I love books that don’t take themselves too seriously, and from the title alone, I knew “Hold Me Closer, Necromancer” was one of those books. Add in chapter titles all based on classic rock lyrics? I’m in! Plus, after Gideon the Ninth, I was kind of itching for more necromancer-like fantasy reads. This particular NA fantasy follows Sam, plus a lot of other POV characters but mostly Sam, who is nothing special. He’s a college dropout working at a fast-food restaurant with his best friend, just kind of meandering through life without purpose or direction—we’ve all been there. Sam is an incredibly relatable character and the sarcastic 1st person narrative the author gives him really sells Sam as a character and makes you feel for him. Then, one day (as it always happens), Sam’s life is changed when he accidentally puts himself in the path of the most powerful necromancer in Seattle. Then, surprise! Sam learns the family secret that was kept from him pretty much since birth: Sam is also a necromancer. What follows is the traditional race to unlock his power and save his friends, and himself, before Douglas decides Sam is no longer worth the effort. Everything about this book sounds fun and has a cool twist on urban fantasy, and yet I never fell as hard for this story as I wanted.
“Screamcatcher” is a young adult, fantasy adventure that centers on young Jorlene Pike, left alone at 17 when both of her parents die in a tragic accident. Jorlene—Jory—now helps her grandfather run their family curiosity shop that specializes heavily in Chippewa items and lore. Jory doesn’t necessarily put much stock into her heritage, until one night when she is having a sleepover with three of her other friends. The nightmares of her friends, as well as Jory, overload the old dream catcher in her apartment, they are then sucked into an alternate reality steeped heavily in Chippewa Indian folktale and lore. But as only Jory knows anything about what may be happening, and the strange alternate reality full of terrors they suddenly find themselves in, it’s up to her to navigate the twisting web and lead her friends to safety before they get stuck in the dream catcher forever—or until the nightmares kill them. This quick-paced adventure is nonstop action! Literally! The action almost never stops and features so many different native legends and harrowing survival scenarios, but the quick pace does mean this ended up being mainly a story focused on plot, and little character development.
“The Last Witch” follows Lilly Hooper as she steps into a new world—out of her uncle’s basement and into a mansion with other witches. Told she is a monster all her life, beaten and abused in quite literally every way imaginable, Lilly is discovering that the magic in her veins is limitless, and she hasn’t even learned all the powers there are yet. But with great power come lots of men who want to use that power—and her—in order to further their own goals: one wants to return magic to the world while the other wants to eradicate it completely and destroy those who would have magic if it did return in force—and neither is the good guy. Caught between these opposing sides, Lilly also finds love and friendship, and even has her very first Christmas that she can remember. Which all sounds great, honestly! So, what was my problem with this book when the premise sounds so promising? The stereotypical shallowness of the characters, and the overly gratuitous nature of the violence, to be frank.
I’m really late to the party on this book, but hey! At least I got here, right? “Simon vs.” is a cute, contemporary self-discovery book that had me on the verge of tears on occasion. We get a close-up view of Simon who KNOWS he’s gay, but no one else does. When he finds a Tumblr post from his school from another gay boy, he responds, and a whirlwind email pen pal relationship ensues. But there’s one problem: these boys don’t actually know who each other are, and because neither is out to their friends and family, they decide to keep their identities secret. But part of the thrill is getting to know someone without fear of judgment, because they don’t really know you, right? But then these adorable boys catch a case of feels, and suddenly the excitement of anonymity begins to slip away… Except anonymity is only fun with Blue, Simon’s crush, but that secret is important for Simon to keep from the wider school. Now he just has to keep the guy blackmailing him from spilling the beans to everyone… This story was endearing, and fun, and quick, and each time I was CONVINCED I knew who Blue was, the author did the old switcher-roo, which kept this otherwise straight forward story exciting.
“A Darker Shade of Magic” was one of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year, so I was so excited to read the sequel with my friends again and dive back into these magical London’s, and snuggle up next to my favorite sad boi—Kell—and most deadly and clever of thieves—Lila. “A Gathering of Shadows” takes place 4 months after the end of the first book, and all our favorites are dealing with the repercussions of that epic battle. Well, except Lila, she does what she wants, consequences be damned, but more on that later. Kell remains in the palace with Rhy, who he sacrificed everything for. But instead of being thanked for this sacrifice, his adopted family drops all pretenses of Kell being their son. And while Rhy and Kell struggle to find a new balance, to move on, to come to terms with what their lives are now, Lila lives her dreams by being part of a pirate crew, finally “getting” her own ship. Which also introduces us to a new main character—Alucard. Who is really everything you want in a pirate so I loved his introduction to the story. I loved the all too real pain of what Kell goes through now, ostracized and trapped in his gilded cage of guilt and power, but, where I ADORED Lila in the first book, in the sequel, I found myself wanting to shake her.
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