War Girls: A Review

cover art for War Girls by Tochi OnyebuchiSisters Onyii and Ify find themselves on opposing sides in a brutal civil war in this Afrofuturist adventure set in 2172 Nigeria that draws on the history of the Biafran War (also known as the Nigerian Civil War) of the 1960s which began when the Eastern Region of Nigeria declared itself the Republic of Biafra.

Onyebuchi sets this story against the backdrop of a futuristic world filled with sleek technology and brutal war machinery including bionic modifications for child soldiers and mechanized battle suits as both Onyii and Ify are pushed far beyond their limits as their loyalties are tested and they are forced to determine the value of their personal integrity in War Girls (2019) by Tochi Onyebuchi.

Find it on Bookshop.

The shifting narration follows Onyii and Ify as well as other characters they both meet as they try to find their way back to each other, and themselves, during the war and in the tenuous peace that follows. The sense of happenstance or destiny that continues to bring Onyii and Ify together underscores the arbitrary nature of war and the costs that are paid by everyone in the line of fire.

Intense action scenes contrast sharply against an incisive criticism of the costs of senseless battle and the story’s commentary on the powerful bonds that tie family together for better or worse. Onyebuchi’s stark, close third person narrative further emphasizes this story’s brutal setting.

War Girls is bleak but compulsively readable story with high action and high drama in equal measure. Onyebuchi’s world building and characterization are top notch in this completely immersive but deeply unsettling story. I’ve been describing War Girls as exemplary Afrofuturism for readers who also want to ugly cry and be sad forever—with high speed chases. Make of that what you will.

Possible Pairings: The Weight of Stars by K. Ancrum, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye, Invictus by Ryan Graudin, The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He, Skyhunter by Marie Lu, Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan, Metaltown by Kristen Simmons, Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie, Pacific Rim

*A more condensed version of this review was published in an issue of School Library Journal*

Star Cursed: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Star Cursed by Jessica SpotswoodCate Cahill will do anything to keep her sisters, Maura and Tess, safe. In fact she has already done the unthinkable: joining the Sisterhood–the sister organization of the Brotherhood–whom her mother never trusted despite their long history of harboring and protecting witches like Cate and her sisters.

Instead of a quiet, uneventful life with Finn, Cate finds herself at the center of a prophecy that could change everything and bring the Brotherhood to its knees. The problem: the Brotherhood knows about the prophecy and they are looking for Cate and her sisters as well.

The other problem: One of the Cahill sisters is the prophesied witch and one of the Cahill sisters will kill another. Cate can’t believe that of either of her sisters. But she can’t believe she is the powerful witch Oracles have predicted either. She doesn’t want to be that witch.

Isolated with the Sisterhood in New London, Cate is loathe to embrace her supposedly brilliant future. But if she wants any chance of saving her overly ambitious sister Maura from herself, Cate will have to act and quickly. Everything in New England is changing almost as quickly as everything in Cate’s own world. With time running out and stakes climbing higher Cate will have to decide how much more she can sacrifice before she will lose everything that matters in Star Cursed (2013) by Jessica Spotswood.

Star Cursed is the second book in Spotswoods Cahill Witch Chronicles. The story started with Born Wicked.

Set six weeks after the conclusion of Born Wicked, Star Cursed is able to let Cate reminisce about events from book one without bogging down book two. The story moves along evenly with pacing that builds much faster to a dramatic confrontation than the quieter plot of book one.

With Cate’s entrance into the Sisterhood, Star Cursed also has a strikingly changed setting and largely a different mood as Cate is relocated to New London from her small hometown of Chatham. The tone changes to match. This is a bleaker story with more threat and menace lurking in the dark corners of the narrative.

Spotswood keeps the Cahill sisters at the center of the plot once again masterfully illustrating their complicated and often painful dynamics. With tons more suspense and a shocking twist at the end, Star Cursed is very much a second book. While much more is learned about the characters and the world, very little is resolved as the story sets up for a dramatic conclusion in the forthcoming third book Sisters’ Fate.

Star Cursed is a darker story but still a gripping one that will leave readers anxiously waiting to see how this fantastic trilogy will conclude.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Infinityglass by Myra McEntire, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton, Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink