Review: Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver

4 stars (I really liked it).

Liesl & Po cover (link to Goodreads)

I don’t know if any of you have seen the movie The Box Trolls, but this reminded me of it in ways. Mainly the setting and the feel: vaguely Victorian England, where almost all the adults are horrid, almost everything is bleak and gray and depressing, but the children are bright lights in all of it, plucky and courageous and smart and wise.

Liesl is a little girl who is locked in her room by her evil stepmother. Po is the ghost who haunts and then befriends her. Meanwhile, an alchemist’s apprentice, who is being terribly abused as well, makes a big mistake, and things start to unravel for all of them. It’s twisty and darkly humorous and well written, and I did enjoy it a lot. This isn’t my favorite setting, honestly, but the story sucked me in despite that.

Review: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

5 stars (I loved it!).

Nevermoor cover (link to Goodreads)

Forgive the teeny-tiny cover image.

Everyone knows Morrigan Crow is cursed to die on her eleventh birthday and to make bad things happen to those she comes in contact with until then. But when, on the eve of her 11th birthday, she is recruited for several jobs that she can’t possibly do after she’s dead–and by some rather mysterious and very interesting people, no less!–her life begins to change in completely unpredictable ways.

There are twists upon twists. Morrigan’s mentor reminds me of a ginger-bearded David-Tennant-as-10th-Doctor. Very energetic, cryptic, and zany. The world is magical and a bit steampunky and a bit Harry Potter. Much of the feel of everything reminded me of Harry Potter (specifically book 4), but there was enough that was unique that it didn’t feel totally derivative. The prevailing emotion throughout is wonder–that “Wow! So cool!” feeling that J. K. Rowling so often gets just right.

I immediately recommended the book to my picky 11 year old, and he devoured it and the second book in the series. We’re eagerly awaiting the third, which comes out this spring.

I can’t guarantee your kids will like this book, but if they like Harry Potter, City of Ember, Doctor Who, or Aru Shah, chances are good they’ll like this too.

Review: The Defiant Heir by Melissa Caruso

5 stars.

The Defiant Heir cover (link to Goodreads)

I mentioned before that I was completely invested in the first book in this series, The Tethered Mage, from the beginning to the end. Caruso is a master of pacing. In this one, too, there’s never a moment where it failed to keep my attention.

But there were a few things it did even better than the first book.

  1. The problematic aspect in the first book is treated as problematic rather directly. I’m beginning to trust that a satisfying end to that whole situation can be achieved.
  2. KATHE. I won’t spoil anything, but holy cow, that’s an interesting character, and a VERY interesting love triangle.
  3. A deeper look into the magic of the world, which is weirder and cooler than I thought it would be.

This series is a lot of fun. I highly recommend it if you like fantasy with lots of court intrigue, weird magic systems, and romance.

Review: The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

4 stars (I really liked it)

I was completely invested in this book from the first chapter on. The premise is that there’s a world where people with magic can lose control whenever they use it, especially some of the more powerful, and accidentally, like, burn down a town or something. So to keep everybody safe, mages are “tethered” to a “falconer,” someone who can release the power and stop it with a magic word. There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

It’s intriguing and romantic and exciting, and more. It was a really, really fun read.

Still, I constantly felt uneasy about the fact that the tethered mage in the book is an orphaned, fiery black teenage girl, and her accidental falconer is a white noble’s daughter. It seemed like it was trying to make statements about slavery, but at the same time, it was trying to make the main character (the noble’s daughter) relatable, which is hard to do when she’s essentially a slave owner. But, yeah, nobody wants whole towns destroyed accidentally, so this system might actually be necessary?

I had to wonder if discomfort at relating to the main character was part of the point, and I enjoyed the book enough to read book 2 (review coming in a few days).

Review: The Knights of Crystallia (Alcatraz book 3) by Brandon Sanderson

4 stars (I liked it a lot)

Knights of Crystallia cover (link to Goodreads)

I love the dynamic between Alcatraz and Bastille, and this book is chock full of it. Alcatraz is finally in the city where he belongs, surrounded by family. There central conflict surrounds Bastille herself: whether she is worthy to be a knight of Crystallia. There’s lots of action and humor and twists. It’s a very fun read, and it was delightful to see each character’s strengths and weaknesses drive the plot and provide a very satisfying ending. I’m sticking with this series for the duration.