This is a surprisingly cute and interesting take on a dystopian fantasy that is almost perfect for MG readers. I say almost because with the characters ages, I believe the author wanted this to be a YA fantasy, but with how the main character, Franklin, views the world and just the sheer whimsy of the mages, warlocks, oceanus, were-panthers, and how the limitations of the magic system and classes aren’t well defined, and are kind of left up to the gods, I think this makes for a much better middle grade book, so that’s how I’m rating it. “Zarmina and the Book of Oceans” is the first in the series, so it spends a good portion of the book introducing the reader to this new world, and why humans live on the star-side—aka, in the frozen dark—of this planet, and why the evil warlock, Javan, has banished them to such a harsh place.
“Blizzard”, much like the first book in The Black Ice Trilogy, takes a twist on the gothic vampires that have become so commonplace in YA fantasy. I loved Snow for the risks it took in tweaking those vampire tropes, and Elliot’s lyrical, and often poetic, writing when it came to setting the scene and Neva’s emotions from a first person perspective. This installation kept true to all those things I enjoyed from the first book, but it does not pick up exactly where book 1 leaves off, instead, the reader is introduced to Neva’s original incarnation and we get the backstory that book 1 was missing.
“The Elf and the Amulet” is a charming fantasy-adventure story with the makings of a coming-of-age tale as our three main characters age throughout the series. Often, this book had me thinking of the journey in “The Hobbit” where it starts as just a fun adventure on something that sounds like a grand quest, only to show early on just how in over their heads the characters have become, and how much they underestimated the perils of their journey. Well, everyone seemed to underestimate the perils, because, after all, these are kids and the adults send them into the world with pretty much nothing.
Everything you need to know about this novella can be found in the synopsis, in fact, maybe too much is there. Still, in the world of “Viral Spark” humans have come to rely on machines—specifically digital implants and robots—for pretty much everything. There’s this light, depressing vibe a-la-Wall-E going on in this book that I kind of loved: people cluster like insects in their massive buildings, rarely leaving. Everything from their food to their clothes is 3D printed, and changing the décor of your apartment is just a swipe away on your own augmented reality screen. There is a lovely undertone of a dystopian here that I wanted to see more of, but as this is a novella, the focus remained firmly on the glitches in the main character’s system, and not the world McConnell places the reader in.
“The Point of Me” is definitely one of those reads you have to be in the right mood for given it’s rather heavy subject matter. The story follows James, a young teenager who is diagnosed with cancer. What follows is in part a tale of how such a devastating diagnosis affects him and his family, and is in part a purple-prose spirit journey that delves into a metaphysical fantasy realm, that could, theoretically, be interpreted as a sick young man’s fevered dreams while the various cancer treatments course through his veins. Davidson pens an incredibly beautiful story, one that covers a devastating topic, while trying to offer some hope to both her characters, and those who may be dealing with what James and his family are experiencing. But for as important of a topic as this is, it is a pretty slow read.
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