The Spirit Thief
Young Adult / May 21, 2016

The Legend of Eli Monpress #1. Author: Rachel Aaron. Summary: Eli Monpress is a classically charming, cock-sure thief with a past. Unlike other thieves, however, he has honed his escape technique with an unusual tool: he just asks. The door was happy to oblige. Right now, his goal is to raise his bounty. He started off by kidnapping a minor king, who shouldn’t cause too much trouble. As might be expected, everything went wrong. The question now is not merely whether Eli can fix it… but whether he is honorable enough to try. My Thoughts: Disclaimer: I read this book in the Legend of Eli Monpress omnibus, which encompasses the first three books. I think that alone, it would not have been as good; Aaron hints at character background without fulfilling, has a few quick expositions on the magical world but doesn’t fully explain, and leaves us rather unsatisfied at the end. Still, I loved it. Fast-paced and humorous, The Spirit Thief is chock-full of fascinating characters (and aggravating characters) and an interesting magic system. Eli fits quite well into a certain stereotype of cocky thief, but he has his own character which sets him apart from others. For one,…

The False Princess
Young Adult / May 19, 2016

Author: Eilis O’Neal. Summary: On Princess Nalia’s 16th birthday, the king and queen summon her to the throne room, where they reveal that she is neither the princess nor their daughter, as she has believed all her life. She’s nothing more than a stand in for the true princess, of whom it was prophesied would die before her 16th birthday in the palace. Her true name is Sinda, and she’s being sent away to her only living relative, her aunt. Sinda tries to bury herself in her new life, but it’s not working – especially after an old friend comes to see her and she sends him away with acid words, than bitterly regrets it. When she discovers that she has magic, the decision is made. She’s going back to the city. Little does she know, she’s going to be pulled back into the royal problems once again, almost as soon as she returns. My Thoughts: A good, solid combination of fantasy and detective story. There’s a lot of character growth in Sinda, our protagonist, and the secondary protagonists are interesting and engaging. I fully related to Sinda – I’ve been in that position of speaking, knowing I’ll regret it…

Enchantress from the Stars
Young Adult / May 18, 2016

Author: Sylvia Engdahl. Summary: Three young people from different planets, at different levels of civilization, each wonder about their place in the world and what will become of mankind. Each is intimately mixed up in the fate of this one planet – Elana, the most advanced, because she is a key figure in the scouting expedition that tries to save the Youngling planet without interfering too much; Georyn, native of this planet, for it is he who must trust Elana to teach him to fight the dragon; and Jarel, a medical officer of the invading force, who has begun to doubt their right to enslave these people. Together, they will change the fate of the world. My Thoughts: This is a lovely, contrasting, reflective science-fiction tale. Whether or not you agree with the views finally presented, Sylvia gives the reader much to think on, as each of her characters face down decisions that have no right answer. The three-way pov is intriguing to me in the way she tells the same events through such different minds. Elana’s story is straight forward first person, and often introspective; at many points in the story she pauses to give her own thoughts or…

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…

Snow
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…

Cinder
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…