Orphans? Victorian London? Alchemy? Witches! Mist-monsters! TALKING CATS! I am SO THERE. Ashley even said, “DefiOriginally published at yAdult Review.
Orphans? Victorian London? Alchemy? Witches! Mist-monsters! TALKING CATS! I am SO THERE. Ashley even said, “Definitely sounds like a you book.” And it was. Rose is an orphan for only a few chapters before Miss Bridges comes and whisks her away to work for an alchemist. We have a little hint that Rose may have some supernatural ability in the first few pages, so this seems pretty convenient (but I liked it anyway). This is the kind of middle-grade that has such a good plot and characterization that anything that may otherwise have seemed rushed or off didn’t register that way to me. When we reach Fountain’s home, there’s a little bit of an Upstairs/Downstairs feel, which is something I really enjoy. We don’t meet the alchemist for awhile, but we meet his snobby daughter and his lazy apprentice. Rose is bombarded by the magic of the house, but she manages to make friends with Bill, a servant who came from the boys equivalent of Rose’s orphanage.
At first, Rose fights her magic because the servants are all so afraid of it, and Rose just wants to fit in. She wants it to go away and hopes it’ll fade if she ignores it, but an encounter with Freddie and Gustavus the TALKING CAT :D proves she has to face her fear of her abilities. I loved Mr. Fountain in this, because he’s powerful but fallible, something magicians aren't sometimes in novels. Following the people below stairs is one of my favorite parts of historical fiction, and adding magic to it just made it that much better. Seeing Rose grow into her power was a lot of fun, and I really recommend this one!
THIS REVIEW HAS EXTRAS!
Holly Webb herself has gifted us with some extras to post along with this review and I’m really excited about it. It’s her fantasy cast list for Rose, and I think it’s perfect. Thank you to Holly Webb for taking the time to do such a thing and thanks to Abbie Digel at Sourcebooks for providing us the material!
Rose — Chloe Moretz This is so difficult! Rose needs to be brave, determined, but quite matter-of-fact. She’s horrified by her magic at first, as she wants to be a maid – she’s amazed that she’s been lucky enough to get a job, and she thinks the magic will spoil everything. So whoever played her would need to be able to get that determination across, but be overtaken by the excitement of the magic growing inside her. At first I thought of Kirsten Dunst, as she was amazing as a child vampire in Interview With the Vampire, but of course that was years and years ago. Actually, if I could have any child actress from whenever, I think I would go for Mara Wilson, who played Matilda in the film. She seemed quite as I imagine Rose – pretty, but not beautiful, very sensible, but with a sly sense of humour lurking underneath. I wonder if Chloe Moretz (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Hugo) would be able to look young enough to play Rose? In the book Rose thinks she’s ten, but she’s not quite sure, and the hard life at the orphanage, and having to be grown-up very quickly, would make her look older.
Mr. Fountain — Colin Firth But only if he could grow a large, curly moustache.
Miss Sparrow — Emma Watson Miss Sparrow needs to be very beautiful, possibly too beautiful – not to spoil the plot, but her looks are magically enhanced. I’d love to see Emma Watson play another magical character, but this time, an evil one. (Thinking about it, Emma Watson would also have been wonderful as Rose!)
Bill (or Freddie!) — Asa Butterfield Bill is another of the servants at Mr Fountain’s house. He’s an orphan too, and he loves being a little bit older and more used to working than Rose. But he’s actually very kind, although he does his best to hide it. He needs to sound like a Londoner, which I think is probably easier for a British actor. But then I can see Asa Butterfield as Freddie, the snotty, conceited magician’s apprentice, too! He has a magical look to him. Can I have him twice with different-coloured hair, please?!
Gus (voice) — Alan Rickman Because he has a lovely voice! Gus is Mr Fountain’s spoilt white cat, and one of the first magical things to happen to Rose is that she realises she can hear him talking. He’s proud, lazy and obsessed with fishpaste sandwiches. I first saw Alan Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply a long time ago but he can also be fabulously nasty (as the sheriff of Nottingham and of course as Snape in the Harry Potter films). He’s great at sounding grumpy, which is very important for Gus!...more
So. Some summary there, huh? Really makes you wonder things like, “wtf is the SQ?” or “wtf are these books evenOriginally published at yAdult Review.
So. Some summary there, huh? Really makes you wonder things like, “wtf is the SQ?” or “wtf are these books even about?” I’m sure the paper book has a better summary on the back. I hope so, anyway, because the opening of this novel is awesome. It’s Sera-centeric, and it’s kind of raw and emotional. Sera not only caught a glimpse of the Cataclysm (which disturbed her so much, she repressed the memories), but she’s also affected by Remnants. Bits and pieces of the Cataclysm are starting to come back to her, and it’s not pretty or nice. Something I was reminded of in this book, though, is that Sera is a person of color. She’s Hispanic, and Dak makes reference to how she looks much like the ancient Maya. So two out of three main characters in this series are people of color. Yay, progress! Speaking of progress, why is it that Dak has a little character development every book (mostly where he learns to control his urge to run off), and then is the exact same annoying little boy in the next one? Granted, he’s upset by what he sees as Sera ignoring him for Riq and by Dak’s parents being lost in time, but Dak really thinks highly of himself and his ability to get out of trouble. He’s spiteful and more than a little delusional. I don’t like calling eleven-year-olds “delusional,” but there it is. Dak drives me absolutely bonkers. Riq is definitely experiencing some changes, but more of the hormonal variety set off by a pretty Mayan girl. I laughed only a little at Riq’s expense here. He was just super clueless and cute. The main problem in this one, though, is that Sera has seemingly transported them to the wrong century. Dak suspects they can learn something while there, and he has a few suspicions about what they are.
Unfortunately (?), Dak can’t really make do on these suspicions because he’s in a coma for the better part of the first half, so Sera and Riq run around trying to figure out the riddle for themselves. And they do, of course. In fact, this story is split into two–the ancient Maya and the age of the conquistador (which is a terribly sad and frankly genocidal period of history. Go, Europe!). But like, learning what Sera saw when she experienced the Cataclysm made me cry. It’s an emotional journey for Sera, and she’s only eleven. Even a mature eleven-year-old can only handle so much misery and horror. And Riq is experiencing a little heartbreak. AND Dak has to go and redeem himself with his amusing inner monologue and musings about Sera’s origins. I almost liked him in the later middle chapters. Riq and Sera both have immediate emotional issues in this one, while Dak’s main problem remains his parents being lost in time.
I really really liked this one. It made me excited about the series again! I was lucky enough to snag a paper ARC of the next book in the series, Cave of Wonders, at the annual ALA conference at the end of June. Thanks, Scholastic! So what I’m getting at is the next Infinity Ring review should be up and ready very soon!...more
Has anyone watched the BBC’s Robin Hood? It turned into a hot mess in season three, but I devoured the whole shoOriginally published at yAdult Review.
Has anyone watched the BBC’s Robin Hood? It turned into a hot mess in season three, but I devoured the whole show in a week back in 2011. And let’s not talk about my love of Disney’s Robin Hood, or Men in Tights, or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. So I immediately grabbed it when I saw it and it didn’t disappoint me at all. I read a lot of female authors, so it’s nice to get one or two men in there every once in a while. We meet Will Shackley at the end of King Richard’s Crusades, when the king and his men are sailing back for England. Will’s uncle is ruling in his brother’s stead while Lord Shackley fights in the Crusades. Mark Brewer is the Sheriff of Nottingham, a job he’s now realizing may be too much for him, an old friend of Will’s uncle. The standard story follows: Prince John (who I may always see as a cartoon lion) rules England in Richard’s stead, but has grander plans, some involving the Horse Knight, Guy of Gisborne. Gisborne is the one responsible for Will’s flight, because Gisborne is a douche. It’s that simple. He’s always a jerk in every Robin Hood retelling, but even when I expect his treachery and underhandedness, I still find myself getting angry and hating him. You’d think I’d be used to it. So after a manufactured incident involving a serving maid and Gisborne’s gross “man of bribes,” Will is off to begin his exile/adventures.
At the same time, we meet Much, or Marianna, a miller’s daughter. Her father fell victim to the somewhat tired “my spouse died and now I am useless” disease before he died all selfishly (I kid! Besides, Robin Hood is a romantic story itself, so we can let that slide a little), spurring Much to try passing as a boy. She has since joined the Merry Men in Sherwood Forest. The Merry Men, if you’re unaware, is a gang of bandits, and we meet old favorites like John Little in this second part. The cast of the Merry Men is pretty hilarious, including Stout, a somewhat slow and hard-of-hearing bandit. They come across Will one day, wounded on his horse, and we learn it’s been months since he fled his home and Gisborne. This might seem like a silly middle-grade romp in the woods, but it’s full of sadness and death and blood. Will loses some friends along the way, as one does. Around the time Will meets up with the Merry Men, I started wondering if the drunken Rob, supposedly a legendary bowman, was Robin Hood brought down by something emotionally damaging. Maid Marian, perhaps, or her death? Those were my guesses, and I won’t tell you if they were right!
The story alternates between Much and Will’s points of view, and I appreciated that. There was a difference in their characters communicated by the narrative that can be rare in this genre. Women aren’t any better at writing boys than men are at writing girls, in my opinion. They usually have the exact same voice, and while Much and Will were similar, they were separate enough that I noticed. I really had almost no objections to this one. It was a fun romp, but it also contained emotional depth and politics of the era, and I think this novel will appeal to both boys and girls of the middle-grade persuasion. I really enjoyed reading this one, and I look forward to more from Matthew Cody....more
Okay, let me open this review honestly: this book reads like a novel from a debut author. The writing feels impeOriginally published at yAdult Review.
Okay, let me open this review honestly: this book reads like a novel from a debut author. The writing feels impersonal and rushed, and a lot of the interactions between characters feel unreal and/or forced. I was nervous when I started reading Henri’s (whose name is pronounced in the English way “Henry”) story because of this, but I really started to enjoy reading about his time in the circus, his budding friendship with Robin the clown, and his experiences talking to insects. This is a new concept that I haven’t encountered before in all my supernatural YA reading, and it was pretty cool. The villain of the tale, Mrs. Black, is really quite scary, and the Victorian background is always something I’m interested in. Henri’s father is sent to British Malaya on a vague assignment, and when communication from him goes silent for a year, Henri’s mother sends him to live with his great-aunt Georgie in America, while his mother goes off in search of Henri’s father. Georgie can speak to insects too, but she doesn’t tell Henri this straight out. We learn this later, after Henri leaves to manage the flea circus.
He launches the fleas to fame and makes friends with Robin, but something sinister is lurking, and Henri needs to discover the source while also protecting his insect friends. The source is a character who has been around from the beginning, and while investigating her, Henri discovers something very distressing about his father. And after this point, I got used to the abrupt way this story is written. It’s simple and quick and sometimes awkward, but it’s middle-grade, and the concept is really interesting. I started to really like Robin and Billy, the apprentice lion tamer, and even Maestro Antonio. The mystery kept me guessing, because we only had as much info as Henri had. I ended up finding myself more engrossed than I thought I would....more