The Pharos Gate is magical, a return to the impossible and inescapable magic of the previous books. A return to a couple separated by land and sea butThe Pharos Gate is magical, a return to the impossible and inescapable magic of the previous books. A return to a couple separated by land and sea but connected by the depth of their love for each other, connected by happenstance. By letters and postcards.
The first three books enchanted me as a child. The gorgeous and sometimes abstract artwork of the postcards. The curved lines of Sabine's handwriting. The nervousness and hesitation in Griffin's first few messages, the panic at the end of the first book. The intensity of their journey. The way this story is told in few words, the finite number of words that can fit on the back of a postcard, but conveys enough emotion and determination as any thousand page book can.
Here is the last stretch for Sabine and Griffin. After corresponding for more than a year, after travelling around the world, after a failed attempt at being together, they are ready to leave their homes and their lives behind. They've shared secrets, shared artwork and ideas, shared the depth of their love for each other and the joy and sorrow that sprang up from it, like seedlings in the spring. They're ready to be together. But it's not so simple. Their first encounter was by chance, Sabine somehow, in the South Pacific, being able to see into Griffin's London studio. It was impossible. Improbable. And here are those in the world that will not allow them to meet.
There's an extra something in this book, an extra poignancy that's currently lost in the digital age, in the age of technology and immediacy. Time passes so slowly here. The longing, the waiting. The yearning to find a card in the mailbox, to see the familiar handwriting. This is what I remember when reading those first three books so many years ago. The desperation in Griffin and Sabine's words. Their desire to finally be face to face, to finally be together without fear or anger or distance in their way. Without the rules of the world in their way. They defy their hunter, defy the idea that "the pragmatic and the ethereal" should never meet, never marry. This is their choice. No matter what the rules of the world are, what some say. Their connection is stronger than that, goes deeper than that, and they will not be kept apart any longer.
I wonder if these books are where it started, my love of the mundane combined with the extraordinary. With storytelling. With epic love stories and connections. This is a definite must-read for those who fell in love with the earlier books, for those who've always wondered what happened between The Golden Mean and The Gryphon. For those looking for a piece of the impossible.
(I received a finished copy of this book to review from Raincoast Books.)...more
Swashbuckling space pirates, legendary dragon slayers, death-defying astronauts, and monster queen royalty. All this (and more!) in Beyond, the queerSwashbuckling space pirates, legendary dragon slayers, death-defying astronauts, and monster queen royalty. All this (and more!) in Beyond, the queer sci-fi and fantasy comic anthology. Featuring 18 stories by 26 incredible contributors, the Beyond anthology celebrates unquestionably queer characters hailing from across the spectrum of gender and sexuality, from and centre as the heroes of their own stories; exploring the galaxy, mixing magic, having renegade adventures, and saving the day!
Beyond is a comic anthology full of emotion, honesty, and hopes for more visible representation in science fiction and fantasy. Each story hammers home the idea that queer characters, meaning gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or non-binary or genderfluid or however the character defines themself, are present in sci-fi and fantasy. That they have their stories to tell. They they can be the hero or the heroine, the saviour or the rescuer. That they don't have to be the villain, immoral or evil or horrifying. That they are people, even when they're aliens, creatures, or androids.
All 18 stories are wonderful in their own way, each with amazing art, but here are some highlights.
"Optimal" by Blue Delliquanti. Sort of a prequel story to her ongoing webcomic O Human Star, this tells the story of Sulla, the young android made by Brendan Pinsky in order to keep the consciousness of his research partner Alistair Sterling alive, and her figuring out how to navigate in a new body. A female-gendered body. Because, according to Sulla, there's always room for improvement.
"O-Type Hypergiant" by Jon Cairns is intriguing, a sort of pure impossible science fiction story rooted in science and possibility (if such a description could ever make sense). The Instamen are artificial humanoids, sent off by humans to catalogue stars and live on time-bending satellites. It's a rather poetic story with some wonderfully detailed artwork.
"Twin-Souled" by Bevan Thomas & Kate Ebensteiner shows a tribe of aboriginal people using their magicks to combine with totems to protect their village. These people fight for love, for the ability to love whomever they wish, no matter their gender, and to be whomever they wish, no matter their gender. Even when the spirit of the totem they are bound to is a different gender than they are. To me, this story is one of the saddest, but it's filled with so much hope and love.
"The Next Day" by A. Stiffler & K. Copeland. In a world where the sun had gone dark, where the shadows stretch across the land and light is rare, a man wanders. He claims that without light, man is without hope. But one day he meets another wanderer, and as the two of them travel, as they fight against thieves, as they grow closer, the man discovers that when they are together, he needn't fear the dark. Because his light is close to him.
I love the idea of this anthology. Too often queer characters are pushed to the side in genre fiction, in prose, comics, and film, but now there's this continues wave of webcomics and crowdfunded anthologies with a huge variety of queer characters. If the modern world as we know it is full of people of different genders and sexualities, why can't science fiction and fantasy be the same way? Why can't there be more escapist genre fiction for queer people in print, on TV screens and movie screens? There's already tons of it for straight people. These stories drive home the fact that queer characters can have hopes and dreams, that they can have fun and laugh. That they can have pasts shrouded in mystery. That they can make mistakes, have regrets. That they can be in love, and be willing to fight for that love with every inch of themselves.
It makes my heart happy that this anthology exists, that there are people out there working so hard and creating amazing stories filled with diversity. If you've been looking for a collection like this, full of aliens and magic and hard journeys and honest emotion, full of representation, then check it out. I think an anthology like this is perfect for teen readers.
(I backed this anthology on Kickstarter and received a PDF and a physical copy. Those interested in Beyond can head over to the Beyond Press website.)...more
Seventeen-year-old Kenna Marsden has a secret. She's haunted by a violent tragedy she can't explain. Kenna's past has kept people—even her own mother—Seventeen-year-old Kenna Marsden has a secret. She's haunted by a violent tragedy she can't explain. Kenna's past has kept people—even her own mother—at a distance for years. Just when she finds a friend who loves her and life begins to improve, she's plunged into a new nightmare. Her mom and twin sister are attacked, and the dark powers Kenna has struggled to suppress awaken with a vengeance. On the heels of the assault, Kenna is exiled to a nearby commune, known as Eclipse, to live with a relative she never knew she had. There, she discovers an extraordinary new way of life as she learns who she really is, and the wonders she's capable of. For the first time, she starts to feel like she belongs somewhere. That her terrible secret makes her beautiful and strong, not dangerous. But the longer she stays at Eclipse, the more she senses there is something malignant lurking underneath it all. And she begins to suspect that her new family has sinister plans for her…
The Killing Jar is mysterious and dangerous, a look at life and death, a hiding away from the past and a haunting search for the truth. But as welcome as it makes her feel, does Kenna really want to know everything about her new home?
Kenna is afraid of a number of things, like the past, like repeating it. So she keeps everyone at a distance, isolates herself from everyone including her mother and sister. She would rather be alone, in her own head playing her music, than potentially hurt others. She's a kind, fractured girl that doesn't allow herself to be happy, until something terrible happens again. Until she goes to Eclipse.
The magical realism of the book, Kenna and her ability, the people of Eclipse, has a rather old and haunted feel of it. It's there inside all of them, deep down. It's been there for a long time. It's kept them there and they can't leave it. Won't leave it. As Kenna learns more about it, more about them, she discovers how dark and dangerous it is. How it all felt wonderful at the beginning but discovers the price that needs to be paid. How it's never just about life and death, black and white. How all the shades of grey matter.
I found this book intriguing. I didn't expect it to be as dark as it is, to go into the play between life and death, power and control, as deeply as it did. It's made it a richer story, a heavier story. The mystical magic of Eclipse is explained in some ways and left a mystery in others, which was nice to see. The magic in books like this doesn't always have to be explained. Sometimes, it can just be. It gives it that hint of possibility. I would recommend this book to those looking for a haunting, mysterious stand alone with a heroine who struggles to come to terms with a dark spot in her past.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)...more
After years of living in America, Clare Macleod and her father are returning to Ireland, where they'll inhabit the house Clare was born in—a house buiAfter years of living in America, Clare Macleod and her father are returning to Ireland, where they'll inhabit the house Clare was born in—a house built into a green hillside with a tree for a wall. For Clare, the house is not only full of memories of her mother, but also of a mysterious boy with raven-dark hair and dreamlike nights filled with stars and magic. Clare soon discovers that the boy is as real as the fairy-making magic, and that they're both in great danger from an ancient foe.
The Radiant Road is a magical and mysterious fairy tale rich with imagination and possibilities, of history and fireflies. Of hope and fear and purpose.
Clare is a quiet, lost girl. A lonely girl. A girl who locked away all of her memories of her mother and her mother's stories because it was too painful for her to remember. And so she stayed alone in her head, travelling with her father, writing her words in her secret notebook. Because not every child grows up with stories of making and of the Strange. Not every mother taught their daughters about faeries and magic and secrets tucked away in their commonplace books. Clare, with her stories and talk of faeries, is seen as weird and foolish by other kids, so she makes herself grow up fast. Until she and her father return to Ireland. Until she sees the boy with the black hair, until she remembers it isn't all stories and nonsense.
There is a rich world here full of faeries, if that's what you call them, magic, and creation. There is a realm of possibility living alongside Clare's human world, a realm that invites dreaming and making the impossible. A realm of wonder but also of deep, dark, dangerous secrets. With the human world growing, changing, this other world needs protection. It needs Clare and her glorious house with a tree inside of it.
Clare is caught in that space between the fantasies of childhood and the harsh realities of purpose and decision-making. Between possibility, between running through the streets barefoot and fancy-free, and hitting those teenage years when you're forced to start thinking about your future. High school, college, jobs. But in this space Clare discovers who she is, what she can do. What her true purpose is in this little hill house with the yew tree inside of it. I would recommend this to fans of magical and almost poetic storytelling, to those looking for a lost heroine who's on a hard road to find her way again.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Penguin Random House Canada.)...more
England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents andEngland, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they're not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.
These Vicious Masks is a combination of the mysterious, the paranormal, and the adventurous, carried along by a quick-witted heroine with a clever tongue.
Evelyn is intelligent, opinionated, and head-strong. When her sister disappears and heads off to London, she refuses to sweep it under the rug. Refuses to not know the truth, to not be able to help and possibly rescue Rose. Which means a quick trip to London. Which means having to uncover secrets with the assistance of two rather different young men who annoy her for different reasons. But if she didn't work with them, find them irritating, begrudgingly accept their help when she needed it, she wouldn't have discovered the truth about them. About Rose. About herself.
The premise intrigued me, a mixture of Victorian sentiments and social movements mixed with a bit of the unexpected. It sounded like something I would read. The spirited heroine and the men who confound her, the search through the good streets and the bad, the shine of polite society and the harsh reality of the side streets and the docks. I had fun reading about Evelyn's moving between the two parts, struggling to keep them separate.
There were a number of times when I chuckled at the witty banter between Evelyn and Mr. Kent and Evelyn and Mr. Braddock. Both push her, annoy her, infuriate her, and she's able to do battle with them quite expertly. Considering I've recently read The Dark Days Club, I could say that there's a similarity or two, for those looking for something comparable to read, but this had much more humour and clever banter. I felt both amused and excited as I read on, curious as to what Evelyn would discover next on her search for Rose. I would recommend this to those looking for a race through Victorian London with some intelligent characters with some intriguing abilities. I'll be happily waiting for the next book.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)...more
Candace "Candy" Pickens has been obsessed with the swamp lore of her tiny Louisiana town for... forever. Name any ghostly swamp figure and Candy willCandace "Candy" Pickens has been obsessed with the swamp lore of her tiny Louisiana town for... forever. Name any ghostly swamp figure and Candy will recite the entire tale in a way that will curl your toes and send chills up your spine. That doesn't mean Candy's a believer, however. Even though she and her friends entered the swamp at the start of summer and left it changed, Candy's the only one who can't see or feel the magical swamp Shine. She's also the only one who can't see the ghosts that have been showing up and spooking everyone in town ever since. So Candy concentrates on other things—real things. Like fighting with her mother and plotting her escape from her crazy town. But ghosts aren't the only newcomers in Sticks, Louisiana. The King family arrives like a hurricane: in a blur and unwanted—at least by Candy. Mr. King is intent on filming the rumored ghostly activity for his hit TV show, Local Haunts. And while Candy can't ignore how attracted she is to eighteen-year-old Gage King and how much his sister, Nova, wants to be friends, she's still suspicious of the King family. As Candy tries to figure out why the Kings are really in town and why the swamp that had previously cast her aside now seems to be invading every crack in her logical, cynical mind, she stumbles across the one piece of swamp lore she didn't know. It's a tale that's more truth than myth, and may have all the answers... and its roots are in Candy's own family tree.
Behold the Bones is a haunting tale. The smell of the swamp is thick in the nose, the swamp mist creeps up and over between the words on the page, and the mysteries are rich and begging to be uncovered.
Candy is brash and sharp with a quick tongue and quicker one-liners. She doesn't see what the fuss is about the Shine or any of the rare and random ghosts that happen to pop up in Sticks because she can't. Because the Shine doesn't affect her. Which is fine, even if it makes her feel left out when Sterling and Abigail do see something. It's when her mother tries to sit her down to talk about her lack of a period and infertility that she gets angry over someone wanting to make decisions about her body. It's when Sterling and Abigail lean on her and she leans on them that you see that this book is also about friendship. It's when the King family comes to town that she gets suspicious. Suspicious of their ghost hunting TV show plans. Suspicious of the new teens in town, Nova and Gage. Suspicious of the voice in her head, calling out to her. Singing to her.
Fixing and being fixed. Being whole and being broken. Candy doesn't see herself as a failure when it come to her never having a period, but she can see something in her mother's eyes. In her expression. When the talks of doctors and therapists come up over and over, Candy sees disappointment and fear coating the love and support of her parents. She doesn't see herself as broken, as someone who needs fixing. As a young woman who won't feel complete until she has children. It's not something that's as important to her as it is to her mother. What is important to Candy? Discovering the truth behind the Kings. Behind the sing-song voice.
The swampy southern setting drips from the page. The heaviness in the air pushing down, compressing, magnifying the summer's heat. The sounds and sights of the swamp, the mud and the grass. The eternally flowering cherry tree.
This book brings up at a number of things that don't often appear in YA. It discusses teen girls menstruating without shame and not behind closed doors. It pushes at friendships and relationships. It highlights a small town full of guns and moonshine without derision. Many of the people of Sticks are conservative, wary, old-fashioned, but they're not stereotypical clichés. Enjoy the previously released companion Beware the Wild? Looking for a different kind of ghost story? Then by all means, give this a read.
(I downloaded an e-galley of this title from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.)...more