Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

Review of Give Me Back My Bones! by Kim Norman, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

Give Me Back My Bones!

by Kim Norman
illustrated by Bob Kolar

Candlewick Press, 2019. 36 pages.
Review written October 29, 2019, from a library book

Here’s a fun picture book that teaches kids the scientific names of the large bones in their bodies. It’s framed as the story of a skeleton pirate whose bones got scattered.

It’s silly, and the story is thin, but the rhymes are a lot of fun, and it actually works. I used it in a storytime this morning and the preschoolers enjoyed it and learned a few big words along the way.

Here are some examples:

Give me back my breastbone
the center-of-my-chest bone
the hold-my-ribs-the-best bone –
return my sturdy sternum….

Find my upper arm bone,
the shield-my-face-from-harm bone,
that armpit-of-alarm bone –
I hanker for my humerus.

He’s got a pegleg in place of one tibia and fibula set. As the skeleton finds his bones, we see him take shape until he’s ready to captain an undersea pirate ship.

A playful way to learn about bones.

kimnormanbooks.com
bobkolarbooks.com
candlewick.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Wicked King, by Holly Black

Monday, November 11th, 2019

The Wicked King

by Holly Black
read by Caitlin Kelly

Hachette Audio, 2019. 10.5 hours on 9 CDs.
Starred Review
Review written 9/13/19 from a library audiobook

The Wicked King is the sequel to The Cruel Prince, and was just as action-packed and full of plots and intrigue as that one.

In this installment, Jude, a mortal who has grown up in Faerie, has gained power over Carden, who once bullied her and is now the High King of Faerie. (Never mind how she gained power – that’s what the first book was about.) Jude’s twin sister Taryn is getting married to Locke, another immortal who has treated Jude terribly.

But gaining power is one thing; keeping it is quite another. The Queen of the Sea is plotting something with Carden’s older brother, who had expected to gain the throne but is now in prison for murder. And it looks like they will make their move at Taryn’s wedding.

There are plots within plots, shifting alliances, and confusing feelings toward Carden. Can Jude navigate it all, stay alive, protect her little brother, and keep hold of the power she finds she enjoys perhaps a little too much?

There’s a lot more I could say, but I don’t want to give anything away. I don’t think I’ve expressed how gripping this book is, with one tense situation happening after another. It ends at a satisfying place – but also at a place where you need to know what will happen next! The next book cannot come out soon enough for me!

blackholly.com
HachetteAudio.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Once Upon a Goat, by Dan Richards, illustrated by Eric Barclay

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Once Upon a Goat

by Dan Richards
pictures by Eric Barclay

Alfred A. Knopf, 2019. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written September 10, 2019, from a library book

Here’s a silly twist on a fairy tale pulled off with just the right humorous touch.

The book opens with a king and queen who wish for a child.

“Yes, but where would we put it?” asked the king.
“Next to the vase on the hearth, naturally,” replied the queen.
“Or beside the roses in the garden,” the king added.
“Oh, yes. Perfect,” agreed the queen.

When their fairy godmother shows up, they tell her about their wishes.

“We’re not particular,” said the queen. “Glowing skin, bright eyes, and hair like ocean waves should do.”

“Hmm . . . ,” said their fairy godmother.
“A boy would be great,” added the king. “But any kid will do.”
“Of course,” answered their fairy godmother. “Look on your doorstep when the moon is full.”

At the next full moon, they eagerly look outside – and a little goat is sitting there! The king realizes he shouldn’t have said that any kid would do. They try to send the goat away, but it’s a blustery night, and they bring him in for just one night… and the night turns into many more.

The illustrations are a huge part of the fun as the little kid enjoys the run of the palace and the palace guards keep their faces stoic. And we’ve got more to the story when the fairy godmother comes back.

I can’t read this book without smiling.

danrichardsbooks.com
ericbarclay.com
rhcbooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Damsel, by Elana K. Arnold

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

Damsel

by Elana K. Arnold
performed by Elizabeth Knowelden

HarperAudio, 2018. 7.75 hours on 7 discs.
Starred Review
2019 Printz Honor winner
Review written October 16, 2019, from a library audiobook.

First let me say that I have a new favorite audiobook narrator. Yes, Elizabeth Knowelden has a wonderful accent and her voice is a delight to listen to, but she also has the ability to pack every word with drama. When I raved about her reading this book and tried to imitate her, I simply sounded overdramatic, but when she does it, she makes every word seem important. She achieves exactly the right amount of emphasis and compels your attention.

The book itself is amazing.

Now, there’s a startling ending – but I had a strong clue what that ending would be from hearing the author’s Printz Honor speech. I had a feeling that Ama would not meekly succumb to the forces urging her to be a good little girl and submit. Let me say only that this book is perfect for the “Me Too” generation.

For generations, the prince of the kingdom of Harding, in order to become king after his father dies, must conquer a dragon and rescue a damsel. He will bring the damsel back to his castle and marry her at the Winter Solstice. They will have one child, a son, who will repeat this process after them.

Ama wakes up in Prince Emory’s arms, and he tells her that he rescued her from a dragon. She doesn’t remember anything from her life before. As they journey back to the castle, Emory kills a mother lynx that he thought was threatening Ama (she wasn’t), and Ama takes the baby with her to the castle. She names the baby lynx Sorrow.

At the castle, Ama must learn her place. There are still some months before midwinter, and she must learn her role in the scheme of things. But it’s almost as hard for Ama to fall into place as it is for Sorrow.

The reading of this story is outstanding, but this is not a family tale. There are many vulgar moments, and sexual things explicitly described. And Prince Emory is not a nice man.

Honestly, if I didn’t expect Ama to triumph, I would not have been able to listen to this story, so I think it’s safe to tell you that the horrible things that happen along the way make the ending of this audiobook all the more sweet.

elanakarnold.com
harperaudio.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black

Monday, September 16th, 2019

The Cruel Prince

by Holly Black

Little, Brown and Company, January 2018. 370 pages.
Starred Review
Review written in January 2018 from a library book.

Wow. Before reading this book, I’d read two children’s books with very clunky writing. Then I picked up The Cruel Prince at the library – the first published 2018 book I’ve read (instead of an advance reader copy) – and I was entranced, enthralled and pulled into the world.

I’m writing this review in 2018, before I’ve talked with anyone else about the book – so these opinions are entirely my own. I’m also not sure how much Newbery consideration I should give to a book so clearly written for young adults. The Newbery criteria say we’re looking at excellence in presentation for a child audience, and I’d say this book isn’t written for a child audience. But on the other hand, it then defines a “child” as someone between the ages of 0 and 14, and there are certainly 14-year-olds who will enjoy this book. Anyway, that’s something I’m going to ask about when our committee meets in February. Once I’ve gotten some more advice, I won’t discuss it in reviews.

Newbery consideration aside, one of the things that makes this book so wonderful to read is how completely Holly Black immerses the reader into the world of faerie. It’s a dark, dangerous, and scary world, but we feel like we understand what it’s like for Jude to live there.

The book opens with a Prologue – in which seven-year-old Jude sees both her parents killed by a tall man who comes to their door.

The man, Madoc, is a faerie. He tells her big sister Vivienne that he is her father. She was stolen from him, and he has come to take her to her true home, in Elfhame beneath the hill. He takes Jude and her twin sister Taryn as well. They are the children of his wife, so he takes responsibility for them. They are brought up in luxury – in Faerie.

Ten years later, Jude reflects:

The servants are overfond of telling me how fortunate I am, a bastard daughter of a faithless wife, a human without a drop of faerie blood, to be treated like a trueborn child of Faerie. They tell Taryn much the same thing.

I know it’s an honor to be raised alongside the Gentry’s own children. A terrifying honor, of which I will never be worthy.

It would be hard to forget it, with all the reminders I am given.

“Yes,” I say instead, because she is trying to be kind. “It’s great.”

Faeries can’t lie, so they tend to concentrate on words and ignore tone, especially if they haven’t lived among humans. Tatterfell gives me an approving nod, her eyes like two wet beads of jet, neither pupil nor iris visible. “Perhaps someone will ask for your hand and you’ll be made a permanent member of the High Court.”

“I want to win my place,” I tell her.

Jude wants to compete in the upcoming tournament and be chosen to be a knight. But the rivals in the tournament, faeries her own age, despise her for being mortal. And Madoc has other plans, forbidding her to become a knight.

But then she gets an offer to be a spy for one of the princes of Elfhame.

The High King has chosen to retire soon, and he has chosen Prince Dain to be his successor. But there are intrigues and plots unfolding around the succession, and Jude gets caught in the middle of it.

That’s the beginning – and my summary doesn’t do the intricacies of the plot justice.

This is the story of a teen girl coming of age and trying to make her way in a world where she is utterly foreign, seen as a different species. There’s lots of danger and lots of on-stage death – but the look at the world of faerie – which Jude is accustomed to – is fascinating and exotic and intriguing. As the story develops, Jude must not only find a place and gain some power, but she also needs to stay alive.

This is the first of a series, and the book ends at a frustrating point – but at a place where readers will be eager to read on as soon as they get the chance.

The romance seems clichéd. I’m sure she’s going to end up with the person she hates most at the start of the book – for no good reason except that they hate each other at the start. But the author succeeds in making him very interesting by the end of the book – so I can at least understand that Jude would be interested as well.

This book has an elaborately portrayed world. It has an intricate plot, with twists and surprises and dangers. The characters are complex. The theme of coming of age – even if you have to kill and lie to gain power – is the part that doesn’t seem suitable for a child audience. But teens are going to love it.

blackholly.com
LBYR.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Harp of Kings, by Juliet Marillier

Friday, September 13th, 2019

The Harp of Kings

by Juliet Marillier

Ace, 2019. 448 pages.
Starred Review
Review written 9/13/19, from my own copy, preordered from Amazon.com

I love Juliet Marillier’s novels so much! I was delighted when my preorder came in for this one. (A little less delighted when I discovered I’d preordered it twice.) I was even more delighted when I discovered the main characters were the children of Blackthorn and Grim – the main characters of her most recent trilogy, which began with Dreamer’s Pool. There’s a caption on the front: A Warrior Bards Novel, so I fondly hope it’s the start of another trilogy.

As the book begins, Liobhan (There’s a character list with pronunciation guide at the front – she’s LEE-vahn.) and her brother Brocc are training on Swan Island to be warriors. (If the reader has read the Sevenwaters books, they will know about Swan Island – though I didn’t remember any particular characters who were there.) Only a few of the trainees get selected to stay on the island as elite warriors and spies – and Liobhan wants nothing more, as does Dau, who has become her rival.

But then Liobhan and Brocc get selected for a special mission. In a nearby kingdom an important ritual object has gone missing, the Harp of Kings. It is needed if the royal heir, who has just come of age, is to be crowned at midsummer. However, the regent doesn’t want anyone to know it’s missing, which could cause unrest. Liobhan and Brocc are skilled musicians, so they will go to the kingdom as traveling minstrels with a leader from Swan Island, and seek to recover the harp.

Readers of Juliet Marillier’s other novels will not be at all surprised when druids are consulted and the Folk of the Otherworld get involved. There’s a wise woman who lives on the hillside outside the town who is very like Mistress Blackthorn.

The plot is interesting and otherworldly, but what makes these books so wonderful is the way the author pulls you into this ancient world and you believe that magic can happen.

Here’s a short section from Brocc’s perspective after they’ve gone on their mission:

We play for the household on our first night at court. With time so short, Archu thinks it best that we make our presence known straightaway, and what better opportunity than this? Everyone is gathered, from Prince Rodan and the regent down to serving folk, grooms, and a group of children under less than strict supervision. We choose pieces that are tried and trusty, those most popular with our audiences back home. While we sing and play I try to observe, as we’ve been taught, but it’s hard; my mind loses itself in the music. At a certain point, someone in the crowd asks for dancing, and folk move the tables and benches back to make space. So we give them a couple of reels, and then “Artagnan’s Leap,” which allows Liobhan to show off her talents on the whistle. The children love the jig; they try to clap in time, even though it gets quicker and quicker, and they perform their own version of the dance to the accompaniment of much giggling. Except for one, who sits very still, apart from the others, watching us with such concentration that it’s a little unnerving. When I smile in her direction, she turns her gaze away as if caught out in a misdemeanor.

This book does stand alone and come to a satisfying finish – but I still hope that more books will come soon. I want to read more about these people and this world.

julietmarillier.com
prh.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Cinderella Liberator, by Rebecca Solnit

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

Cinderella Liberator

by Rebecca Solnit
with illustrations by Arthur Rackham

Haymarket Books, 2019. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written May 10, 2019, from a library book

Oh, this is a marvelous retelling of Cinderella! Modifications have been made, with the result being a thing of delight even to the young feminist heart. No, Cinderella doesn’t marry the prince, but the prince gets a happy ending, as do the stepsisters. Everyone in the story gets to become their best selves.

She chose silhouettes done by Arthur Rackham in 1919 for the illustrations, which are exquisite and add to the fairy tale feeling – which is there all the way, even though the details are tuned to more modern sensibilities.

This is a story I’d love to read to an attentive audience. In fact, I will probably choose portions to read aloud when I’m doing booktalks in the local elementary schools. I’m going to quote here a few of the many passages that delighted me.

The beginning of Chapter 2, “Dresses and Horses”:

And then one day came the news that the king’s son, Prince Nevermind, was holding a great ball, which is what they called dance parties in those days. The stepmother made sure that Pearlita and Paloma were invited, and they spent days trying on clothes and ordering dressmakers to make them new dresses out of satin and velvet and glitter and planning how to put up their hair and stick it full of jewels and ornaments and artificial flowers.

Cinderella came upstairs to bring them some ginger cookies and saw all the piles of jewels and all the mirrors and all the fabric and all the fuss. Pearlita was doing her best to pile her hair as high as hair could go. She said that, surely, having the tallest hair in the world would make you the most beautiful woman, and being the most beautiful would make you the happiest.

Paloma was sewing extra bows onto her dress, because she thought that, surely, having the fanciest dress in the world would make you the most beautiful woman in the world, and being the most beautiful would make you the happiest. They weren’t very happy, because they were worried that someone might have higher hair or more bows than they did. Which, probably, someone did. Usually someone does.

But there isn’t actually a most beautiful person in the world, because there are so many kinds of beauty. Some people love roundness and softness, and other people love sharp edges and strong muscles. Some people like thick hair like a lion’s mane, and other people like thin hair that pours down like an inky waterfall, and some people love someone so much they forget what they look like. Some people think the night sky full of stars at midnight is the most beautiful thing imaginable, some people think it’s a forest in snow, and some people . . . Well, there are a lot of people with a lot of ideas about beauty. And love. When you love someone a lot, they just look like love.

This section comes after the ball:

The blue fairy godmother opened the door, and asked her if she’d had a good time, and she said Yes, and No, and It was very interesting to see all the fancy clothes and the fancy plates with fancy cakes and the fancy mirrors and the fancy lights. And then she said, It was even more interesting to see lizards become footwomen and mice become horses. The fairy godmother replied that true magic is to help each thing become its best and most free self, and then she asked the horses if they wanted to be horses.

Five of the horses said, in horse language, which fairy godmothers speak and most of us do not, that they loved running through the night and being afraid of nothing and bigger than almost everyone. The sixth horse said she’d had a lot of fun but she had mice children at home and wanted to get back to them. The fairy godmother nodded in understanding, and suddenly the sixth horse shrank, and lost its mane, and its shaggy tail became a pink tail with a fine fuzz like velvet. And there she was: a tiny gray mouse with pink feet, running back to her tinier pink children in the nest in the wall to tell them all about the enchantment that had made her a horse for a night.

And then the lizards said, in the quiet language of lizards, that nothing was better than being a lizard, being able to run up walls and to lie in the sun on warm days and to snap up flies in the garden and never worry about anything except owls and crows, and though they loved wearing silver satin, and going to parties, and they had been happy to help Cinderella, and they would tell all their lizard friends about it, they would rather be lizards again. And suddenly they were, running off toward the garden on their little lizard legs, trailing long lizard tails, the moon making the scales on their lean lizard bodies shine like silver.

If I copy out anything further in the story, I might give away too many crucial changes at the end, but I hope this gives you the idea. There’s an Afterword at the back that describes the author’s thoughts about the tale.

Here’s a retelling of Cinderella for our current times, and it is utterly delightful in every way.

haymarketbooks.org

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A Curse So Dark and Lonely, by Brigid Kemmerer

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

by Brigid Kemmerer

Bloomsbury, 2019. 484 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 29, 2019, from a library book

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” but it’s an expansive retelling, only borrowing the barest outline of the fairy tale.

The book begins with a scene in the fantasy world of Emberfall, then a scene on the streets of Washington, DC. In Emberfall, we meet Rhen, a cursed prince. The only member of his guard left is the captain, Grey. His family, servants, and all the rest of his guard are dead, killed by the beast he becomes at the end of each season. The girl who was this season’s prospect for breaking the curse has fled, as all the rest before her. A new season is beginning, in a perpetual time loop.

In DC, Harper is a lookout for her brother Jake. He’s been coerced into doing bill collection work, to make up for what their father had owed and to try to afford medicine for their mother, who is dying of cancer. Jake is taking too long, but while Harper waits, she sees a man abducting a young woman. Even though she doesn’t want to attract attention, and even though she has a limp from her cerebral palsy, she can’t just let him do this right in front of her, so she attacks him with a rusty tire iron.

But he’s surprisingly good at defending himself. When Harper thinks he’s about to attack her in return, she ends up suddenly transported into a fantasy world. She’s not kindly disposed to the prince she meets, either. And she’s worried about her mother and brother. But when she tries to escape, it doesn’t take long to figure out that something magical is happening, since the world outside the castle grounds is covered in snow.

I wasn’t too impressed with the story as it began, but became more and more so as it continued. All the characters have lots of depth. Rhen isn’t just a shallow prince who’s won over by this girl. He’s actually learned much from his initial mistake and from the horror of knowing he’s killed his family. He’s taken steps to protect his people. Too bad the enchantress continues to return to torment him. In fact, she’s decided that Harper is his last chance.

Harper, too, is a character with depth. She has cerebral palsy, but doesn’t let that stop her. She does some learning during the course of the book. For one thing, she learns that impulsive promises she makes to the people of Emberfall will have consequences. I do like the way the author has thought of repercussions of the curse that aren’t in the original fairy tale. For example, a neighboring monarch is going to want to get a piece of the kingdom whose rulers seem to have disappeared.

There are some twists thrown into the ending – twists that are not resolved at all. I wish there’d been some evidence somewhere on the book jacket that this is only Book One. But the basic story of the fairy tale is indeed resolved in a satisfying way. I do want to know what happens next, though, so I’ll be watching for the sequel.

brigidkemmerer.com
bloomsbury.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie

Friday, August 9th, 2019

The Raven Tower

by Ann Leckie

Orbit Books, 2019. 416 pages.
Starred Review
Review written August 9, 2019, from a library book

Oh, this book is amazing! I can’t expect anything traditional or stereotypical from Ann Leckie, but she still surprised me. I can tell you about the set-up, but not how everything comes together. Let me tell you that it does, and this book is well worth reading. This one’s fantasy, rather than the science fiction she’s written previously, but it breaks up expectations of the genre, just as her other books did with science fiction.

Here’s the first sentence:

I first saw you when you rode out of the forest, past the cluster of tall, bulge-eyed offering stakes that mark the edges of the forest, your horse at a walk.

At first, I thought this would be like The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin, and take the entire book to let you know who is speaking to whom. But we do find out fairly quickly that the person being addressed is Eolo, the aide to Lord Mowat, who is the heir to the Raven’s Lease. Eolo and Mowat have arrived from the southern defenses on an urgent summons because the Instrument had died. Eolo is a wonderful and resourceful character who is also a transgender man (which barely comes into the story, but I did enjoy the representation).

Then the one speaking begins telling his story and we learn he is a god, a god who lives in a large stone that began under the sea. The god’s story takes a long time to intersect with the Raven god. (There’s a nice touch that this god has a friend who is a god that inhabits mosquitoes, called Myriad. I can believe in that god!)

But all is not well at the Raven Tower. The Instrument (a physical raven) is dead, and the previous Lease, Mowat’s father, should have sacrificed himself to the Raven god while the next Instrument is in an egg. But the former Raven’s Lease was nowhere to be found. His brother Hibal, Mowat’s uncle, has taken the Lease’s bench, because it could not remain empty. Mowat is still the Heir to the Raven’s Lease.

But Mowat does not believe this story. His father would never have fled. His father was committed to make the sacrifice. There are many complications, complications with other nations, complications with expectations of the way the Raven god works that don’t seem to be met, and complications with schemers and plotters.

Behind it all, we also get the epic and centuries-long story of the life of the Strength and Patience of the Hill. What is this god’s place in all this?

And yes, we grow fond of both Eolo and the Strength and Patience of the Hill as the story unfolds.

I don’t dare say much more at all, but the story is woven wonderfully. Here is a fantasy tale with nothing typical about it.

annleckie.com
orbitbooks.net

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/raven_tower.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend, read by Gemma Whelan

Monday, July 29th, 2019

Nevermoor

The Trials of Morrigan Crow

by Jessica Townsend
read by Gemma Whelan

Hachette Audio, 2017. 11 hours on 9 discs.
Starred Review
Review written July 1, 2019, from a library audiobook

Big thanks to my co-worker, Amanda Snow, for recommending this audiobook! I didn’t have time to read it while I was on the Newbery committee because the author is Australian (and therefore not eligible), but I’m so happy to make up for lost time.

Morrigan Crow was born on Eventide, which means she’s under a curse and bad luck for everyone she encounters. Her father has to pay constant claims for damages because Morrigan was around when something bad happened, so clearly it was her fault.

It also means that she will die the next time Eventide happens. So when it happens on her eleventh birthday, her family spends the day preparing for her death. Then a surprising stranger with a contract appears. His name is Jupiter North and he takes her into the “free state” of Nevermoor, outrunning the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow who want to track her down and kill her.

The trouble is, Morrigan’s presence in Nevermoor is illegal, and those in charge of border security plan to deport her. However, Jupiter has entered her into the trials to become a member of the Wundrous Society, along with hundreds of other children from whom only nine will be chosen. As long as Morrigan is in the trials, she’s under the protection of the Wundrous Society and can’t be deported.

And Nevermoor is full of wonders. There’s a Magnificat (a giant talking cat) who helps run the Hotel Deucalion where Morrigan now lives. Strange and magical things happen all the time.

But Morrigan must undergo four trials to get into the Wundrous Society, the fourth one being to display her talent. Jupiter refuses to tell her what her talent is. If she is not selected for the society, she will have to leave Nevermoor, and she’ll be killed by the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow, so the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The comparisons to the Harry Potter books are obvious, and normally I roll my eyes when people make that claim. But in this case, the comparison is actually not bad! Morrigan has discovered a magical world; she gains friends and companions as she explores the new world; and she must learn how it all works. There’s a sinister shadowy figure in the background and Morrigan has some sort of special calling, despite a wretched home life where she was not appreciated. Author Jessica Townsend even has an amazing imagination like J. K. Rowling and comes up with delightful magical details.

This book would make wonderful family listening. Great accents, lots of humor, and magical adventures! How could you go wrong?

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

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