Gaiman has always been hit or miss for me. Some of his books I love, some I don’t care for, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Neverwhere, outside of the fact that there’s something deeply satisfying about holding the illustrated version—something about thick little hardcovers is just the best feeling. Anyway, Neverwhere is a not subtle in its message: the homeless are invisible to those who want to pretend the “problem” doesn’t exist—but make it magic that has a very Tim Burton feel, because this is Gaiman, after all. When Richard sees one of those who have fallen through the cracks—a citizen of London Below—and proceeds to help her, it sets off a chain of events that plunges him into London Below and makes him just as invisible to London Above, and his old life, as the rest of the characters in this novel. In which there a lot, all of which are unique and magical and so beautifully distinct from each other. I even loved Mr Vandemar and Mr Croup who are unequivocally terrible people, but they are written in such a creative way that I couldn’t help but love them just as much as Richard and our heroine Door, with her opal-colored eyes.
Don’t you just hate when a book synopsis lies to you? Because this one lied HARD. And, normally, I wouldn’t even bother giving a rating or a review for a book I DNF’d simply because I can’t speak to the story in its entirety, but I do make the occasional exception. The Windup Girl being one of those exceptions. This book should have been excellent, you would assume it was, given all the praise and awards this debut garnered when it was published in 2009 for its biopunk look at our future. When the climate has changed, the oil run out, and bio-terrorism has destroyed the food to where only manufactured food (think hardcore GMO’s) survives. But, instead, this book is full of harmful stereotypes and still leans on this idea that Western colonialism is what the world needs in this, supposedly, far future setting.
Any Alice in Wonderland fans who like the concept of retellings, but still want something wholly unique? “Labyrinth Lost” is that in spades! Meet Alex, a girl who believes magic is a curse and will do anything to avoid her Deathday and deny the magic in her blood. And, because this is a YA fantasy after all, her desire backfires when she takes steps to strip her magic away and instead banishes her family to a place of nightmares; where bruja’s and brujo’s are sent to be punished. Desperate to save her family, Alex ventures to Los Lagos to free them, meeting strange, nightmarish creatures, and those disguised only to appear like nightmares, on the journey. And, again because it’s YA, learning about herself, her magic, and the idea of family being home all at once. While this book has some mixed reviews, I have to say, I really, really enjoyed Cordova’s interpretation of witches, magic, and the ceremonies and gods that inhabit this world.
Imagine, if you will, a world where multiple gods roam the land, benevolent and dark alike, and all these gods can entomb themselves in those they find to be worthy—whether for good or ill. Now, imagine that some of those evil gods blessed a knight with power hungry intentions, who then killed the ruling family and took over the world, essentially, plunging the kingdom into a reign of tyranny and terror, where his most loyal knights also took in gods of similar temperament to help keep “order” in the land. Of course, in a situation like that you’re going to get a band of determined rebels set on freeing the land of the demon king. Which sets them on a quest to acquire their own friendly gods and their powers in order to stand a chance against this evil king—for a price, of course. But, now, imagine that the way this group of rebels gets around and fights back is via the help of sky pirates. Are you sold yet? You should be! This was such a unique take on magic and godly power, good versus evil, and who can say no to ships that fly and the sassy pirates who command them? But, the one thing this book doesn’t fully deliver on, is the promise of romance that I was given when the author sent me her book.
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.
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