“The Nature of Witches” is a true, and beautiful, YA story featuring a heroine born with a wonderful and strong power that she does not want because of the devastating effects it can have on those closest to her. Clara, as the only Ever in over a century, is desperately needed to hold the world’s atmosphere together while witches and non-witches alike figure out how to reverse the effects of climate change. But Clara feels too out of control, too scared of her own magic to want the responsibility. If she can’t keep her magic from hurting those she loves, she’d rather not have it at all. See what I mean about this being a true-blue YA novel? This book is very much a coming of age, self-discovery novel with the overall message being: love heals, but you have to be willing to let it. It’s a beautiful message, and there were some equally beautiful scenes in this book, too. So why was I kind of “meh” about it?
“The Changeling” feels like two books in one. You have the contemporary fiction of a young black family navigating their new life changes when welcoming a baby in New York City, which includes dealing with the racism they face as very bookish people—Apollo is a book man, hunting down rare books, and Emma is a librarian. But it’s also a story that closely aligns with the traditional folklore around changelings (I won’t go into details just in case you aren’t familiar and want to be completely surprised by this novel). Marrying those two stories is tricky, at the best of times, but Lavelle does a fabulous job, for the most part, of weaving a chilling, slow burn contemporary thriller with a fantasy horror story. The effect is a literary fiction that I can totally see college or advanced High School students dissecting in their English classes. But the connections between these two worlds wasn’t always there, so the author had to take great leaps on occasion, plus there is just one thing I cannot forgive Emma for…
“Seacity Rising” is a sweet, middle grade novel that follows a group of four aquatic animals on a quest to save their pond from a prophecy that promises doom in the near future. Babak is the only frog left in Seacity, and as such, he is the first to truly believe the prophecy and want to set out and find a solution to this impending doom. He is joined by princess turtles, and a genius fish who travel far from their pond to discover what is coming, and what they can do about it. While the main premise is a quest to save the home they love, the themes of friendship, caring for the environment and its animals, and avoiding climate catastrophe is strong and beautiful—without feeling sanctimonious. This would make for a great read aloud book for a parent and their young child!
“Mastermind” is the third book in Swed’s “League of Independent Operatives” series, so if you haven’t read the first two books then… hey, hi, you should read those and then come back here so we can better discuss this baby. Because in “Mastermind” we are once again put in the middle of two different groups of powered vigilantes who love to point fingers at each other, while bigger, badder problems and forces loom on the horizon. In this third book, we get more emotion from our main character, Mary, as she deals with the consequences of her actions from book 2, and while Mary is forced to confront those demons and learn to trust herself again, she’s pretty much the only character that faces their inner misgivings head on, whether for good or ill.
When people kept saying that this book was like Mulan meets Project Runway, I took it with a grain of salt. Usually those comparisons are loose, or the elements are there, but not in a significant way. That’s not the case with “Spin the Dawn”. Oh no! The Project Runway and Mulan elements were STRONG in this book, especially for the first half of the novel (and again toward the end but mainly early on). Was I mad about this? Absolutely not! I can’t remember the last YA fantasy I devoured the way I did this magical story of Maia, who dreams of being the Imperial Tailor but can’t because of her gender. Then, when a decree is called for a new Imperial Tailor, and all the great Masters of the land must participate in the competition, or send their son in their stead, Maia steps in for her ailing father, and war broken brother. Pretending to be a boy and fooling all the men she’s competing with turns out to be the easiest of the trials and dangers Maia had to face, which tells you already how exciting this book ended up being.
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