Black Unicorn

Unicorn Series #1. Author: Tanith Lee. Summary: Nobody knew where it had come from, or what it wanted. Not even Jaive, the sorceress, could fathom the mystery of the fabled beast. But Tanaquil, Jaive’s completely unmagical daughter, understood it at once. She knew why the unicorn was there: It had come for her. It needed her. Tanaquil was amazed because she was the girl with no talent for magic. She could only fiddle with broken bits of machinery and make them work again. What could she do for a unicorn? My Thoughts: Black Unicorn has the taste of a fairy tale; with dreamy landscapes, magical creatures, and set-piece characters intermixed with interesting dimensional characters. It has a simpler story line, with much detail on immediate settings but little over-all world building. While many of the minor characters are undeveloped set-pieces, the main character is an independent multi-dimensional girl with a will of her own and the perseverance to go after what she wants. A good tale for younger readers, as it is quite clean and fairly straight forward, with a fun world and strong protagonist. I think older readers with an inclination to fairy-tales or a certain type of fantasy…

Young Adult / May 18, 2016

Author: Tracy Lynn. Summary: The Duchess Jessica’s childhood began with a tragedy: her mother’s death. Her father, heartbroken at the loss of his beloved wife, could not bear to raise the child. Largely ignored, Jessica spent the first eleven years of her life running free on the family estate, cared for only by the servants. Then her father decides to remarry, bringing an end to Jessica’s independence. At first her new stepmother just seems overly strict. But as Jessica grows into a beautiful young woman, it becomes clear that her stepmother is also wildly — and murderously — jealous of her. Jessica escapes to London. Going by the name Snow to hide from her family, she falls in love with an odd band of outcasts who accept her into their makeshift family. But when her stepmother appears in the city, repentant and seeking her forgiveness, Jessica will have to decide whom to trust…with her life. My Thoughts: A short, fun, rather inventive retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It’s completely recognizable, although the author is quite loose with the connections – there aren’t even seven Lonely Ones to match the dwarfs. It wrapped up very quickly, and I…

Theft of Swords
Young Adult / May 17, 2016

Riyria revelations # 1-2. Author: Michael J. Sullivan. Summary: THEY KILLED THE KING. THEY PINNED IT ON TWO MEN. THEY CHOSE POORLY. There’s no ancient evil to defeat or orphan destined for greatness, just unlikely heroes and classic adventure. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, are two enterprising rogues who end up running for their lives when they’re framed for the murder of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy that goes beyond the overthrow of a tiny kingdom, their only hope is unraveling an ancient mystery before it’s too late. (Summary from Goodreads.) My Thoughts: Theft of Swords is set in a very comfortable, familiar fantasy setting. Castles and kings, elves and dwarves; there’s little dramatic worldbuilding here. At first I was turned off, both by this and the simple, plain prose. However, the story starts almost immediately, and continues at a smooth, swift pace. Compelling characters and the dynamics between them keep the reader hooked as this adventure story unfolds, and from the unsolved secrets and hints I suspect continuing books will have an even more twisty story line. Content Review: Sexual content: Girl is accused of “having a secret affair” with a commoner….

The Girl With Borrowed Wings
Young Adult / May 16, 2016

Author: Rinsai Rossetti. Summary: Controlled by her father and bound by desert, Frenenqer Paje’s life is tediously the same, until a small act of rebellion explodes her world and she meets a boy, but not just a boy–a Free person, a winged person, a shape-shifter. He has everything Frenenqer doesn’t. No family, no attachments, no rules. At night, he flies them to the far-flung places of their childhoods to retrace their pasts. But when the delicate balance of their friendship threatens to rupture into something more, Frenenqer must confront her isolation, her father, and her very sense of identity, breaking all the rules of her life to become free. My Thoughts: This romance contrasts adventure with familiarity, freedom with safety. It’s not deep, nor life-changing, nor epic. It’s just the story of a boy and girl falling in love, intertwined with the story of a girl trying to escape the walls of abusive authority even as she struggles to understand who she is without those rules. I loved Sangris, wild and laughing and caught, through every aspect. I enjoyed Frenenquer’s voice, with her knack of description and lovely quotes. And I enjoyed the slow development of the romance. Too many…

The Hollow Boy
Young Adult / May 15, 2016

Lockwood & Co. #3. Author: Jonathan Stroud. Summary: Danger is escalating in the haunted world. The bloody footprints and murderous ghosts of their one-off cases are nothing compared to the growing mystery in London, as more and more manifestations cluster throughout the city. But Lockwood, George, and Lucy are up to it – oh, and Holly. Old divisions have been healed, but new rifts are opening in the team. Lockwood has hired an immaculate and completely organized new member, Holly Munro. From the start, she and Lucy simply cannot get along, and it’s dissolving their cohesiveness as a team. Can Lockwood and Co. compete with the major companies, avoid living assassins, solve the London mystery, all while torqueing around the internal tensions in their daily lives? My Thoughts: I did not like this as much as the preceding two. Lucy, formerly a dashing agent with a strong personality who can take care of herself, spends much of the book jealous of Holly. Holly is, frankly, ingratiating and irritating at a couple of parts, but for the most part her only fault is being too well organized and attractive, and spending too much time with Lockwood. Lucy lost a good bit…

Young Adult / May 13, 2016

Lunar Chronicles #1. Author: Marissa Meyer. Summary: In a futuristic world sleek with hover-cars and androids, yet devastated by plague and threatened by the lunar queen, a sarcastic female mechanic is swept up into palace intrigue against her will. When the prince urgently requests her aid in fixing a droid carrying classified secrets hours before her stepsister falls ill with the deadly plague, the chain of events is set in motion. Cinder will have to fight for her liberty, learn the forgotten secrets of her own past, and confront who she really is. And decide, in the end, whether there is anything she, a cyborg teenager, can do to save her country from the cruel lunar queen’s plots. My Thoughts: Sharp, clear prose is the initial building block of this re-told fairy tale, followed by three-dimensional characters, dynamic dialogue, and a convoluted plot. This is Cinderella as you’ve never heard it before. Cinder combines science fiction, dystopia, and fairy tale into one package, and does it without feeling strained or over-packed. The first convention broken is that it’s set in Europe. The second, that the main character is not beautiful. And for a third, she and the love interest don’t…

The Whispering Skull
Young Adult / May 10, 2016

Lockwood & Co #2. Author: Jonathan Stroud. Summary: Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress, for a rival agency keeps swooping in on their cases. Finally Lockwood makes a deal in exasperation – the next time they have a case in common, whoever solves it first will win, and the other must post a public declaration of inferiority. And soon after, they’re both called in to help excavate a suspicious coffin. Things get strange when it’s robbed the night after and a dangerous mirror stolen – looks like they’re on the hunt. But the team is pulling in different directions, as Lucy is distracted by the whispers of the skull, George has found a new comrade in obsession, and Lockwood is irritated with them both. Can they pull together in time to solve the robbery before more people die? Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 5 hell, 5 bloody, 2 d*** Violence: Mention of past events where a ghost killed five people, then was destroyed. Character slaps a little girl. Characters find corpse of recently murdered man. Characters open the door at urgent knocking, a man with a knife in his back falls in. Brief sword fight. Explosion set in…

A Whole New World
Young Adult / May 8, 2016

Twisted Tales #1. Author: Liz Braswell. Summary: What if Aladdin never used the lamp? When Jafar steals the lamp and begins maximizing his wishes for world domination, Aladdin and Jasmine are going to have to unite, bringing rich and poor, royalty and thieves, together to take down the tyrant enslaving their city. My Thoughts: Meh. The characters were flat and the story-line, despite all the promises, was predictable and didn’t explore any of the exciting possibilities. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this re-telling, it just lacks depth and tension. Content Review: Sexual content: Scantily clad dancing girls in parade. Some light kissing. Language: 3 d*** Violence: Monkey attacks a man with claws. A thief is roughly arrested and dragged away. One character shoves another of a balcony, killing him. Magician hurls a tame tiger across a room, smashing him into a wall. Character crushed by a falling column. One character stabbed. Magic twists a man’s head around until his neck snaps. Character knocked out with a blow to the head.  

Young Adult / May 1, 2016

The Witchlands #1. Author: Susan Dennard. Summary: Threadsisters Safiya and Iseult are in trouble, yet again. In attempting to hold up a thief on the road, they caught the wrong wagon and antagonized the wrong person. With a Bloodwitch on their trail they have to flee the city, for Safiya’s talent of truthwitchery is a dangerously rare secret, and there are men who would kill to possess her. Safiya flees to the Court, where her relatives should shelter her; but instead they use her in their plans, declare her betrothed to the emperor, and send her off again. The ship she and Iseult land on may help them escape the Bloodwitch, but Safiya and Iseult are still going to have to push their limits to survive the hot-tempered prince, the seafoxes, and the determined assassin who’s still on their trail. My Thoughts: This rich new fantasy weaves an intriguing world of diverse cultures on the brink of war and a magic/mythos system to be explored without a single info-dump, allowing things to come up naturally and trusting, for once, the reader’s capability of putting things together. There’re still many questions unanswered, but this is only the first book. I loved…

The Siren
Young Adult / May 1, 2016

Author: Kiera Cass. Summary: Years ago, Kahlen was rescued from drowning by the Ocean. To repay her debt, she has served as a Siren ever since, using her voice to lure countless strangers to their deaths. Though a single word from Kahlen can kill, she can’t resist spending her days on land, watching ordinary people and longing for the day when she will be able to speak and laugh and live freely among them again. Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude…until she meets Akinli. Handsome, caring, and kind, Akinli is everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. Falling in love with a human breaks the Ocean’s rules. But for the first time in a lifetime of following the rules, Kahlen is determined to follow her heart. Sexual content: Girl wears revealing dress, a couple men stare at her in bar. Character is aware that a friend-siren has “affairs” with men on land. One kiss. Character reveals to another that she has a daughter, although she was never married. My Thoughts: A kind of cute romance story with an interesting character in the form of the Ocean, but it takes the trend of insta-love over the top. Kahlen has only…