First of all, I feel the need to give a mild disclaimer. Are you looking for zombie-zombies? Do you feel the need to read raw, dripping paragraphs ofFirst of all, I feel the need to give a mild disclaimer. Are you looking for zombie-zombies? Do you feel the need to read raw, dripping paragraphs of pure gore and nausea-inducing scenes? Do you think that life is incomplete without the heart-thumping moment when you realize that your undead house guest has the need for "braaaaains..." and yours is the next on the menu?
I am afraid that Something Strange and Deadly is not the book for you.
But for delicate, tea-sipping readers like moi: take heart! You can read this without loosening your corset or breaking out the smelling salts. Mostly. And if you do, well...Eleanor Fitt doesn't hang with faint-hearted girls.
Speaking of Eleanor, if I were you, I'd sit up and take note. After all, not every girl doesn't mind ripping a petticoat (or two) or sacrificing her earring for the greater good. She does come from a (slightly cliche) family situation: Daddy's dead, Mom is concerned (read: obsessed) with pairing her off with the typical rich but secretly dark and possibly *gasps* not the main love interest guy.
Oh, and she's just received a ransom note via zombie - don't wince like that, it's all the rage with half-crazed necromancers these days - for her beloved brother, Elijah.
What is a properly bred, delicate flower like Eleanor to do?
If this were an interactive novel, I'm sure the choices would be A. swoon and hope that the zombie hasn't lost his ingrained memory of chivalry, B. grab up the nearest victim and throw it in the dead's path, shrieking, "Take her first, and you can have Elijah too! I'm too young to die!" and C. say your prayers because it'll all be over son (for your sake, I hope so).
Eleanor, however, is the type of girl who would take the exam paper and write a new bubble out: D. Get in there and be awesome! She ends up running with a pack just like her: the Spirit Hunters (when there's a zombie, who are you gonna call?), who are basically these steampunky-invention wielding, zombie-slaying team that is determined to get to the bottom of this sudden Undead outbreak.
There are a few moments where Eleanor's action does stumble - in particular, when she starts falling in love. My sister pointed out that the man in question couldn't have been the first man she'd ever met (at some points, their relationship was reminding me of Eugene and Rapunzel in Tangled and that whole "I've never known someone like you..." aspect of it), but as neither of us have felt that brain-crippling, stomach-tickling emotion that is "twu wuv" before, you shouldn't quote us on it.
And of course, where a skirt-ripping heroine is born, available love interests sprout up like weeds. In Eleanor's case, her leading man is Daniel - snarky, spirited, possibly struggling under the burden of a dark and haunted past (oh, doesn't he make you swoon already)? He does sound awfully like the bare-chested hero of a bodice-ripper, but believe me, he's a bit more deeper than that - and he certainly isn't afraid of telling Eleanor exactly what he thinks of her family's former uppity reputation ("Congratulations! You're practically royalty!"), or where she can stay when a zombie attack occurs (Behind him at all times...don't you hate it when a man tells you that?).
But he's dedicated to his cause, and he likes to invent, which gives him major points for being brainy. And did I mention he's handsome? What more do you want - Mr. Darcy?
Too bad. He's already taken.
The story is based around Philadelphia, which makes it easier for a reader to know what sort of terrain is being covered, even if it's all glitzy and old-fashioned and coated with clockwork cogs. I would have liked a bit more description of the areas being covered, but - eh. You can't have it all.
Again, I feel the need to point out that this is not actually a zombie novel. If you're looking for that type of YA, try The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Or ask a friend to chase you around the house for a little bit until you feel better about yourself and your (very much alive) world.
Just, you know, don't try to create an undead army at home. It won't be pretty.
Something Strange and Deadly may be a little rough (and zombie-flavored) around the edges, but please, don't be afraid to invite it in for some cozy reading time. To me, it definitely lived up to all expectations, and made sure that Susan Dennard has one major fan for the rest of her career - but I think she already knows that I kinda take her as a writing hero.
And remember, if the zombies try to bite, aim for the knees.
You'll be glad you did.
Warnings: (Or, things that even if I think the author is nearly as awesome as sugar cubes, I cannot condone) Zombies. Duh. Also, there's a few instances of strong language, and a little innuendo, and gore, and character death that I was actually expecting (so not hankie warning...not really).
Want more reviews and tea references? You can check out my blog, Watercolor Moods! You know, just for kicks....more
Okay, first of all, we can't start this party off without a little mention of the cover. Just take a moment to scroll up and look at that. From the moOkay, first of all, we can't start this party off without a little mention of the cover. Just take a moment to scroll up and look at that. From the moment the ARC slipped out of the package and into my hands, the feeling I got was, "Summer is here, so slather on the sunscreen and let's get some beach reading done!"
I kid you not. That shade of yellow is definitely an eye-catcher.
Anyway, down to what's inside that pretty package. The story centers around Alice, Summer and Tiernan - three best friends and self-proclaimed biggest fans of the band Level3 (which, if you want to get a mental approximation, personally makes me think of a mixture of the Jonas Brothers - pre-"Joe the Hobo" stage - and One Direction). Unfortunately, when the band broke up, their friendship shattered right along with it.
Until now. High school graduation, getting ready to fall out of touch forever with the beginnings of their adult lives, and Alice just knows it's fate when Level3 announces a once-in-a-lifetime reunion show in Austin, Texas. So, does this girl go, "Oh, my gosh, our favorite band is getting back together? I should go and watch them by myself, for old times' sake!"
Puh-leeze. If she was that flat and boring (and...just not a teenager), we wouldn't have over three hundred words of plot, right?
No. Alice goes with her gut instinct and hits that Pay Now button - three tickets for three ex-best friends to see the band that made their friendship. Now, before we start linking arms and singing Kumbaya, remember that crucial word: ex. As in the guy with the weird toaster obsession that you'd rather take the long way home than face...or how about the co-worker who was always picking her nose? People you want to forget. People you don't expect will sit for hundreds of miles without fighting for shotgun or arguing over snacks or unplanned road trips.
You really can't blame Tiernan and Summer for wanting to avoid that hot mess, can you? In any case, due to their own ulterior motives, both girls jump on board - and you, the reader, are in on the most messed-up road trip of your summer vacation.
Ms. Graham has to be given kudos for a crucial aspect of writing YA that many would-be authors flounder on: she knows teenagers. True, many instances of the plot aren't really the escapades me or any of my besties would be caught doing (attempting to bury a reanimated squirrel? Going swimming with hippies of a suspicious nature? Parents, do you know where your daughters are tonight?), but the emotions and turbulence and uncertainty that come with leaving a certain stage of life behind ring true.
One complaint I always have about realistic fiction is the lack of happy endings - or at least, endings that fit my criteria for putting aside the book with a goofy smile on my face and a gentle pat on its glossy cover. I am happy to tell you that Reunited does end on a good note - in spite of the old resentments, and the lost concert tickets, and a particularly awful night in New Orleans.
Long story. I think you should just read it for yourself. As it is, I think my spoiler filter is being stretched to the max. Just, hang on until June - or better yet, plan a large road trip, kidnap one or two friends, and have a good excuse to read it for yourself.
Just...make sure they're willing victims. Or you'll find yourself in a big mess of your own.
Warnings (or, stuff that I would NOT pack in the backseat for that week-long road trip): A lot of innuendo. Personally, I think that could be taken out and spare the plot completely. Also, I think there are one or two instances of language, a mention of a philandering father - and a boyfriend - and some kissing. ...more
Shadow and Bone is one of those amazing 2012 debuts that delivers everything the blurb promises you. And I mean everything.
Let's start off with Alina.Shadow and Bone is one of those amazing 2012 debuts that delivers everything the blurb promises you. And I mean everything.
Let's start off with Alina. The main character, the heroine, the poor lamb being led to the slaughter - well, that was how I felt for her more than once in the course of the storyline. For some reason, she also reminded me a bit of the cartoon Anastasia: tough, I can handle it, but also with a soft heart that is often bruised by her strained relationship with her childhood best friend and the fact that she has totally scary powers that she didn't even know about.
I mean, can you imagine how much pressure it must be on your shoulders, to be the Sun Summoner - to have people worship you like a saint when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and cry?
Yes. I did want to hug her a few times. I'm not sure how well that would be received though.
Mal. The childhood best friend, the love interest (at least the one that a reader feels like rooting for) and an awesome soldier. Of course, he had to taint it a little bit for me by being a total womanizer - at first - and not seeing the girl right in front of him. YA heroes. They can be so clueless.
I am very loath to mention the Darkling - a. because I will probably blurt out a spoiler that will have everyone who hasn't read this yet beating me over the head with their blog headers (ouch!) or b. the author will come after me with her scary makeup brushes and be like, "You spoil my novel, child? You die!"
Yes. My imagination gets way ahead of me.
Okay. What I will say about the Darkling is that he is young (of course), tall, dark and handsome (to be expected) and...he's on the Dark Side. What do you expect from the title? Just so you know - I wouldn't take any cookies to join his Dark Side. Nope. It's more trouble than it's worth.
On to the world-building (which, as you know, is pretty much the main reason why I love fantasy)...Alina and her world are amazing. Leigh Bardugo used Russian culture to weave her own amazing fantasy-world, where samovars and thick coats exist beside ancient evils the likes of which don't exist in this world...and royals who definitely would have deserved a little revolution had they actually lived in Russia.
Believe me. This tsar is a total pig.
Also, Keith Thompson drew a map of Ravka (see on Leigh's blog)...yes, THE KEITH THOMPSON. Now you can hang it up on your wall and pretend there's a real place out there you can go to visit, if only to see the volcra in their native habitat and brave the dangers of the Unsea....more
(As seen on my blog, Watercolor Moods - YA reviews with a bit of snark, humor and plenty of tea for everyone!)
Disclaimer: This is a pre-release ARC re(As seen on my blog, Watercolor Moods - YA reviews with a bit of snark, humor and plenty of tea for everyone!)
Disclaimer: This is a pre-release ARC received from the publisher. As such, please check any quotes or information against the finished copy of the book.
If you're a fellow book blogger - well, a reader in general - you probably adhere to the one-chapter rule. This can be considered a distant relation to the (now defunct in most social circles) five-second rule - you know, five seconds to eat a scrap of food off the floor before the germs descend? That might have been disproved as untrue - and if you value your stomach and your health, I advise that you abandon it - but for me, one chapter before aiming a book for the scrap heap or settling in for the night saves me valuable time, sleep and, for the most part, peace of mind.
I won't lie. Up until last night, I had no intention of finishing Monstrous Beauty. Ever. The first time I attempted to read it, I broke the one chapter rule (*gasps* What a rebel I am!*) and eagerly clicked forward to see what the rest of the book might hold.
My discovery? A scene of violent assault (though, thankfully, not completely described) that had me shutting my Kindle cover and vowing never to open it to that particular galley again.
On the lovely Wendy Darling's suggestion, however, I decided to give the galley a second chance yesterday, and made it all the way to the end - as I mentioned before, in an hour. Not much else to do when you're stuck in a hot, empty car waiting for a class to finish. Since I'm feeling lazy (and there's still seven hours left before I can break my fast for the day), I decided to compile the pros and cons of Monstrous Beauty into a list so you can decide for yourself.
Nothing like you've seen in YA before. Trust me on this one. I'm not sure how much more I can say without spoiling, but they are still part-girl, part-fish, but they're much more...wild and raw than Ariel ever could be.
(Down side to all this wildness? Even Ariel invested in that shell bikini.)
The family history.
I really liked the way that the author brought the past into the present, and made the research and bloodline tracing and interviewing really believable.
Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen. You get mermaids and some good old fashioned ghosts for your money. A two-for-one deal you can only find in the wonderful world of YA literature.
The writing style.
Didn't I mention this before? Anyway, the writing style. This is the main reason I carried through with Monstrous Beauty.
What Didn't (a.k.a. my Warnings a little earlier than usual, because as I said before, I'm lazy today)
The aforementioned assault, a really freaky sea queen (see my note about Ursula in the conclusion), a murder-suicide mystery and a family curse that, despite a lack of distinct violence, might be a little sensitive if you're really attached to your mommy.
I know I'm probably wearing this into the ground for people who don't care, but every. Other. Page. I was flinching away from a language bomb. It might not worry you, but it's really a sore spot for me.
Most of the loose threads are woven up - I mean, most of the storyline gets illuminated pretty quickly thanks to the author's approach to melding the past and future - but there were still some questions about the family history and the mermaids that I would have liked to find out just for the sake of it. It's not a big issue, but I just felt a little...unfinished.
I mean, it's better than the first version, but still...I was too antsy to post it, so you'll have to look it up for yourself.
Conclusion = ?
I think you'll have to come up with that one yourself. Personally, I did like the unique touch the author gave mermaids - a slight hint of the (original, and quite dark in itself) Little Mermaid tale, a dash of Spirited Away - or so it felt like to me, and the rich culture of the Eastern coast, which being a resident myself I already can appreciate.
And the sea. You can practically smell it coming off the pages. Sometimes, I think I was an ocean-dweller in another life. Something with sparkly, iridescent fins. And a habit of rummaging through sunken ships.
Ultimately, I don't think I can give this book a complete "read it" or "don't read it". I'm not usually one for dark material - though, as I said before, I like the sinister edge to these mermaids - and I'm not in the mood for something with lots of violence and despair. (Actually, I can't think of a time when I do like violence and despair.)
If you want to read Monstrous Beauty, read it to appreciate the writing style, and be prepared to skip forward if the gore and woe-is-me-another-death scenes are freaking you out. This is not The Little Mermaid. No song-and-dance routines, no Prince Eric and no friendly fish companion (though there is a really bizarro-Gothic version of Ursula that should have your knees shaking).
For me, I'd definitely say that I like it, but with reservations. Or, I'd like it more if I didn't have to have those reservations. Because, you know, I'm cool and ambiguous like that.
(Note for GoodReads users: I'm putting this one as a 3 because I liked most of it, but some bits were leaving my comfort zone. No insult to the author or her brilliant imagination.)...more
For more rambling reviews and general awesomeness, check out Watercolor Moods. More tea and snark for your money.
Disclaimer: This is a pre-release AR For more rambling reviews and general awesomeness, check out Watercolor Moods. More tea and snark for your money.
Disclaimer: This is a pre-release ARC received from the publisher. As such, please check any quotes or information against the finished copy of the book.
There's this constant debate about authors being kept in their place - and what I mean by that is that every once in a while, a writer that everyone hearts and expects to keep merrily rolling in the dough of their numerous sci-fi novels, or whatever, will suddenly be declaring their intentions to write an authentic recounting of the romance between Shakespeare and his wife.
You know, something unexpected. Something out of the mark they've already made on the publishing industry. Something that, to the author's primary group of readers, often comes as a total shock.
(If you still don't understand what I'm getting at...weren't you also thinking that J.K. Rowling wouldn't stray from the fantasy genre?)
To me, being both a writer and a reader, I not only look forward to such "infractions" - I give my blessing. I know that, at least when you're first breaking into the market, it's probably better if your work can be shelved under an appropriate genre, if you can be placed on panels and in library catalogs alongside other authors who write the same. But, I also know that it isn't right to constrain creativity. Sure, I might've enjoyed writing a dystopian, but if I had to write any more, I'd probably end up scribbling out parodies of the Hunger Games with cartoonized Katniss-esque characters and bury Peeta in hummus and have Gale be the hero of all of it.
Well, I might not go that far. I do treasure my life. But I think you get what I mean. The muse comes when it comes, and I am not definitely not one to argue with the muse or pick a market-appreciated idea over one that I'd rather write for me.
Take that as a prologue of sorts for my experience with The Raven Boys.
If you read my sum-up of BEA 2012 (or at least, my day there), you probably know how thrilled I was when one really awesome Scholastic rep took a copy of The Raven Boys out of the closet for me. (Just goes to show...pushing and shoving and snatching ARCs without taking time to talk to the people standing around? At the end of the day, you lose.)
Anyway, I held it on my lap all the way home, stroked the cover, pretty much extricated a pinky promise from myself that I would read all of it that night - and then I didn't. Well, I opened it and read the first two chapters, and then I closed it back.
Not a very auspicious start, especially from a Stiefvater fangirl, right?
Once I got myself going, though, I pretty much kept up a constant commentary with my younger sister about how...different The Raven Boys was. I think at one point I creeped her out by dropping the book in my lap, closing my eyes, shaking my head and going, "Why, Maggie, why?"
(In my defense, someone turned up dead who I didn't expect. But I won't spoil.)
The thing is, now that I'm trying to fence in all my thoughts, Maggie Stiefvater's switched gears, and it's pretty obvious when you look at The Raven Boys. It's third-person, no alternating POVs (yeah, that killed me, too). Every bit of the text is dense with details, details that sometimes don't feel important and you might skip over, but later you're skipping right back through what feels like hundreds of pages to find, because HOLY CROW YOU DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING and you've completely forgotten who this new character is.
Switching gears is not at all a bad thing. I mean, previously Maggie's switched from deep, poetic werewolves to vicious, human-eating water-horses, and look how well that turned out. The Raven Boys, once you pull away the unfamiliar surface, is still traditional Stiefvater fare. There's a heroine with a unique name (Blue), dysfunctional family and attraction to a boy who may not be healthy for her. Well, this time around, there's two (yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is a love triangle involved here - I wasn't too happy about that, but c'est la vie). The boy(s) have questionable pasts, interesting quirks (Gansey chews mint leaves) and a quest, though perhaps Gansey's isn't as desperate as Sam's desire to keep from being stuck a wolf forever.
A quest for a king.
Yes, a real, live king - or probably a ghost king, though that was one thing I didn't get the full importance of. I mean, everyone wants King Arthur to come back, but knowing our luck, he'd probably arrive wrapped in the whole enchilada: cheating wife, back-stabbing nephew/son/stepson/whatever, evil stepsister, and creepy old prophesizing guy.
Yes, I just de-romanticized the legend of the Once and Future King. I hope we can still be friends.
Somewhere around here, I know I should probably plug in an appropriate conclusion, so here it is. The Raven Boys. Not what I expected, definitely not an easy road to travel down, but...somewhat satisfying, once you get to the conclusion. It's different, it's got a love triangle (okay, so maybe that bothered me. A lot. But that's just me being anti-love triangle) but every author's gotta change sooner or later, and as long as the quality of her writing stays the same and she still touches base with her readers, I'm right behind Maggie Stiefvater for the rest of her (long, fruitful, bagpipe-playing) career.
And thank you for being patient and reading this monstrosity. I should probably keep quiet about The Raven Boys when I can't even curb off my own reviews.
Warnings: Strong language; some mention of the fact that Blue's parents were not married, and a really weird, possibly innuendo-fraught nickname Blue's mother had for her father. Gansey's real name might be taken as a swear word in polite society - DO NOT ASK ME WHAT IT IS. There's also a character death (well, that might be a loose definition, and you'll see for yourself). ...more
Okay, you say that there's not enough YA for boys? Here, gentlemen, is a title that should tide you over.
At least for a little while.
Carver Young is aOkay, you say that there's not enough YA for boys? Here, gentlemen, is a title that should tide you over.
At least for a little while.
Carver Young is an orphan. He has no idea about who his parents are, or what happened to them, but he does know one thing: he is meant to be a detective. Of course, that's a bit of a dream when you're living in an orphanage and reading dime novels to make use of your time. However, everything changes for him when he's adopted by retired (cantankerous, eccentric - well, let's just say he's crazy) Pinkerton detective Albert Hawkings - you know, of the Pinkerton Detectives?
Okay, let's just say that there were awesome. But look them up later.
Hawkings offers Carver a chance at a leg-up into the world of intrigue that he wants to be part of, with his own unique mission: find his biological father. Sounds like wading through phone books and old genealogical charts, right? But Carver finds himself smack-dab in the middle of a different web of circumstance than he thought: a serial killer, right on the streets of New York City, and he seems to be the only one to hold the clues to solving it all.
But, as the author says on the back cover, "You'll never guess how. Or why..."
Well, maybe you might.
Let me tell you: if you're looking for lots of historical truths that are way weirder than fiction (an old-lady cat killer! A hidden subway! An asylum hidden on an island!), chase scenes, street fights and gruesomely murdered bodies, this is the read for you. But, I'd steer clear of it if you're the type of person who gets frustrated with easy clues, almost-to-the-letter predicable twists and...well, some major writing gaffs.
And I quote, "Carver swooned."
...Swooned? Do boys swoon? And doesn't swooning involve a lot of hand-to-the-forehead, delicate sighs of distress, rolling eyes and buckling knees?
Carver lightly falls into a kneeling position on the floor. There is no hyperventilating involved.
Also, boys don't swoon.
They manfully stumble under pressure. They bend, not break.
But, to be fair, that's pretty much the only part of the book that really rubbed me the wrong way. I couldn't put it down, and I even mentioned to my sister that this is definitely something teenage boys will probably enjoy.
And the historical figures - Theodore Roosevelt and Alice and there's a mention of Nellie Bly! Have I ever told you how much I admire Nellie Bly?
Warnings: There are some moments where you will be screaming, "Oh my God - that's SO OBVIOUS!" Please refrain from damaging the book in the process. Throwing it at the wall is also frowned upon. Also, there is some mention of exactly what kind of women Jack the Ripper preyed on.
Where my tween-aged self found a soulmate in Ella Enchanted, I seem to have found it in Cinder.
The whole Cinderella oddball meets Wonder Boy Prince ChWhere my tween-aged self found a soulmate in Ella Enchanted, I seem to have found it in Cinder.
The whole Cinderella oddball meets Wonder Boy Prince Charming might seem a little overdone by now, but really, Ms. Meyer does an awesome job of keeping the basic details of the storyline alive with her own little twists. First of all, there's the whole sci-fi cyborg thing. Of course, who wants to live with that - especially in Cinder's world where being half-robot makes you subhuman - but how cool of a character trait is that? And then there's the evil queen that lives on the moon, an android with a smart-mouthed personality, and of course...the Prince.
Who is very, very charming.
Cinder holds her own as a heroine. Who can't love a girl who can detect lies, has a dark, mysterious past (though, I must admit, the mind-bending twist the author throws in the last five pages was a bit of a far stretch, even for me...) and is loyal to a girl whose mother tortures her every chance she gets? No self-suffering, "someday my prince will come" warbling for this girl. She's like a matured, street-smart version of Ella, and she has the nuts and bolts to prove it.
Maybe I should have written this review a few hours after the "gah I just read a good book" high wears off. Do I sound like I'm babbling? Okay, in summary...
Sci-fi + fairy tale retelling + charming prince + high-wired heroine = MUY BUENO.
Go read. Right now.
Warnings: A heartbreaking character death (I'm not trying to give any spoilers, just letting you know that you might need a hanky on hand) and a sprinkling of innuendo here and there but NO PROFANITY. It's a miracle.
Final verdict: Yes. Yes. YES. (Why do all these books have to be part of a series?!)...more
From the moment I saw the cover, I knew I had to read this. Why? Well, first of all, it looked fantabulously awesome, but when I was a kid (like a kidFrom the moment I saw the cover, I knew I had to read this. Why? Well, first of all, it looked fantabulously awesome, but when I was a kid (like a kid-kid, not a teenager like I am now) I was obsessed with Anastasia Romanov. Obsessed. As in, I thought she was still alive and waiting for rescue and her rightful throne somewhere.
I never claimed to be normal.
Anyway, during my brief stint of researching Anastasia and knowing everything there was to know about Anastasia's world, I fell in love with Russian history. Temporarily. Before Japan took over. I mean, what's there not to love? Samovars. Being wrapped up in furs so you can go on a sled ride. A dashingly evil prince set on marrying you so that he can take over the world, using you as his weapon.
No, wait, that's just Katerina.
This is not the Russia I used to research as a kid. It may be the 1880s - girls don't have a ton of rights, and dads sport handsome mustaches and talk about war and death and soldiers and such. And I do have to admit, Robin Bridges really did her research. One minute, you're admiring the insides of the royal palace, and the next you're surrounded by various paranormal creatures duking it out for power.
Yeah, I think Anastasia just lost her pedestal in my memory. Sorry, dear.
Katerina is charming and believable. She might be strong, but not strong enough to fight off Danilo's hypnotic charms - "Unhand me...oh, your eyes, they sparkle so...I think I love you" - and she does go for the right guy in the end. Sort of. And she wants to be a doctor. Don't you just love a girl who defies her gender role?
Also, I really like her hat. Can I have one, too?...more
Okay. If Janet Lee Carey wasn't already ranking on my list of favorite fantasy authors, she's really skyrocketed up there by now.
You probably rememberOkay. If Janet Lee Carey wasn't already ranking on my list of favorite fantasy authors, she's really skyrocketed up there by now.
You probably remember my Teaser Tuesday/brief review of her previous book, Dragon's Keep - which as it turns out, is a prequel/companion to this new adventure. Where Dragon's Keep focused on Rosalind, the beautiful Pendragon princess with a hidden curse beneath her gloves, this story is all about Tess, an abused blacksmith's daughter who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and is accused of witchcraft. After she lets her friends' names slip under torture (and honestly, who can blame her?) all three of them have to flee their little hamlet and run headlong into adventure.
As usual, Ms. Carey creates a unique, believable heroine, under fire from all sides and with a thorny nature to protect herself from the threats she sees around her. I wasn't as fond of her friends - particularly the healer girl, Poppy, who despite her gift came off to me as self-centered, flighty and all too eager to capture male attention. Meg, married at fourteen and constantly concerned about her daughter and husband that she left behind in danger, was a bit more easy to sympathize with.
Of course, runaway witches disguised as lepers isn't enough. There are dragons (yay!) and a handsome, all-too-likable love interest Garth Huntsman - but is he more than just the King's loyal servant. I also loved the twist the author added in with Tess's surprising bloodline and the conflict within Rosalind's descendants.
Also, Lady Adela? Best evil witch hunter slash bad girl ever. I mean, I can't say I ended the story liking her a bit more, but I did understand where she came from - doesn't mean I thought she deserved a happy ending, though....more