Frogkisser!: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

All Anya wants to do is sit in the castle library reading books and learning new spells (but only small ones because she doesn’t want to become an evil sorcerer like her step-step-father Duke Rikard). Unfortunately the Duke seems intent on becoming a completely evil sorcerer and his previously intermittent transformations and threats to Anya and her older sister Morven begin to escalate. Rikard even transforms Prince Denholm, one of Morven’s many suitors, into a frog.

Anya makes a sister-promise to return Prince Denholm to his human form before realizing it will lead to bigger challenges. Soon Anya has to flee the castle before Rikard can strike against her and forced into a Quest with Royal Dog Ardent at her side.

While she tries to gather ingredients for a magical anti-transmogrification lip balm to fix Denholm and Rikard’s sundry other victims Anya realizes there is far more at stake than one sister-promise as she grapples with her privilege and responsibility as a princess while trying to save her kingdom in Frogkisser! (2017) by Garth Nix.

Frogkisser! is a rollicking adventure filled with magical creatures including talking dogs, giant otters, and an enchanted bright orange newt. Along the way Anya also encounters wizards, good robbers, evil sorcerers and more.

Anya faces danger at every turn often leading to bittersweet successes which help to make Frogkisser! all the more gripping. Anya’s contemplation of the advantages she has–and the protection she owes her people–as a ruling princess is realistically handled and an excellent introduction to the concept of social responsibility.

Nix creates a unique world filled with minor kingdoms, magic, and a fair bit of mayhem in this novel. He also includes several wry nods to familiar fairy tale characters like Snow White and Merlin (who are the same person) as well as traditional tropes including the magic of true love’s kiss.

Frogkisser! is a masterful standalone fantasy novel that once again demonstrates Nix’s talent and range as an author. Anya’s young age and a deliberate lack of romance makes this story a great choice for readers who want a story focused on frienship, adventure, and magic. A must-read for fans of fractured fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, Princeless Book One: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin, Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Frogs. Royalty. Magic. Humor. 🦄 All Anya wants to do is sit in the castle library and read and learn new spells (but only small ones because she doesn't want to become an evil sorcerer). Unfortunately Anya has to go on a Quest instead. While she tries to gather ingredients for a magical Transmogrification lip balm to transform sundry victims of her step-step-father the duke Anya will grapple with her privilege and responsibility as a princess. This rollicking adventure is filled with magical creatures including talking dogs, wizards, good robbers, evil sorcerers and more. This masterful fantasy is another winner from Nix sure to appeal to fans of fractured fairy tales, adventures like The Princess Bride, and books by Vivian Vande Velde. 🦄 #bookstagram #goodreads #instabook #instareads #bibliophile #books #reading #currentlyreading #amreading #bookworm #bookish #bookgram #booktography #bookblogging #bookblogger #bookphotography #books #frogkisser

A post shared by Emma (@missprint_) on

Advertisements

To Hold the Bridge: A Review

To Hold the Bridge by Garth NixTo Hold the Bridge (2015) by Garth Nix is a collection of some of Nix’s previously published science fiction and fantasy short stories as well as a new Old Kingdom novella. Although To Hold the Bridge collects previously published stories, many of them were new to me and will likely be new to other readers as well. I was especially pleased that some of the stories included were ones not easily found in US editions.

Like most short story collections, this one had its strengths and its weaknesses. Instead of trying to review the entire collection in a few sentences, I decided to give smaller reviews of each story:

To Hold the Bridge: An Old Kingdom Story–Morghan has few prospects when he arrives at The Worshipful Company of the Greenwash Field and Market Bridge. His training as a new cadet is quickly tested when he has to hold the bridge against a necromancer’s Free Magic attack. I’m not sure if this story is circa Clariel, Sabriel, or Abhorsen but I hope we eventually see more of the Bridge and Morghan in a future book.

Vampire Weather–Amos lives in a secluded community that does not hold with modern technology or vaccinations. When Amos meets an alluring girl near the mailbox in the thick fog of vampire weather his life is irrevocably changed. An odd little story. A bit like the movie The Village.

Strange Fishing in the Western Highlands–A strange story about Malcolm MacAndrew’s first encounter with Hellboy (yes, that Hellboy). I love how Dark Horse does such weird things with their properties and it was kind of fun reading a prose story about a character usually seen in comics. I would like to see the anthology where this was originally published just for curiosity’s sake.

Old Friends–This story skewed on the older end (adult character, adult themes as it were) and was excellent. An alien is making a home on the coast of a small town when he realizes his enemies are coming for him. Fantastic narrative voice.

The Quiet Knight–Tony embrace his LARPing character’s heroism to find his voice in the real world. Few things amuse me as much as stories about Live Action Role Playing. This story was a bit short but entertaining.

The Highest Justice–Princess Jess summons Elibet, a unicorn to dispense high justice after her mother the Queen is murdered. Previously seen in Zombies vs. Unicorns. This is a short, dark story.

A Handful of Ashes–Mari and Francesca are students at a private boarding school for witches. Unlike most of the rich students, Mari and Francesca work in the kitchens to afford their tuition. When an old bylaw is established that threatens their position at the school–and the very safety of the school grounds–Mari and Francesca will have to take matters in their own hands to save the day. A delightful story about never accepting your lot and doing your part to make the world better. Possibly my favorite story in the collection. More of these two please!

The Big Question–Full circle story about a young man named Avel who leaves his village seeking wisdom and answers from a wise woman only to realize he doesn’t need to seek answers from someone else. This one was interesting but because the story covers such a large scope of time (most of Avel’s life), it is a bit hard to connect with the characters.

Stop!–Creepy and suspenseful story. When a mysterious figure shows up an atomic bomb test site in the desert he leaves a trail of destruction in his wake. There are hints here that the figure in question is an alien or even a dragon. It’s just really creepy. Trust.

Infestation–Wow. Judas as an alien and first ever vampire hunter. At least that’s my interpretation. I loved this story. It was incredibly cinematic and richly detailed. I would love to see this picked up for television.

The Heart of the City–A rather tedious story set in seventeenth century (or thereabouts) France where agents of the king work to corral and harness a dangerous angel’s power. It doesn’t go according to plan, of course.

Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of East and West–Ambrose is recovering from a wartime (World War I) injury in the English countryside and hoping his days as an agent are far behind him. When supernatural creatures and old colleagues come knocking, Ambrose realizes leaving his past behind may not be an option anymore. It may never have been an option. This story is spooky and excellent. I hope Ambrose survives whatever comes next and I’d love to see more of him.

Holly and Iron–A story that borrows elements from the plot of Robin Hood and King Arthur blended with a world where natural magic and iron magic oppose each other. The world building here is very detailed but the characters felt under-developed in comparison.

The Curious Case of the Moon Dawn Daffodil Murder–A messy, madcap story about Sherlock Holmes’ brother. Not Mycroft. The other one.

An Unwelcome Guest–What happens when a girl runs away from home and decides to move in with the local witch? Nothing good for the witch, that’s for sure. This was a fine reinterpretation of Rapunzel and a well-done fractured fairy tale in the fine tradition of Vivian Vande Velde.

A Sidekick of Mars–Everyone knows about John Carter’s adventures on Mars but now Lam Jones is here to tell you how it really went. He should know having been with John a good eighteen percent of the time. This was a funny story but I didn’t get as much out of it as I would have if I actually knew anything about John Carter.

You Won’t Feel a Thing–Blaaaaaah. This story is set in the world of Shade’s Children but ten years before the events of that book. Shade’s Children is the only book by Garth Nix that I have read that was so horrendously upsetting I couldn’t finish it. This story was about the same.

Peace in Our Time--A very grim and unsatisfying steampunk story. I tend to think of steampunk as a sci-fi subgenre with a generally lighter tone which was not at all true for this story.

Master Haddad’s Holiday–When Haddad is sent on a mission to earn his Master Assassin status, he knows his chances of success are slim. Still, he endeavors to succeed where others would likely fail. This story is set in the same universe as A Confusion of Princes and it is as delightfully high-action as that book.

To Hold the Bridge is a solid anthology although it is not quite as consistent as Nix’s earlier collection Across the Wall.

My favorite stories were definitely “A Handful of Ashes,” “Infestation,” “Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of East and West,” and “Master Haddad’s Holiday.” I could read about those characters all day.

Nix became a favorite author of mine because of his fantasy and the fantasy stories are the strongest ones here. Although not all of the stories were stellar, this collection demonstrates Nix’s range as an author. Recommended for fans of the author, readers who enjoy short stories, and fans of speculative fiction.

Goldenhand: A Review

*This is the fifth book in Nix’s Old Kingdom series. It contains major spoilers for the rest of the series. If you’re new to the series, start at the beginning with Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen, and Clariel*

Goldenhand by Garth NixSix months ago, Lirael was instrumental in the binding of Orannis where she lost her hand and was separated her from her truest friend, the Disreputable Dog. Now Lirael has a new hand forged out of metal and Charter Magic. She is no longer a Second Assistant Librarian in the Clayr but the Abhorsen-in-Waiting using her bells to bind and banish both Free Magic creatures and the dead.

When Lirael’s duties as Abhorsen-in-Waiting bring her across the wall to Ancelstierre, she saves Nicholas Sayre from a dangerous Hrule only to realize his injuries are slow to heal because of the Free Magic that riddles his body despite the Charter mark meant to contain it.

As Lirael seeks help for Nick at the Clayr’s Glacier, trouble brews near the northern borders of the Old Kingdom. A girl named Ferin leaves her nomadic clan to travel across dangerous terrain evading pursuers and Free Magic creatures as she makes her way toward the Clayr’s Glacier with a message for Lirael about a threat from the Witch with No Face.

Lirael, Ferin, and others will have to work together to unravel the truth of who the Witch with No Face is and what she is planning. With magic keeping the Witch alive both in Life and Death, it will take everything Lirael and her friends have to stop this new threat in Goldenhand (2016) by Garth Nix.

Goldenhand is the fifth book in Nix’s Old Kingdom series. If you’re new to the series, start at the beginning with Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen, and Clariel. This book is set six months after the events of Abhorsen and picks up immediately after the conclusion of Nix’s novella “Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case” found in his short story collection Across the Wall.

Nix blows the world of the Old Kingdom wide open in this installment as he brings his characters and readers North of the Old Kingdom where even the Great Charter cannot reach.

Written in close third person, Goldenhand alternates chapters following Ferin’s journey to deliver her message and Lirael’s travels to the Glacier with Nick and then beyond the borders of the Old Kingdom.

Ferin is a fine addition to this series with a brusque manner and directness that is refreshing and contrasts particularly well with Lirael’s often tentative interactions as she makes sense of her new status and notoreity.

It’s fantastic to see Lirael’s growth as she processes and reacts to the fact that she is not the person she once was (a Sightless Second Assistant Librarian, that is) and learns to embrace her new position and everything that comes with it. Lirael’s relationship with Nick is guileless and utterly charming as these two characters circle each other and ultimately make each other better as they grow closer.

Goldenhand is an interesting expansion of the world of the Old Kingdom and the conclusion this series needed and deserved when the original trilogy ended. A completely satisfying end to a favorite series. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Abhorsen: A Review

Abhorsen by Garth NixLirael has finally found a place for herself as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting. She has even found unexpected family and friends in Sam and the Disreputable Dog. But with this new knowledge comes an immense responsibility.

A necromancer is trying to awaken Orannis the Destroyer with the help of Chlorr–a Greater Dead creature–and Sam’s unwitting best friend Nick. Only one barrier keeps Orannis from unleashing its terrible power. Orannis must be stopped. Lirael does not know how, only that she has no choice but to find a way in Abhorsen (2003) by Garth Nix.

Abhorsen is the conclusion of Nix’s original Old Kingdom trilogy. It is preceded by Sabriel and Lirael. The book is followed by Nix’s recent prequel Clariel.

Abhorsen picks up shortly after the conclusion of Lirael. Lirael and Sam are still struggling to prevent Orannis from awakening. Everything Lirael has learned both in the Clayr’s glacier and without will be put to the test as she races to find a way to bind the Destroyer.

Nix once again delivers a high action fantasy adventure here. Lirael in particular comes into her own in this story as she embraces her past and everything that her new role as Abhorsen-in-Waiting entails.

Abhorsen is a nail-biting conclusion to an excellent trilogy. While the story ends beautifully, readers will still want to see more of these characters long after the book is done.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Lirael: A Review

Lirael by Garth NixLirael has been raised as a daughter of the Clayr–part of the extended family who live within the Clayr’s glacier seeking to understand their visions of the future. But Lirael has never fit in among the Clayr despite years of trying. She does not look like any of her Clayr family. She has no knowledge of her father. She was abandoned by her mother.

Worse, and far more shameful to her, Lirael does not have the Sight which allows all of the Clayr to see into possible futures. Instead, a full two years after she should have developed the Sight, Lirael is left feeling the outsider.

With little else to occupy her in the Clayr’s glacier, Lirael begins to experiment with Charter Magic while working as Second Assistant Librarian. In honing her natural affinity with the Charter, Lirael summons a strange companion and also sets herself on a path to oppose an ancient evil and choose her own future in Lirael (2001) by Garth Nix.

Lirael is the second book in Nix’s Old Kingdom series. It takes place roughly 18 years after the events in Sabriel. (Readers unfamiliar with Sabriel should still be able to jump into the series with the help of background passages for key information.) On the other hand, readers familiar with Sabriel will recognize familiar characters as well as relatives of characters featured in Sabriel.

Although Lirael is a very different heroine from Sabriel, this story treads similar territory as Lirael tries find her own identity and make a place for herself in the Old Kingdom. Lirael is savvy and smart. Although she makes mistakes including some rash decisions, Lirael learns throughout the story and her growth is obvious as she comes into her own.

Lirael is another beautifully evocative fantasy from Nix. The blend of high fantasy elements with action and adventure continues in this second installment as Lirael learns more about her past and meets some unlikely friends and allies along the way. Page-turning twists and shocking reveals will leave readers eager for the next installment.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Clariel: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Clariel by Garth NixClariel is the daughter of one of the most renowned goldsmiths in the Old Kingdom. With ties to both the Abhorsen and the king, she also is part of a powerful family line. Despite the supposed prestige, Clariel wants nothing to do with her mother’s goldsmith work or the city of Belisaere which will apparently further her mother’s ambitions.

While Clariel plots her escape back to the Great Forest near Estwael, she finds herself drawn again and again into political machinations within Belisaere. The more she tries to escape, the more problems (ranging from a Free Magic to a decidedly unwanted marriage proposal) appear to keep Clariel in the city.

Clariel knows her own mind better than most and is determined to choose her own path no matter who or what might try to stop her. But with so many temptations and obstacles, can Clariel ever truly be free? More importantly, how many times can a passion be thwarted before it goes horribly, irreparably astray in Clariel (2014) by Garth Nix?

Clariel is a prequel to Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series. It is set roughly 600 years before the events in Sabriel (the first Old Kingdom book).

Readers of the Old Kingdom books will know that Clariel eventually becomes Chlorr of the Mask–a villain who features in first three Old Kingdom novels. Beyond that fact, Clariel is its own story. Free of spoilers for the rest of this series, this book can serve as an equally good entry point for readers looking to discover the world of the Old Kingdom.

Clariel is a brusque, singular protagonist. For most of the novel she cares little about others or anything beyond her immediate desire to return to the Great Forest. In a lesser narrative these attributes might have made for a self-absorbed heroine and little else. Clariel, however, is much more than that. Even though her agency is undermined again and again, even while she is constantly manipulated, Clariel remains her own woman.

In Clariel, Garth Nix presents a nuanced story about choice and redemption featuring a capable heroine. Even knowing what Clariel eventually becomes, Nix has delivered a story that is as taut as it is heartbreaking. A must-read for fans of high fantasy.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

*A copy of this book was acquired from the publisher at BEA 2014 for review consideration*

Sabriel: A Review

sabrielLatest in a long line of Abhorsens, Sabriel knows more than most about death. The Abhorsens are necromancers who use Charter magic to put the dead to rest. Or, if that fails, bind them where they cannot return to Life. As one of the oldest family lines in the Old Kingdom, the Abhorsens are tasked with keeping the kingdom safe from the dead as well as dangerous Free Magic creatures.

When her father, the current Abhorsen, becomes trapped in Death–a dangerous river few can find and fewer can walk–Sabriel has to leave the relative shelter of her boarding school across the Wall in Ancelstierre to assume her rightful duties as the next Abhorsen to save her father, and perhaps many others, from the dead that would keep him and claim the world of the living for themselves in Sabriel (1995) by Garth Nix.

Sabriel is the first book in Nix’s Old Kingdom series. It is followed by Lirael, Abhorsen, the novella Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case and the prequel Clariel. Although this novel sets up all of the events that follow later in the series, Sabriel works as a standalone with a contained story arc.

Sabriel is a beautifully well-realized fantasy. Evocative descriptions bring both the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre to life as Nix weaves a complex world of magic and adventure. Sabriel easily negotiates the world of the Old Kingdom with its allies who may not be allies and all manner of magical wonders and dangers. She easily fits into the more modern world of Ancelstierre with its modern technology reminiscent of our own world in the 1910s.

Accompanied by distinct characters including a possibly dangerous cat and a statue come to life, Sabriel is a clever and capable heroine in a story that is as compelling as it is exciting. With action, romance and humor this novel has something for everyone. Sabriel is an exemplary start to a classic fantasy series. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White