Kate’s Review: “Run: Book 1”

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Book: “Run: Book One” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Ill.), & L. Fury (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Abrams ComicsArts, August 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: First you march, then you run. From the #1 bestselling, award–winning team behind March comes the first book in their new, groundbreaking graphic novel series, Run: Book One

“In sharing my story, it is my hope that a new generation will be inspired by Run to actively participate in the democratic process and help build a more perfect Union here in America.” –Congressman John Lewis

The sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel series March—the continuation of the life story of John Lewis and the struggles seen across the United States after the Selma voting rights campaign.

To John Lewis, the civil rights movement came to an end with the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. But that was after more than five years as one of the preeminent figures of the movement, leading sit–in protests and fighting segregation on interstate busways as an original Freedom Rider. It was after becoming chairman of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and being the youngest speaker at the March on Washington. It was after helping organize the Mississippi Freedom Summer and the ensuing delegate challenge at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. And after coleading the march from Selma to Montgomery on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” All too often, the depiction of history ends with a great victory. But John Lewis knew that victories are just the beginning. In Run: Book One, John Lewis and longtime collaborator Andrew Aydin reteam with Nate Powell—the award–winning illustrator of the March trilogy—and are joined by L. Fury—making an astonishing graphic novel debut—to tell this often overlooked chapter of civil rights history.

Review: In 2020, we lost John Lewis, who passed away that summer after a fight with cancer. I remember being so saddened by this, as he was such an amazing man who helped change our country for the better. It wasn’t until the next year that I found out that before his death he had continued his graphic novel endeavors after “March”. “Run: Book One” is the continuation of Lewis’s work as a social justice advocate, as well as a history lesson on what happened directly after the Civil Rights Act was put in place, both in terms of the backlash from white people who were against it, as well as people within the movement who thought it didn’t go far enough.

“Run: Book One” picks up shortly after the passing of the Civil Rights Act that ended the “March” Trilogy. While in American history class it’s tempting to end the story there, with a great success and a fantastic development in social justice and civil liberties, things didn’t just magically get better. Lewis lays out some of the events that happened right after, such as Black people still being assaulted and murdered by police and white people, the race riots in Watts, and the mass anger on behalf of white supremacy that saw a doubling down on racist leaders and hate groups. It’s framed in such a way that one can’t help but draw comparisons to some of the similar events that have happened in the past couple of years, let alone half a century ago, and it feels deliberate on the part of Lewis. He also dives more into the systemic issues that were stoking a lot of the injustices towards Black people at the time, specifically the Vietnam War and how so many Black men were being sent to fight in an unjust war and were dying for a cause that was rooted in Imperialism. He looks at how he and other Civil Rights leaders agreed or disagreed on how to approach the war and the draft, and how foreign policy was directly connected to the Civil Rights Movement that was still going on even after the Civil Rights Act. There is also the matter of the mass voter suppression of Black people in the wake of the Civil Rights Act being passed, which is just a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same, and that’s disgraceful. The direct mirroring of that moment then and the moment we are finding ourselves in right now is stark.

But what was even more interesting to me (and something I admittedly knew very little about) was how John Lewis addresses the strife and splintering of people within the Movement itself, and how that changed his role within. Again, I feel like in history class we are told about SNCC in the context of the sit ins and other nonviolent actions, as well as John Lewis’s role. Because of that, I had NO idea that he was effectively forced out of power by Stokely Carmichael and other members who were beginning to feel that SNCC wasn’t doing enough to combat injustice. Lewis talks about this in a way that never really comes off as bitter or angry, but more saddened as to how everything turned out. I definitely don’t think that I can comment too much upon different approaches to achieving social justice goals by these two ideologies, and Lewis comes off as very careful not to denigrate those who cast him out. He also begins to set up his eventual successful stint as a Congressman, devoting arcs to Julian Bond and Marion Barry, who broke ground as Black government officials right in the thick of the backlash.

And when it comes to the art, L. Fury is now a part of the team, as Nate Powell takes a bit of a back seat but does give input (at least that’s what some research told me). Fury’s style blends enough with the style of the original style of “March” that it feels like a good successor, with black and white aesthetics and similar designs.

I’m not sure if there will be more “Run” books, as Lewis passed in 2020. There is a note at the beginning of this saying that the script was finished before his death, but I don’t know if that means the entire script, or just for “Book One”. Regardless, “Run” is a fantastic follow up that is an important reminder that with great strides and success comes resistance to change, and that you just have to keep going and doing what you believe in. Add this to the collection with “March”, for sure.

Rating 9: A powerful new memoir from John Lewis that reminds us that stories don’t always end with triumphs, “Run” is a must read continuation of the fight for civil rights and against white supremacy in America.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Run: Book One” is included on the Goodreads lists “Graphic Novels About Black Lives”, and “Teaching African American History After Obama”.

Serena’s Review: “The Stardust Thief”

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Book: “The Stardust Thief” by

Publishing Info: Orbit, May 2022

Where Did I Get this Book:

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Neither here nor there, but long ago…

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

Review: I’ve had really good luck with Middle Eastern fairytales, especially ones that focus on the ever-popular jinns. Honestly, I can’t think of the last time I read a jinn story that I didn’t really enjoy. Indeed, the last few have made my favorites lists for the year. This is both a blessing and a curse: I get super excited whenever I see another jinn story coming down the pike, but I get more and more nervous that this next one will be the one to break the streak. Well…NOT TODAY, book gods, not today.

Loulie’s entire existence, her success, even, depends on her anonymity. Selling ill-begotten magical goods is not the type of business that does well with light shone upon it. So when she saves the life a prince and unwittingly draws the eye of his father the sultan, Loulie is dismayed to find herself in the last place she wanted: out in the open and on a mission to find the impossible. With her jinn bodyguard, said cowardly prince (though she may not know it), and a cold-eyed thief with loyalties of her won, the group heads out into a desert known for its secrets…and the fact that no one returns from its endless dunes.

This was one of those interesting books where when I started it I wasn’t quite sure that it was going to be a hit. On one hand, Loulie’s character immediately jumped off the page. But than I realized it was a multiple POV story (both the prince and thief have their own chapters), and I was less immediately enthralled with either of them. It also has a bit of a slower start and is paced is an interesting manner. There are a lot of side quests/stories in this book, which initially kept jerking me out of the main thrust of the story. But as the book continued, I began to see how the author was tying in a great number of the stories from “One Thousand and One Nights” and how each of these smaller excursions all slowly wove together towards our final conflict. By the time I had read the first third, I was totally engrossed and it was nothing but a positive reading experience from there!

Once I understood what the author was doing with the book, I greatly enjoyed it. I also came to appreciate both of the other POVs. Mazen is a bookish, fairly cowardly prince who is clearly entirely out of his depth on this mission with two powerful women, but his story of self-discovery is satisfying in every way. For her part, Aisha, the older prince’s thief and eyes and ears on this mission, begins to learn that she must rely on her own decision making and her own belief of right and wrong to move through the world. What once was a simple mission of revenge quickly begins to look like something else. Loulie, or Layla, also goes through an arch of self-discovery. After having her entire identity centered around her role as a merchant and her reliance on her jinn bodyguard, Layla must confront who she is without these powerful forces. Is her power all a façade?

I also really liked the exploration of stories and myths themselves. How they have incredible power, but also how they can be twisted and used over time for nefarious purposes. The power of the storyteller is central, but the listener can also make their own power from how they interpret what is being told to them. I especially like the history and powers of the jinn, and the role they play in each of our characters’ stories, for both good and bad. While I could predict a few of the twists, there were also a fair number of surprises in store throughout. The book also ends with a bang, leaving the reader ready and eager for the next installation. I for one will definitely be picking it up!

Rating 9: Centered around the power of stories, this book explores themes like self-discovery and self-determination in a magic and adventure filled romp.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Stardust Thief” can be found on this Goodreads list: 2022 Book Releases by Asian Authors

Serena’s Review: “Bryony and Roses”

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Book: “Bryony and Roses” by T. Kingfisher

Publishing Info: Argyll Productions, April 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: from the library!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Bryony and her sisters have come down in the world. Their merchant father died trying to reclaim his fortune and left them to eke out a living in a village far from their home in the city.

But when Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor, she stumbles into a house full of dark enchantments. Is the Beast that lives there her captor, or a fellow prisoner? Is the house her enemy or her ally? And why are roses blooming out of season in the courtyard?

Armed only with gardening shears and her wits, Bryony must untangle the secrets of the house before she—or the Beast—are swallowed by them.

Review: The day I discovered T. Kingfisher was a happy day, indeed. The day I realized she had written a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling? Ecstatic! It’s also worth noting that this will be the second book that I’ve read in the last month where the author has written an afterword citing Robin McKinley’s influence on their work. Here, Kingfisher notes McKinley’s less well-known “Beauty and the Beast” book, “Rose Daughter,” as her direct inspiration for this story. And then the author of “Echo North” also referenced McKinley’s “Beauty” as one of her beloved reads. “Beauty,” of course, is well-known and beloved by many fans of this fairytale. “Rose Daughter,” however, is less popular, so I was excited to see that, of the two, it was this work that sparked Kingfisher’s inspiration for this story.

On her way home, Bryony is caught in a storm and finds her only option for shelter in a mysterious manor filled with invisible enchantments. When she unwittingly takes a rose, she finds herself caught in the magical house itself alongside a Beast. But as she spends her time there, she begins to question whether the Beast is also trapped in this strange manor, for while the house seems kind and giving one moment, it’s forces turn dark and violent at the flip of a switch. Determined to get to the cause of this, Bryony sets out to discover the secrets of the Beast himself.

Both Kate and I are firmly on record as loving the “Beauty and the Beast” fairytale. Honestly, I think most librarians prefer it simply because of the library themes. And, luckily, there are a decent number of good retellings of this story, most notably, Robin McKinley’s “Beauty.” There are also, sadly, some that I haven’t enjoyed. But that doesn’t stop me from immediately jumping into the next version I come across. Given how much I’ve enjoyed other books by this author, I was unsurprised to get to the end of this book and find that I had another great one on my hands!

There are so many things to like about this book! While it follows the standard tale fairly closely, there were a few notable differences. One, the curse itself plays out in a way that is completely unique, with the house itself taking on a role that I haven’t seen before in a tale like this. When the reveals come with regards to the curse itself, this, too, was a surprising twist on the way the story is often told. There were few particular surprises here with regards to the classic tale that I thought were absolutely fantastic! Can’t really go into much detail without ruining it, but you’ll know it when you see it.

Fans of McKinley’s “Rose Daughter” will be familiar with a very important twist at the end of that book, and I was pleased to see T. Kingfisher take on this route as well. I have my own preferences for the end of a “Beauty and the Beast” story, but I think there are a solid number of fans in each camp. And Kingfisher pulls off this particular twist in an excellent way, fully earning this final choice.

I also loved Bryony as a character. She was funny, strong, and determined. She was also flawed and not the most creative of thinkers. There were times when I was reading that I came up with solutions for some of the problems she was facing. But, in one of the best aspects of Kingfisher’s writing to date, the author recognizes this about her character and has Bryony’s sister especially point out some of these flaws in our heroine. It was gratifying to know the author was well aware of what she was doing the entire time, and these things that I had thought were plot holes were in fact intentional parts of the story.

I also really liked the slow-burn romance at the heart of the story. This is, of course, a crucial part of any “Beauty and the Beast” story. Beast and Bryony are both hilarious, sweet, and equally trapped in the horrors of this curse. I liked that the story pretty much side-stepped the whole “Beauty is afraid of the Beast for a while” bit. Bryony is quite a different heroine in that way from the other Beauty’s we’ve seen. Beast, too, played a more active role in attempting to solve the curse they are both living with. It was nice to see him actually trying to help Bryony figure out how to save them both, rather than the more passive Beast character that we often see.

Overall, I loved this book. It was so well-written and refreshing. Any fan of this fairytale will love it, and I can’t recommend it enough for any fairytale fantasy fan!

Rating 9: With an endearing heroine, a lovely romance, and a refreshing take on the original fairytale, this one is sure to please all “Beauty and the Beast” fans!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Bryony and Roses” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Magical Books, Libraries and Bookstores and Beauty and the Beast Across Genres.

Blog Tour: “The Murder of Mr. Wickham”

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Book: “The Murder of Mr. Wickham” by Claudia Gray

Publishing Info: Vintage, May 2022

Where Did I Get this Book: ARC from the publisher!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a house party, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst.

Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan Darcy, the Darcys’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem almost relaxed. In a tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang.

Review: There is a truth universally acknowledged: the more ardent a fan of Jane Austen a reader is, the more critical that fan will be of any and every Jane Austen adaptation/sequel. I feel fairly confident making a generalization like that, and I would easily include myself in it. There have been times when my snobbery has reached levels not seen in any other favorite genre or beloved series of books. But I’m glad that I didn’t let this lesser self dictate whether or not I picked up this book, cuz, man, other than “Death Comes to Pemberley,” this is probably my favorite Jane Austen continuation yet!

In Emma’s view, a house party is always just the thing to cheer matters up! So she and her husband, Mr. Knightley, gather a large group of friends, acquaintances, and family members to share in a visit at their home. This cheerful event is made much less so, however, when the disreputable Mr. Wickham shows up one dark and stormy night. And what’s worse than an unwelcome guest? One that is rude enough to get themselves murdered on the premises, thus leaving all the remaining guests left as suspects. With so many members of the group having motives for thinking the world would be better off without Mr. Wickham, the Darcy’s oldest son, Jonathan, and the young Juliet Tilney decide to tackle the mystery themselves. But as they get closer and closer to discovering the murderer, the more horrifying the truth becomes, because it must have been one of their dear friends!

It’s immediately obvious that the author is herself a huge fan of Jane Austen. This book is so clearly a love letter to all of these characters and to all of the fans that it’s impossible to miss. This also makes the reading experience entirely dependent on one’s familiarity with these characters and stories. There are so many small nods and inside jokes that will only be appreciated by ardent fans, that the reading experience will likely be vastly different for those familiar with these stories and those who have been less-exposed. And because the story includes characters from all of the books, the reader pretty much has to have all six novels well under the belt to appreciate the work the author has put into creating in this story.

As fun as all of these Easter egg clues were to spot, what really made this book stand out was how well the author understood the characters she was working with, in all of their strengths and weaknesses. Most especially, she envisioned how these personalities would play off one another, both between each other and within their own marriages (since, due to the nature of Austen’s books, we see very little of what these characters’ lives are like in the marital state). Gray doesn’t shy away from pointing out some of the flaws in these characters that could drive wedges into their marriages. However, everything is handled with such care that you never feel like any of these choices or actions are out of character with the originals. Instead, we see how many of them grow even further once some of these characteristics are exposed to the harsh light of day.

From a purely preferential state, I was glad to see that Emma and Knightley were by far the most stable of the couples. Not only do they know each other much better than anyone else (Emma having grown up with Knightley as a good friend from the very beginning), but the original book does a good job dealing with each of their flaws to begin with. Fans of “Mansfield Park,” however, may be dismayed to see that Fanny and Edmund, on the other hand, probably have the most work to do. Again, this never feels like an overt critique of the original story, but instead seems perfectly in line with these two characters and the way their romance played out (honestly, one of the more weird ones when you think about it). It’s satisfying to see Fanny come more into her own and Edmund be forced to reckon with some of the ways that he didn’t do his best with regards to Fanny and their relationship.

All of this written and I haven’t even touched on the mystery! I honestly can’t say enough good thing about this as well. It’s truly impressive how well Gray managed to work Wickham into all of these characters’ lives in ways that felt completely natural and inline with their stories. Not once did his relationship with these characters feel forced or shoe-horned in to fit the narrative. Instead, it felt completely organic and believable. Thus making the entire thing so stressful! It starts to become truly horrifying wondering how this mystery is going to be resolved without vilifying one of our beloved main characters!

I also really enjoyed the original characters of Jonathan and Juliet. It’s tough work to create new characters and stand them up against classics like Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse, but Gray manages it! For one thing, the book features so many viewpoints that Jonathan and Juliet are by no means the sole focus. We get plenty of time with our other favorites, but I also began to appreciate both Jonathan and Juliet in their own right. I was also pleased to see that while there are hints of a potential romance between these two, the story didn’t commit to anything in this arena. There simply wasn’t enough time in this book to not do a disserve to the mystery by trying to force in a fully-fledged romance as well.

All of this to say, I highly recommend this book to any Jane Austen fan out there! The more familiar you are with the originals, the more you’re likely to enjoy this!

Rating 9: Simply excellent and sure to please even the most picky Jane Austen fan!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Murder of Mr. Wickham” isn’t on any Goodreads lists yet, but it should be on Jane Austen Sequels and Pastiches.

Kate’s Review: “The Hacienda”

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Book: “The Hacienda” by Isabel Cañas

Publishing Info: Berkley, May 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Mexican Gothic meets Rebecca in this debut supernatural suspense novel, set in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence, about a remote house, a sinister haunting, and the woman pulled into their clutches

In the overthrow of the Mexican government, Beatriz’s father is executed and her home destroyed. When handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano proposes, Beatriz ignores the rumors surrounding his first wife’s sudden demise, choosing instead to seize the security his estate in the countryside provides. She will have her own home again, no matter the cost. But Hacienda San Isidro is not the sanctuary she imagined.

When Rodolfo returns to work in the capital, visions and voices invade Beatriz’s sleep. The weight of invisible eyes follows her every move. Rodolfo’s sister, Juana, scoffs at Beatriz’s fears—but why does she refuse to enter the house at night? Why does the cook burn copal incense at the edge of the kitchen and mark its doorway with strange symbols? What really happened to the first Doña Solórzano?

Beatriz only knows two things for certain: Something is wrong with the hacienda. And no one there will help her. Desperate for help, she clings to the young priest, Padre Andrés, as an ally. No ordinary priest, Andrés will have to rely on his skills as a witch to fight off the malevolent presence haunting the hacienda and protect the woman for whom he feels a powerful, forbidden attraction. But even he might not be enough to battle the darkness. Far from a refuge, San Isidro may be Beatriz’s doom.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

I am a little embarrassed to admit that Isabel Cañas’s debut Gothic horror novel “The Hacienda” was just sitting on my Kindle for months. I requested it pretty early out from the release date, and I know that when I do that books do tend to just sit. By the time I deemed it right to pick up, the chiding ‘downloaded on ___’ indicator was staring at me and making me fidget. And then when I started it, I felt myself all the more annoyed because holy COW. This book was immediately awesome! With a description that has “Mexican Gothic” meets “Rebecca” I knew it was going to be a treat, but boy howdy was I not ready for the treat that it was. I absolutely LOVED “The Hacienda”.

It bears repeating. (source)

Right off the top I want to say that the ghost story and Gothic elements are ON POINT. Cañas knows how to set the scene and slowly build the dread, pretty much starting right from Beatríz’s arrival to Hacienda San Isidro when she sees gutted rodents strewn about the courtyard. Cats are the culprits, she is told, though there is tension in the air, and it slowly builds and consumes until the tension is unbearable. There are plenty of haunted house moments applied here, from cold spots to slamming doors, to glowing eyes seen in the darkness for a fleeting second, to skeletons found in hidden places. It soon becomes clear to Beatríz that there is something haunting this estate, and as she tries desperately to get someone to believe her, it’s the servants and the locals who have the most insight. When most Priests scoff at her, one, Padre Andrés, answers her call for an exorcism. I loved Beatríz as a tormented and determined protagonist, as she both fits the bill for a Gothic heroine while also pushing against stereotypes as she refuses to be gaslit over what is happening in the home. And I also really liked Andrés, whose Father Karas-esque test of faith hides the fact that he is, at his heart, a witch whose practices have been hidden and repressed by the colonial culture that has taken root (more on that soon). They make a great horror story team, as they are easy to root for a relate to and make you become very invested very quickly. Which makes the haunting they are dealing with all the scarier. And makes the forbidden attraction between them even more high stakes. And yes, SWOON WORTHY.

But there are also a lot of underpinning themes regarding classism, racism, colonialism, and political upheaval that make “The Hacidenda” all the richer when it comes to the story it aims to tell. The aforementioned priest/witch, Andrés, basically went into the priesthood to hide his witchcraft and folk healing that has been passed down through the generations, as the Inquisition came to Mexico and practicing such would make him a target. The previous mistress, Doña Catalina, was abusive and cruel to her servants, who are of lower social standing and are also mostly mestizo in their heritage, and she sees them as subhuman. Juana, the half sister of Don Rodolfo, is a child of a hacendado but as a woman with a mysterious family background has no social claim to his wealth. And even Beatríz has connections to these political themes, as her father was murdered by Don Rodolfo’s party, and as a woman has few options and sees marriage to him as a way to keep herself safe. It’s when these real life horrors and injustices are applied to the horror tale that it really stands out, bringing in a critique of colonized Mexico and the damage it has done to the people who live there. Cañas has a fantastic authors note at the back of this book that really puts it all into context, and she weaves it in perfectly.

And on top of all that, I really loved Cañas’s writing style. She has the right flow, the most haunting and at times beautiful imagery, and paces everything just right. This is a fantastic debut.

“The Hacienda” is can’t miss horror fiction. Scary and thoughtful and a must read to be sure.

Rating 9: Gothic and creepy with ghosts, witchcraft, and commentary, “The Hacienda” is a great horror novel that can’t be missed!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Hacienda” is included on the Goodreads lists “Latinix Horror/Fantasy”, and “2022 Gothic”.

Kate’s Review: “Locke & Key: The Golden Age”

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Book: “Locke & Key: The Golden Age” by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez (Ill.)

Publishing Info: IDW, April 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from the publisher.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | IndieBound

Book Description: Unlock moments from Keyhouse’s long history, expanding the saga of the Locke family in this collection of stories, which includes the epic crossover with DC’s The Sandman Universe!

For two hundred years, the Locke family has watched over Keyhouse, a New England mansion where reality has come unhinged and shadows are known to walk on their own. Here they have guarded a collection of impossible keys, instruments capable of unlocking both unparalleled wonder and unimaginable evil. Take a glimpse into the lives of Chamberlin Locke and his family in the early 20th century as they use the keys to fight battles big and small. From the killing fields of Europe during WWI and the depths of Hell, the Lockes are in a constant struggle to keep the dark forces of their world at bay.

Collects three standalone tales, “Small World,” the Eisner-nominated “Open the Moon,” and the never-before-seen “Face the Music,” along with the 3-part …In Pale Battalions Go… and the epic 80-page crossover with The Sandman Universe, Hell & Gone all from the co-creators of Locke & Key, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez!

Review: Thank you to IDW for sending me an eARC of this graphic novel!

It wasn’t so long ago that I wrapped up my “Locke & Key” re-read, and just as it was finished I was delighted to receive an invitation to read “Locke & Key: The Golden Age”. As someone who had never really gone back to read the expanded Locke Family stories that serve as stand alone prequels of sorts, this was a great opportunity to finally do so, especially since the original story was so fresh in my mind. But what made this all the more tantalizing? “Locke & Key: The Golden Age” not only has the supplemental expansions on this universe, but it also has the “The Sandman” crossover that has been tempting me ever since I heard about it.

IT’S HAPPENING! (source)

I will admit that I read this in the exact wrong order (as the collection was sent to me in their individualized sections), mostly because I was so damn eager to get to “Sandman” that I started there, which was like starting at the end. So I’m going to save that for last and start with the Locke stories that lead up to it, but also stand on their own two feet. We meet the Locke family that is living in Keyhouse at the beginning of the 20th Century. We have patriarch Chamberlain, his wife Fiona, his brother Harland, and his children John, Mary, Ian, and Jean. I liked getting to know this new Locke Family through the stories in this collection, which include “Small World”, where Chamberlain gives his kids the Small World Dollhouse key, which can bring anything into their actual house in scale sized form. Problem is, a black widow spider gets into the house when young Jean isn’t paying attention. This is a nice introductory tale that plays with a generally innocuous key, though clearly it has other issues. The other standalone story I want to mention was the most emotional of the bunch for me, called “Open the Moon”. In this story Chamberlain realizes that son Ian, who has a brain tumor and is getting sicker and sicker, is not long for this world. So he and Harland decide to construct a new kind of key to give him peace, taking him on a hot air balloon journey around the world with a magical conclusion. Hill made this short tale so bittersweet and moving, it had me weeping by the end, while still being full of whimsy and joy. These standalones were a good way to introduce a new Locke Family and to make you understand them with limited pages. Which is essential for the next two sections.

The next tale (and, of course, the one I read last because again, out of order!) was the collection called “In Pale Battalions Go”, which bridges the whimsical stand alone Locke stories with the “Sandman” crossover. I will have to spoil a bit in the next section, as the way this one plays out sets the scene for the “Sandman” story. World War I is raging, and even though Chamberlain has the keys and all the powers that they hold, he refuses to use them to turn the tides of war, as he feels they are too dangerous to wield in such ways. His son John, and idealistic early teenager, thinks that the keys should be used to help defeat the Germans, and uses the Age Key to age himself up, takes the keys, and goes to enlist. So we have a World War I tale, with some good ‘horrors of war’ and ‘great power comes great responsibility’ themes. As one can imagine, it does not go well. I liked this story for the most part, as it’s bleak as hell and it does a great job of showing the dangers of hubris and unintended consequences (something that is seen in other “Locke and Key” arcs). I also liked getting to follow John, even if I didn’t particularly care for him as a character because of his jingoistic zeal and terrible decisions. But at the same time, I think that Hill made him a fully realized and realistic character, being an impatient teenage boy during a World War that was unleashing unspeakable horrors.

And now the big event: “Hell and Gone”, the crossover story with “The Sandman”. Taking place a decade after “Battalions”, John’s twin sister Mary has a mission. Chamberlain is on his deathbed, haunted by the fact John killed himself at the end of “Battalions”. Using the Wellhouse portal, Chamberlain knows that John is in Hell because of his suicide, and Mary is determined to go and find him and bring him peace so that her father can die at peace as well. She hears of rumors that in England there is an otherworldly being that could be the key to getting her answers, and when she arrives to meets a boy with a strange helmet and amulet… You can see where this is going. I went into this thinking that there would be a fair amount of opportunity for Morpheus, but then when I realized the time period was during his capture, I wasn’t certain WHAT this story was going to do. But fear not, because this “Sandman” crossover instead utilizes other well loved “Sandman” characters, as Mary teams up with Lucien and Fiddler’s Green to confront Lucifer in Hell over John’s soul. I actually loved this even more because Fiddler’s Green is such a joy of a character, with his mild anxiety and caring heart. I also really loved Mary, as this is very much her story to shine in and SHINE SHE DOES. Her loyalty to her family and love for her twin means the stakes are VERY high for her, and it makes perfect sense that she would be down for tangling with Lucifer himself. And I believed every bit of it. And look for cameos from other “Sandman” characters, like the Corinthian, and yes, even Morpheus himself. And it’s done in a way that works for the timeline of his story combined with this one. Hill did a great job with the “Sandman” characters and mythos, it all felt like it combined perfectly and that he had true reverence for that comic and its characters.

And yes, Gabriel Rodríguez comes back to illustrate these stories and I still love his style. And he is a great artist to add to the great artists who worked on “Sandman” tales over the years.

Isn’t Mary just great? She’s great. (source: IDW)

Overall, this is a fantastic collection that both “Locke & Key” and “The Sandman” fans really need to check out if they haven’t already. I’m so happy to return to both Keyhouse and The Dreaming in this way. “Locke & Key: The Golden Age” met all my high expectations.

Rating 9: Fantastic backstory, fantastic fantasy, and a fantastic crossover with “The Sandman” Universe.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Locke & Key: The Golden Age” isn’t included on any Goodreads lists yet in this format, but it would fit in on “Best Horror Comics/Graphic Novels”, and “WWI: Speculative Fiction”.

Kate’s Review: “Goddess of Filth”


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Book: “Goddess of Filth” by V. Castro

Publishing Info: Creature Publishing, March 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: One hot summer night, best friends Lourdes, Fernanda, Ana, Perla, and Pauline hold a séance. It’s all fun and games at first, but their tipsy laughter turns to terror when the flames burn straight through their prayer candles and Fernanda starts crawling toward her friends and chanting in Nahuatl, the language of their Aztec ancestors.

Over the next few weeks, shy, modest Fernanda starts acting strangely—smearing herself in black makeup, shredding her hands on rose thorns, sucking sin out of the mouths of the guilty. The local priest is convinced it’s a demon, but Lourdes begins to suspect it’s something else—something far more ancient and powerful.

As Father Moreno’s obsession with Fernanda grows, Lourdes enlists the help of her “bruja Craft crew” and a professor, Dr. Camacho, to understand what is happening to her friend in this unholy tale of possession-gone-right.

Review: I will wholeheartedly admit that I was one of those girls in middle and early high school who fancied herself a witchcraft enthusiast, as me and some of my girlfriends held the occasional spell casting after school. Whether it be at the far end of the baseball fields or in the fourth floor computer lab, we would cast spells, call to the directions, and do our best impressions of the characters in “The Craft”. Needless to say, when V. Castro’s novella “Goddess of Filth” opened with five teenage girls doing a spell while reminiscing about “The Craft”, I felt seen. Of course, the worst thing that happened at my spellcasting endeavors was some spilled non alcoholic wine on my backpack, not a possession from an ancient goddess…

Honestly, those were some good memories, stained backpack notwithstanding. (source)

“Goddess of Filth” may be my favorite story from V. Castro, and that is because she has not only hit all the sweet spots in terms of feminist spell casting and/or witch tales, she also subverts the traditional possession tale in ways that I have been aching for for a very long time. The first big win for me was our group of friends, consisting of Lourdes, Fernanda, Ana, Perla, and Pauline. When quiet Fernanda is possessed by an ancient Aztec deity during a seance, it is up to her friends to figure out how to help her. This is a novella, so the pages are limited, but Castro shows the fierce loyalty between this group of friends, and how they all have endured difficulties in their lives due to their race and class in their Texas community. Through flashback moments and action in the present we see how Lourdes and her friends are viewed by the people around them, and how Fernanda has been put on a pedestal that has both buoyed her but also put a significant weight upon her shoulders. They are seen only as Madonnas and Whores, and it hurts all of them, but they always have each other.

But what I loved most about “Goddess of Filth” is how Castro decides to tackle this whole ‘possession’ storyline. Fernanda’s behavior, on the surface, harkens to the classic demonic possession tropes, so much so that her devout mother calls in a priest to try and exorcise her. She becomes wilder, she masturbates, she speaks in Nahuatl, and at first it seems like things have gone terribly wrong. But Castro flips it, and decides to explore this through a lens that is more positive than one might think. Fernanda is now becoming more in tune with her sexuality and her desires. The deity inside of her, Tlazoltéotl, is a ‘Goddess of Filth’, but she is also a cleanser of sins. While Fernanda’s parents and Father Moreno see this as a demon, they are seeing it through a colonized and Western worldview. For Fernanda, Lourdes, and their other friends (as well as a professor of pre-Columbian cultures they seek out), they see Tlazoltéotl not as ‘bad’, per se, but as a necessary, if not sometimes violent, force. One of my favorite lines in this book was when Professor Camacho decides that a better word as opposed to ‘possess’ is ‘inhabit’, as Tlazoltéotl isn’t really doing anything to Fernanda that is oppressive or possessive. Rather, they work together to free people of their sins, whether it be through helping them come to terms with them, or through punishing them if the sins are very, very terrible. This partnership between Fernanda and Tlazoltéotl, as well as the friendships between Fernanda, Lourdes, and everyone else, are so fantastically feminist. And I could rave about the way that the obsessive and dangerous Father Moreno is a representation of violent imperialist religious oppression probably forever. I love how Castro brings in these bits of social commentary and makes them fit seamlessly and without any clunks along the way.

“Goddess of Filth” is an awesome, quick read, and one that fans of witch stories and possession stories absolutely need to look into. If you haven’t picked up anything by V. Castro yet, make this the one. It’s sure to satisfy.

Rating 9: Feminist, fantastical, and witchy to the bone, “Goddess of Filth” deconstructs possession horror in all the ways I’ve ever wanted.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Goddess of Filth” is included on the Goodreads lists “Best Summer Horror Books”, and “Celebrate Horror 2021”.

Serena’s Review: “The Bird and the Sword”

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Book: “The Bird and the Sword” by Amy Harmon

Publishing Info: CreateSpace, May 2016

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Swallow, Daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heav’n or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, Daughter. Stay alive.

The day my mother was killed, she told my father I wouldn’t speak again, and she told him if I died, he would die too. Then she predicted the king would trade his soul and lose his son to the sky.

My father has a claim to the throne, and he is waiting in the shadows for all of my mother’s words to come to pass. He wants desperately to be king, and I just want to be free.

But freedom will require escape, and I’m a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s greed. I can’t speak or make a sound, and I can’t wield a sword or beguile a king. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left, and who could ever love . . . a bird?

Review: Now that I’ve discovered Amy Harmon, I’m probably going to just systematically work my way through her catalogue. And, surprise, surprise, when I started looking through her book list, I discovered several books I’d already flagged on my TBR list. I’d had my eyes on this one for quite a while, but now that I knew I already liked the author, it was a no brainer to get my hands on a copy as soon as possible!

Lark was born with a powerful gift, the ability to influence things around her with her voice. But in a land where magic is outlawed, Lark’s mother, in a final act as she’s lying dying in front of her small daughter, locks Lark’s voice away to protect her. Now, silenced and moving through a world that only wants to use her, Lark finds herself caught up in great wars and the fate of a nation. But will the love a King be enough to unlock her voice and with it a power that could save them all?

This is the second book that I’ve read recently that features a protagonist who can’t speak for most of the book. The last one was the middle-grade novel “Gallant.” It’s a particularly challenging choice for an author to make as it greatly limits one of the primary ways that writers establish relationships between their characters. But Harmon definitely pulls it off here. She does find a few work-arounds for this trait later on in the book, but I like how well Lark stands on her own without the use of her voice.

The book is written in first-person, so the reader is fully within Lark’s head right off the bat. We see her isolation, feel her inability to direct much of her life, and know her frustration when those around her seem to be using her and her abilities for their own benefit. Her arc is that of someone who starts out feeling powerless discovering their inner strength and becoming a powerhouse by the end of the book. And while her abilities can be amazing at times, sometimes its the quieter moments of inner strength that really cement Lark as the impressive character that she is. She stands in the face of criticism and even her own insecurity to hold on to what and who she loves.

I will say that there were times when her magical abilities were almost a bit too powerful. But by the end of the book, Harmon did come out with a villain who was a powerful enough force to challenge even Lark. But this more straight-forward conflict, while exciting and action packed especially in the final action scene of the book, was for me the less compelling of the stories. Instead, I was more invested in the quieter, slow-build romance and tragedy between Lark and the King. There was so much heart here, and while the two end up together quickly, the romance itself is slow to fully establish itself. They each need time to understand the other’s motives fully. But this slow burn makes their eventual full commitment to one another all the more sweet.

Harmon has a solid, lyrical writing style. It’s not overly flowery, but she also nails creating highly emotive scenes and characters. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to Juliet Marillier’s style. Of course, that makes it a hit for me! Fantasy fans looking for a sweet romance in a stand-alone novel should definitely check this one out!

Rating 9: Beauty and power all found within a quiet but determined leading lady make this one an excellent read!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Bird and the Sword” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Slow-burn romance and Fantasy Romance.

Book Club Review: “Beach Read”

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We are part of a group of librarian friends who have had an ongoing book club running for the last several years. Each “season” (we’re nerds) we pick a theme and each of us chooses a book within that theme for us all to read. Our current theme is “Romance”, in which we each picked a book that is a romance, or has elements that fit romance tropes to a T. For this blog, we will post a joint review of each book we read for book club. We’ll also post the next book coming up in book club. So feel free to read along with us or use our book selections and questions in your own book club!

Book: “Beach Read” by Emily Henry

Publishing Info: Berkley, May 2020

Where Did We Get This Book: We own it.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Romance Trope: Enemies to Lovers

Book Description: A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really. 

Serena’s Thoughts

I hardly ever read contemporary fiction. I almost never read “women’s fiction” (I’ll avoid the soapbox I have about that term, but ugh!). That being the case, I was a bit cautious going in to this bookclub pick seeing as it seemed to fit neatly under both of those genres. But I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: this is why bookclubs are so great! I ended up really enjoying this book, and I never would have discovered it if I had been left to my own devices!

There was quite a lot to like about this book. The romance, of course, is central to the story, and right off the bat, I was pretty invested in both of these characters and the relationship developing between the two of them. While I think January might have been a bit naïve about some of her encounters with Gus in college, we were all a bit dumb then, so I guess I’ll give her a pass. I really liked the idea of them attempting to write in each others genres as a way for their bond to slowly develop over a period of summers. It gave the author all the excuses she needed to throw the two together in various great situations.

I’ll also liked the exploration of the secondary plot, that of January learning to understand the life of her recently-deceased father and some of the hurtful choices he made that she only recently discovered. It was a really excellent look at the strange relationship that is built up between parents and children where it’s only when the child grows into an adult that they fully begin to understand that their parents are fully realized people too, complete with their own histories and flaws. The story is definitely tackling a more complicated and challenging aspect of the mistakes people make, but I think the author managed to do it in a way that didn’t overly villainize any of the people involved. Truly impressive!

Overall, I really liked this book. I’m definitely planning on checking out other books from her, including the one coming out very soon!

Kate’s Thoughts

I’m the person who is a bit more picky about the kind of romance fiction I read, and in general I am actually more inclined to pick up contemporary/’women’s’ fiction than one might expect. I don’t know if it was just the right moment in my year’s reading journey, or if it was the fact I do gravitate more towards the genre, but “Beach Read” really hit all the right notes for me! I honestly hadn’t really heard of this book or even Emily Henry outside of a mention here or there online (this is one of the downsides of no longer working my circulation position on a permanent basis; I’m not nearly as up to date on genres I don’t usually look for because I’m not processing holds or shelving as often as I used to be!). And now I have both bought her book “People We Meet on Vacation” AND have an eARC of “Book Lovers” on my Kindle. Consider me a fan.

Like Serena, I thought that Henry did a good job of setting up the perfect slow burn romance because of the setting, scenario, and circumstances our characters find themselves in. January is grappling with a personal loss and some unpleasant revelations that came with it, and Gus is dealing with writer’s block and his own life changes. They’re both wounded and raw, and it makes for some really fun snappy moments between them (though honestly January is more of the aggressor in this ‘enemies to lovers’ story). I really liked their banter, the dialogue flowing quickly and well and in a very entertaining way. It’s the kind of enemies to lovers story that doesn’t feel kinda weird as their animosity is mostly placed in mutual insecurity and stubbornness (though to be fair, I also love legit enemies to lovers stories when the footing is even. I was a HUGE Spuffy shipper back in the day because of this).

I also liked some of the darker things that Henry tackled, as it never really felt like it was out of place or hokey. The pain that January is dealing with in regards to her father and his personal choices/failings is palpable and understandable, and as for Augustus while we don’t really get as much insight into him, we do get to see some of the darker aspects of his work, specifically the cult aspect of this book he was intending to write. I was worried that Henry would make it a little bit overdramatic or even laughable, even in an unintentional way, but at the end of the day she pulls out the trauma and pain of this side group without making it derail the lovely and sweet story at hand. And it is lovely and sweet.

“Beach Read” was a lot of fun and very enjoyable! Like Serena I’m eager to see what else Henry has in store for the contemporary romance audience!

Serena’s Rating 9: Lives up to its name: a “beach read” that will make any contemporary romance lover aching for more!

Kate’s Rating 9: Charming, snappy, funny, and sweet, “Beach Read” kept me going and had me rooting for a happily ever after.

Book Club Questions

  1. What did we like and dislike about January and Augustus as our main characters? Did they break any stereotypes or tropes?
  2. What did you think of their debate about literary fiction vs romance/women’s fiction? What are your feelings on each genre?
  3. In this book there are mentions of how people sometimes use romance stories as a way to cope with more difficult realities. Do you find that a relatable practice?
  4. What were your thoughts on the side characters? Did anyone stand out in particular?
  5. What are your thoughts on the enemies to lovers trope that was used in this story?
  6. This book talks about happy endings versus ‘happy for nows’ in stories. Do you prefer a solid conclusion of a wrapped up romantic life? Or are more in process romance endings okay for you as a reader?
  7. Would you read more by Emily Henry?

Reader’s Advisory

“Beach Read” is included on the Goodreads lists “Best Rom-Com Books”, and “Best Enemies to Lovers”.

Next Book Club Pick: “The Roommate” by Rosie Danan

Monthly Marillier: “Blade of Fortriu”

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“Monthly Marillier” is a review series that is, essentially, an excuse for me to go back and re-read one of my favorite author’s back catalog. Ever since I first discovered her work over fifteen years ago, Juliet Marillier has been one of my favorite authors. Her stories are the perfect mixture of so many things I love: strong heroines, beautiful romances, fairytale-like magic, and whimsical writing. Even better, Marillier is a prolific author and has regularly put out new books almost once a year since I began following her. I own almost all of them, and most of those I’ve read several times. Tor began re-releasing her original Sevenwaters trilogy, so that’s all the excuse I needed to begin a new series in which I indulge myself in a massive re-read of her books. I’ll be posting a new entry in this series on the first Friday of every month.

Book: “Blade of Fortriu” by Juliet Marillier

Publishing Info: Tor, October 2006

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Five Winters have passed since young king Bridei ascended the throne of Fortriu. Five years, in which the people have felt a contentment unknown for generations.

But the security of a people can vanish in a heartbeat, for wolves are often drawn to fields filled with fattened sheep. Bridei is determined to drive the Gaelic invaders from his lands once and for all. And so, with his land secure and his house in order, he prepares for war.

And one of Bridei’s plans to win the war to come involves the beautiful young Ana. A princess of the Light Isles, she has dwelt as a hostage at the court of Fortriu for most of her young life. Despite being a pawn of fortune, she has bewitched all at court and is dearly loved by Bridei and his queen. But Ana understands her duty. And so she will travel north, to make a strategic marriage with a chieftain she has never seen, in the hopes of gaining an ally on whom Bridei’s victory relies.

For secrecy’s sake, Ana must travel at a soldier’s pace, with a small band led by the enigmatic spymaster Faolan. Bridei implores Ana to trust see the good in Faolan but Ana cannot see beyond his cold competence and killer’s eyes.

Then, when she arrives at the chieftain Alpin’s stronghold in the mysterious Briar Woods, her discomfort and unease increase tenfold, for this is a place of full of secrets and her betrothed is an enigma himself. The more Ana tries to uncover the truth of her new life, the more she discovers a maze of polite diversions that mask deadly lies. She fears Faolan, but he may prove to be the truest thing in her world. Or her doom.

Previously Reviewed: “The Dark Mirror”

Review: While the first book wasn’t one of my favorites, I was excited to get to re-read this second entry. I believe I’ve re-read this one at least once before, but it’s been over ten years at least. So, it’s probably one of my least remembered favorites out of Marillier’s catalogue. That’s pretty rare for me, as my habit with this author has always been that if I love a book from her, I re-read it fairly consistently over the years. I’m not sure why this one fell off my rounds, but I was all the more excited to revisit this one with so little memory of how it actually plays out.

Though Ana has grown up as a political hostage, she has known nothing but kindness, friendship, and love in King Bridei’s court. And while this makes her duty to make a strategic marriage on King Bridei’s behalf a bit easier, she is still to be sent away from her friends to marry a man she’s never met. When she arrives, she discovers that not all is as it seems in the home of her intended. Mysteries lie upon mysteries, and she begins to fear that her marriage may not be what it seems and that she, and King Bridei, may have bit off more than they can chew with this strange new lord and his court.

I don’t remember if I’ve ever really looked at the book description for this book before. But man, it’s misleading! Fans of Marillier’s books know that she always has a romance that is pretty central to her story, so you look for that when you read the blurbs for her books. Reading this one, you’d rightly think that Faolan is the romantic pairing that will come along for Ana. Nope! It’s an unnamed character who doesn’t even show up until about halfway through the book! That said, I do love said character when he appears (though, like many romantic heroes, it takes a bit for him to get his head on straight about his situation and Ana).

I also really love Ana as the main character in this book. Her position as a political hostage is a completely unique situation from any heroine we’ve read from Marillier before. But in a lot of ways, she’s very similar to the author’s other leading ladies: soft appearing but hiding a coil of inner strength like steel within herself. I enjoyed watching her put together the pieces regarding the mystery going on at her betrothed’s home. It was all believable and fell within her particular insights, things that men might not perhaps notice.

Faolan is a character who shows up again in the next book. I didn’t know this reading this book the first time, but now that I’m aware of his coming role, I did find myself more interested in his story in this book. I’ve always had a bit of a hard time really connecting to him, and I think part of that is his treatment of Ana early in this book is really quite poor. I have a hard time letting that side of him go when I read on. Ana is in a very vulnerable position, in almost every way, and some of Faolan’s callousness towards her isn’t great. That said, I admire that Marillier created a character in him who’s not immediately likable. I haven’t ever re-read the third book in this series, so I’m curious to see whether my estimation of him will change coming at it fifteen years later.

I also really liked the magical elements and the mystery at the heart of this story. Some of it was fairly predictable, but all in the best way. The story had just the right balance of fantasy, action, and romance for me, and this is definitely one of my tops picks of Marillier’s books.

Rating 9: This is a lovely story with a very sweet romance at its heart.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Blade of Fortriu” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Magic, Adventure, Romance and Forbidden Love in Fantasy/ Paranormal/ Supernatural/ Historical Fictions.

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