I had heard a bunch of good things about “Out of the Shadows” by fellow authors, so when the books popped up as a bundle sale I immediately bought all three in one go… and then let them sit on my kindle forever because I suck. But I did it! I finally read the first book! “Out of the Shadows” follows Lenore as she tries to hide from the sins of her parents, rejected by society and forced to steal for a living in a world where such crimes could land you in prison and tortured for the rest of your days. The land Lenore lives in is post-apocalyptic, but not set in a broken city like most other books. Instead, the people remember the great war that led to the end of magic and wondrous contraptions, and gave rise to the brutal peacekeepers known as the Enforcers. Lenore is barely surviving, when a chance encounter that could be ruinous turns into a blessing and opens a world of opportunity, as long as no one ever finds out who Lenore really is.
This is the first historical fiction focused on ancient China that I’ve ever read. Generally, my historical fiction tastes stay in Europe as I have this thing for kings and queens, or ancient Egypt and Rome. Why I never strayed into Asia is, frankly, a mystery to me because the culture is beautiful and fascinating and they have Emperors which satisfies why I lean towards Europe… Anyway, I’m just making excuses as to why it took me so long to read “The Moon in the Palace”. The story follows Mei, one of the Emperor’s concubines, who is told that she has a great destiny ahead of her, though she is unsure what shape it will take. Mei is from the Wu family, so given the subtitle is “a novel of Empress Wu”, you can kind of guess where that destiny leads, though that doesn’t come into play in the first book of this duology.
Reviewing non-fiction books is hard. You can’t just say “I didn’t like the story”—I’m not saying that—because the story isn’t up for debate: it happened, these people existed. “Devil in the White City” is about the Chicago’s World Fair and all the trouble it faced prior, and during it’s opening, as well as all the innovations the fair gave rise to that we still enjoy today. It’s also about the serial killer Dr. H.H. Holmes who happened to be “working” in Chicago during the time of the fair’s construction, opening, and closing. Holmes didn’t explicitly go to Chicago to take advantage of the fair in order to do his dark deeds, that seems more coincidental as Holmes was already in Chicago at the time and continued his “work” after leaving Chicago as well. So, really, the two events are barely connected and what you get is two different books in one. Are both good and fascinating? Sure. Does Larson have a wonderful ability for maintaining suspense and keeping the reader engaged in both stories? Yes. Was this what I was expecting when I bought this book? No.
Have you ever wondered what it’d be like if Wonderland was real? If the story by Lewis Caroll was just a poor retelling of a traumatized princesses’ desperation to hold on to her memories regarding the home she had to flee, and has no idea how to return to? That’s precisely what “The Looking Glass Wars” is all about. Using Caroll’s narration style and twisting his world, Beddor brings to life an alternate telling of “Through the Looking Glass” where Alice is actually Alyss Heart, next in line to the throne, and her aunt Redd (The Red Queen) has been driven mad with lust for power and brutally wrestles control from the young princess. Mad Hatter is not a riddle loving tea addict, but an elite bodyguard for Alyss known as Hatter Madigan. The Cheshire Cat is now a shape shifting assassin known as The Cat, and the magic of Wonderland is based on the powerful imagination of its rulers. It’s really rather clever in terms of retellings with wonderfully dark twists that are perhaps more suitable for older fans of Alice in Wonderland, who aren’t so purist in their love that they won’t mind the liberties Beddor takes.
“Covenant of the Hollow” is a reverse timeline fantasy focusing on two women from very different times, backgrounds, and locations. Annalise lives in our current world and, at nineteen years-old, is running for mayor of her small town outside of Seattle. She’s Puerto Rican and faces a great deal of racism and push back because of her origins and the mistakes of her father. Elizabeth Bathory is a Hungarian noble in the 1500’s who did actually exist and is credited as one of the most prolific female serial killers—which the author plays off of wonderfully. Elizabeth wants to secure her families line with a well-made marriage and will do anything to ensure her name goes down in history. Which is why she makes a deal with a mysterious, dark entity who she is half convinced is the devil. This dark force is present in Annalise’s time as well, tempting her and her friends with granting their every wish and removing all obstacles in their path. All they have to do is give up their fear and everything they want is theirs with no consequences. Or so the demon-like entity says. But things don’t exactly work out that way for any of them, and really, is anyone surprised?
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