). He’s great at sounding grumpy, which is very important for Gus!...more
So. Some summary there, huh? Really makes you wonder things like, “wtf is the SQ?” or “wtf are these books evenOriginally published at yAdult Review.
So. Some summary there, huh? Really makes you wonder things like, “wtf is the SQ?” or “wtf are these books even about?” I’m sure the paper book has a better summary on the back. I hope so, anyway, because the opening of this novel is awesome. It’s Sera-centeric, and it’s kind of raw and emotional. Sera not only caught a glimpse of the Cataclysm (which disturbed her so much, she repressed the memories), but she’s also affected by Remnants. Bits and pieces of the Cataclysm are starting to come back to her, and it’s not pretty or nice. Something I was reminded of in this book, though, is that Sera is a person of color. She’s Hispanic, and Dak makes reference to how she looks much like the ancient Maya. So two out of three main characters in this series are people of color. Yay, progress! Speaking of progress, why is it that Dak has a little character development every book (mostly where he learns to control his urge to run off), and then is the exact same annoying little boy in the next one? Granted, he’s upset by what he sees as Sera ignoring him for Riq and by Dak’s parents being lost in time, but Dak really thinks highly of himself and his ability to get out of trouble. He’s spiteful and more than a little delusional. I don’t like calling eleven-year-olds “delusional,” but there it is. Dak drives me absolutely bonkers. Riq is definitely experiencing some changes, but more of the hormonal variety set off by a pretty Mayan girl. I laughed only a little at Riq’s expense here. He was just super clueless and cute. The main problem in this one, though, is that Sera has seemingly transported them to the wrong century. Dak suspects they can learn something while there, and he has a few suspicions about what they are.
Unfortunately (?), Dak can’t really make do on these suspicions because he’s in a coma for the better part of the first half, so Sera and Riq run around trying to figure out the riddle for themselves. And they do, of course. In fact, this story is split into two–the ancient Maya and the age of the conquistador (which is a terribly sad and frankly genocidal period of history. Go, Europe!). But like, learning what Sera saw when she experienced the Cataclysm made me cry. It’s an emotional journey for Sera, and she’s only eleven. Even a mature eleven-year-old can only handle so much misery and horror. And Riq is experiencing a little heartbreak. AND Dak has to go and redeem himself with his amusing inner monologue and musings about Sera’s origins. I almost liked him in the later middle chapters. Riq and Sera both have immediate emotional issues in this one, while Dak’s main problem remains his parents being lost in time.
I really really liked this one. It made me excited about the series again! I was lucky enough to snag a paper ARC of the next book in the series, Cave of Wonders, at the annual ALA conference at the end of June. Thanks, Scholastic! So what I’m getting at is the next Infinity Ring review should be up and ready very soon!...more
Has anyone watched the BBC’s Robin Hood? It turned into a hot mess in season three, but I devoured the whole shoOriginally published at yAdult Review.
Has anyone watched the BBC’s Robin Hood? It turned into a hot mess in season three, but I devoured the whole show in a week back in 2011. And let’s not talk about my love of Disney’s Robin Hood, or Men in Tights, or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. So I immediately grabbed it when I saw it and it didn’t disappoint me at all. I read a lot of female authors, so it’s nice to get one or two men in there every once in a while. We meet Will Shackley at the end of King Richard’s Crusades, when the king and his men are sailing back for England. Will’s uncle is ruling in his brother’s stead while Lord Shackley fights in the Crusades. Mark Brewer is the Sheriff of Nottingham, a job he’s now realizing may be too much for him, an old friend of Will’s uncle. The standard story follows: Prince John (who I may always see as a cartoon lion) rules England in Richard’s stead, but has grander plans, some involving the Horse Knight, Guy of Gisborne. Gisborne is the one responsible for Will’s flight, because Gisborne is a douche. It’s that simple. He’s always a jerk in every Robin Hood retelling, but even when I expect his treachery and underhandedness, I still find myself getting angry and hating him. You’d think I’d be used to it. So after a manufactured incident involving a serving maid and Gisborne’s gross “man of bribes,” Will is off to begin his exile/adventures.
At the same time, we meet Much, or Marianna, a miller’s daughter. Her father fell victim to the somewhat tired “my spouse died and now I am useless” disease before he died all selfishly (I kid! Besides, Robin Hood is a romantic story itself, so we can let that slide a little), spurring Much to try passing as a boy. She has since joined the Merry Men in Sherwood Forest. The Merry Men, if you’re unaware, is a gang of bandits, and we meet old favorites like John Little in this second part. The cast of the Merry Men is pretty hilarious, including Stout, a somewhat slow and hard-of-hearing bandit. They come across Will one day, wounded on his horse, and we learn it’s been months since he fled his home and Gisborne. This might seem like a silly middle-grade romp in the woods, but it’s full of sadness and death and blood. Will loses some friends along the way, as one does. Around the time Will meets up with the Merry Men, I started wondering if the drunken Rob, supposedly a legendary bowman, was Robin Hood brought down by something emotionally damaging. Maid Marian, perhaps, or her death? Those were my guesses, and I won’t tell you if they were right!
The story alternates between Much and Will’s points of view, and I appreciated that. There was a difference in their characters communicated by the narrative that can be rare in this genre. Women aren’t any better at writing boys than men are at writing girls, in my opinion. They usually have the exact same voice, and while Much and Will were similar, they were separate enough that I noticed. I really had almost no objections to this one. It was a fun romp, but it also contained emotional depth and politics of the era, and I think this novel will appeal to both boys and girls of the middle-grade persuasion. I really enjoyed reading this one, and I look forward to more from Matthew Cody....more
You guys. I loved this. This was like a book that was written specifically for me. When I requested this one, IOriginally published at yAdult Review.
You guys. I loved this. This was like a book that was written specifically for me. When I requested this one, I didn’t know it was set in the Dreamhunter universe, so there are a few things I didn’t understand (though I intend to read that series soon), but that didn’t take anything away from the book for me. The story is slow to unfold (at 17%, I have a note saying, “still no clue how magic works, but unfolding nicely”), but I liked Canny and I liked discovering things as she did. She has a very methodical brain, and she spends a lot of time in the beginning figuring things out, alone. I saw almost nothing coming. Knox’s writing makes up for any pacing issues, in my opinion. I was never ever bored. The continuity of the plot was great, and many confusing scenes are made clear throughout the novel. Knox included really lush descriptions of Zarene Valley, and the portrayal of emotions was really believable and done really well. Though this novel takes place in post-WWII society, there are women in prominent leadership roles, though sexism still seems to exist along with beauty norms and standards.
There are a few main characters and I’ll detail them a little here. We have Canny (also known as Agnes and Akanesi), a mathematics genius, who has a paralyzed face. Her story is the one we follow closest. She’s sixteen. She seems almost on the autism spectrum, but I think that’s sort of like how all the demigods in Percy Jackson have dyslexia and ADHD. They’re supposed to be reading Greek, not English. Canny is supposed to be doing magic. Next, there’s Sisema, Canny’s formidable mother. She’s a war hero and very haughty, and Canny finds her endlessly embarrassing. She’s married to the Professor, who’s an atheist, a socialist, and is very widely admired. I appreciated the cultural implications of that. I quite liked Sisema. Then, there’s Sholto, Canny’s stepbrother. Strange, Canny-related things happen to him, but he’s good at ignoring them. Susan is Sholto’s girlfriend, and I think she had the most character growth out of anyone. She started out very snotty to Canny and in the end, they became good friends. I think Sholto grows some as well though. Finally, we have the Zarenes: Lealand, Iris, Cyrus, and Ghislain. Lealand and Ghislain are brothers, cousins to Cyrus and Iris, also siblings. Cyrus is a beekeeper and Ghislain lives in a house at the top of Terminal Hill.
Sholto is out recording accounts of survivors of a mine collapse. When the party ends up in Zarene Valley, weird things start happening, and Sholto discovers the Lealand and Cyrus are also survivors. Sholto sets about interviewing them, all while Canny is discovering magic. (By 1/3 of the way through, magic starts becoming clearer.) We learn more about the Zarene Valley and its troubles with magic and what happens to magic workers when they leave. The mystery surrounding the Zarenes was very interesting partly because we are kept mostly in the dark, as this is Canny’s story and we learn things as she does. We get bits and pieces from Sholto and Ghislain as well. Ghislain turns out to be the love interest, which at first I thought was weird, because Canny seemed so asexual, but I ended up loving their story. This story also reminded me how much I love third person POV. I get tired of first person sometimes.
Iris, Lealand, and Cyrus are made out to be the villains, but Ghislain starts looking a little crazy in the last quarter of the novel. His story, and the whole story in general, as I said above, unfolds very slowly, and I loved getting new bits and pieces of it as I went along. Ghislain didn’t make the best first impression what with his tying Canny up, but I sort of forgave him, because of his circumstances. When you get to this point though, Ghislain starts to seem sinister, like he’s trying to absorb Canny and never let her out. Canny is infatuated though, and I still liked the love story at this point. The way Ghislain looked at the future reminded me of Edward Cullen: “once she leaves me, I can truly die.” That was sort of an insane thing to put forth in Twilight, but it seems less insane here, though still a little overwrought. Ghislain is in love with Canny though, that much is true, and I just felt for him so much at the end of the novel. Ghislain, I forgive you.
So as you can tell, this was just an amazing book to me, and here I want to quote two things that really stood out to me:
Canny’s thoughts on Shakespeare’s sonnets: “youth is fleeting and you’d better get married and have kids and copy the beauty you own because the world owns it too.” I really love “the beauty you own,” the idea that beauty is something one possesses, controls. I also like the idea that the world will eventually own our beauty as well, when our bodies decompose and become earth once more.
Susan: “people change over time and are more a ‘series of identities than a person.’” In my experience, nothing is more true than that....more
Man, I got sucked into this one fast! This is like the supernatural, alternate universe version Philadelphia, anOriginally published at yAdult Review.
Man, I got sucked into this one fast! This is like the supernatural, alternate universe version Philadelphia, and it is awesome. Instead of the pilgrims coming to America to escape religious persecution, the pilgrims have crossed to the New World to escape magick. At first, I wasn’t sure what was happening, but as the story unfolds, it just gets better and better. I was immediately invested by the beginning of chapter two. And really, how could I not love a book in which a character says, “More strongly of the opinion that one should let sleeping dogs lie. Because that is all politicians do anyhow. Lie.” Jordan is a spoiled lady of rank, but one who shows a tiny spark of curiosity and decency. Her best friend, Catrina, very obviously wants Jordan’s man, Rowen, who Jordan is not in love with. So I immediately felt a part of me rooting for Jordan, and the way Delany describes Philadelphia and the magick that powers the city is amazing. Plus the way she describes and fashions the way of life for the upper-class was so interesting. I love court intrigue. This one also feels a little dark, and you guys know I love dark. And the Weather Witch being Harbored by the Astraeas? Jordan. That’s not a spoiler. It’s what the book is about. She’s carted off by creepy Wraiths at the end of chapter three. There are also other storylines, one involving Lady Astraea and one involving the Maker, Bran. Learning his story was one of the best parts of this novel in my opinion. There are little splinters of stories, one involving the Astraea servants, another with a boy thought lost, and a third with Rowen.
Rowen is not adjusting well to Jordan’s absence, though Catrina seems to be doing just fine. Rowen acts recklessly and must run from the law, while Jordan keeps trying to convince herself that she is no witch. I liked all these characters, even Catrina, though she treats her so-called best friend like nothing. Rowen was spoiled and vain, but he had principles and stood up for them, and I liked his views on how marriage worked at the time. It wasn’t love he was looking for with Jordan, but friendship, companionship, and understanding. He already had that and realized how lucky he was in the land of marriages for political/societal advantage. I kept forgetting this was Philadelphia, because Delany makes it sound so old world, so full of life and imagination, that I kept assuming they were in London. I just loved it so much, the description, the plot, the characters. It’s a bit twisty and confusing at first, but so were my other favorites so far, 17 & Gone, Mortal Fire, and Charm & Strange. This is also so much better than the last weather book I read (and then quit in a fit of rage), Struck. Of course, it’s more fantastical than scientific, the way Struck tried to be. And, you know, this one really reminded me of Shadow and Bone, which is probably another reason it struck me right away.
When the stories of Jordan and Bran converge, it’s brutal and you kind of dread it because you know what’s coming even while Jordan is in denial. It’s at this point that I’d like to state that this book is not only about Jordan Astraea, and I think the summary did us wrong by not including Bran, Rowen, and Marion Kruse into the mix. This is a story of many, each broken in their own way, each doing something they don’t want to do, each have seen and done things they never want to see or do. We also get little stories about Lady Astraea and an Astraea servant named Chloe. This was many tales weaved into one, and it’s done perfectly. The only thing lacking is character development, but I didn’t mind that, because the story was the main character. Philadelphia, the Hill, Holgate, those were the characters, and they were fleshed out completely. The wordbuilding in this novel is astounding. And the story isn’t very nice. People you like will die or be tortured. Delany isn’t afraid to kill her darlings, I see.
I also really loved the ending, which sets us up for another book, Stormbringer, due out next year. I’m really excited about this one, guys. It reminds me a little of Shadow and Bone, as I mentioned, but it also has bits of Seraphina. I can’t really describe my love better than this, though I wish I could. Another great YA fantasy, this time with an alternate historical backdrop!...more
The beginning of this book is brutal! At first, I wanted to call it mOriginally published at Nose in a Book.
Warning: This one is a bit of a teal deer!
The beginning of this book is brutal! At first, I wanted to call it middle-grade, but it’s so dark and heavy that I changed the genre to YA. I wasn’t immediately sure of the date, but there’s a one-room schoolhouse, and the town seems to be a little Puritan in its Christianity. (I eventually figured out that this was ancient Rome, a time you could not pay me to live in.) The priest hits children in front of their parents, for instance, and the parents do nothing. I assumed the setting was back when children were property, not people. The Wild Boy at the beginning of the book sums it up nicely: “Adults don’t love you, they just want you to follow their rules until you grow up just like they did and make your own children follow the rules.” Things don’t go exactly as planned though, and Jenny, our narrator, soon becomes Bray. Bray’s story covers the first act of the tale (one act per child, though Bray is the only one who gets two scenes).
During the second act, we meet some more people from Bray’s life, including the son of a lord who’s in love with her, and Hind, a now-Wild Girl who Bray knew back when they were human. Bray cannot talk, but Hind has only a donkey’s ear and tail, and is beautiful, so she is a pet instead of a servant, which is what most donkey Children become. We follow Bray through her new home, where she is confronted by Mourn, a Dove Child, something Bray wasn’t aware existed. Mourn tells Bray she wasn’t meant to be a donkey, and after awhile, Bray meets Coo, who is the subject of our third act. Coo is old, though she still looks young, and she is very concerned with making her peace with God. Her greatest strength, kindness to others, is also her greatest weakness, but Coo eventually leads Bray to redemption. When Bray’s story ends, I found myself missing her desperately.
Our second act is about Jinx, a Cat Child, very rare, and the only one of his kind in the vicinity. Jinx’s story is hazy, because he doesn’t really live in the human world, and he doesn’t really see them either. His story confused me a bit, but it looks as though he’s trying to cheat his way into Heaven by stealing pain from other Wild Children and selling them to the Weaver. Coo is involved in Jinx’s story too, trying to save him, to bring him back from the world he lives in in this mind. And then, we circle back to the girl this book is really about–Hind. Black cats are my favorite, so this one made me sadder than the others, though this is not by any means a happy tale. I was kind of offended at the revelation that one had to be a very sinful child to become a cat, because it’s obvious cats are superior to almost every other mammal, just saying. In Jinx’s tale, we learn that the children become a certain type of animal due to a certain type of sin on their souls. I found that kind of disappointing, actually. I wanted the reason to be cooler.
Let’s stop for a minute here and let me tell you about how awful it is to read 300+ pages of children and animals being abused and murdered. I cried a lot reading this book. Animal death is my hard limit, and all the animals seem to die. It wasn’t a happy, Disney-fied fairytale. It is very grim, and no one seems happy, as no one seems to get what they want. The Wild Children are treated terribly. I struggled reading this one because no one is happy for very long. The humans are just evil in this book. HOWEVER. It’s not all abuse and death, though there’s very little fun either. It’s a complexly woven story, a sad one, one with a moral, one that makes you think. That alone is worth all the tears I cried while reading about Jinx and Coo and Bray. I read somewhere that Roberts calls this novel his “masterpiece” and I don’t think he’s wrong about that. Every story has pain, but they all seem to have a bittersweet ending.
The third act, as I mentioned before, is about Coo, the old eight-year-old who is dying. Coo is a Dove, the leader of them all, and she is very old though she retains her youthful visage. Coo is instrumental to the lives of both Bray and Jinx, though they have very different relationships with her. Coo kind of personifies why I only gave this four stars–all the talk about God and sin and punishment and Heaven. I’m agnostic, I don’t plan on raising children in any faith, my boyfriend is agnostic too, so I just have a hard time in general internalizing lessons about God. I just couldn’t be sure, though, how much of the faith talk was satire and how much was genuine. I found Coo’s babbling about God kind of self-centered, as she believed she was shown things because God wanted her to see her curse. Maybe God has better things to do than kill people to make you feel bad, Coo. I feel this way about football players who thank God for their win. Excuse my rant, because Coo seems to understand that she doesn’t really get it either. But honestly, I skimmed parts Coo’s section. She’s so pious and benign that she was tedious. I have problems with authority, and Coo’s story is all about following God’s rules. Boring. There were some interesting aspects, like Jay and the “evil” alchemists, but most of it really is Coo struggling to come to grips with her mortality. And her end is really great.
Which brings us to act four, the tale of Right and Left, twins who are not what they seem. They live in one of the Baron’s country manors, and Victor and Hind are sent to live there while the city is in unrest. Left is assigned to tend to Hind, and we learn a lot about both of their mindsets from this act. This one does a lot to make Hind more human, because to everyone else she seems like this ethereal, perfect little girl, or, as the summary states, she “doesn’t seem wild at all.” It was nice to see her as more than just the Baron’s pet, or the object of Jinx’s affections. It was also interesting to see Victor and Hind as through the eyes of the twins, because it’s almost like we get four stories at once in this act. It was nice to see some more familiar characters and how their lives intertwined too. Don’t let the summary fool you though; this is a tragedy, and even those Wild Children who live well experience misery and grief.
And in the final act, we meet Elijah, who follows all the rules of the Church. This story is sad and made me cry the most, even thought the ending redeems it, so I don’t particularly want to detail it. Just know that this whole book is written beautifully and simply, though the plots are interconnected and complex, and all the different arcs call back to each other throughout the separate acts. This one is a bit of a horror, because the lives of Wild Children are horrible and horrifying, at least in the experience of Bray, Coo, Jinx, Hind, and Elijah. But don’t worry too much, because you’ll love the ending and, like me, end up loving the Wild Girl who doesn’t seem wild at all–Hind....more