I'm dark matter. The universe inside of me is full of something, and science can't even shine a light on it. I feel like I'm mostly made of mysteriesI'm dark matter. The universe inside of me is full of something, and science can't even shine a light on it. I feel like I'm mostly made of mysteries.
Oh my... Magonia is one hell of a rare novel.
Not only does it offer an intriguing blend of reality-infused science fiction and highly-imaginative fantasy, but it is also unlike anything I have ever read before.
I've always said that - for me - originality is one of the best and rarest compliments a writer can get. Not "this is the next Hunger Games or Harry Potter" but "this is completely different to everything else I've read". How unusual it is to read a novel and be taken to places so new, fresh and wonderfully magical.
One of my favourite things has always been when authors manage to weave fact and fiction together in order to create a fantasy story with added realism. Especially when they introduce me to parts of history I'd never heard about before. Did you know that in France in 815, sailors claimed to have come from a secret realm in the clouds they called Magonia? This was one of the first recorded instances of UFO-related occurrences and it was completely new to me.
Many times I have wondered why YA authors insist on using the same old recycled mythology when there's a whole universe of weird and wonderful shit out there just begging to be turned into a story. Here we have a fine example. This book opens up an entire new world full of detailed and exciting mythology. I was like a kid in a toy store, staring wide-eyed at all the colourful weirdness and longing for more as the pages flew by.
The author uses language that deserves the comparisons to Neil Gaiman - a rich, atmospheric style of fairytale storytelling. And with this, she creates a cast of wonderful characters who I can only hope will reappear in sequels.
The main character in Magonia is Aza Ray and she is dying. The doctors are unable to discover what is wrong with her and have failed at all attempts to cure her of the mysterious disease that is causing her to essentially drown in the Earth's atmosphere. Then one day, circumstances see Aza awakening in a whole new world where she is no longer weak and sickly, but a powerful creature at the centre of a longstanding feud that will take her to places she never could have dreamed existed.
Suddenly, she discovers the truth about her life, her past and who she is; maybe this new world can offer her a place to live the kind of life she's always wanted? Or maybe nothing is as it seems. Stir in plenty of action, romance, and well-developed family dynamics and you have something pretty damn amazing. I should also point out that the love triangle I had feared might occur never went in that direction.
Looking for a genre-defying blend of magic, love, flying and family? The only downside is that we have to wait until April for the final book to be published.
“I clench my jaw and narrow my eyes. I am no wilting Alben, I am a fierce and strong Melenese woman. And I am not the victim of any cruel jokes. Spi
“I clench my jaw and narrow my eyes. I am no wilting Alben, I am a fierce and strong Melenese woman. And I am not the victim of any cruel jokes. Spirits below, I will make certain he knows I am not to be toyed with.”
3 1/2 stars. It was, in fact, a solid 4 stars leaning towards 4 1/2 before those last couple of hastily pulled together chapters in which the author rushed us towards a conclusion and narrowly avoided necessitating a sequel. Messy ending aside, I enjoyed this novel a lot and am thankful I didn't realize initially that the author was the same one who bored me with both Paranormalcy and The Chaos of Stars. This was an all round much better book.
It's an ambitious premise that blends a fantasy world with historical parallels, which clearly allude to colonialism. Amazingly, this wild combination of fast-pacing, fluffy banter, magic and an underlying look at colonial struggles somehow works well. Kiersten White works in social and political issues like racism, sexism, and cultural stereotypes, whilst simultaneously keeping the banter light and funny. There was so much to like here that I feel very forgiving towards the rushed ending.
1) It was a pageturner The story zips along at a wonderful pace. We are introduced to action, magic and mystery almost immediately, and I was pulled in from the very first chapter. The chapters have that annoyingly addictive habit of finishing on a cliffhanger, so you find yourself forced into the next chapter in order to discover what happens. Between the supernatural omens, the evil ministers and the budding romance, it's hard to look away.
2) I LOVED Jessamin Jessamin is strong, smart, ambitious and won't melt in a puddle just because a guy with a pretty face looks her way. She's in the middle of a world that doesn't welcome her, both as a female student and as a colonial subject from Melei. Dark-skinned and vivacious, she stands out amid all the paleness and propriety of Albion. Little does she know that racism is about to be only half of her problems when she suddenly gets pulled into a world of magic, murder and mayhem.
3) A romance I actually liked Firstly, I liked both characters of Jessamin and Finn. There was no instalove or instaobsession or general falling into hormonal mushiness after their first meeting. The build was gradual and realistic, peppered with witty and flirtatious banter (my favourite kind). Jessamin also frequently challenges the way others treat her and doesn't allow Finn to use protection as an excuse to control her:
“You couch your motivations under the banner of protecting me, when it comes down to the fact that you think you are better than I am and more equipped to rule my life.”
4) Healthy portrayal of female friendship I have no idea why this is so rare in YA, but I am thankful for the friendship between Jessamin and Eleanor in this book. There's no bitterness or jealousy between them, they stick together and look out for one another, despite being two very different people. Plus, I love this exchange (Jessamin speaks first):
“They’re wrong, you know. About you. Your uncle and Lord Downpike. You are smart and brave and terribly important.” She laughs. “Oh, I know that, silly. But it’s easier not to let them realize it, because then they’d stop ignoring me, and they’d realize how much mischief I really get up to.”
In short, I enjoyed the book a lot. The twist towards the end is a little ridiculous; it attempts to tie everything up in the penultimate chapter and part of me wonders if the ending might have been stronger without the chapter after it. But it didn't matter that much. This is a strong fantasy; fun in its dialogue, friendships and romance, but also important in its look at racism and stereotyping on both sides of colonialism. ............................................................................................
On a note unrelated to the actual story, I can't be the only one bugged by the white girl on the cover when the protagonist is clearly described as having "dark skin" and "black hair"... right? You don't fool me with your shadow effects, Ms book cover, I can see you're white.
“There comes a day when every girl loses the stars in her eyes. And then she can see clearly. This is Lily’s day.”
Believe me when I say: This is not
“There comes a day when every girl loses the stars in her eyes. And then she can see clearly. This is Lily’s day.”
Believe me when I say: This is not Lily’s day. Lily is not losing any bloody stars from her eyes anytime soon. In fact, I would say the stars breed, multiply and become a damn constellation by the time this book is finished. There's a love triangle, insta-angst and a whole lot of general stupidity to look forward to along the way.
Please could someone tell me how a girl like Lily, who is so sappy and obsessed with douchebags, somehow manages to become a powerful witch by clicking her heels together and saying "bibbity bobbity boo"? 'kay, not literally. But it more or less amounts to the same.
The basic premise of this novel is intriguing: what if parallel universes did exist? And what if in one of these other universes you were a powerful witch? Even more exciting - what if the boundaries between your world and the other universe started to break down? Oh yes, very cool stuff. Or it would be... if this random mishmash world actually made any sense.
What kind of bizarre shit is even going on here in this alternate Salem? Yes, of course, Salem because witches, people! This world is crazy. It’s literally described as a random assortment of old fashioned and new, metallic buildings. It’s like a bit of everything, vomited all over the place and not making any sense.
Lily ends up here because she caught sexy dude #1 - Tristan - cheating on her in a bathroom at a party. In true Bella Swan collapsing-into-a-coma-for-months-because-my-boyfriend-left style, Lily suddenly decides that her actual life is no longer worth sticking around in (chyeah, because of a boy) and she gets pulled into another parallel universe by parallel Lily who is a powerful witch.
Still with me? Cool.
Enter sexy dude #2 - Rowan. What's worse than a YA love triangle? A YA love triangle between a Mary Sue, a cheating douche, and a broody and aggressive douche.
“She knew it was Rowan’s arm—the same guy who had said he would happily kill her—but she couldn’t seem to get herself to pull away from him in disgust. Every part of her felt like it was in exactly the right place.”
I didn't even hate the story itself. It was fine; the everything thrown into the pot world-building left something to be desired but other than that it was inoffensive standard paranormal YA. No, my problem was with these stupid, annoying characters. Especially Lily.
Lily is weak. I'm not talking about her allergies and health issues, I'm talking about the fact that she defines her life by whether or not her crush is interested in her. Sexy boy douche cheats with someone else? Naturally, her life is over. She's pushed around by everyone else and is in serious need of a backbone. Also, I hate it when MCs describe themselves in a way that is supposed to imply they’re unattractive but only emphasizes their obvious beauty.
Lily is, of course, “too thin”. Too. Thin. Is that seriously the best you can do?
“Oh, it’s so sad when i trip over my long eyelashes and full breasts, give me sympathy please.”
Despite coming to pieces literally and figuratively every time she leaves her house, and being "too thin", Lily is the centre of the universe. And not just this universe! Every universe, it would seem. Men are falling over themselves to love her. She is an important piece in the big plans of other people. Not to mention that she is suddenly the best witch ever. Her witchiness is the equivalent of Dorothy tapping her damn heels together. Seriously, it’s like instantaneous witchy badass.
Trial by Fire is a laughable addition to an overcrowded genre full of the same old YA tropes. I’m not giving it one star because that seems way more dramatic than the book deserves.
I'll Give You the Sun? More like... I'll Give You Death by Artistic Metaphor.
So, um, it seems like I'm in the minority on this one, but I did not likI'll Give You the Sun? More like... I'll Give You Death by Artistic Metaphor.
So, um, it seems like I'm in the minority on this one, but I did not like the writing style at all.
I guess it should be noted that I was also not a fan of the author's first novel - The Sky is Everywhere - which everyone but heartless little me seemed to love. Unlike many people I know, I picked this one up because the premise intrigued me and not because of a love for the author's previous work.
You may be thinking: this is a poetic novel about life and loss and love... how can you be so cold?! *sigh* You would not be the first. But while I appreciate that there are some good aspects to this book like the complex characters and the frank portrayal of teen sexuality in both a heterosexual girl and a homosexual guy, the style, the endless bloody metaphors and the way it became heavy on the romance... all of that just did nothing but irritate me.
There was a brief moment early on when I thought I might be reading a magical realism novel because of some of the bizarre things that seemed to be happening. But, as the story unfolded, it turns out that these are actually just overly ambitious artistic metaphors that turn almost every single paragraph into a purple and downright weird mess. Check them out:
“Mom picks up a knife and thrusts it into his gut, twists. Dad forges on, oblivious.”
“Jude barfs bright blue fluorescent barf all over the table, but I’m the only one who notices.”
“All the hornet’s buzzed out of her. And there’s no spider to her at all.”
None of these things are actually, literally happening, of course. When I read the first few paint-splattered metaphors (hehe, that's a metaphor too!), I did my single raised eyebrow face (it's epic, I assure you), but it was when I'd read over a hundred pages of constant flowery prose that I started to feel like I'd overdosed on cotton candy. I guess it's a certain type of reader who will fall in love with this prose - in short: I am not that type of reader.
I am the kind of person who forges strong emotional connections with characters; or at least I do if the book is working its magic. But I also find it really difficult to engage with characters - who would otherwise pull me in - when the prose is so nauseatingly bloated with metaphors. Do any of you remember Shatter Me? Bloody hell... do I remember Shatter Me *silently fumes*
And it's a shame because there were moments when I came close to feeling for these characters. Noah tugged at my heart strings because of his passion for art and how he wasn't allowed to pursue it fully; Jude's feelings of guilt and grief felt like genuine pain. But I never got into their heads because I was too busy being drowned by the metaphorical prose. Plus, I'm not even going to get started on the stereotypical way the British guy is portrayed... I'll just say that we really do not use slang words in every single sentence.
The reveal at the ending can easily be guessed from reading Jude's first POV and it was a little anticlimactic. Not just because it was guessable but because it was kind of blah. I still won't give this book one star because there were some touching moments that I liked but, overall, I was pretty disappointed.
I really think that anyone who has ever watched a bad horror flick will recognise the framework of this story instCheap B-movie horror thrills abound!
I really think that anyone who has ever watched a bad horror flick will recognise the framework of this story instantly. I'm not even sure why these tropes are so damn universal in the horror genre, because they're just not scary anymore. If they ever were.
So there's three teens. Two of them are boyfriend and girlfriend (Dee and Luke) and can't keep their damn horny hands off each other. The other is a tag-along (Mike). Why is this so common, by the way? I've seen so many horror movies featuring a couple, and then a male or female third wheel just there for - seemingly - kicks.
And why are they always so horny? I'm serious. There have been essays written about old horror movies, claiming that they're actually really puritanical and attempt to teach teens what happens when you screw around before marriage. I've no idea if that's true, but it's a really common trope... teens who just want to go on a trip and get laid somehow end up trapped in a weird cult or hanging from a meat hook in some lunatic's basement.
Plus, they are so stupid. I'm sure you remember how it goes. They're camping in the middle of the woods or alone in a cabin in the middle of nowhere and suddenly there's a noise - maybe a scream or footsteps - coming from outside. It's always during the night and the damn stupid fools always have to investigate RIGHT THEN. In the middle of the night. Often barefoot and in their pajamas (though, okay, not in this case).
In this case the teens don't quite walk out in the middle of the woods. Nope. They take a shortcut down a back road. And get lost. And then they run out of gas.
Shit... you just KNOW what's going to happen next, don't you?
They're stranded in the middle of psychoville, AKA a "deserted" town where all the houses are identical down to the garden arrangements. Upon arrival in this town, they hole up in one of these deserted houses and find disturbing documents listing the town's population. A population that is decreasing rapidly. So, of course, they stay the night.
The next morning they meet Joseph who tells them about his father's evil cult and, though he seems more than a bit strange, they decide to follow him in the hopes of escaping. What could possibly go wrong?
Well... Elijah shows up, Dee gets captured and separated from Luke and Mike, and her day only gets worse from there. She is tied up, drugged and threatened with death unless she join the cult and comply with Elijah's wishes. The biggest crime of this story is that it feels like nothing new. I feel like I've seen this story and these characters in a hundred other horror films and books. Dee's narrative wasn't standout enough to make me want to care about her fate and everything felt more than a little cheesy.
Elijah especially felt like a cartoon villain with over-the-top mindless evil schemes. I kept picturing him with his finger poised near his mouth, laughing evilly.
I'm actually more disappointed because the author's 2015 novel sounds amazing and I love the cover. Maybe I'll try Leaver's work again when she's writing in a different genre.