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audiobooks Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver is yet another book that I have had forever and wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get to!  I love the Temeraire books and some how never got around to reading her others .. Until now

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Spinning Silver
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Naomi Novik
  • Publisher & Release:Del Rey, July 2018
  • Length: 465
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟✨yes for pretty much anyone!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.

When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk–grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh–Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.

But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.

Part of me wants to just sit here and gush about Slavic/Polish fairytale tropes, or compare the magic in Spinning Silver to that in the Winternight trilogy, but I’ll mostly spare you and just talk about the book

The World-Building & Magic: Novik is such an amazing world builder.  We are in a cold winter country of Slavic inspiration, where the Boyars own everything and the Tsar is unfortunately possessed by a demon.  Frost vs fire/summer/chaos is a reoccurring theme in these tales and in this case it takes the form of a nameless, cruel winter king vs the flame demon.  The magic of the Staryk (including the King’s Road) is introduced slowly until the plot turns to their kingdom and the real magic is revealed.

I think giving glimpses of the magic was a great tactic to build the tale slowly and not overwhelm Miryem’s story at first.  The whole story has great descriptions though from the snow and weather to the people, lore, food, forests, animals and everything else.   A standalone doesn’t have room to drown in politics or religion but we are given enough of both to understand the country’s issues and power struggles as they relate to the book, also giving it a depth that many retellings don’t achieve.

A power claimed and challenged and thrice carried out is true

Staryk King

The Characters: as much as I liked the magic and world building, the characters are brilliant too. Miryem was always strong and smart, a true thorn in the villagers sides, and eventually an equal to the Staryk King. The trope is “headstrong maiden takes on Winter King.” Novik’s take on it was fresh and interesting to me and I didn’t even dislike him a tiny bit at the end. Their arc included much bargaining and begrudging respect and was generally fun to read

I wouldn’t hold myself that cheap, to marry a man who’d love me less than everything else he had, even if what he had was a winter kingdom.

Miryem

The rest of the characters, and there were many, all brought something interesting to the book. Women were the property of their fathers and husbands and Wanda totally transcended that to bargain for her own future. Irina surprised me by being cunning and strong when her people needed her. Stepon had a curious point of view in which he narrated a few interesting and exciting events, and I think there was a hidden significance there that was lost on me.

There were Staryk characters too that surprised me and Miryem’s parents were just lovely people. The found family aspect was ❤❤❤❤❤

Themes: oh gosh there were so many good themes, such as not judging people for their race or religion. Not taking people at face value. Keeping to your word and knowing the value of a bargain. Knowing your own self worth and standing defiant in the face of anything less. I think this is a really great young adult book as far as themes and content go.

A note on the audiobook: the audio is 18 hours long, distributed by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group. Lisa Flanagan is amazing with the Slavic accents and distinguishing between the characters. It was hard though sometimes to tell which point of view was speaking at first – and that is the only fault I found with the book as well is that I think we should have had headers or new chapter titles with the name of the speaker. I really enjoyed listening though!

Overall: if you like tales with a twist of magic, fiercely strong female characters, Frost Kings and equally frosty moneylenders, lore and lyrical writing in a cold, cold world…. This is definitely your book!

Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

Book Review: The Severance Game by Geanna Culbertson

It’s Middle Grade March! So back in 2019 I won Crisanta Knight, book #2 – The Severance Game – in a giveaway, then never read it because I kept forgetting to get book one! So I finally read book one (click to see review here) and now I am digging into the series in earnest! I promise no spoilers!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Severance Game
  • Series: Crisanta Knight, #2
  • Author: Geanna Culbertson
  • Publisher & Release: BQB Publishing, December 2016
  • Length: 460pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for fans of book one, middlegrade/YA, and people looking for clean content!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

A lot of questions ran through my head as I desperately clung to the roof of a magic train crossing over a gaping canyon. Like: How did I get here? What could I have done to avoid this fate? And, did I remember to shave my underarms before coming on this quest?

But even after taking on a witch in a gingerbread house, bloodthirsty actors, and a whole mess of magic hunters and other fairytale shenanigans, the biggest, most pressing question pulsing through my brain as my fingers started to slip and my enemy bore down on me was this: Could I really trust the person whose life I’d ruined to keep me from falling?

With antagonists closing in, inner demons threatening to consume me, and vivid nightmares chewing up my soul every time I shut my eyes, I was running out of options. I knew the moment to decide whether or not I could truly trust any of my friends was fast approaching. But my head and heart were stuck. For just like the precarious position I now found myself in, the pain of holding onto the path I’d chosen thus far was outmatched only by the worry I had over (gulp) letting it go…

The Plot/ story: per the end of book one, Crisa and friends are now on their quest to find the Author and change their fates. They escaped Century City, and book two starts the search for the lost mermaid princess of Adelaide’s heart. Travelling through the Forbidden Forest first, and eventually coming back to Adelaide, we see them confront all sorts of magic, beasts, and dangers.

Crisa’s dreams start to make a little more sense too as we learn about her spark of magic.  Despite the action and quest, dangers, antagonists, and more, this book took on a more personal nature for the characters and it’s mostly about Crisa coming into herself as a responsible protagonist.  

The main theme is that she wants to break the princess archetype of a damsel in distress, and be a hero. 

The World: unlike book one, now we are out in the world.  The woods of Red Riding hood, the grove of Hansel & Gretel’s witch, and even Earth of all places.  The sheer number of fairytale characters pulled into this book is amazing, and especially in the forbidden forest I liked how the world expands in both scope and magic.

The Characters: I hate to say but Crisa was such an insufferable brat in this book, it was hard watching her push her friends away.  She gets it into her head that she can’t trust them and has to do everything by herself in order to be strong… but is that how heroes work?

SJ and her potions keep the journey afloat, and she is patient while Crisa wraps her head around her problems.  Blue and Jason mostly sideline but reinforce the notion that the group should be working as a trusty unit. Daniel… Is just Daniel, he’s as bad as Crisa and… Dyhfgdhfvj no spoilers

The Antagonists omg I want more antagonists.  Arian and Tara and Nadia seem like a nasty lot, but we still don’t find out the motives in this book.

Overall: A+ for another clean, middlegrade / YA appropriate read with practically nonexistent content. I have to say I liked book one better, but definitely plan to read book three sometime soon. Crisa’s internal monologue was just too repetitive and, similar to the thorough nature of the Far Forest Scrolls books – it takes a LOT of pages to advance the plot. Book one was a faster read and I hope that three picks up the pace again now that we have established the group as a unit!

What are you reading for Middle Grade March!?

Categories
Fantasy Fiction Middle Grade Paranormal

My First Verse! ARC Review: The Seventh Raven by David Elliot

I hope everyone had a great holiday!  I started my next NetGalley read on Christmas eve and found it to be a short fairytale retelling… In verse!  Was not ready for that but I enjoyed it quite a bit regardless

Thank you so much to HMH Books for Young Readers via NetGalley for the eARC of The Seventh Raven in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Seventh Raven
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: David Elliot
  • Publisher& Release: HMH Books for Young Readers, March 16. 3021
  • Length – 172 pg (I read it in 2 hours though)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of verse?

Here is the description from Amazon:

Best-selling author David Elliott examines the timeless themes of balance, transformation, and restoration in this evocative tale about a girl who will stop at nothing to reverse a curse that turned her seven brothers into ravens. 

And these are the sons
Of good Jack and good Jane
The eldest is Jack
And the next one is Jack
And the third one’s called Jack
And the fourth’s known as Jack
And the fifth says he’s Jack
And they call the sixth Jack
But the seventh’s not Jack
The seventh is Robyn

And this is his story

When Robyn and his brothers are turned into ravens through the work of an unlucky curse, a sister is their only hope to become human again. Though she’s never met her brothers, April will stop at nothing to restore their humanity. But what about Robyn, who always felt a greater affinity to the air than to the earth-bound lives of his family?

David Elliott’s latest novel in verse explores the unintended consequences of our actions, no matter our intentions, and is filled with powerful, timeless messages teased from a Grimms’ fairy tale. Black-and-white illustrations throughout by Rovina Cai.

I didn’t realize this book was going to be in verse, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. I quickly found myself drawn into Elliot’s words and rhymes and verse. I by no means have any idea how verse is “supposed” to read, but just from reading it aloud in my head, I felt like the book has a really readable flow and a rhythm and rhymes that sounded good!

The afterword about each character having their own form of poetry was super interesting.  The different forms gave each character a unique voice within the verse.

I also liked how the novel followed the fairytale format of “get in, get out, tell the story.” It is a quick read that is a modern retelling of The Seven Ravens, which appeared in The Brothers Grimm. The plot is pretty interesting, a sister trying to save her seven brothers from a curse. The different. points of view helped move the story along, with the various styles of verse making each unique.  April persevered through a lot of hardship to finally find the mountain of glass where the brothers were being held.

Plus the artwork inside looked really great from what I saw so far.  I love the cover too, how gorgeous is that!

If anything I think the formatting suffered in the early electronic version but I would love to see a finished copy.

I would totally recommend for fans of fairy tales and fans of books in verse!  It is out in Mid March so add it to your TBR now!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Book Review: Aspiring by Astrid V.J.

Thank you so much to the author for the Instagram giveaway e-copies of the two books in the Siblings’ Tale duology! I read the whole set in one weekend and have no regrets. The book is a super loose fairy tale retelling of Brother and Sister and reads like it’s own tale.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Aspiring
  • Series: Elisabeth & Edvard – The Siblings’ Tale – Part 1
  • Author: Astrid V.J.
  • Publisher & Release:  New Wings Press, May 2019
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for YA/fantasy/clean fiction/fairytale readers!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

A coven of witches plots to overthrow a kingdom. One brave woman stands in their way.

At her mother’s death bed, Elisabeth learns her mother’s illness is no accident and that her own life is in danger. Evil witches are plotting to take over the kingdom of Vendale. All alone, naive, and untrained, Elisabeth’s determination is all she has to confront her mother’s murderers as she discovers love at the same time. While Richard’s behaviour sends distracting mixed messages, Elisabeth finds herself stuck in limbo: she is treated like a child but is forced to make adult decisions. Meanwhile, the witches’ plot spins a fateful web around her.

Can Elisabeth succeed in the face of insurmountable odds?

I did read the prequel novel before this too, and feel like Gisela’s Passion (review available on this blog) can definitely be read at any point.

I like that the book is framed as a modern story told by an archivist, so we know the end result of the tale but then become immersed. It is about the siblings, Elisabeth and Edvard, and also about the future king, Richard. The siblings are great characters and so close. I love how Edvard stands up to their father, since the men in this world tend to behave atrociously and sometimes need a good punch. Elisabeth is a strong young woman and at least tries to make her own choices. She has a lot of big expectations on her but doesn’t necessarily have the means to accomplish them. Elisabeth has to navigate a budding but confusing romance with the crown prince, and also discover how to use her innate magic.

The writing in general is so smooth. Cozy. I like the narrative style. I want to read it wrapped up by the fire in the winter. It doesn’t require a ton of brain power but still feels like an engaging read. I definitely recommend for clean fiction readers and it is totally appropriate for the young adult crowd/target audience. Definitely for YA romance/fantasy/fairy tale fans.

Thank you again to the author for the giveaway win!!