Genre: YA Fantasy

Divider

Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

September 4, 2017 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★★

Review: Long May She Reign by Rhiannon ThomasLong May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas
Published by HarperTeen on February 21, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
Goodreads
four-stars
The Girl of Fire and Thorns meets The Queen of the Tearling in this thrilling fantasy standalone about one girl’s unexpected rise to power.

Freya was never meant be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 4 (Freya has panic attacks and Madeleine has depression)
Intersectionality: 3 (Freya has to confront the massive economic class gap created by her greedy predecessors)

Really, I think I’ve made it clear that Thomas’s Wicked Thing duology, a Sleeping Beauty retelling that doesn’t skimp on the dragons, was my thing thanks to its character-driven first book and defiance of typical fantasy tropes. Of course I was going to read Long May She Reign! And ooooooh, it was just as good as I was expecting. You know that Beyonce gif from one of her songs that has her singing “Who run the world? GIRLS!” with an explosion happening behind her? Pretty much Long May She Reign in a nutshell.

Read more »

Divider

Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

August 25, 2017 Diversity 4, Reviews 2 ★★★½

Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey MillerMask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on August 29, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: eARC via NetGalley, print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen's personal assassins named for the rings she wears -- Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal -- their world changes. They know it's a chance for a new life.

Except the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This Is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: ? (Elise is brown-skinned, there’s a Japan-expy country called Mizuho and some of its people are in the book)
QUILTBAG: 5 (they don’t have the words for any of these identities, but Sal is genderfluid with pronouns depending on Sal’s choice of dress for the day, Elise is either bisexual or pansexual, Ruby skips off with a guy at one point during a party, and there are same-sex relationships all over the place)
Disability: ? (Emerald of the Left Hand is missing an eye)
Intersectionality: ?

(The question marks are because my ebook of Mask of Shadows locked up due to graphic overload and I can’t access any of my notes/highlights. The only category I can completely recall is QUILTBAG, but the book is definitely worthy of a 4 rating.)

Since we heard the words “genderfluid assassin” about this book, pretty much the entire bookish community has been excited for Mask of Shadows. It’s hard enough to get genderfluid characters in contemporary YA, let alone, fantasy YA–and if you want to bring quality into the debate as we always should when discussing the representation of marginalized people, it’s probably going to end with someone crying. I’ve got a few small quibbles with the book, but Mask of Shadows is otherwise a solid debut. Read more »

Divider

Review: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

August 18, 2017 Diversity 3, Reviews 2 ★★

Review: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda FoodyDaughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody
Published by Harlequin Teen on July 25, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Goodreads
two-stars
A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

Diversity Rating: 3 – Closer to Reality

Racial-Ethnic: 1
QUILTBAG: 3 (Sorina is bi, one or two of Sorina’s illusions are QUILTBAG, there are plenty of QUILTBAG people in the background; I take issue with Luca’s asexual/demi identity as someone who is asexual)
Disability: 1 (Sorina has no eyes whatsoever but can still see)
Intersectionality: 1

Well, crud. What do I say about Daughter of the Burning City when I’ve already forgotten so much about it as I write this? I’ve gotta review it. Got a review copy, therefore must deliver review if possible–and it’s very possible. It’s just difficult. There’s plenty to like in Foody’s debut novel, but I have some issues too, particularly with Luca’s identity since we fall under the same queer umbrella.

Read more »

Divider

Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

July 7, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 1 ½

Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia LevensellerDaughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends on February 28, 2017
Genres: YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from the publisher
Goodreads
half-star
There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: -5 (the single gay character is a villain and he dies; also, the book’s magic system relies on everyone ever being heterosexual)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

Is it really so much to ask for if I want a YA fantasy novel free of rape threats and with no superpartiarchy in place? I know there’s plenty of YA fantasy like that out there, but I’m particularly bad at finding them and/or finding them interesting enough to read. I’m a bit fond of pirate books, so why wouldn’t I expect Daughter of the Pirate King to be fun for me?

It wasn’t, reader. It was fun until it got h*ckin homophobic, as @dog_rates might say. Then it wasn’t fun anymore.

Read more »

Divider

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

June 23, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi MeadowsMy Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows
Series: Lady Janies #1
Published by HarperTeen on June 7, 2016
Genres: Comedy, YA, YA Fantasy, YA Historical
Pages: 512
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
three-stars
Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

I like Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy. I like Brodi Ashton’s Everneath trilogy. Jodi Meadows’s books… Well, I gave two of them a try and they weren’t for me, which happens sometimes. But this collaborative effort still got my attention with its magical take on history. Not even gonna bother with a “read more” cut because this review is gonna be that short.

My Lady Jane is a quick read despite its size and entertaining for as long as you’re reading it. Even if I didn’t feel pressured to finish it quickly because it was due back at the library soon, I think I would have devoured it in short order anyway. Every now and then, it even elicits a giggle!

Even as I say that, the book isn’t particularly engaging or remarkable. I had no attachment to the characters or what was happening to them because they were fairly flat. Edward is the one who gets the most development and he’s still not that interesting to begin with. Even Bess, Edward’s sister whose main character trait is being nice and on her brother’s side, couldn’t get me to cheer for her. Maybe that’s because I recalled the Atlantic slave trade blossomed during her rule as Queen Elizabeth I?

So why did I keep reading if that’s how I felt about it? Reader, not even I can answer that question.

The Eðian/non-Eðian conflict–basically people-people versus animal-people–was a poor metaphor for the Anglican/Roman Catholic tensions that divided England in the mid-1500s. The book is clear about its disregard for the history we know, but in this case, actual history and its context is of much greater interest than its oversimplified metaphor. With the conflict softened thusly, it doesn’t really get why the tensions were so fierce and can’t translate it into the metaphor. Everything falls apart.

Speaking of softening things, the humor felt much more middle grade-level than YA. Most of the moments that got me laughing were actually references to other media–and references aren’t jokes in and of themselves. There’s one to Game of Thrones‘s Red Wedding, another to Monty Python’s Holy Grail, and plenty more. That’s all well and good, but references still aren’t jokes on their own!

Honestly, I disliked Ashton and Hand’s most recent books, Diplomatic Immunity and The Last Time We Say Goodbye (respectively). Is it possible I’m growing out of two of my favorite paranormal YA authors like I grew out of the Twilight books as a younger teen?! Say it ain’t so! But regardless of everything I just criticized about the book, I did give it three stars. For all its flaws, My Lady Jane is very readable fluff and a good way to get your mind off the troubles of modern times.

Summer 17 Bingo 5 My Lady Jane

Divider

Review: Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast

December 23, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 3

Review: Moon Chosen by P.C. CastMoon Chosen by P.C. Cast
Series: Tales of a New World #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on October 18, 2016
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 608
Format: Hardcover
Source: finished copy from the publisher
Goodreads
zero-stars
Chosen to embrace her true identity. Chosen to follow her destiny. Chosen to change her world.

Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan, but she has been forced to turn from her duties, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save herself and her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival, dominating Tribe, strays across her path that Mari experiences something she has never felt before…

Now evil is coming, and with it, a force more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By breaking Clan Law and forming an alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik. Ready to embrace her true destiny…and battle the forces that threaten to destroy them all.

Diversity: -5 – What the Fuck Is This?

Racial-Ethnic: -5 (this is some goddamn racist shit)
QUILTBAG: 0 (one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gay character; there’s a lesbian couple, but one of them dies soon after being introduced)
Disability: 0 (one blind girl, heavily fetishized)
Intersectionality: 0

This is gonna be a long review and I’m not even covering everything I want to, so I’ve uploaded my notes on Google Drive for easy viewing. Just click the link! All quote citations and page numbers are in that document and based on the US hardcover edition.

Once upon a time, there was Revealing Eden by Victoria Hoyt, a novel that turned white people into the oppressed class and made the white main character donning blackface a narrative necessity. It was rightly called out for racism then and is still ridiculously racist now. If I weren’t already familiar with the Cast family’s brand of racism thanks to their House of Night series, I’d think Moon Chosen was written specifically to out-racist Revealing Eden and all the cultural appropriation and Magical Native American fuckery from the aforementioned series.  Between blackface and all the racial coding, Moon Chosen may actually be the most racist YA novel of all.

Read more »

Divider

Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

September 2, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 2 ★½

Review: Heartless by Marissa MeyerHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 8, 2016
Genres: Magical Realism, Retelling, YA, YA Fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Goodreads
one-half-stars
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0 (Hatter has a thing for Jest, but it falls into old tropes)
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

The gleeful absurdity of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has always been up my alley, but no adaptation of it so far has impressed me. The renowned Disney film annoyed me the many, many times my teacher in elementary school put it on for the class and the live-action film was a boring technicolor nightmare. Heartless made me wonder for a hot minute if the key was to tell the origin story of Queen of Hearts instead, but it turned out to be worse than either film. If I were the Queen of Hearts, I’d want this book’s head in a heartbeat. Read more »

Divider