Book Reviews for March

I haven’t had much oomph to give blogging the past week or two, but apparently if there’s one thing I can scrape together, it’s a book review post.

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Hex Breaker, by Taryn Noelle Kloeden

Epic fantasy with an earthy, mythical essence. There’s a lot going on— wolves and zombies and wars, oh my!— but all of it is executed with deftest grace and precision. Quite a feat for a debut novel. My inner-reader is warm with content. Even if my inner-writer is a deep-emerald shade of envious.

Random side note: I can’t remember having ever read something so richly descriptive of scents. Once I got a migraine that made me feel like my sense of smell was amplified to super-hero levels. Falling into the pages of Hex Breaker was kind of a similar experience, only 100% less miserable.

Beloved: A Fairy Tale Retelling of Northanger Abbey, by Nina Clare

The concept of retelling Jane Austen’s novels as fairy tales is so utterly delightful that I can hardly stand it. I thought the author could have taken more risks in her execution of it, with more pronounced magical elements. Still, though. A Jane Austen fairy tale. What could be better???*

*This is a rhetorical question. The answer, obviously, is nothing.

Rose of the Oath: A Beauty and the Beast Novella, by Hope Ann

A retelling of Beauty & The Beast, with enough of an original spin to be refreshing and enough of a tale-as-old-as-time side to satisfy purists. There is an allegorical backbone present, as well, and though I am not the biggest fan of allegory (outside of Narnia), I give the author credit for mostly pulling it off.

My expectations were not the highest, given that this e-book was 100% free* on Amazon.  But, as George Will once said, the nice thing about being a pessimist is you’re constantly either being proven right, or pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the read, and was not in the least sorry to be proven wrong this time.

*Yes, free. Seriously. Follow the link above and claim your copy. You have nothing to lose.

Turquoiseblood, by Cecelia Isaac

Not one but two tenacious heroines!
Dual timelines!
Splintery wit!
Political intrigue!
Magical magic!
Mountains and castles and fire and ice!
Murder and suspense and twists and McGuffins!
Oh yeah… and DRAGONS.
If this isn’t my favorite kind of fantasy, well… it’s really, really close, guys.

Outcasts United: An American Town, A Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference, by Warren St. John

On the surface level, this seems like exactly the kind of true-story that would be developed into a feel-good movie. I mean, a rag-tag group of refugee boys forming a sports team, enduring unimaginable hardships, outshining their more privileged rivals, and taking on prejudice in a small southern town? Sounds tailor-made for the Disney treatment.

The reality isn’t quite so idealistic. Readers will find no ultimate triumph or resolve in this tale. The truth is not sugar-coated to make it more palatable. Nor should it be. The truth of the horrors these children endured and the adversity they continue to struggle with is what makes Outcasts United a worthwhile read.

I hope Disney keeps its grubby hands off.

The Language of Spells, by Garret Weyr

Grisha is a dragon in a world that’s forgotten how to see him. Maggie is a unusual child who thinks she’s perfectly ordinary. They’re an unlikely duo—but magic, like friendship, is funny. Sometimes it chooses those who might not look so likely.

This is not a story that will appeal to everyone (perhaps not even some of those intrigued by the description). It starts out slowly. The main plot makes a rather late entrance, which results in a resolution that may strike readers as rushed. Despite this irregular pacing, however, I enjoyed The Language of Spells immensely.

The style is decidedly old-fashion, which, again, may put some people off. I loved it. The story-telling charmed me, bringing to mind the fanciful tales I enjoyed in childhood. The magic is unique and wistful. The characters are brought to life with a thoughtful, delicate touch. The setting (Vienna in the decades following WW2) would have felt magical, even without dragons and enchanted cats. Yes, there are enchanted cats. And they’re everything that enchanted cats should be.

At the heart of the book is the friendship between Grisha and Maggie. I have high standards for friendship. I mean, John 15v13-level standards (…greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for his friends). Weyr developed and fulfilled this ideal beautifully. Which, in the end, is probably why his story left me sniffing and sighing.

*Note: The Language of Spells does not release until later this summer. I received an advanced reader copy from the publisher through a Goodreads promotion. Yes, I feel special.

 

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