Review: The Legend of Griff by Richard Sparrow #BookReview #Fantasy #Humour

My thanks to the author for a digital review copy of the book.

This is (which I didn’t realise at first) the first in a fantasy–adventure series complete with a prophecy, magic, mages, a tyrannical king, goblins, and trolls and fairies, even a storybook ‘hero’—all the usual ingredients but with a fun twist. In the Kingdom of Lohr, we meet different groups on missions, a bunch of trolls—mercenaries on the trail of someone; the group of people there are trailing, a motley lot including a mage carrying a magic sword in secret somewhere; then a third group of Kingswatch constables on the trail of poachers in the Great Untame; and alongside a lone adolescent goblin, Griff of the title, who is travelling to the city, wanting only to make a name for himself as a minstrel in a kingdom not very friendly to those not human. Alongside, on a pig farm is a young orphan boy, Arn Propp, handsome, brave, ready to stand up for injustice, in short the perfect hero who is trying to his work well (he lives with his uncle, aunt, and cousins, who in this case (not stereotypical) actually like and appreciate him) and get along in life but who suddenly also finds himself thrown in the midst of adventure, when he goes to rescue his cousin from some thugs. The paths of these groups cross and stories collide with unusual results, especially when one event throws the entire course of things on its head, and we find ourselves with an unlikely hero who has to take on the reins.

This was a really fun read for me. A couple of other reviewers of this book have mentioned how like Pratchett this book is, and that was something that came to my mind as well—the humour, and the set-up of the story while original also reminded me a lot of Pratchett, and there were moments specifically that I found myself thinking of the city watch books in particular. I enjoyed how the author picked up the elements of a typical fantasy adventure and put his own spin on it making it a very entertaining journey. Also, it isn’t just the ‘main’ twist, but there was another along the way which took me by surprise and I’d love to see how that plays out over the course of the story. Like the discworld book it specifically made me think of, Men at Arms, this one too weaves in issues of diversity, people refusing to understand each other, even listen to each other merely because they are different, and the need to look at things from each one’s point of view before taking action (more often than not violent) recklessly (not a problem of the fantasy world alone, unfortunately). The characters were also very likeable, and I liked how the author made us see things from each one’s or each group’s pov. I am keen to see where their adventures take them next and what new twists and turns the plot takes. Great fun!  Four and a half stars!

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Children’s Book of the Month: Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

Cover of the Companion Library Edition (1965, Grosset and Dunlap), the copy that I have

The 1883 classic tale of the rather naughty wooden puppet. The translation I read was by M.A.  Murray, illustrated by Mariano Leone. The story begins with a carpenter Master Cherry coming upon a rather unusual piece of wood which seems to talk and laugh, and even cry. He hands this over to his friend Geppetto who has at that time come looking for a piece of wood to make a puppet by which he can earn a living. But even as he is making the puppet, he realises that this no ordinary puppet for it not only speaks to him, but begins to get into mischief like pulling off the poor man’s wig. And once Pinocchio is made, more mischief ensues as the boy is interested only in having his own way, even if poor old Geppetto has to suffer (even go to prison) in the process. But Pinocchio is not bad hearted. He in fact feels for his father and really wishes to do him some good. With good intentions, he starts off to school with his spelling book but before long is distracted by a puppet show. This is the beginning of a series of adventures where Pinocchio falls into one soup after another (from nearly being fried as a fish to turning into a donkey), while attempting quite sincerely every so often to turn good, and ultimately to become a boy.

Before I go into my thoughts in the book, I’d just like to write about the edition that I have which is the Companion Library edition (1965) published by Grosset and Dunlap. When I bought this book (second-hand) I didn’t realise that this was actually two books in one, starting on opposite ends (see picture below). So it was a real surprise when I got home and noticed that. It has some nice cheerful (green and white) endpapers. I also quite liked the illustrations (the illustrators of both books must be related, Mariano Leone for this one and Sergio Leone for the King Arthur book), and especially the cover.

Anyway, now back to the actual book. For starters, I realised when I read that book that I hadn’t actually ever read it before. The impression I had of Pinocchio is of a boy-puppet who told lies which made his nose grow long, which was then restored if he tells the truth—something which would go on till he learnt his lesson. But this was not just that, in fact there were literally only two episodes of this. Pinocchio gets into various forms of mischief, but his worst habits are being disobedient and getting tempted by whatever people (usually the wrong sort) tell him rather than listening to good advice. That he is lazy, and like many children would rather be having fun than going to school adds to his troubles, and he finds himself in trouble (even on the verge of losing his life) each time he strays. But the kind of adventures he has and the different settings and characters are very imaginative, fun, and a real delight to read about. I enjoyed the descriptions, for instance of the poodle, Medoro who was sent by the blue-haired fairy to rescue Pinocchio:

“He was in the full dress livery of a coachman. On his head was a three-cornered cap braided with gold, his curly white wig came down onto his shoulders, he had a chocolate-colored waistcoat with diamond buttons, and two large pockets to contain the bones that his mistress gave him at dinner. He had besides a pair of short crimson velvet breeches, silk stockings, cut-down shoes, and hanging behind him a species of umbrella case made of blue satin, to put his tail into when the weather was rainy.”

And the story is full of humour. There are also some (though not a lot) of rather Alicey (in wonderland) lines. For instance:

“I wish to know from you gentlemen, if this unfortunate puppet is alive or dead!”

“To my belief the puppet is already quite dead; but if unfortunately he should not be dead, then it would be a sign that he is still alive.”

“I regret,” said the Owl, “to be obliged to contradict the Crow, my illustrious friend and colleague; but in my opinion the puppet is still alive; but if unfortunately he should not be alive, then it would be a sign that he is dead indeed!”

This is a humorous and fun read, and although it does (and understandably so) get preachy in parts about how young boys should behave (after all it was meant to teach a lesson), I found it to be a really enjoyable read.

#BookReview #ChildrensLiterature #Classic #Humour #Fantasy

Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

My thanks to NetGalley and HQ for a review copy of this book.

Shadow of the Fox is a Japanese-inspired fantasy–adventure, and the first of a trilogy by author Julie Kagawa. This is the first of her books that I’ve read. In the book we meet Yumeko, a half yokai (magical beings who can shapeshift and assume human shape) who is sixteen and has been brought up at the Silent Winds Temple where most of the monks try to teach her to ignore her kitsune or fox-self, which includes the magic she can perform and act human. When the temple is attacked by a demon creature (an oni, Yaburama) and his minions, she finds out about a prophecy that it is she who would protect the part of the dragon scroll that the temple has had in its safe-keeping for many years. She is to carry the scroll to the other temple, Steel Feather, where another part of it is hidden but she doesn’t know where that temple is. Just as she is escaping from the temple, she meets, Kage Tatsumi. Just slightly older than her, he belongs to the shadow clan and is a ruthless assassin of creatures of all kind, and does only as his clan requires him to do, no questions, no feelings. Tatsumi has been sent by his clan head to recover the scroll. Naturally Yumeko can’t tell him she is the bearer but manages to secure his help to escort her to find the location of the Steel Feather Temple (where Tatsumi too hopes to recover the missing scroll and complete his mission). Like Yumeko, Tatsumi also has a secret, as bearer of the powerful sword Kamigoroshi (one that can do away with any kind of creature), he is also a vessel for a demon Hakaimono, who he keeps under control by not allowing himself to feel any emotion. And so begins their adventure. On the way to the capital city, Kin Heigen Toshi, where they hope to find out where the Steel Feather Temple is, they are attacked by all variety of creatures, demons and monsters and have a powerful blood mage on their trail. There’s also a “side-quest” or two, and they are joined by a ronin, Okame, and a noble Taiyo Daisuke, who become part of their motley group.

This book was so much fun, I really loved it. The book managed to have a light-hearted adventure feel and tone despite all the monsters and bloodshed. In fact, much of it had a humorous undertone which was very good fun. I also enjoyed the folklore elements (some of these, Yokai included, I’d come across in the one other Japanese-inspired fantasy I’d read, Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean, and so was familiar with–find my review here)—the different types of creatures one encounters, even the horrid ones.

Both the main characters Yumeko and Tatsumi are very likeable. Alternate chapters are in fact told from each of their perspectives (in first person), and one thing that stood out in this which I thought Kagawa had done really well is how Yumeko’s naivety and inexperience stands out in the Tatsumi chapters (from the eyes of another) while in her chapters, one doesn’t see this. (The author is also building up a romance but only the base has been laid so far). I also very much liked Okame and Daisuke. There are also a few chapters told in third person from the perspective of a young girl Suki, who comes to the imperial palace as maid to Lady Satomi, and whose story ends up taking some rather interesting turns as we go on. The only (very slight) complaint that I had was that in some (though only a few) instances, the dialogue felt a little modern coming from the time and setting in which the characters lived but it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the book.

As far as the plot elements are concerned, there’s nothing really out of the ordinary as such, a prophecy, a quest, monsters, a journey, but the way it is done makes it very enjoyable and great fun. The ending was quite a surprise, had a couple of turns/twists(?) I didn’t see coming and made me wish I had the sequel right there in front of me to pick up and continue, but alas that couldn’t happen. I can’t wait for it to come out so I can continue with them on their journey! Five stars!

Other reviews from blogs I follow: @lynnsbooks here and the Orang-utan Librarian here.

Have you read this one so far? How did you like it? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Shelf Control #26: Children of Blood and Bone

Shelf Control time again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It celebrates the books waiting to be read on your shelf. To participate in this feature, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it, linking back to Lisa’s blog.

This week my pick , as you can see from the cover picture above, is a very popular read this year, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. This is a book with so much hype around it that I was a little apprehensive picking it up, but it sounded pretty interesting and I have also been reading a lot of positive feedback so I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

What it’s all about: This is the first book in the Orisha Trilogy, and tells the story of Zelie who is a diviner, one of magical blood, who resembles her mother but cannot be a maji (or one possessing magic) like her for her mother and others like her have been killed and all magic destroyed. But she finds a chance at striking back at the ruthless monarch responsible for this, and bringing back magic. In this quest, she is helped by a rogue princess, and must outwit the crown prince, who is also bent on destroying all magic.

When and Where I got it: Very recently–I ordered a copy online and it arrived I think last week. My copy is a paperback edition by Pan Macmillan.

Why I want to read it: Not so much because of the hype or even because it is a fantasy, though I do enjoy fantasies but more so because this book is supposed to have elements of West African mythology, and this is something (in fact any African mythology, other than Egyptian) I really know nothing about, so I thought this would be an interesting way to get a peek into that. [This was also the case for me with Japanese mythology which I got a little idea of from Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean (review here) and hope to get some more of from Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa.] And of course, the cover–another very striking one this year!

A Little About the Author: Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach. In this, her debut book, she has taken inspiration from West African mythology, the Black Lives Matter movement, and also fantasy fiction like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Harry Potter.

Have you read this one yet? Or do you plan do? If you have, what did you think of it? Did it live up to all the hype or did it not meet your expectations? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Review: Wolf-Speaker by Tamora Pierce

My thanks to Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this one.

This is the second of the Immortals series (my review of book 1 is here) by Tamora Pierce. The one opens with the wolves that Daine once hunted with trying to reach her and thinking over the news they’ve received of her from other creatures of the forest. Daine, now fourteen, meanwhile is heading with her mentor/teacher, the mage Numair Salmalin, their horses including Cloud, and Kitten the dragon baby, towards the pack for they have sent for her help as their new home, Dunlath is in trouble. The two-feet there are cutting down all the trees, mining incessantly, chasing away prey making the place unliveable for them, and ultimately for themselves. When they get there however, they find that it isn’t only the animals who are in trouble. A family of local nobles,the lords of Dunlath, are plotting treason against King Jonathan, and switching loyalties. Here they are aided by a whole group of rogue mages, who have some very powerful magic at their command, and don’t seem to care who or what they destroy. Circumstances become such that Daine is left all alone with only her animal friends and some immortal ones in Dunlath. The only other human helping her at first is ten-year-old Lady Maura, younger sister of the Lady Yolane. Daine begins to learn and practice more of what her wild magic makes her capable of,and these new found powers and her friends are what help her face and defeat the “villains” of the piece.

If anything, I think I enjoyed this one even more than the first book. The first book obviously had to set out the background, and introduce us to the world that Daine lived in, and the friends she found in Tortall, but this one to me felt more rounded as a story. I enjoyed watching Daine, who spends much of the novel away from human company, explore her new powers or rather the new uses she discovers of her magic. This helps her not only to do things she couldn’t earlier but view the world through the perspectives of her different animal friends. This was an element I really enjoyed. Pierce does a great job of highlighting the various things—sounds, smells, sights—that different animals would notice, and making one (even the reader) feel that they were looking through the eyes and mind of the animal in question. The adventure elements for me were fairly exciting as well. But besides these, the book also had some important messages to give. It may be set in a fantasy world, but even there “humans”continue to behave as they do in real life, destroying their environment,surroundings, disrespecting other living creatures for what they think is their own gain.  The other was about needing to understand creatures/life that is different, human or animal, as life, as creatures/people who have thoughts, feelings, concerns, and who shouldn’t be judged as monsters or evil in an off-handed way. Here Maura, who is scared of some of Daine’s “friends” manages to shows Daine how she herself might be prejudiced unfairly against some others. Pierce manages to show us that even people who are “good” aren’t always flawless and may have their own prejudices and discriminatory attitudes that they need to address—another message extremely relevant for our world. Once again a wonderful read, in which I especially enjoyed all the animals and Daine’s interactions with them!

Book Review: The Last by Katherine Applegate

The Last.jpg

My thanks to Penguin Random House Children’s UK and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

 

This is the first of a fantasy adventure series, the Endling series, (I’m not sure how many books it has). Byx, our ‘heroine’ is a dairne, a dog-like creature who has opposable thumbs, can walk on two legs, and can speak. Their most valuable characteristic is their ability to tell when anyone (human or otherwise) is lying. Byx is the runt of her small pack, who themselves are the last few of the dairnes left in their land, hunted by humans and constantly needing to move about. One day, just before the pack has planned to move on, Byx sneaks off to take a last look at the sea, in which process she ends up rescuing and befriending a much smaller creature, Tobble the wobbyk. When she returns to her home, she finds her pack has been ruthlessly killed and she is the last of the dairnes left alive, an ‘Endling’. Now she must set off on a journey, accompanied by Tobble, and a young human girl Khara, who has actually captured them, to look for a home, or rather a place where according to legend other dairnes once lived. While this isn’t a very straightforward quest and their path is riddled with danger, Byx and her friends soon find that what they are looking for and what they are fighting is much bigger than any of them had realised when they started off, and there are very few along the way that they can trust.

 

This was a very enjoyable read for me. While it may be set in a fantasy world, many of the issues it deals with and throws up are things that are very much a part of (and relevant to) the world we live in. Most important among them is inequality, not only between the sexes, but also between different living beings—certain species being dubbed (and treated) inferior simply because they don’t do things like others do. Then there is the more important problem—of humans’ destructive nature. Their greed for money, power, control, to demonstrate their superiority has led them to destroy everything around them, and then hypocritically mourning their loss after the damage is done. It is a characteristic of the humans in this fantasy world, as it is in our real world.  [The fact that the book opens with a quote from Silent Spring pretty much conveys the message the book is trying to deliver.]

 

But coming back to the fantasy element, I enjoyed the world the author has created—fraught with danger though it may be—there are several interesting beings and places, all of which I thought very imaginative (there is even some language that she’s created for the different species). I would have preferred a map of the world to help me picture it better, but one was not included in the ARC. The main characters themselves are from different species who find themselves thrown together by circumstances, and who must learn to overcome their mistrust and understand each other for who they are. As a result, they develop some unlikely but strong friendships which was nice to see. The characters themselves are all very likeable, though I particularly found Byx, Tobble, and Gambler the felivet endearing, and liked the relationship that develops between them. The illustration of Byx and Tobble on the cover is pretty perfect, and is really cute too.

 

I liked that the author wrapped up the adventure (unlike some books which stop somewhat abruptly) although it is clear that the main quest will continue with more adventures and dangers along the way. Though this is classed as a children’s book, I think adults too would enjoy this read. Looking forward to the next instalment.

 

The author Katherine Applegate has previously won a Newberry Medal in 203 for her book The One and Only Ivan.

 

This book, The Last released on 1st November 2018.

 

#Endling:BookOne:TheLast #NetGalley

Shelf Control #19

 

 

Wow, it’s Wednesday yet again (wasn’t it just Wednesday???). And of course this means time for Shelf Control!!! Shelf Control is a feature that is hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies,and is all about celebrating the books waiting to be read on tour TBR. This is my nineteenth time participating. If you want to participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post on it. (and of course, do link it to Bookshelf Fantasies).

So this week, I chose to write about not one book, but two, a duology which I very recently acquired on kindle. This is the Monsters of Verity duology by Victoria Schwab, comprising This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet.

What these books are all about: This series, described as urban fantasy, is set in a grisly metropolis, Verity, opposite ends of which are ruled by the families of Kate Harker and August Flynn. This is a place where violence has begun to breed actual monsters. The two main characters are opposites, each trying to take after their respective fathers, Kate wanting to be ruthless, and August human and kind hearted. The truce that keeps their families at peace is crumbling, and August has been sent to spy on Kate. But an attempt on Kate’s life and to fasten the blame on August’s family has them running from both sides. In book 2, the war between monsters and humans has begun and Kate sees herself facing demons that she had never dreamed of, and August becoming the leader that he didn’t think he would.

Where and when I bought it: Just last week, these are once again among my latest acquisitions. There was a good deal on kindle and so I picked these up.

A Little about the Author: Schwab is an American fantasy author of several series, and writes both as Victoria Schwab and VE Schwab. She has written the Shades of Magic Series, and Villains series, among others.

Why I want to read them: I’ve been hearing a lot about the author who I’ve never read before and also about these books, on booktube (on a Clockwork Reader) as well as from one bookgroup on facebook. So I’ve decided to give them a try. Plus it does have some basis in Shakespeare, so should be interesting.

Time to ask the usual questions–have you read these (or either) before? What did you make of them (it), and of Schwab? Any others by her or in this genre that you’d like to recommend? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Review: Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

Empress of All Seasons.jpg

My thanks to NetGalley and Orion Publishing Group for a review copy of this book.

 

This one is again a young adult fantasy–adventure, set in a world inhabited by humans and by yōkai (beasts, some of whom are part human, or have the ability to transform), the latter being subjugated by humans, kept in collars with all kinds of restrictions. Our heroine Mari, belongs to one group of yōkai, the Animal Wives, who are exceptionally beautiful and have a human form (with the ability to change into beasts at will), and who marry rich men and make away with their fortune. Mari not having been blessed with the looks of the other animal wives, her mother plans a different future for her. She trains her rigorously to win the ultimate contest, a battle against the seasons, held in the imperial palace to choose the bride for the prince, and in effect the next Empress of the land. On the other side, we have the prince Taro, who doesn’t wish to either be a prince, nor a ‘prize’ in a contest, and is happiest when he is with his inventions, working with metal to create various things. And we also have Akira, a half-human-half-ghost, who has been Mari’s friend and loves her but feels he needs to prove himself to earn her affections. This is a story that has many aspects of course, love, family, the contest, betrayal, and duty, but at the heart of it is the distinction/discrimination that one people makes against the other, and the consequences for them both, and for the world they (we) live in.

 

I had requested this fantasy title mostly because of the Japanese fairytale–folklore background to it, and I really enjoyed these elements—the story is told from the perspective of three characters, Mari, Taro, and Akira, but interspersed between their chapters are stories of the gods and goddesses, who face similar struggles, similar issues as we do, and must face the consequences as well. The elements of the seasons too were enjoyable (certainly a different idea), and the monsters pretty imaginative as well. From other reviews, I see a couple of criticisms of this book were on account of its plot being too similar to other books of this genre, and of the contest, which seemed like the main ‘event’ in the book so to speak, being too short a part of the book. As far as I first goes, I did see some similarities with other such books involving contests and such (The Hunger Games, for one), but since I haven’t read very many titles in the genre, it didn’t bother me too much. Plus, I actually rather enjoyed the plot, I wasn’t sure how things would pan out in the end, and in fact I really liked the ending of the book (definitely not a typical one). The pacing too was good—the book moves really fast (I’d probably have read it a lot faster, except that it was an e-book, and I am generally slower with those). Re the second criticism, however, I agree, the contest part did feel a little too short considering that was basically what everything was centred on. The characters too were quite likeable, though the ‘villain’ of the piece was pretty obvious, and the romance was just ok (while it was building up ok, again it felt like everything happens too quickly). But the central points of the story on discrimination whether against genders or against just different living creatures, I think stood out well and is one that can’t be made enough times. An enjoyable read for me, and certainly one that much more than just a fantasy–adventure!

Review: The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

winter wood

My thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown and Co for a review copy of the book.

 

This is a retelling of Christina Rossetti’s poem Goblin Market but also much more, it weaves in folklore, history, myth and magic. This is the story of two sisters Liba, nearly eighteen, and fifteen-year-old Laya who’ve been living with their Tati and Mami in the woods on the outskirts of Dubossary, on the border between Moldova and Ukraine. Their family has never been accepted really in town for their mother is a convert, and their father has had to leave home and his town (Kupel) because he married an ‘outsider’. When word comes that Tati’s father is ill and on his deathbed, Tati and Mami must go to see him but the girls must stay in their house, for they don’t have travel documents and the times are not safe. Before their parents leave, Liba and Laya discover the truth about their parents and themselves, that Tati (and Liba) can ‘shift’ into bears and Laya like Mami can change into a swan. The sisters have only each other to rely on when the mysterious Hovlin brothers come into the village, with their fruit stall temping buyers including Laya, but also spewing venom again Jews. Other things are happening as well which put their lives and those of all the Jews in that part of the world at risk. The girls must also deal with the truths about themselves and how this will affect their dreams, ambitions, love, and even their relationship with each other.

 

I really enjoyed this book a lot and there were many many aspects I loved about it, though a few things perhaps prevented it from being a five-star read for me. I enjoyed that the story in alternate chapters is told from each sister’s perspective—Liba’s in prose and Laya’s in verse—and thought the author really succeeded in Liba’s chapters coming through as more grounded, sensible, ‘sane’ even reflecting her personality, while Laya’s are lighter, dreamier, some feel almost entirely as though one were in a dream, and the parts describing her falling into the Goblins’ trap are so well done, one can literally see her getting trapped without even realising what’s happening (In some ways Liba and Laya to me were comparable to Elinor and Marianne from Sense and Sensibility—and so Laya did end up annoying me too!). I also enjoyed the strong cultural and folklore elements in the story very much. Liba is strongly attached to her religion, culture, and customs and those elements are woven through the story very well. I loved the use of phrases in Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Yiddish though I only realised there was a glossary when I got to the end (since I wasn’t reading a physical copy). Their cultural background and folklore elements of the sisters’ bear and swan heritage also impacts on their characters, their personalities, things that may attract or repel them.

 

 

There was a point in the story where I wasn’t too sure what was happening, where everything was headed—but then I stopped for a bit and looked up Goblin Market online—a poem I wasn’t familiar with—and once I had an idea of that story, the book began to make much more sense. I could then see the different plotlines more clearly, and see better how they were flowing along and interacting with each other.

 

Then there were also the historical elements of the plot, the pogroms of the early 1900s which led many of the Jewish community in the region to lose their lives, their homes, and all they had. This was a period of history that I didn’t know much about, and I only realised after reading the author’s note at the end that she had used actual events as the base for that part of the plot, and experiences her own family had gone through. And the book’s message in terms of culture, community, and the need to understand and accept difference comes most strongly from this aspect of the plot.

 

This was also a pretty fast paced book, which kept me reading thoughout, as I wanted to see how everything would resolve (or not) and how things would pan out for the different characters.

 

I thought the author did a great job of weaving together the different plotlines such that nothing felt like it wasn’t really needed, even the love stories of the sisters (though it felt like at one point in the story, this was the only element focused on) had a purpose. However, reading the book, it still felt as though too much was going on—the real, the fantastic—there is the goblin market plot; the sisters struggling with their identities, their relationships with each other, with their parents, their ‘boyfriends’; the folklore–fairy tale elements; the historical parts of the plot—just an awful lot for two young girls to deal with. It wasn’t that I couldn’t keep track of what was going on—I could; I also liked that all of these plotlines had a resolution, only that it felt like too much.

 

This was overall a really good read for me and I enjoyed it very much! And I cannot end this review without saying what an absolutely gorgeous cover this one has as well—that was what grabbed my attention in the first place!

Review: Hidden Variables

Hidden Variables

My thanks to Netgalley for a review copy of this book. I picked this one up, while it does contain some paranormal elements, because of the description of the book which included the words ‘witnesses a murder’, and ‘to catch a killer’, and the combination of visions of the past and future and a murder mystery sounded an interesting read.

 

This is the story of Sophia Leto, who like the other members of the Leto family has certain ‘gifts’―the ability to look into the possible future, or rather various possible futures, and people’s memories of the past where they are especially strong, and to use that information to prevent untoward outcomes, and perhaps ensure a certain outcome which is seen to be good for the world. Sophia’s case is however, different from the other members of her family for while the others have been seeing visions of people they don’t really know (as has Sophia), she is very much a part of that future to come, and will have a role in changing the course of things, positively or negatively. As a result, Sophia is seen as a ‘freak’ by some of her fellow students, and it is only with her friend Annie that she can share what she is going through. Besides these visions, another vision that she’s been getting is of a boy, a fellow student at school named Avery, whose mother was robbed and murdered two years ago, which mystery still remains unsolved. There is some role that Avery must play in the future which is not clear to Sophia or her family yet, but as a result of the state of affairs, he is inclined to suicide which Sophia must prevent, and at the same time solve the mystery of what really happened to Avery’s mother. Sophia has much more at stake in all of this as her own future is also involved besides of course, that of the wider world. Alongside are some other-worldly spirits (not quite sure how I should describe them), the Thirteen, who have gone through some problems of their own in their world but who are now looking out for the earth’s future, and guiding Sophia and others to reach the ‘right’ outcome. Of them, we essentially meet one, Ahrl, who seems to have some of the same visions that Sophia does.

 

This was very different from my usual kind of reading because of the supernatural aspects, but I quite enjoyed reading it―one reason probably was that while this world does have its supernatural elements, it is also one in which the characters try to find explanations through science. Sophia’s father works at CERN (her mother at a hospital) and this is where she intends to get to herself, her interests lying in physics, and using this to explain what she and her family can see. It is a struggle of course, considering others can’t and won’t be able to understand this, and so they must always tread with caution. The other was of course that this was a murder mystery, and that element I felt was pretty well done because while one does get some clue that things are not what they seem at first glance, I couldn’t tell how it would turn out. Sophia herself is a really likeable character—she’s intelligent, has her head firmly on her shoulders. I enjoyed how Avery dealt with the girls who bully Sophia but also liked the fact that Sophia had the maturity to simply ignore them and not give way to anger. Despite all of this happening I also liked how the author dealt with the whole idea of visions and the future—that it isn’t as such anything definite but a whole host of possibilities, any of which may come to pass depending on the choices people make. Some aspects though (some characters as well) didn’t entirely make sense to me (this could have had to do with my reading), and I felt more explanation was needed. I only realised later that this was a prequel, and since I quite liked the plot and characters, I am interested to see how the story progresses (haven’t read book 1) and how things really turn out for the characters in the future.