A Darker Shade of Magic: A Review

“Magic bent the world. Pulled it into shape. There were fixed points. Most of the time they were places.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria SchwabKell is one of the last Travelers, a magician with the coveted and closely guarded ability to travel between worlds. Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler working for the crown of Red London to dispatch correspondence between the different cities that share the same name.

Kell’s work brings him to Grey London–a dingy, dull place ruled by the increasingly mad King George III where industrialization has all but stamped out magic. There is also White London–a ruthless city where people struggle to control magic as it drains more and more from the city. There used to be Black London. No one talks about that.

Kell’s official position in the magically balanced Red London also allows him to pursue less official activities as a smuggler supplying magical artifacts to Collectors and Enthusiasts in all three Londons.

Meanwhile, Grey Londoner Delilah Bard knows that she is meant to be a pirate. Even if she is currently without a ship and reduced to working as a cut-purse for the time being. When she crosses paths with Kell, Lila knows that she has found something she never realized was missing from her life.

But magic, even small magic smuggled across borders, is a dangerous business where nothing is free. Drawn into a deadly web of magic and conspiracy, Kell and Lila will have to wok together if they want to save any of the Londons in A Darker Shade of Magic (2015) by V. E. Schwab.

A Darker Shade of Magic is Schwab’s second book written for an adult audience. (She has numerous, equally wonderful YA titles published under the name Victoria Schwab.) It is also the start of her new fantasy trilogy.

A Darker Shade of Magic is an evocative fantasy novel with not one but three well-developed worlds that include historical details and logical magic conventions. For all of the characters, perhaps most literally for Kell, magic comes at a cost–one that is quite dear for some–a theme that Schwab skillfully explores throughout the novel.

Despite the dangers and dark elements to be found here, A Darker Shade of Magic is also imbued with a sense of wonder for both magic and exploration as new worlds open before Kell and Lila’s eyes.

Kell and Lila are reckless characters who are dangerously charming. They are also shrewd and often jaded, particularly Lila. These traits make it all the sweeter to read about their evolving bond and to see this unlikely pair work together against some very dangerous enemies. Witty banter throughout is an added bonus in this story filled with sharp observations and vivid prose.

A Darker Shade of Magic strikes the perfect balance between urgency and introspection with a fast-paced plot and characters who often operate in the grey areas of morality. Seeing the story from both Kell and Lila’s perspectives adds another element to this intricate story that hints at marvelous things to come in the rest of the series. Highly recommended for fans of both urban and high fantasy.

Possible Pairings: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Week in Review: March 29

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This week on the blog you can check out:

This week I set up a new display at work of which I am quite proud. I also got to see Nicole for her birthday celebration. We saw Insurgent at the movie theater. It was fun but if you want to spend some time poking holes into the plot, I am here and I am ready.

I’ve been a bit scattered with my reading but am hoping to really settle on one book this week.

I’ve also been working on using a notebook to stay organized and it’s turning into quite a process. I am planning on writing a whole post about that in the future though so stay tuned!

How was your week?

The Sin Eater’s Daughter: A Review

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda SalisburyTwylla has always had a destiny. Four harvests ago she chose a path that would lead her away from the fraught burden of following in her mother’s steps as the next Sin Eater for Lormere.

Now Twylla is blessed by the gods and serves at their pleasure as Daunen Embodied–the mortal incarnation of the daughter of the gods and the only one worthy of marrying the crown prince. The gods’ continued approval is confirmed each moon during the Telling when Twylla drinks deadly Morningsbane poison without harm.

But her blessing and survival come at a cost. The poison lingers in Twylla’s blood and on her skin so that her barest touch can kill–something the queen of Lormere exploits by making Twylla a reluctant executioner.

Twylla made peace with her role as executioner long ago. Until the return of the prince, Merek, and the arrival of a new guard named Lief when Twylla finds herself questioning many things about her role as Daunen Embodied and the motivations of the queen. Again Twylla will have a chance to choose her destiny, but first she must decide what to believe and who to trust in The Sin Eater’s Daughter (2015) by Melinda Salisbury.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter is Salisbury’s first novel and the start of a new series.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter presents a complex world comprised of three vastly different kingdoms including Twylla’s home in Lormere where the novel is set. While Lormere is a comparatively vast empire, it is also quite primitive with a seat of power traditionally held by siblings in a misguided effort to keep the royal line pure. On Lormere’s borders are Tregallan–Lormere’s chief supplier of goods that Lormere cannot produce itself and a new democracy that values science over religion–and Tallith–a fallen kingdom that once held vast wealth thanks to the closely guarded secrets of the science of alchemy.

Within Lormere Salisbury also offers a religious system that includes invented gods with numerous Christian undertones in addition to Sin Eating. Unfortunately the Eating is never fully explained as reader’s are left to wonder how certain foods are chosen to represent sins and how, exactly, a person’s sins can be cataloged properly after their death.

Despite being the castle executioner, Twylla is incredibly naive for the majority of the novel. At times this creates interesting moments of tension between science and faith as Twylla tries to learn more about her past. In others it only serves to make it easier for her to swoon over her new guard Lief.

Of the two male leads Merek, the prince, is far more compelling as he struggles to figure out how to bring Lormere out of its archaic traditions and move it beyond the ruthless rule of his mother, the queen. Lief is little more than a pretty face by comparison.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter is at its strongest when Salisbury details the machinations of the queen and the intrigue surrounding Twylla’s role as Daunen. The queen adds a lot of suspense to the story as an especially chilling villain.

Twylla’s development over the course of the story is fascinating as she comes to term with the choices she has made and acknowledges that having agency (choosing to accept her role as Daunen, choosing to not follow the path of the Sin Eater) is not the same as having power–something she craves as she hopes to garner some level of revenge for past wrongs.

Unfortunately, much of this The Sin Eater’s Daughter‘s promise does not come to fruition. Twylla’s character fizzles toward the end thanks to an epilogue that negates most of her previous growth during the novel. This book sets up a lot for the next installment in the series including a twist that upturns almost every conceit previously detailed in the story. Although exciting, this final twist diminishes previous shocks by rendering them largely irrelevant.

Since this book is the start of a series, there is still room for a lot of things to change but taken on its own the conclusion remains disappointing. The Sin Eater’s Daughter is an engaging fantasy but not without flaws. Ideal for readers who do not question worldbuilding and enjoy a balanced love triangle.

Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Poetry Month Display (Library Life)

April is National Poetry Month. Since I’m doing a month-long series here on the blog (details coming April 1) I figured I’d be remiss to not also do something in my library.

Instead of highlighting specific books I decided to focus on some of my favorite poems on the signage and then stock the display with poetry collections and verse novels.

Here’s the smaller display:

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And here’s the bigger one with the poems:

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This sign was definitely the most intricate one I’ve put together as it was a puzzle project to assemble everything. I tried to highlight a variety of poems. Thanks to my constant display-making tool PicMonkey I also was able to keep to a spring theme with the colors. For a giveaway option I’m asking for the title of a person’s favorite poem to win a free book.

Here are some close ups of the poems and sign (I loved the Emily Dickinson one so much that I printed it out and put a copy on my desk). You can click the images for larger versions. The links go to my previous posts about the poems.

This is the sign explaining the display and also “The morns are meeker than they were” by Emily Dickinson:

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Here is “Woman Work” by Maya Angelou, “The Mad Yak” by Gregory Corso, “Resume” by Dorothy Parker and “Mad Girl’s Love Song” by Sylvia Plath:

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Here is “This is just to say” by William Carlos Williams and “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost:

IMG_2092How are you celebrating National Poetry Month in your library or on your blog? What do you think of this display and the poems I chose? What is your favorite poem?

Let me know in the comments!

Love and Other Foreign Words: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahanJosie speaks many languages. She can converse in the languages of high school, college, friends, boyfriends and even the volleyball team. She can parse behaviors to see the right way to act, the right thing to say. She can always translate the things around her into her own native Josie.

But living a life in translation is exhausting. Even though Josie can take part in many different groups, and speak many different languages, only her family and her best friend Stu can ever properly understand Josie’s native language.

The people who understand Josie threatens to get even smaller when her sister Kate announces that she is engaged to a truly insufferable man. With the wedding approaching, Josie notices more and more changes in her beloved Kate.

Love is a word found in many languages. And with so many things around her changing, Josie is about to get a crash course in the true meaning of the word in Love and Other Foreign Words (2014)by Erin McCahan.

Josie is a lovely heroine who is convincingly intellectual without ever coming across as stilted. Stu is her perfect foil and the quintessential dreamy best friend. In every sense this story is heartwarming with many saccharine moments and authentic realizations about what it means to be part of a family.

That said the pacing felt off with were ostensibly the main parts of the story (the wedding preparation, the actual romance, the discord between sisters) not appearing until the second half of the story. Although the direction the story moves in makes up for the rushed feeling of the ending. (And oh how I wish Josie had glasses on the cover.)

While there are hints of romance, the real romance–the one that should have been the meat of the story–doesn’t appear until the last fifty pages of the novel. At the end of the day Love and Other Foreign Words is a sweet story about sisters and how familial relationships change that will appeal to readers of light contemporary romances.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Books for Sale! (March 23, 2015)

Unless otherwise stated all books are in new condition and unsigned.

I can only ship within the US.

Hardcovers are $6.00 each plus shipping.

Paperbacks are $3.00 each plus shipping.

Books will ship media mail.

If interested please email me at miss_print AT yahoo DOT com. First come, first served.

Hardcovers ($6.00 each):

  1. The Battle of Darcy Lane by Tara Altebrando (signed to Emma)
  2. Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci
  3. Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti (signed to Emma)
  4. Little (Grrl) Lost by Charles De Lint
  5. Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
  6. Buzzkill by Beth Fantaskey
  7. The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee
  8. Parallel by Lauren Miller
  9. The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle (signed to Emma)
  10. The Safe-Keeper’s Secret by Sharon Shinn
  11. The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr (signed to Emma)

Paperbacks ($3.00 each):

  1. The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti
  2. Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
  3. Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
  4. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
  5. Fracture by Megan Miranda
  6. The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
  7. The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding (signed to Emma)
  8. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  9. The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams

ARCS (for trade or free–just cover shipping)

  1. Stone in the Sky by Cecil Castellucci
  2. The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni
  3. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

If interested please email me at miss_print AT yahoo DOT com. First come, first served.

Beau, Lee, The Bomb and Me: A (Rapid Fire) Review

Beau, Lee, the Bomb and Me by Mary McKinleyIt’s bad enough being smart or fat in a high school with known bullying issues, Rusty Winters is both. It’s even worse to be gay, which is unfortunate for new kid Beau Gales.

When Beau arrives, Rusty’s first thought is relief when she thinks the school might have someone else to target for a while. But when Rusty and Beau become fast friends, it hits her hard when Beau’s bullying escalates to a beating on his way home. Rusty and fellow misfit Leonie readily agree to follow Beau when he decides to run away to San Francisco to ask his gay uncle for advice.

This road-trip novel is peppered with nods to The Wizard of Oz that range from clever to heavy-handed. A detour to the town of Forks (of “Twilight” fame) and numerous additional plot points—including the friends deciding how to properly deal with Leonie’s molestation by her teacher and others, a car-jacking, and more—force much of the character development off-page in the form of time jumps and informative asides.

Lengthy passages about the devastating effects of the AIDS outbreak, often reductive explanations of the gay rights movement, and numerous reminders about the importance of tolerance lend a self-righteous tone to the narrative.

While the issues of bullying and gay rights are timely, outmoded pop-culture references and odd slang choices lend a dated feel to this novel. Worth a look for those hoping to flesh out their LGBTQ or bullying selections as well as hardcore Oz-philes. A good choice to pair with Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.

*A slightly different version of this review appeared in an issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen in various sites online*