Review: Unraveller by Frances Hardinge

Alexis is wearing a yellow flannel and holding the UK copy of Unraveller in front of a black bookshelf.

Alexis:

I would read Frances Hardinge’s grocery list if she let me; she’s one of my auto-buy authors. I’m also obsessed with this spooky cover (despite my dislike of spiders!). ⁣

This was the perfect read to ease into autumn. In classic Hardinge fashion, Unraveller is beautifully and darkly atmospheric. I’ve always been obsessed with her writing style. And the world is unique and features a creepy forest/swamp called the Wilds and spider-like creatures called the Little Brothers. ⁣

The story follows Kellen, a rare unraveller of curses, and Nettle, a girl who was formerly cursed to become a heron, as they work to unravel nasty curses—and uncover plots and mysteries along the way. ⁣

Unraveller reads like part dark fairytale and part mystery, and of course it’s a 5 ⭐ read for me. ⁣

I bought the UK edition, but look out for Unraveller in the US on January 10, 2023! ⁣

Review: Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Alexis:

“The forest sticks to me.”

Happy day after Christmas, everyone! If you celebrate, I hope you had a wonderful day despite this very strange year.

Now, I’m always down for a story with a spooky forest.

Winterwood follows Nora, a seventeen-year-old girl who comes from a long line of Walkers: women with witch-like powers who live next to the creepy Wicker Woods. Nora finds a lost boy named Oliver alive in the woods despite a massive snowstorm, and works to unravel the mystery of how he survived. 

Things I liked:

I love Ernshaw’s writing. It’s lyrical and enchanting, reminding me of a dark fairy tale. It perfectly fits the lovely, cold, and haunted aesthetic of this book.

I loved the setting. Nora’s house sounds homey and witchy, and I enjoyed the descriptions of it, alongside the forest, from Nora’s perspective. 

Things I didn’t like as much:

Besides Nora, I never felt like I got far enough below surface level with the other characters, and sometimes I couldn’t pin down motivations. Usually, I love dual perspectives, but I felt like Oliver’s perspective didn’t reveal enough about him for me, and his amnesia didn’t help.

I loved the magic, but I wanted it to be talked about/explained even more. I never really understood how it worked, even with the many pages dedicated to the Walker ancestors.

While I loved Ernshaw’s writing, it was too repetitive sometimes. Even though it fits the nature of this story (by the end), and I usually love repetition, I think it was utilized just a little too much.

Lastly, I guessed one of the main plot reveals very, very early on, and it’s already a slow-moving story. On top of that, the book’s conclusion felt a bit like a cop-out.

Despite that, I really enjoyed reading this book, and I sped through it. I love Earnshaw’s writing, and I look forward to reading her future books, where hopefully the plot and characters will be a little more refined.

VERDICT: 🌲🌲🌲/5

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: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐