Review: Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

Alexis holds a copy of Edgewood- green with a girl wearing a purple dress and holding a dagger- in front of a bookshelf.

Alexis:

Another 5 ⭐ review!

Edgewood is a new adult fantasy that has everything I love in a book: atmospheric writing, creepy woods, and a dynamic love interest. 

There were two really great themes woven throughout this book. The first is music. Emeline, the main character, is a nineteen-year-old singer, trying to tour and get her foot in the door of the music world. I loved how music played a magical role in this book.

The second is memory. Emeline’s grandfather, who she calls Pa, is suffering from dementia. Ciccarelli bases his character on her own grandfather who suffered from dementia, and so she writes Pa with care, and her grief comes through in her writing. The themes of forgetting and remembering play a critical role in the story.

There’s also a Wood King, a city deep in the woods, a curse, and interesting creatures that appear in the story. And I found Hawthorne, the love interest, to be a well-rounded and mysterious yet warmhearted character. 

My only critique is that there were a couple of minor storylines that I think could’ve been explored further. However, I enjoyed this story immensely and definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something atmospheric and full of forest imagery and magical music.

(And it doesn’t hurt that the whole book is beautiful!)

Review: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Alexis holds a library copy of The Bone Shard Daughter in front of a fence and trees.

Alexis:

At first, I wasn’t sure this book would be for me. I was unaware that it has a total of five POVs, some in first person and some in third person, something I’m usually not a fan of. The writing style is slightly more “tell” rather than “show,” and the book takes a while to set up the scene for each character.

However, I found myself drawn into this story. All of the characters have very interesting backstories and motivations, and I found their stories engaging, and the world itself to be fascinating. While Jovis’ perspective was my favorite, as he seemed to have the most personality (and more page time than the other characters, besides Lin) I never found myself bored by any of the perspectives. 

While the pacing remains fairly slow throughout the book, I hardly noticed it, because there was such an atmosphere of mystery and suspense; there were so many mysterious things working in the background that I found myself endlessly curious about, and I kept wanting to know what was going to happen!

While I sometimes struggle with the accessibility and writing style of adult fantasy, I found this book to be a great segway from my usual YA fantasy. It was also nice to see a fellow twenty-something in a book, as Lin is twenty-three.

So here’s what you need to know before going into this book:

Lin, the Emperor’s Daughter, is trying her best to get her memories back after an illness. She’s also trying to figure out what her father, who can wield bone shards, is keeping from her. 

Jovis, the Empire’s best smuggler, is on a mission to find his long-ago kidnapped wife. He finds a mysterious little otter-like creature, Mephi, who becomes his sidekick, and who quickly became my favorite!

Phalue is the daughter of Nephilanu Island’s governor. She’s a fighter who’s trying to win the hand of her girlfriend. 

Ranami, Phalue’s girlfriend, is a woman with a heart of gold who’s doing her best to make a difference in the world. 

And finally, Sand is a woman stuck on a remote island, whose job is harvesting mangoes. But she doesn’t remember why she, or the other island inhabitants, are there, how she arrived, or who she really is.

The Bone Shard Daughter is one heck of a debut, filled with political intrigue, creatures created from bone shards called constructs, and a chilling yet thrilling ending filled with twists and turns.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

Alexis:

Long time no see, everyone. I’ve been busy with school, but thank god Thanksgiving break is almost here! Because of Covid, my schedule has been wacky, and I haven’t had a break yet this semester.

It’s been a while since I read a book for fun, but I finally got a book that sloughed me out of my reading slump: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. And to no one’s surprise, since this book did drag me out of a reading slump, after all, it was a five star read!

The book is reminiscent of both Harry Potter and X-Men. Klune’s writing style is whimsical and unique. The basic plot consists of Linus, a man who works as a case worker for the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth. Linus gets an unexpected, classified assignment to investigate Marsyas Island Orphanage, an orphanage consisting of a hodgepodge of magical children.

I found Klune’s descriptions to be wonderful and precise.

This is a lighthearted book but with a deep message. I ended up loving the main character, Linus, who reminded me of Aziraphale from Good Omens

I didn’t know much about this book going in, but I found it to be a refreshing read, and I was pleasantly surprised by the queer representation! 

My only small critique is that the plot lagged a bit in the middle, and I didn’t get to see as much of Arthur’s character as I wanted, but the rest of the book was so fun to read that I found that I didn’t care!

If, like me, you need a whimsical, character-driven book with a happy ending during these times, then I highly recommend picking this up.

VERDICT: 5 ⭐s

Review: Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst

Alexis:

This is my third five star review in a row. This is so rare for me! Clearly, I did a good job choosing books from the library.

I found Race the Sands to be a complex book, full of politics and magic.

In Becar, everyone is reincarnated based on how you act in your current life. The lowest of the low are reincarnated as kehoks, savage monsters. Tamra is a kehok trainer, trying to save up enough money to fund her daughter’s education. And Raia is a seventeen year old trying to make her own life by becoming a kehok rider. She ends up riding a black, metal lion kehok, and together, Tamra and Raia work hard to win the Races.

Overall, I loved the characters, especially Tamra. This book felt unique from other young adult fantasy books that I’ve read lately.

Durst manages to balance several POV’s very well. I’m not normally a fan of books with more than two different perspectives, but it worked well for this world.

I enjoyed reading about the races, and all of the different kind of kehoks. I enjoyed reading about the augurs, the almost monk-like figures who read other people’s auras to determine how they will be reincarnated. I also enjoyed reading from Dar, the emperor-to-be’s, perspective.

There were only two small apects that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but they didn’t deter me from enjoying the book. The first is that one of the main mystery plot points in the beginning of the book is extremely predictable. Thankfully, the plot got more complicated as the book went on. The second is that a lot of the minor characters felt pretty one dimensional and had similar voices, but because they were the minor characters, it didn’t bother me too much.

While this book is still YA, it felt more adult to me than the average YA fantasy, especially since it features the POV of several adult characters.

If you’re looking for a book with great worldbuilding, strong female characters, racing monsters, and politics, then I recommend giving this one a try.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐