Review: Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland

promise of shadows

Zephyr Mourning is a harpy bred-and-born, albeit not a very good one—her fighting and magic skills are deplorable, she freezes up in the middle of a fight. She was all prepared to live the rest of her life in the mortal realm amidst the humans rather than become a fully-fledged contract killer for the Greek gods, known here as the Exalted, the high Aetherials. And then someone was ordered to kill her beloved older sister. Upon finding her sister’s body, Zephyr killed him right back … except that person was a god, one of the low-ranked Aetherials. Now she’s been condemned to spend the rest of her days in Tartarus, forever known as Godslayer, with no hope of redemption. All that changes when two teenage boys—one of whom used to be her childhood friend—come looking for her. Zephyr has a role to play, one she never would have expected.

While Zephyr is incapable of manipulating the aether, the magic of light, she has long been able to channel erebos, the dark magic of the Underworld, but forbidden to do so. For centuries, shadow vaettir like her—the offspring or descendants of humans and gods who can channel erebos—have been quietly hunted to the point of extinction by the vaettir of the aether and the Aetherials.

Zephyr may be a lousy harpy, but, as it turns out, she is also the reincarnation of the Nyx, a powerful being capable of wielding erebos with greater ability than almost anyone and the prophesied champion of the shadow vaettir. But Zephyr’s positive she’ll fail at being the Nyx, just like she’s never been able to be a proper harpy. What will she do when her entire life has been defined by failing to be what people wanted her to be?

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Review: Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Hegleson

gina:finn

Two girls.

Two social media accounts.

One shared, passionate love of a Supernatural-esque TV show.

One happy, scary, confusing, confounding, life-changing relationship.

Gina/Finn is an epistolary novel in the vein of the AIM-based narratives of Lauren Myracle’s ttfn, ttyl, and l8r g8r, about the power of fandom and fandom-love a la Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. Gena (_EvinIf) is an East Coast, college-bound fic writer. Finn (finnblueline) is a broke college grad who just moved out to the West Coast with her boyfriend and an on-off fan artist. The two of them run into each other online and bond over their shared love of the TV show Up Below and favorite character Jake and his FULL-OF-FEELINGS relationship with Tyler. What starts out as a friendship based in shared fandom love develops into a whirlwind, terrifying, and meaningful connection neither of them could ever could have predicted and gets put to the test by a life-changing tragedy.

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Review: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

charm and strange

For those who may not have been paying attention to YA trends of late, thrillers are currently the genre du jour. Not my thing personally, but I’m intrigued by the shift away from speculative genres of urban fantasy/paranormal romance and dystopia to a no-less-genre genre but still markedly contemporary kind of story. Charm & Strange, which was published in 2013, is more of an emotional thriller than an action thriller, but heart-pounding, emotions-running-high thriller it is. The best part (for me) is that it does invoke an obviously speculative trope without being kitschy, cutesy, or pandering. It uses fantastical devices the way they’ve been frequently used throughout history—to explain and make sense of the impossible and to provide comfort in the face of horror.

Drew Winters is an angry, whiny, and sickly boy, the middle child of a rich Virginian family. Surrounded by uncaring, inconsiderate, and/or abusive family members, his sole ally his earnestly protective yet fallible older brother Keith, a summer vacation with his extended family becomes the catalyst for a family tragedy, and an obscene consequence of his family’s secrets.

Win Winters is a loner teenage boy at a preppy boarding school in Vermont that he’s attended since age twelve. He has almost no friends, and that’s how he likes it. He’ll do whatever is necessary to push people away so they can stay out of his nexus of tragedy, pain, and violence.

Charm & Strange tells in alternate chapters the stories of Drew and Win, the past and present, and the battle to emerge on the other side as whole … whatever shape that may take.

This will be a SPOILERY review.

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Review: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

the library at mount char

The Library at Mount Char is easily the strangest book I’ve read in 2016 by far. It’s also super cool and fun and genre-defying.

There are homicidal librarians. Who rule the universe.

I mean, do you really need anything else in your fiction? Because I’m pretty sure you don’t.

Carolyn is a librarian, but she isn’t the normal, checking-in-books, reference kind of librarian. After Carolyn’s parents died when she was eight, she and eleven other children spent the next several years studying under the tutelage of a figure they call Father—who is essentially God. He gives each child a catalogue to study and master—Carolyn’s is that of language, from French to Japanese to the language of wild animals and squalls on Jupiter—and he teaches them in ways that are cruel, obscene, and highly effective. And from his teaching Carolyn and her siblings learn to master incomprehensible, powerful forces and to bend the very existence of the universe to their will.

But now Father is missing, maybe even dead … except he’s Father. No one can kill Father. And in his absence, a power vacuum has emerged that could destroy the entire universe. But Carolyn has had a plan since before Father’s absence, a long game that no one could ever have followed. But this plan carries risk, for humanity, for the universe, and, most importantly, herself.

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Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

the scorpion rules

I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy The Scorpion Rules. Several of my favorite authors blurbed it and the premise is amazing and totally ripe for rich stories. I’m also in the awkward position of liking one or two specific elements that interest me enough to read the sequel, except for the fact that I didn’t care for anything else.

Oops.

The premise begins four hundred years earlier, sometime in the future when the environment has collapsed to the point that the entire world is at war each other. So a U.N.-created A.I. named Talis, who was programmed to prevent humanity from dying out, decided upon an unconventional plan of action, in the form of blowing up seven cities. After Talis got the humans’ attention, the following orders were issued: the leaders of every ruling country, nation, etc. have to provide Talis with an offspring child, who will serve as a hostage, or “Child of Peace,” until their eighteenth birthday. If any country declares war on another, the lives of both countries’ hostages are forfeit. In this way, Talis ensures a (mostly) peaceful existence among the nations of the world for the last several centuries.

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