Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fiSixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule. But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn't enter Elli. It's nowhere to be found. Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.
The Impostor Queen is a tale of magic and fate, of the intended and the unexpected, of will and servitude. A tale of making the choice that will let you hide from war and death versus making the choice that will save a kingdom.
Elli is meek and clueless about the world outside the temple, but she is inquisitive. She wants to know more, more about the magic that will fill her body when she takes over as the Valtia, more about the Kupari out in the city, more about the rumours of conflicts between bandits and miners. More about the possibility of war against the Soturi. But then, when she's found to have not taken in the magic of the former Valtia, she's discarded. Nearly killed. She survives because she doesn't want to die, she's lost and confused but wants to continue living. Of course, she didn't expect that she'd end up in the outlands, to end up in the company of thieves and the banished. She didn't know that she'd discover more truths outside the temple rather than inside. She didn't know she'd have to decide on whether or not to go back.
What first interested me in this wasn't the world-building or the magic, but they did intrigue me as the book went on. As Elli moved from a position of honour and importance to one of fear and possible death, as she was kicked out and left to somehow survive in the outlands as winter starts to creep across the land. The idea that the magic of the Kupari is only fire and ice, only those two elements, was curious. This world has magic, but specific types of magic. That usually isn't the case in terms of fantasy settings with magic, and I found this to be rather unique.
What first interested me in this book was that Elli was described as a bisexual princess, which is true. I was so surprised. Elli has lived a lonely life with only wizened elders and her handmaiden at her side. It was so nice to see this part of Elli, this sexual and romantic attraction to both men and women, described as something real. As something she would've acted on, if their positions had been different. If she'd found the courage to say something before everything changed. That alone made me want to read this because it's something that, unfortunately, appears so rarely in fantasy. I would definitely recommend this to fantasy fans looking for something different. Knowing that the next book is more of a companion novel than a sequel, I'm interested in seeing this world from a different side, interested in seeing how they come together.
(I borrowed an e-book copy of this title from the library.)...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
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
The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her gThe last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother's village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family's ancestral shrine on a malicious dare. But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked... and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth - or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.
The Night Parade is rich with mythology and magic, with mystery and problem-solving.
At the beginning of the book, Saki comes across as a spoiled 13-year-old girl. She's more worried about her friends in Tokyo and what fun she's missing out on than her grandmother's health, than the customs and rituals that come with the Obon ceremony. Than the shrine in the mountains behind her grandmother's house. She's hard to like because of her dismissive, apathetic attitude. She's also confusing in that she wants to be back in Toyko with her friends but acknowledges repeatedly that she's tired of them, that they're really bullies. She skated the line between annoying and normal teen girl trying to fit in with friends and not spend her school days alone and bullied.
The story itself is filled with Japanese customs, mythology, and magic. Of spirits and witches, of shrines and spirit guides and curses. It's so dense with story, with situation and situation that Saki is pulled into because of her initial mistake, because of her carelessness. But one thing bugged me. I loved how the tanuki was called a tanuki, how the tengu was called a tengu, how the Japanese names for a number of spirits and items were used, but not all of them. The kitsune was called a fox and the orge with its large club wasn't called an oni with a kanabo. The inconsistency bothered me (as this is a review of an e-galley, I wonder if this has been changed in the final copy).
I like how this book is set in Japan with, while written in English, the characters speaking Japanese. The Japanese words weren't in italics, which was surprising to see. For a book about a Japanese girl in Japan falling in with the local spirit world, the lack of italics made the book feel more authentic. But there were some inconsistencies, like with the use of fox instead of kitsune, and why Saki would refer to her parents as Mom and Dad instead of the Japanese terms. The story itself also felt rather long for a middle grade book. I would recommend this to those looking for more middle grade set outside of North America, for those looking for magic and fantasy but set in the real world, and those looking for more diverse middle grade stories.
(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Sourcebooks through NetGalley.)...more
Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she's a criminal. No, she's a Nightmare. Literally. Dusty is a magicSixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she's a criminal. No, she's a Nightmare. Literally. Dusty is a magical being who feeds on human dreams. Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother's infamy is hard enough, not to mention the crazy events of the past year. Dusty may have saved the day, but there are many days left in the year, and with an old foe back to seek revenge, she'll need all her strength to defeat him and save her friends.
The Nightmare Charade is more danger, more intrigue and hidden things, more secrets and lies. And the final reveal.
Dusty is back to investigating after a summer away from Arkwell. There are so many things on her plate this time around that I'm surprised she has time to sleep. So much of her days are spent worrying and wondering. Worrying about her mother, about Marrow, about finding time to be with Eli like a proper couple, about school. She's not given much time to get back into the swing of things. Instead, she and Eli are tossed head-first and nearly blind into a rather dangerous situation and are expected to solve it quickly. Her snark is still there, her word battles with people who bother her, but her worry and concern take over from time to time.
I was surprised at how easy it was to distrust most of the adults in this book, people like Lady Elaine and Detective Valentine. So few people are straight and honest with Dusty, so few tell her what needs to be said, give her access to the knowledge she needs to make sure she stays alive. How can they tell her that something isn't important, that she shouldn't worry about it? In this situation, everything is important. It's all extremely suspicious, not to mention frustrating.
There's a lot of emphasis on death this time around, particularly Dusty's. The book screams the massive possibility that she might not make it out alive this time. As it's the conclusion of the trilogy, I went in expecting some big reveals and some bigger battles, and with how the ending went, that's pretty much what I found. Nothing was easy for Dusty, or Eli, or even Selene or Dusty's mom, but that's good. There has to be consequences, even when it's magic. Sometimes the worst consequences happen when the battles are full of magic. The second book felt like it stuttered when it came to including the romance, which I felt was better balanced with the mystery and danger this time, but overall I enjoyed the series.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)...more
The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it's perfect for seventeen-yeaThe two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it's perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler. Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She's determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there's nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways. But Westie's search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel's latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There's only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie's kin. With the help of Nigel's handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she's not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.
Revenge and the Wild is a tense search for answers and revenge in a dry, desolate, magic-filled setting. A look at trust and belief, and making the decision on whether or not to trust a gut feeling.
Westie is rough and bitter, as jagged as a piece of broken glass. She was let loose by her adoptive father Nigel, allowed to run wild as she grew up, making her rather 'unladylike.' She doesn't necessarily care. She's too busy searching out the missing pieces of her past, searching for the cannibals who killed her family. This search of hers, this hunt, drives her, pushes her. Haunts her. The attack on her, losing her arm, changed her. Thanks to Nigel, she grew up in a safe home, a home that helped her. But it doesn't mean she isn't still haunted by why she saw. What she smelled.
There's some intriguing world-building going on here. It's reminiscent of a historical western setting, what with the saloons and the brothels, the horses and the coaches. The slow encroachment of white people and industry onto Native lands. But then there's an extra layer of clockwork and steampunk-type machines, and a layer of the paranormal on top of that. Of vampires and werewolves and of magic in the land that's starting to disappear. It's a giant combination of genres but I found they all worked together. It didn't seem like too much was happening in terms of the setting.
I wonder when I'll stop being surprised when main characters in YA genre fiction aren't able-bodied, aren't straight, aren't white. Maybe when it happens more often. It was awesome to see Westie, a rough heroine, look to kick ass and take names in a magical Western setting with a mechanical arm. Losing it did shape her, change her, make her focused and ruthless, but the loss of her human arm and gain of her copper one didn't make her less of a person, even though some of the townsfolk see her that way. She was still hunting down cannibals, still searching out clues. Still getting into trouble. Still making mistakes. Still getting tunnelvision and not looking at a bigger picture. Just because she's not able-bodied doesn't mean she won't work as a main character. Hopefully we'll see more main characters with disabilities, physical and mental, in fantasy settings.
There were a number of plot lines circling through this book. Westie's search for revenge. The investors coming to town. The magic in the area slowly disappearing. Westie's own relationships with Nigel and Alistair. Because so much was going on, there was a time or two when I wondered why there were so many. I got a little caught up in so much going on and the excitement of having so many different things from genre fiction in one book. I would recommend this to those looking for a new fantasy standalone with a battered, gruff heroine.
(I downloaded an e-galley of this title from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.)...more
Cécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world. As tCécile and Tristan have accomplished the impossible, but their greatest challenge remains: defeating the evil they have unleashed upon the world. As they scramble for a way to protect the people of the Isle and liberate the trolls from their tyrant king, Cécile and Tristan must battle those who'd see them dead. To win, they will risk everything. And everyone. But it might not be enough. Both Cécile and Tristan have debts, and they will be forced to pay them at a cost far greater than they had ever imagined.
Warrior Witch is a deadly ending to a looming war, a search for answers and solutions.
This is it. It's time for Cécile and Tristan to make some decisions. Hard decisions. Practical decisions. They're looking at the bigger picture here, the ways in which to stop the trolls who would wage war against the humans. The ways to stop those who would want them dead. Their actions are seen as cold, heartless, unfeeling, but they don't have the luxury to think about themselves, to consider being compassionate. They're trying to save lives, save each other, save as many as they can. But that doesn't mean they can save everyone. It's now a race against time, time they might not have.
This book is the end to a series full of impossible magic, lies and betrayal, death, and hope for the future. It's all about choices and inescapable promises, debts owed and debts called in. Those make this a hard book, a lesson in futility. In doing what needs to be done over what you want to do, what you'd rather do in order to make everything hurt less. And things really hurt at the end of this book....more
Everything in Echo's life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said toEverything in Echo's life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said to bring peace. The firebird has come into the world, but it has not come alone. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance. Cosmic forces threaten to tear the world apart. Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now, as the firebird, her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she's already overcome. She knows the Dragon Prince will not fall without a fight. Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature—or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what's left of her world to the ground?
The Shadow Hour is a continuation, a mad dash to hide and a madder dash in search of answers, of allies and survivors and knowledge. A race to stay alive and out of the shadows.
Echo is now full of power, full of fire. Full of whispers of past vessels long dead. She's still focused, still determined to protect those she cares for, those she loves and holds close. Like Caius. Like Rowan. Like Ivy. It's admirable, but she could get herself seriously hurt, or killed. Then who will be there to fight back against the darkness? Because when she woke up, when the firebird rose, something followed. Something deadly and full of shadows. Something ready to consume.
Caius' search for the firebird is now over but his draw to Echo is still there, combined with the new need to hide and survive. But he can't let go of his sister. There's a desire to save Tanith from herself, from her fury and need to rule. She's too blind with power and rage to save herself, and perhaps he's too blind with affection to see the danger in front of him.
I love the supporting characters, Ivy and Dorian and Jasper. They have their own struggles, their own missions. Their own lost feelings, their secrets and searches for places to belong to. For Ivy, it's a desire to continue being next to Echo. A desire for a continued purpose. For Jasper, after an appearance by someone fro his past, it's about his own value and self-worth. His own strength to say yes and to say no. And for Dorian, it's about a lifelong soldier being torn between his commanding officer, someone he swore he would never leave, and someone he could be willing to give up everything for.
A prophecy is fulfilled, the firebird has been found, but it's not over. There is no darkness without light, and no light without something to cast shadow. The eternal battle between light and darkness continues, striking down at safe spaces, drawing blood and claiming victims. I'm very curious as to how this trilogy will end.
(I borrowed an e-book copy of this title from the library.)...more
In their present-day tourist trap of an Irish seaside town, famed for its supposed involvement with selkies in the past, three sisters are faced withIn their present-day tourist trap of an Irish seaside town, famed for its supposed involvement with selkies in the past, three sisters are faced with the sudden disappearance of their mother. Crushed by the loss, their father is struggling to carry on. To make matters worse, there are rumors afloat in the village that their mother herself is a selkie who has now shed her human form and gone back to sea. As Cordie Sullivan, the oldest daughter, tries to learn more about her mother's vanishing, she must find the strength to help her family move ahead, even as she discovers an increasing number of clues that point to a hidden island off the coast-a mythical kingdom of the selkies.
Secrets of Selkie Bay is a magical and melancholy sort of tale. A tale of selkies and secrets, of magic and wishes, of loneliness and hope.
Cordie is the eldest, and of course, the most practical of the three Sullivan girls. She knows what's real and what isn't. She knows that they have to worry, what with their mother suddenly missing and their father starting to crumble at the edges. Now in charge of her sisters, and a number of other important household things, she's wondering where their mother really is after finding a letter from her. Where could she be? Cordie wants her back as much as her sisters Ione and baby Neevy, but the idea that she's a selkie out in the bay? The idea that there's a secret island with treasure on it not far away? Impossible. Selkies are just made up stories. Right?
The stories and the magic of the selkie is strong. It permeates the book, winding its way through each page. Selkies are fantasy creatures, legends of people who can turn into seals with the help of a seal pelt, but what if they weren't legends? How could there be a place called Selkie Bay without selkies living nearby? As present as the magic is, there's also a fair amount of modern day skepticism. How can selkies exist? Wouldn't we know? Aren't they just seals, watching us with careful eyes?
While a somewhat sad tone travels through the book, I did find it to be a fun little adventure. Two girls and their baby sister off to search for their missing mother, getting wrapped up in magic and fairy tales, following possible selkies off into the sea. I found this to be a sweet story, a story of fantasy and reality mixing together for kids who still look for the magic in everyday life.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)...more
It's 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the familIt's 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family's life. She soon realizes she's uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she'll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.
Rebel Mechanics is entertaining, an exciting story of one young woman's new life in a city filled with magic, machines, inventors, and rebellion.
Verity is clever, honourable, and a little adventurous when she needs to be. When she feels she needs to be, when she wants to help. Now in New York, now part of multiple spaces, she aquaires new roles and personalities. The proper governess. The honest reporter. The rebel spy. She sort of falls into these spaces, the people around her seeing her, seeing the good in her and drawing her into their arms, and she never says no. After a childhood filled with books and an apathetic parent, she's looking for a place to belong. And she's found them. The magister home she becomes a part has a number of secrets, as does the rebel group of inventors and activists, but so does she. There's more to Verity Newton than meets the eye. She's hugely intelligent and investigative with a strong sense of honour. It's not about position or status with Verity. It's more about character, it's more about doing what's right. It's more about helping everyone, no matter if they're magister or not. It's about the truth.
This is a rather intriguing alternate history world. It's an America that's still under British rule, a New York where the privileged and titled are magic users, where only the magisters can use machines powered by magic in order to make their lives easier. Where those without magic aren't allowed this luxury. Where rebels and inventors are trying to build their own machines, trying to harness steam power and electricity in order to escape the ruling grasp of the magisters. Whenever there's a book with this sort of alternate history, where the British Empire still reigns over America, there's often a long-running tone of freedom and escape from imperialism coursing through the book. It stems from that moment in history where America went to war against Britain in order to obtain their freedom from the empire. As a Canadian, I always find this interesting. That in alternate histories America always asks for its freedom from Britain. It's something they will not let go of, something they will always demand. Something I'll always find a little bit charming.
I found this book to be more fun than I expected. It's a bit light, there's some suspense, a little mystery here and there. The side characters were interesting and fun. Lord Henry and the children. The Rebel Mechanics. To me, the book seems to be more about Verity and her introduction to this new world that isn't the same as her stoic and literary upbringing. She's entered a new world, a new space. She's crafted a new identity for herself here. Perhaps more than one. I'm so curious as to what happens next. There must be more, it can't end like that. There's so much that hasn't been revealed.
(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Macmillan through NetGalley.)...more
The strange war down south—with its rumors of gods and monsters—is over. And while sixteen-year-old Hallie and her sister wait to see who will returnThe strange war down south—with its rumors of gods and monsters—is over. And while sixteen-year-old Hallie and her sister wait to see who will return from the distant battlefield, they struggle to maintain their family farm. When Hallie hires a veteran to help them, the war comes home in ways no one could have imagined, and soon Hallie is taking dangerous risks—and keeping desperate secrets. But even as she slowly learns more about the war and the men who fought it, ugly truths about Hallie's own family are emerging. And while monsters and armies are converging on the small farm, the greatest threat to her home may be Hallie herself.
An Inheritance of Ashes is haunting, full of unspoken words and unseen dangers. It's a book of sadness and hope combined into one creature, one setting, one young girl and the place she calls home, the people she call friends and family.
Hallie is on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the last argument between her and her sister. Things on their family farm are moving slowly with only the two of them working the land, with her brother-in-law not yet home from the war down in the South, a war of a Wicked God and Twisted Things. With Thom not yet home, what else could Hallie do and agree to let a wandering man work the farm with her for her sister Marthe? But his arrival brings questions, brings secrets, brings harsh words. And then the monsters come.
She's a sweet girl, Hallie, wanting to keep the barley farm running, wanting to make everything good and right for her sister and her coming baby. Hers is a sweet voice, a voice afraid of more than a few things. A voice that means well but at times is reckless. A voice that keeps the secrets in the dark in order to keep others safe.
With Hallie and Marthe, we see the unspoken words between siblings. The things we want to say but can't for any number of reasons. Fear. Guilt. Anger. Pride. We argue because we can't say the words we want to. We never say the words we should say everyday. We pick and poke and prod at the mistakes. We push because we love. We love with each breath in our bodies, each inch of ourselves. But we just can't say the important words when we want to, when we should.
This book shows the aftermath of war, what it does to the survivors. What happens to those named 'hero' or 'villain.' No one really went to war meaning to be a hero, not in this book. The men, the farmers and shopkeepers, the husbands and brothers and sons, went to war because help was needed. No one expected to be a hero. No one expected to push into the storm of the Wicked God Southward and cut His heart. But someone did. After the war, what returns to the farms and the shops? The homes? Men with shadows in their hearts, with darkness and magic in their eyes. They see the world differently now. Few will understand their pain.
I found this to be a darkly magical and enchanting look at siblings, at war, and at how far we will go to protect what's ours. The farm is Hallie and Marthe's farm. It will be their farm as long as they breathe, as long as they live. No one will push them from it or take control of it. They will stay strong and protect what is theirs, who is theirs. The book is a slow journey through the aftermath of a devastating, complicated war and through the battlefield of sibling politics. It's a book of silent words and birds with spider webs that burn you if you touch them. It's a book I'd recommend to those looking for more powerful, meaningful Canadian YA and to those looking for something a little different in their slightly magical/paranormal recovering from ruin futuristic setting.
(I received an e-galley of this title to review from HMH through NetGalley.)...more