It’s Okay if the Sky is Awful
Outside the Reviews / October 29, 2017

It’s okay if the sky is awful. ​ Did you know that the words awesome and awful are directly related? “Awful” was around a lot earlier, going back almost a thousand years, and it meant something that was awe-inspiring. Full of awe. It could mean “worthy of, or commanding, profound respect or reverential fear”. It was not a far stretch, back then, to use it to mean “causing dread”. Sometime after it strayed into strong negative connotations, “awesome” came around, perhaps to replace it; and if now we say awesome the same way we’d say cool or great, still it used to mean “something that inspires awe”. Sometimes awesome is awful. Consider: even now, one of the sentences under the dictionary definition of awful is “the awful majesty of alpine peaks”. Being filled with awe has never been supposed to be a pleasant experience. It’s okay if the sky is awful. Humans are dreamers, philosophers, romanticists. We have always looked up at the sky and seen mystery. We have always asked halting questions about the intangible. We have always tried to paint our emotions: in lofty words of poetry and novels, in the music of songs and orchestras, in sweeping…

Silksinger
Middle Grade / Juvenile , Young Adult / October 26, 2017

Faeries of Dreamdark #2. Author: Laini Taylor. Summary: One faerie, the last of her clan, must fight to complete her sacred duty Whisper Silksinger is the last of the secret guardians of the Azazel, one of the powerful Djinn who dreamed the world into being. Relentlessly pursued by bloodthirsty devils, she flees to the city of Nazneen to restore the Azazel to his temple. At the same time, Hirik Mothmage is also on a secret quest, to find the Azazel and restore his disgraced clan’s ancient honor. And behind them all flies Magpie Windwitch, first champion of the new age of faeries, desperate to rescue Whisper and the Azazel alike before they fall in the clutches of a sinister hidden enemy. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Much more dynamic and fast-paced than the first one! When multiple new point-of-views were first introduced, I was confused and none too pleased. Who are all these random people, and why am I watching them mess about when Magpie obviously has important things to do? As it turned out, Whisper Silksinger and Hirik Mothmage turned into my two new favorite characters. (There aren’t even that many characters, but trust me – I really, really like…

The Invisible Library
Adult / October 19, 2017

Invisible Library #1. Author: Genevieve Cogman. Summary: Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently… Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I maintain that The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson proves that a book can actually live up to and beyond an epic premise. Well, The Invisible Library proves that a book can have a spectacular premise – the premise of that fascinating, thoughtful, epic-and-yet-amusing book you’re always wishing you could…

Blackbringer
Middle Grade / Juvenile , Young Adult / October 13, 2017

Faeries of Dreamdark #1. Author: Laini Taylor. Summary: When the ancient evil of the Blackbringer rises to unmake the world, only one determined faerie stands in its way. However, Magpie Windwitch, granddaughter of the West Wind, is not like other faeries. While her kind live in seclusion deep in the forests of Dreamdark, she’s devoted her life to tracking down and recapturing devils escaped from their ancient bottles, just as her hero, the legendary Bellatrix, did 25,000 years ago. With her faithful gang of crows, she travels the world fighting where others would choose to flee. But when a devil escapes from a bottle sealed by the ancient Djinn King himself, the creator of the world, she may be in over her head. How can a single faerie, even with the help of her friends, hope to defeat the impenetrable darkness of the Blackbringer? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I was afraid from the cover that this would be a YA version of the Pixie Hollow stories, but was pleasantly surprised. They are still the tiny, pixie-ish version of faeries, not my personal favorite. And I don’t think the writing here was quite as lovely as Laini Taylor’s more recent stuff,…

The Serial Garden
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 11, 2017

Author: Joan Aiken. Summary: The complete collection of twenty-four charming and magical Armitage family stories. Includes a prelude by the author and introductions from Garth Nix and Lizza Aiken. My Thoughts: The best kind of silly is delightful, clever, straight-faced silly. (Not the straight-faced silly where you realize suddenly “Oh, no, they mean it. How. What. Someone, help,” but the extravagant ever-growing tall tale carried off to such perfection that there’s someone credulous in the back trying to figure out if it’s real or not.) Joan Aiken creates a world of magic, whimsy, and ordinary tea-time. Some of the stories were funnier than others; in fact the first couple of tales tasted bland to me, but there were two or three truly delightful ones, and most of them were fun. Seems to me like it might make a good read aloud for kids. Content Review: Sexual Content: None. Language: None. Violence: Witch ties a child up and tries to cook him, but through a series of mishaps no harm is done and he ends up escaping. Boy accidentally shoots man in the foot with a dart. There are multiple magical duels, but no one ever seems hurt – the worst…

The Last Magician
Young Adult / September 18, 2017

Author: Lisa Maxwell. Summary: Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future. In modern day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives. Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future. But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone…

The Crown’s Game
Young Adult / September 8, 2017

Crown’s Game #2. Author: Evelyn Skye. Summary: Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side. And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know.  The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death. Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has? For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her. And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or…

A Dragon of a Different Color
Young Adult / August 1, 2017

Heartstrikers #4. Author: Rachel Aaron. Summary: To save his family from his tyrannical mother, Julius had to step on a lot of tails. That doesn’t win a Nice Dragon many friends, but just when he thinks he’s starting to make progress, a new threat arrives. Turns out, things can get worse. Heartstriker hasn’t begun to pay for its secrets, and the dragons of China are here to collect. When the Golden Emperor demands his surrender, Julius will have to choose between loyalty to the sister who’s always watched over him and preserving the clan he gave everything to protect. (Published Summary.) My Thoughts : Bernadette: Well, I enjoyed it, but A Dragon of a Different Color wasn’t as good as the previous books. I imagine Rachel Aaron had all this awesome worldbuilding done that she really wanted to give her readers… so she tied plot twists to each discovery, and crammed them all together. And it was exciting and fun and illuminating, but – it was also crammed. It felt like the entire book was just a series of twists and reveals, with never enough down time to process the new reveal or even to just enjoy the new characters…

The Blue Sword
Young Adult / June 23, 2017

Damar #1. Author: Robin McKinley. Summary: This is the story of Corlath, golden-eyed king of the Free Hillfolk, son of the sons of the Lady Aerin. And this is the story of Harry Crewe, the Homelander orphan girl who became Harimad-sol, King’s Rider, and heir to the Blue Sword, Gonturan, that no woman had wielded since the Lady Aerin herself bore it into battle. And this is the song of the kelar of the Hillfolk, the magic of the blood, the weaver of destinies… (Published summary) My Thoughts: The Blue Sword is a story about three ​wholly different things. It’s a story about the coming-of-age journey of a young woman finding her home; the story of a nomadic culture on the decline; and while not the story of, I think we can say a story about, kelar, the wild hill-magic that pervades the setting. Each of these is a strong guiding force in their own way. Harry, our protagonist, is an astonishingly self-possessed young woman, rising to new challenges with ever-growing courage and walking boldly enough down a path she does not know to an end she cannot see. The unfamiliar culture she finds herself in is written with detail…

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 6, 2017

Author: Kelly Barnhill. Summary: Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known….