Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor

Who Fears DeathThere’s nothing new about novels of the post apocalypse. But if you get most of your fantasy to-read list off American or European book lists, books that take place in post apocalyptic Africa may be new indeed. Who Fears Death, by author Nnedi Okorafor, is an award winning novel about a remarkable woman surviving  the bleak landscape of a war torn post apocalyptic Africa.

Who Fears Death is more magical realism than full blown fantasy, but regardless, is well worth a read. I loved the folklore the author wove beautifully through the fabric of this story. Creatures and myth’s that are new and unusual to most American readers, and fascinating for it.

This book tackles some seriously weighty topics. Rape, genital mutilation, war, violence, feminism… all woven expertly through the pages of this book. It’s serious stuff, but don’t let that sway you away from this gem. Who Fears Death is well worth the read.

My only negative is I feel the middle does bog down a bit. There is a section of the book that comes late in the middle portion of the story that feels a little out of sorts, as if it were tacked on almost as an after thought, and didn’t really form organically out of the rest of the story. That said, it’s relatively short, and the rest of the book more than makes up for this little imperfection. Or, at least, what feels to me as an imperfection.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. The world, the magical systems, the folklore are all fascinating from the first page to the last. And I loved how the author wove real life struggles into the story. Definitely give Who Fears Death a solid thumbs up.

k

Reviews: The Rampart Guards and Wake of Vultures

The Rampart Guards, Wendy Terrien

The Rampart Guards Cover

I don’t know what I would do if my mother went missing and my dad moved me to a boring small town out in the middle of nowhere, but Jason Lex is forced to deal with this very reality in the pages of Wendy Terrien’s book The Rampart Guards.

What I like most about The Rampart Guards is that there really isn’t a bad guy. The real world is a complicated place. There are no purely evil people, and even the vilest of humans often see themselves as the hero of their own story. This is the sort of antagonist you find in The Rampart Guards. A complicated antagonist who believes most fervently they are doing the right thing by everyone they love. Read more

Short Stories from Hogwarts – A Review

Short Stories from HogwartsWith both Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts firmly on every wannaebe wizard’s horizon now is the perfect time to re-immerse ourselves within the world of Harry Potter and there is no better way, at least in my humble muggle opinion, to start with J.K Rowling’s recently released short stories of the Harry Potter Universe, Short Stories from Hogwarts.

The release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007 was certainly a double edged sword for many Potter fanatics. Whilst we finally gained closure on perhaps the one of the most influential and absorbing book franchises of a generation, alongside the overwhelming relief that the Dark Lord was finally vanquished I distinctly remember feeling an odd aura of confusion. No longer was I able to mark out my life alongside each new instalment of the Harry Potter franchise, instead I was left in an odd chasm of an apparently Potterless existence. A terrifying prospect no?

To J.K. Rowling’s credit however she has not left us entirely wanting, and through a varying array of Pottermore essays, cryptic tweets and multimillion dollar film and play franchises the world of Potter not only still lives on but is well and truly thriving. But with these examples of grand projects and ideas, I had of late been eager for smaller more detailed snip-bits of the Rowling’s wizarding world. Thankfully with her latest instalment into the franchise we find ourselves with a collection of short stories which seem to do just the trick.

Part of a trio of short novels, ‘Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies’ gives us seven tales focused on the themes of heroism against great menaces, hardship and heartbreak in challenging lives, as well as the wonderful spontaneity of pursuing dangerous hobbies in the wizarding world. Whilst perhaps the die hard among us will find little new info within the pages of ‘Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies’, for the majority the chance to revisit the lives of the major characters of Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin (never forget) will be most welcome. Meanwhile the added knowledge of Professor Trelawney and Silvanus Kettleburn (if you remember who he is feel free to give yourself a deserved pat on the back) will be very much welcomed for those who thrive on the more consuming the more niche aspects and knowledge of Harry Potter.

Content wise, out of all of the stories here McGonagall’s and Lupin’s are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most engaging, enlightening and heart wrenching. For the sake of spoilers I won’t indulge you too much with the details, just come prepared with a tissue and a chocolate frog for good measure. There’s some heavy stuff in there…

On the other hand Kettleburn’s and Trelawney’s chapters are in contrast lighter hearted. In the case of Kettleburn, who was of course was the Care of Magical Creatures Professor prior to Hagrid because everyone definitely remembers that…, his chapter is very much a more tongue in cheek appraisal of this very minor character in the Harry Potter World and provides a good hearty chuckle or two along the way to boot.

Out of the four I found Trelawney’s to be the least enjoyable, but still informative. If I’m honest I mostly put my dislike, if that’s even the right word for it, down to how well Emma Thompson’s excellent portrayal of Trelawney developed a great dislike of the character in my head. The writing was still as engaging as McGonagall’s, Lupin’s and Kettleburn’s chapter’s so if you are eager to learn more about Divination you’ll enjoy her segment to. I just seemingly have not yet removed her shrill shrieks of ‘The Grim!’ from my subconscious yet…

Out of everything on offer in ‘Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies’ however my favourite additions are the incredibly informing essays of Rowling’s own thoughts which are scattered throughout the book. These essays which grant the reader compelling insight into Rowling’s own interpretations of her characters and the world they inhabit are an invaluably rare resource for a writer of such a widely popular franchise, and provide a chance for the reader to see characters they have known all their lives in entirely new light.

For critique some sections do feel a little too short, even for a short story, whilst most of these chapters are also available on Pottermore. However the way these stories have been edited and connected together really do make for a marvellous and charming read, and at such a low price (£1.99, $2.99, €2.99) I cannot recommend Short Stories from Hogwarts enough to anyone eager to learn more about the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

 

Jack Hunsley is a keen reader in his early twenties from the north of England. His aim is to read anything and everything he can get my hands on, but fantasy novels seem to be his forte as of late, and he still prefers a good old fashioned hardback book to anything else.

Rosemary and Rue – A Review

rosemary and rueI came across Rosemary and Rue via my cousin, who gave me as copy when I went off to study abroad in merry old England. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down.

The story follows October “Toby” Daye, a changeling knight (half human, half Faerie) and private investigator (is there anything she can’t do) living in a self- imposed exile from the world of Faerie after a traumatic incident cost her fourteen years of her mortal life. She is drawn back into the land of the so-called “Fair Folk” when a close acquaintance of hers is murdered and she is cursed with an ultimatum: solve the mystery of the murder within three days, or die. With a setup like this, the stakes are immediately heightened and readers can’t help but be drawn into the drama of Toby’s situation.

One of McGuire’s greatest strengths as a writer is in her world building. She manages to create vivid pictures of two different worlds. One is the “normal world” of San Francisco, where the Fair Folk lurk in the shadows. Pixies haunt the produce section of the grocery store, trolls have jobs as taxi drivers, and people disappear into dark alleys at sunrise to hide the evidence of their immortality. The other world McGuire paints is the magical realm of Faerie: a world where elegant gowns replace jeans and tee shirts as the new casual wear, illusions are cast simply by reciting lines of Shakespeare (a bonus for you drama nerds) and life can be either beautiful and carefree or cruel and brutal, depending on the balance of your blood (Faerie or human) and where you fall in Fae society. But it’s not just the worlds that are vividly drawn: McGuire takes great care to give attention to each diverse race of Faerie (and for those who have trouble pronouncing the names of the many different races, Ms. McGuire has been kind enough to provide a pronunciation guide). Such races include the Daoine Sidhe, humanoid purebloods skilled in illusion; Cait Sidhe, feline Fae with the ability to transform from cat to human then back again; and the Selkie, who look human until they don the sealskin they wear around their waists like hoodies. Each race is exquisitely drawn and rarely is there confusion as to which character belongs to which race.

Of course, a story is only as good as its protagonist, and I can safely say that Toby Daye is one of my favorite heroes in all of literature. She’s sarcastic, world-weary, and cannot survive without coffee flowing through her system (somewhat like moi). But best of all, unlike certain other fantasy heroines (coughbellaswancough), while hunky men surround her, none of them define who she is nor does she spend the whole book obsessing over them. My only complaint about her would be that she does spend a good portion of this book in a bit of a funk, but that’s understandable since she’s experiencing PTSD from spending the last fourteen years of her life as a fish (yes, you heard that right). The supporting cast around her is equally rich, with standouts including Quentin, a snooty pureblood teenager whose life view is altered when he meets Toby; Tybalt, the snarky King of Cats who looks oh so sexy in leather pants (swoon); and my personal favorite, the Luidaeg, the sea witch and Firstborn of all Faerie who happens to live in a trashy area by the docks and who is plagued with the worst curse of all: acne scars.

If I had to sum up Rosemary and Rue, it would be Marvel’s Jessica Jones meets Once Upon A Time, but featuring fairies instead of superheroes and Disney’s greatest hits (which, let’s face it, is what OUAT is doing these days). It’s an absolute must-read for fans of the fantasy genre and for those who enjoy books led by strong female protagonists.

 

 

Lizzy Andretta is an actress and blogger originally from New Jersey. You can follow her writing at www.theactingaspie.com and her acting work at www.lizzyandrettaactor.com.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

a darker shade of magic coverA Darker Shade of Magic is the first book I’ve read by V.E. Schwab. I can tell you right now, it absolutely will not be the last. I absolutely LOVED this book!

A Darker Shade of Magic is about Kell, one of the few remaining travelers, magicians with the rare ability to travel between four unique versions of London, each a parallel universe. Grey London, much like our own version, has no magic. In Red London magic is revered and life sizzles with it. White London is a place where magic is rare, it’s residents locked in an eternal battle for control over what little remains of it. And Black London, a place closed off from the others, isolated. As the back copy of the books says of Black London “…no one speaks of that now”.

Kell is a compelling protagonist, part messenger boy for the king of Red London and part smuggler, he’s a fascinating mix. And Delilah Bard, co-protagonist, is well on her way to becoming one of my all time favorite characters ever!

Creating a world like this, with four unique versions of what is otherwise the same place can be challenging, but Schwab handles it masterfully. Each version of London has a unique character, both in terms of it’s architecture, the ‘flavor’ of it’s magic, and it’s residents. Each London almost becomes a character in its own right, they are each so well formed and three dimensional on the page. They each exist in a parallel universe, all but a single pub, which is in the same place in each of the three versions of London we visit, and, presumably, the fourth? I loved this little detail, enchanting!

 

I won’t say much about the antagonist of the story, but… breathtaking. I love how she handled the villain in this first book.

Needless to say, I absolutely cannot wait to read the next books in the series. All three are out, A Darker Shade of Magic is the first, the second is called A Gathering of Shadows, and the third is A Conjuring of light. I will be doing a giveaway of the series next month, so if you’re interested in getting a hard cover copy of all three books, stay tuned!

Otherwise, to out and get these books TODAY. And make sure you set aside plenty of time, because you won’t stop reading once you start, guarantee it!

Happy Reading,

k

Call of the Herald, by Brian Rathbone

call of the heraldTitle:  Call of the Herald
Author: Brian Rathbone

Synopsis:
Echoes of the ancients’ power are distant memories, tattered and faded by the passage of eons, but that is about to change. A new dawn has arrived. Latent abilities, harbored in mankind’s deepest fibers, wait to be unleashed. Ancient evils awaken, and old fears ignite the fires of war. When Catrin Volker, a teenage horse trainer, inadvertently fulfills the prophecy of the destroyer, she becomes the most feared and hunted person on all of Godsland. With the help of her friends, she must convince the world that she wants only peace.

Review:
Call of the Herald is a fun and quick fantasy adventure read. Read more

Born of Water, by Autumn M. Birt

born of waterTitle: Born of Water
Author: Autumn M. Birt

Synopsis:
In the buried archives of the Temple of Dust may lie the secret to defeating the Curse, a creature which seeks to destroy 16-year old Ria for the forbidden gifts she possesses. But it is from among the ranks of those who control the Curse where Ria will find her best chance of success.

Only the Priestess Niri can save Ria from the forces that hunt her, if Niri doesn’t betray the girl first. Along with Ria comes Ty and his sister, Lavinia, both bound to defend Ria from the Church of Four Orders. However, Ty has been living a life less than honest and keeping it from his sister. To survive a journey that takes them across the breadth of their world, the four must learn to trust each other before pursuit from the Church and Ty’s troubled past find them. Read more

Machine God, by MeiLin Miranda

Machine GodWhat a fun concept! I love the melding of science and technology and magic and myth in Machine God, and MeiLin handles it with a well-crafted brush.  Her protagonist is wonderful, well fleshed, relatable, and elicits empathy and concern – I worried what happened to him and I felt every shred of pain in his deeply conflicted soul!  The plot is interesting and engaging.  The world she wove within the pages of this book is rich and deep and I look forward to spending more time with this author. Read more

Running Home, by Julie Hutchings

Running HomeI have two favorite things about Julie Hutchings’ novel Running Home.  First, I loved her characters.  She has crafted complex, fully formed characters that jump from the page.  By the end of the book you feel like you’ve actually met them – and may want to invite them over for dinner.

The second thing I love about Running Home is how she pulled the mythology of the Shinigami into the story, turning what could have been another tired vampire tale into something else entirely.  She turned the typical vampire trope on it’s head by imbuing them with god-like power over the fate and destiny of humanity.

I do feel the novel could have used some additional editing work.  The storytelling is strong, she has an excellent voice, but there were some editorial challenges that pulled me from the story in a few places. Read more

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

Cover for The Night CircusSimply stated, The Night Circus is magical.  Morgenstern’s prose is lyrical and beautiful without being loquacious.  The circus she created within the pages of this book is, of course, the setting for the story, but it is is also a love story to the reader.  I was enchanted and engrossed from the first page to the last.  I couldn’t get enough of the circus and its tented marvels!

Some have criticized the pacing but I found it to be perfect for the story.  It gave me time to taste the circus, savor its delights, and get to know the rich characters that populate these pages.

If you are seeking an edge-of-your-seat thrilling action packed read this is not the book for you.  But if you enjoy a book that is a feast for your senses, that has deep and complex characters, and that pulls you into an enchanting world filled with magic and mystery you should definitely pick this one up.