Hello everyone, Haley here!
Well, its Friday! Cue Friday by Rebecca Black- sorry, not sorry for getting that song stuck in your head.
Every Monday and Friday we plan to share reviews of books- series and standalones; backlist, ARCs and recent releases- that we think you should have on your radar. While we will keep things here relatively brief, you can always see our full, in depth reviews on our individual Goodreads pages.
Today I’m sharing a series of small reviews about recent books I have read (oh and there may be a few back listed ARCs included here but don’t tell Netgalley) and loved.
Let us know in the comments if you have read any of these and what you thought!
Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger
I received an free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All expressed opinions are my own and do not reflect any stance or position held by the author or publisher.Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger
Published by Del Rey Books on September 24, 2019
Quick Take: A standalone epic fantasy described as Pokemon meets Avatar the Last Air bender. The complicated, intricate plot is told by four distinct POVs who are all, unknowingly, connected by their individual desires and past traumas. Tala, i an injured soldier whose sole purpose in life is to avenge her murdered family. Jimuro i the prince of a ruined empire, whose army was personally responsible for the murder of Tala’s family. The two travel together as Tala attempts to return Jimuro to his home, ignorant of the prince’s past wrongs.
Running parallel to Tala and Jimuro’s journey is that of Xiulan, a princess in disguise- turned detective- intending to regain honor in the eyes of her father and his kingdom by bringing Jimuro to him. Her, mostly unwilling, partner is a solitary street thief who only joins Xiuhan on her quest because the reward is an animal companion with which Lee could bind.
Together these opposing sides will be drawn together by the threat of someone who breaks all the laws of magic and shade binding, set only on the pursuing of power and the enticement of Empire.
What I Loved: I loved a lot of things about this book. The characters were complex, dynamic and flawed. They grew throughout the story and gave you reason to root for each of them, while simultaneously not always making fantastic choices.
The writing was also clear and concise, the pacing quick and propulsive and many of the scenes breathtaking in scope and depth.
There was a diverse range of LGBQIA+ rep, which is always refreshing to see in high fantasy.
Yet the thing I loved most about this book were the animal companions. It is very clear that Kreuger loves, and is familiar with, the Japanese pocket monsters franchise: Pokemon. In fact, even the language that is used to summon and recall the animal shades is clearly borrowed from the franchise. With all that said, if you are looking for a book where people have animal companions this will definitely scratch that itch.
Overall, this is an action packed, emotionally charged novel that will simultaneously excite you and break your heart.
What I Didn’t Love: I have to be honest, I think this is more of an issue with me than with this book. I was so sleep deprived while reading it that I frequently felt lost and had to constantly check my notes to see which character was which- there are a ton of side characters and at times it gets confusing. There was also a lot of info dumping . These elements (that are a common facet of high fantasy novels), at times, weighed down what was otherwise a fantastic story of magic and mayhem.
Readalikes: The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman (MG) / Novice by Taran Matharu (Adult Fantasy)
Pet by Akwaeke EmeziPet by Akwaeke Emezi
Published by Make Me a World on September 10, 2019
Quick Take: In his own voices middle grade debut, Akwaeke Emezi takes the difficult issues of sexual violence, physical abuse, drug use, and other social problems and personifies them as literal monsters that only our protagonist Jam can see. After all, she summoned one from a painting with her own blood. The reader follows Jam as she tries to figure out the nature of the monster haunting her best friend Redemption’s home, and a long the way realizes that maybe the Utopian society she has been told she lives in isn’t what she thought.
What I Loved: Emezi gives his readers a lot to consider and confront in a world torn apart by political agendas and struggles of equality. Among the prevalent themes are ideas of questioning authority and redefining what it means to obtain justice. The characters are diverse in almost ever sense including: race, physical ability and gender.
What I Didn’t Love: I honestly have no complaints with this little book. However, I will say that this is an incredibly heavy read. I actually had to take a day to think about the implications of this important, all too relevant story. So if you’re looking for a middle grade with fantastical elements that will help you escape to a world free of real life problems this might not be for you. This book deserves all the hype and everyone should read it so, you know, maybe ignore what I just said.
Readalikes: Genesis Begins Again by Alicia Williams (MG) / The Breadwinner Trilogy by Deborah Ellis (MG)
Strange Grace by Tessa GrattonStrange Grace by Tessa Gratton
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 18, 2018
Quick Take: In the city of Grace, nothing bad ever happens. No one gets sick. Babies are always born healthy and strong. The cows give plenty of milk and the chicken lay an abundance of eggs. To an outsider, it looks like perfection.
But looks are deceiving and magic comes at a price.
Every seven years, on the night of the Slaughter Moon, one young man is selected to enter the woods and run from the devil. In the two hundred years since the pact has been made, only three have emerged from the woods alive- but not unscathed. Now, the Slaughter Moon has risen early, and everything has changed.
What I Loved: Strange Grace is a lushly written, atmospheric novel where the setting is as much a part of the story as the characters. This fairy tale like story is told from three points of view: Rhun, who has known all his life that he would one day run from the devil; Mairwen, the most recent in the line of witches that makes sure the bargain is protected and observed; and Arthur, an outcast who struggles not only with who he is but what he wants. All the characters are distinct and their voices compelling.
Outside of the creepy atmosphere and beautiful writing, this book has amazing LGBTQIA+ rep. Our three protagonists are involved in a very complex, interesting poly-amorous relationship and Arthur, whose mother dressed him like a girl for the first six years of his life in order to protect him from ever having to enter the Devil’s woods, struggles throughout the novel with the idea that maybe he felt more like himself when his name was Lynn and he wore dresses. The relationships were handled beautifully and I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for LGBTQIA+ horror/fantasy.
What I Didn’t Love: Honestly, I loved everything about this book. It will definitely be making my list of favorite read for 2019. However, some people might find it slow, since Gratton strives to bring the reader into the world and feel the desperation, tension, and uncertainty that plagues these characters as the worldview they have lived with their entire lives changes and evolves. Overall,, in my opinion, this book was almost flawless.
Readalikes: Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand (YA Horror, Fantasy), Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner (Fairy Tale Retelling/ Coming of Age, Fantasy)
Let us know if the comments if you have read any of these books and what you thought (especially if you disagree, we are here for all the bookish opinions!). Also, share what you have read and loved lately so we can keep building our TBR stacks!