Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Alexis:

My first 5 ⭐ read of 2021 (finally)!

If you haven’t already heard about Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn, it follows sixteen-year-old Bree, who is accepted into an early program at UNC Chapel Hill, alongside her best friend, Alice. Still healing from the recent death of her mother, Bree finds herself thrown into a secret world of magic and demons, amongst the descendants of King Arthur who call themselves “Legendborn.” 

Before reading this, I kept reading spoiler-free reviews that said, “I’ve never been interested in the legend of King Arthur and the Roundtable, but I loved this book!” And I can now say that I wholeheartedly agree.

So many important themes are packed into this book. Deonn tackles racism, slavery and colonization, love and family, loss, healing, grief, and trauma, as well as the pressure of college.

I found the main characters to be well-rounded and likeable. Bree is a great main character with a lot of agency despite the world around her, and the first person POV worked well for her story. I have to say, I liked Nick, Bree’s Legendborn love interest, better in the beginning than by the end, but I have a feeling his character is going to evolve in the sequel. I also enjoyed getting to know Sel’s morally grey character and backstory. 

The one con about this book is that the Legendborn world was a little tricky to understand, though if I’m being honest, it was so much easier for me to understand than Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. That being said, there were a lot of info dumps, and it made it worse that I read the Kindle version, so I couldn’t just flip back to re-read sections in order to get a better understanding of the world. However, this didn’t deter me from loving the story! 

I also thought that Deonn could’ve easily made Bree eighteen years old, especially since the story already takes place on a college campus, and it would’ve made the story (not to mention the love interests) make more sense; however, I understand the publishing market prefers sixteen year olds.

I’m looking forward to the sequel!

Review: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Alexis:

Raybearer is an impressive novel. The worldbuilding, based off of West African folklore, is intricate, and I often had to re-read sections about the world’s history because it was so detailed. But Ifueko went above and beyond when it came to shaping her world, and even if I couldn’t always keep up, it made the world very real.

There’s political intrigue, romance, magical creatures (including fairies), a found-family, and family drama. 

The writing was great, I loved the main characters (and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better in the sequel, since this first book was a little more plot/world-driven than character-driven) and I enjoyed being swept into this magical world. 

I only have two small critiques, one being that I didn’t get to know some of the characters well enough, and the pacing was a little slow in the beginning. However, this book reads like an epic, and the beginning starts out when Tarisai is a child, so I guess that is to be expected, and once it picked up its pace, I didn’t care!

Even though I’m not usually as much of a fan of high fantasy as compared to contemporary fantasy, I was pleasantly surprised with the dense, intricate world Ifueko crafted, and the plot unfolded in ways I never would have predicted. I love books that surprise me, and this book surprised me in all the right ways.

I found this to be a unique and engaging read, and if you’re looking for your next well-drawn, diverse YA fantasy, then I recommend it!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Alexis:

The Bone Houses is a historical fantasy novel, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite subgenres. It’s set in medieval Wales, and follows two main characters: Ryn, a gravedigger, and Ellis, a mapmaker.

Due to remnants of lost magic, the dead are rising in the forest neighboring Ryn’s small village of Colbren. She and Ellis, each for their own reasons, team together on a journey to eradicate the undead, known as bone houses.

I loved every page of this book. It was dark and gritty and full of death, but the characters were a joy to read, and the dialogue was great. I love dark books that take small scenes, small moments, to let the characters relax, enjoy themselves, and crack jokes.

This story is about home, family, and loss. I loved learning the stories and Welsh-inspired folklore of the world. I loved that Ryn’s sister’s pet goat became a main character; I’m a sucker for an animal sidekick!

Lately, it’s been a little rare for me to find two characters that I’ve enjoyed reading about and rooting for, but this book was it. And I haven’t read a lot of books lately with a cringeless romance, either. I appreciated the slow-burn romance in this book, and the fact that the characters actually took the time to become close friends first. It was a subplot, and it didn’t get in the way of the main story. It didn’t feel forced in the least!

And, finally, I loved that this story was well-written. Lloyd-Jones’ prose feels almost effortless to read, while also being lush and evocative.

“She was half a wild creature that loved a graveyard, the first taste of misty night air, and the heft of a shovel. She knew how things died. And in her darkest moments, she feared she did not know how to live.”

VERDICT: ☠️☠️☠️☠️☠️/5

Review: The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

Alexis:

Despite the fact that the characters were a little too distant and one dimensional for my taste, this was still a five star read for me. Hoffman’s writing is haunting, beautiful, and lyrical. I love magical realism, and this book is a wonderful mix of magical realism, historical fiction, and folklore.

The book focuses on Lea at the beginning of WWII during the Nazi regime. Lea’s mother’s one goal is to keep her daughter safe, so she does the unthinkable: finds Ettie, the daughter of a rabbi, to create a golem, a powerful magical creature/person made from clay, who is to protect Lea at all costs.

This is a Holocaust story, and Hoffman doesn’t shy away from the horrors that the Jewish people of Europe faced. But I love the way Hoffman weaves small beauties into the story, especially with the relationship of Ava (the golem) with the heron. The heron was a beautiful symbol throughout the book. Out of all of the characters, I actually felt like I connected with Ava the most.

This is a survival story, so while I prefer to get into the heart and soul of the characters, the distant POV felt right with the atrocities the characters face in the story. Hoffman focuses on what it means to be human, and what it means to survive.

VERDICT: 5 stars