The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi


cover171047-mediumThey are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost — one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God. Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into the icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined. – From the Publisher –

Roshani Chokshi just gets better and better at building lush, vivid worlds full of complicated, appealing characters, witty dialog, and fanciful landscapes.

Continuing the tale begun in Gilded Wolves, Chokshi spins a tale that wraps around you like a dark, soft blanket that nonetheless contains sharp little frissons of electricity. The story is as imaginative as Gilded Wolves, and the character development skillfully done. While this *could be read on its own, I recommend reading Gilded Wolves first, then savoring every moment of this wonderful story.

Publication Date: September 22, 2020
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab


A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever—and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world. But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.From the Publisher

So many people have recommended V.E. Schwab to me over the years, but this is the first of her work that I’ve read. Why did I wait so long to read her work???

Put simply, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is one of the most unusual and enchanting books I’ve read in a very long time. Bookshelves overflow with tales of the old gods and retellings of familiar stories, but very few take those old allegorical tales and turn them into something new and fresh like Schwab has done here.

There is so much to unpack in this story – what it means to live and die, what people must do to survive, what it means to be remembered (“It is a lonely thing, to be forgotten.“), what it takes to resist temptation – but at the same time, there is the telling of a captivating story that keeps you turning the pages just to see what happens to Addie, Henry, and the green-eyed man.

I completely understand why Schwab’s work has been so highly recommended to me. Reading this story is making me seek out her earlier work, and I could see this sweeping through book clubs this fall. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Published By: Tor Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher


cover185217-mediumHARRY DRESDEN IS BACK AND READY FOR ACTION, in the new entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files.

When the Supernatural nations of the world meet up to negotiate an end to ongoing hostilities, Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, joins the White Council’s security team to make sure the talks stay civil. But can he succeed, when dark political manipulations threaten the very existence of Chicago—and all he holds dear? – From the Publisher –

Dresden Files fans have waited a long time for Peace Talks and Battle Ground (due in September). Peace Talks will only fan the flames of Dresden fandom. Short in terms of most of Butcher’s books, Peace Talks reunites us with Harry Dresden and his world. The story is fast-paced and somewhat familiar – the dark against the light and Harry’s angsty response to being drawn back into the fight.

Fans will rip through this tasty morsel and be salivating for a resolution in Battle Ground.

Publication Date: July 14, 2020
Published By: Berkley Publishing Group, Ace
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Vathek by William Beckford


cover182066-mediumVathek, written in 1782, is a gothic novel that chronicles the fall from power of the Caliph Vathek, who renounces Islam and pursues a series of unspeakable activities designed to gain him supernatural powers. Instead of acquiring these powers, Vathek descends into a hell ruled by the fallen angel Eblis where he is doomed to wander endlessly.

I once wrote a paper on Vathek in high school during a time when I was immersing myself in horror literature. Re-reading it now, I am amazed that my English teacher allowed me to read it, given that I was a student in an all-girls Catholic school.

As Joe Lansdale says in the introduction, Vathek doesn’t exactly age well. The writing is typical of the time – flowery, overblown, and full of wonderful words one does not see in modern writing. Lonsdale also notes that William Beckford is rumored to have written this story over the course of three alcohol (and probably drug) soaked days. I can see how that could be true.

Reading this requires close attention but is well worth the effort. The story is still as sinister as I found it back in 1981. Vathek is, at his core, a narcissist who wants what he wants, when he wants it, and bends the truth to suit his reality. We’re all familiar with that today.

My library will likely not buy this as it still owns a copy of an older edition, and I doubt this newer version will gain much traction. However, publish a graphic novel version of this story and I think modern readers would gobble it up.

Publication Date: August 18, 2020
Published By: Poisoned Pen Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay


8F336876-C457-4438-91E5-BBE856C38066From Netgalley & the Publisher:

From award-winning author Hilary McKay comes a beautiful, enchanting story about a girl adjusting to her new family and their new house—which just might be magical.

When Abi’s father marries Max and Louis’s mom, their families start over together. Abi suddenly finds herself the middle child, expected to share far too much—especially with grubby little Louis. Then they move into an eerie, ivy-covered house, big enough for all of them.

But for the children, strange things start to happen in that house. Abi reads alone, and finds herself tumbling so deep into books, they almost seem real. Louis summons comfort from outdoors, and a startling guest arrives—is it a cat or something else? Max loses his best friend…and falls in love. Meanwhile, Louis’s secret visitor is becoming much too real. Now Abi, Max, and Louis must uncover the secrets of their new home—for there can be danger in even the most beautiful magic.

Moving into a new home can be very traumatic for children. Moving into a new home with a new family can be even harder.

The Time of Green Magic is more about the intricacies of family dynamics than it is about magic. The three children in this blended family all struggle with some serious emotions. Abi feels unwelcome in her new blended family, resenting sharing her Dad with her two new brothers and missing her grandmother terribly. Max and Louis are also struggling to accept Abi and her Dad as parts of their lives with mom Polly. Louis especially has issues with separation and anger.

Moving into a new house, completely covered with ivy, sets in motion a series of events that results in the family being renewed and bonded, but not without some excitement along the way. Truly, this is about the children coming to grips with love, loss, and fear.

McKay does a good job of telling a captivating, exciting story that seamlessly blends fantasy and reality. As a librarian and reader, I especially appreciate that books are the vehicle used to introduce magic to the children’s lives.

Kids exploring fantasy will enjoy this, and I expect it will lead them to other, more complex stories.

Recommended.

Publication Date: July 28, 2020
Published By: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; Margaret K. McElderry Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Quintessence by Jess Redman


9780374309763_aa1faIn this heartfelt middle-grade novel perfect for fans of Barbara O’Connor, a girl goes on a quest to return a fallen star to the sky, and along the way discovers friendship, magic, and the strength of her own soul.

Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped—even though she’s told her parents that they have. Every day she feels less and less like herself. But one day she finds a telescope in the town’s junk shop, and through its lens, she watches a star—a star that looks like a child—fall from the sky and into her backyard. Alma knows what it’s like to long for home, and decides she’ll return that star home to the sky. With the help of unlikely new friends, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of science, a little bit of magic, and her whole self. Quintessence is a stunning story from Jess Redman about friendship, self-discovery, interconnectedness, and the inexplicable elements that make you you.

Quintessence was the first book I read in 2020 and is one of my top 10 books so far this year. The unique plot revolving around a fallen star unfolds into this lovely story about a young girl struggling with identity, loneliness, and self-worth in a new town.

There are so many good things about this book but perhaps the most touching is the message that we all have a light inside – we just need to figure out how to ignite it. Alma remembers that light and is frustrated with trying to find it again. Anyone struggling with depression will recognize that feeling and identify with Alma as she searches for her inner fire.

This is Jess Redman’s second book. Her first, The Miraculous, also featured a child protagonist struggling with a difficult time. I wrote about that book here. The Miraculous was a lovely, heartbreaking book; Quintessence is absolute joy.

So good for kids to know that they are enough.

Well done!

Publication Date: July 28, 2020
Published By: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy

The Night Country by Melissa Albert


cover173062-mediumThe New York Times bestseller! The Night Country is the highly anticipated sequel to Melissa Albert’s beloved debut The Hazel Wood.

In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors of The Hazel Wood. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors—and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and—if he can find it—a way back home…

I confess I found this sequel to The Hazel Wood hard to read. The grim and bloody violence was wrenching at times, and the story seemed a bit convoluted. However, all of the odd story strands were pulled tight and tied off in a pulse-pounding conclusion that will resonate with fans of The Hazel Wood and the Hinterland.

All that said, I really think I was not in the right frame of mind to read this. It was early days of “New York on PAUSE” due to coronavirus and my nerves were super-taut. I’m recommending it because the writing is awesome and the conclusion to the story begun in The Hazel Wood is highly anticipated by fans.

Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Published By: Flatiron Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White


B538682A-3D64-4E2C-9058-8E587CE17E39A new fantasy series set in the world of Camelot that bestselling author Christina Lauren calls “brilliant,” reimagining the Arthurian legend . . . where nothing is as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

*THE FIRST BOOK IN THE CAMELOT RISING TRILOGY*

Retelling or re-interpreting beloved stories has been a trend in publishing, and the glorious stories of King Arthur and Camelot have long been fodder for this kind of storytelling. One part of this trend that I have enjoyed is the re-telling of stories through the female characters, and here Kiersten White has produced a remarkable tale of Camelot featuring a new and powerful Guinevere.

White writes of a Camelot carved from a mountain, bereft of magic, but enjoying the peace and prosperity of Arthur’s reign. Into that bucolic kingdom comes Queen Guinevere, but not the Queen they all expected. This Guinevere is a changeling, a child of Merlin substituted for a dead princess from the south, sent to Camelot to protect Arthur from unknown dark magic.

White takes the old Arthurian tales of Thomas Mallory and T.H. White and blends them with other old English folklore – sentient trees, a “dark queen,” and the Green Knight – while adding some welcome and decidedly 21st century feminism to the mix. Guinevere is written as a character who has been used by men (primarily Merlin) for the benefit of men (Arthur) who tempers the traditional with her own magic, even as she learns the extent of her power.

There are plenty of unanswered questions here, such as who is Guinevere, really, why does she have so few memories of her past life, and why does she fear water? This is the first book in a planned trilogy and I look forward to the next two. Joining recent Arthurian retellings such as Cursed, The Guinevere Deception will appeal to fantasy fans and will quickly earn space on many bookshelves.

Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Published By: Random House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

A Tale of Witchwood Park by S.W. Develin


cover171821-mediumEmily Spellmaker is missing. She didn’t return to Witchwood Park Elementary and Kendra, the shy little girl she befriended, is heartbroken. Kendra waits alone after school each day until the Tuesday a troll walks out of the woods. He chooses Kendra, Jimmy (the school bully), and Daniel (an outcast) to come on a magical journey where they must overcome an evil queen and her Army of the Faceless to free an enslaved land. In the process they learn who they really are and what friendship means, while getting closer to solving the mystery of Emily Spellmaker.

This lovely tale about the power of storytelling will appeal to early-mid level readers who cut their teeth on animated fantasies like Frozen, Rapunzel, and Brave. We’re drawn in to the story as a troll appears in a schoolyard, looking for a Queen, a Knight, and Something Else. He connects with three misfits – Daniel, the boy who never gets picked for soccer; Kendra, a quiet little girl who can’t seem to function when around people; and Jimmy, the bully who can never do anything right.

The story moves quickly, as the troll leads the children into the Witchwood, where an amazing adventure awaits. Each child discovers something extraordinary about themselves as they work together to save the magical kingdom they’ve found.

I thoroughly enjoyed the premise that the Witchwood and the events of the story itself were created through Kendra’s storytelling, which she uses to cope with her every-day life. Relatively short, with a quick, action-packed pace, this will appeal to boys and girls alike.

Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier


cover162862-mediumFrom the Publisher: A young woman is both a bard and a warrior in this thrilling historical fantasy from the author of the Sevenwaters novels.

Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and is a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels, for Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Their mission: to find and retrieve a precious harp, an ancient symbol of kingship, which has gone missing. If the instrument is not played at the upcoming coronation, the candidate will not be accepted and the kingdom will be thrown into disarray. Faced with plotting courtiers and tight-lipped druids, an insightful storyteller, and a boorish Crown Prince, Liobhan soon realizes an Otherworld power may be meddling in the affairs of the kingdom. When ambition clashes with conscience, Liobhan must make a bold decision—and the consequences may break her heart.

I thought there would never be another author or series to equal Douglas Nicholas’ Something Red series, but I found it in this haunting and lovely tale by Juliet Marillier. There’s a little bit of everything here but mostly a quest featuring a feisty young female warrior, a prickly male counterpart, an otherworldly bard, an island of warriors, a pain-in-the-ass king-to-be, lots of faery folk, and druids.

Liobhan, Dau & Brocc are the focus of this quest story, where each is selected to be part of a top-secret mission to recover the stolen Harp of Kings. However, as you progress through the story, it becomes clear that the real quests are for each of our young heroes. Liobhan will learn that she can control her temper, Dau will learn to trust, and Brocc will learn to follow his own path.

The story is tightly woven and beautifully told. The characters fairly leap off the pages, and their stories will envelop you. Highly recommended for fantasy fans.

Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Published By: Berkley Publishing Group; Ace Sci Fi & Fantasy
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy