Today, I have a YA historical fantasy, an adult sci-fi/paranormal fantasy?, a YA fantasy series, and a YA graphic novel! I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on August 31, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Cover Artist: Faceout Studio
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Violence)
The Last Magician meets The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy in this thrilling and atmospheric historical fantasy following a young woman who discovers she has magical powers and is thrust into a battle between witches and wizards.
In 1911 New York City, seventeen-year-old Frances Hallowell spends her days as a seamstress, mourning the mysterious death of her brother months prior. Everything changes when she’s attacked and a man ends up dead at her feet—her scissors in his neck, and she can’t explain how they got there.
Before she can be condemned as a murderess, two cape-wearing nurses arrive to inform her she is deathly ill and ordered to report to Haxahaven Sanitarium. But Frances finds Haxahaven isn’t a sanitarium at all: it’s a school for witches. Within Haxahaven’s glittering walls, Frances finds the sisterhood she craves, but the headmistress warns Frances that magic is dangerous. Frances has no interest in the small, safe magic of her school, and is instead enchanted by Finn, a boy with magic himself who appears in her dreams and tells her he can teach her all she’s been craving to learn, lessons that may bring her closer to discovering what truly happened to her brother.
Frances’s newfound power attracts the attention of the leader of an ancient order who yearns for magical control of Manhattan. And who will stop at nothing to have Frances by his side. Frances must ultimately choose what matters more, justice for her murdered brother and her growing feelings for Finn, or the safety of her city and fellow witches.
What price would she pay for power, and what if the truth is more terrible than she ever imagined?
A YA historical fantasy that explores gender roles in a time when women had little power—but some of them have magic. Frances is desperate to uncover the truth of who murdered her brother, but she’s almost given up hope. No one seems to know anything. Her mother has been sent to an asylum due to her grief, and Frances is working as a seamstress, a job she knows she is lucky to have, despite the difficult working conditions. When Frances’s boss attacks her, she fights back in a way she never knew she was capable of, and her whole life changes. She finds herself in a haven for witches, disguised as an asylum.
This book is a mystery at its heart, but its main themes highlight the powerlessness women felt at the turn of the 20th century. They faced few prospects beyond marriage (and little autonomy within marriage), poor working conditions, and very few rights, not even the right to vote. All of these issues and more are illustrated throughout the book, but it was the symbolism of something that happens toward the end of the story that was most powerful to me. Of course, I can’t tell you what that is because it would be a major spoiler, but suffice it to say things get very messy in the last quarter of the book, and I didn’t want to stop reading! The eventual ending is both exciting and empowering! Even though Goodreads doesn’t list this book as a series, the ending leaves no question that there is a future book in the works.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Published by Viking on September 29, 2020
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction
Narrator: Carey Mulligan
Length: 8 hours 51 minutes
Cover Artist: Sara Wood, Jim Tierney
My content rating: Adult (Suicide, No sexual content)
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
This book examines the ways both our choices and our regrets shape our lives. At the end of a miserable week that punctuates a hopeless life, Nora decides to commit suicide. However, in the space between life and death she finds herself in a strange library that holds all of her parallel lives. She is told that she may choose any of her life’s regrets and see what her life would be had she avoided that regret. If she finds a life that fits her perfectly, she will be able to stay in it and live it out for the rest of her natural life. Of course, finding a life that seems right is more difficult than it would seem.
For a while, I was afraid that this book was going to be somewhat fatalistic. Tragedy seemed to follow Nora in each of her alternate futures, and it was no wonder she was depressed. I was starting to wonder how any of these experiences were going to convince her that life was worth living, even if they did prove that her regrets weren’t necessarily valid. But then, somewhere near the halfway point of the book, things start to change. First, there’s a small twist to the story that gives Nora an unlikely ally of sorts. And then we start to see Nora’s possible lives from a new perspective. When she sees life’s possibilities she begins to embrace each new future as a second chance. And as Nora gains an understanding of what makes each new life worth living, we see her also gain strength and a motivation to truly find happiness—or to create happiness for herself. This story is poignant and bittersweet and is sure to appeal to any reader’s inner philosopher!
Renegades by Marissa Meyer
Series: Renegades #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 7, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Cover Artist: Robert Ball
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Violence)
Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.
The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone... except the villains they once overthrew.
Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova's allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.
I read Renegades a year ago, and now that I finally listened to the final two books, I decided I’d give you a quick rundown of my thoughts on the series. (I own all the books because I bought them when my daughter read the series, but lately I focus so much better on audiobooks, so I got them from the library.) I will try to keep the entire review spoiler-free for all three books as much as possible.
In the first book, we meet Nova and Adrian, villain and superhero respectively. Nova has spent most of her life resenting the Renegades because they failed to protect her family like they promised they would. Her parents and baby sister are murdered right in front of her, and her uncle (who just happens to be the world’s biggest supervillain) takes her in. Thus begins a lifelong quest for revenge. Nova pretends to be a hero and goes undercover as a member of the Renegades, while Adrian has a secret alter-ego of his own. I will say that I had to truly suspend disbelief at some points to get past the fact that neither Nova nor Adrian suspects the other. But I always love a story with morally gray characters, so I let that go and just enjoyed the fact that we were seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly when it came to both the superheroes and the villains. The book has plenty of action, of course (it is a superhero story, after all), and I ended up really connecting to both Adrian and Nova, so I was rooting for them both in impossible circumstances. Sometimes it was hard to imagine how Nova would make her way out of some sticky circumstances—especially when she found herself falling for a boy who was supposed to be her enemy. This book ended with a bit of a cliffhanger that set us up for book two!Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
Series: Renegades #2
Published by Macmillan Audio on November 6, 2018
Narrator: Rebecca Soler, Dan Bittner
Length: 14 hours and 33 minutes
Source: Library, Purchased
Are Nova and Adrian each other’s worst nightmare?
In Renegades, Nova and Adrian (aka Insomnia and Sketch) fought the battle of their lives against the Anarchist known as the Detonator. It was a short-lived victory.
The Anarchists still have a secret weapon, one that Nova believes will protect her. The Renegades also have a strategy for overpowering the Anarchists, but both Nova and Adrian understand that it could mean the end of Gatlon City – and the world – as they know it.
In the second installment of the series, the Renegades have created a new weapon called Agent N that can remove the powers from any prodigy. This brings up many philosophical and political questions: Who gets to decide when and how this weapon is used? What would stop someone from abusing the power that comes with such a weapon? What if there was a chance for reform? Are superpowers a good thing in the first place or would some people be happier without them? This series constantly bring up questions of power and whether or not an imbalance of power can ever be truly good. Nova has to decide what to do about Agent N—on the one hand, she believes it is wrong, but on the other hand, she also knows it’s a weapon that the Anarchists can use against the Renegades as well as the other way around. The romance between Adrian and Nova is turned up quite a bit in this book!Supernova by Marissa Meyer
Series: Renegades #3
Published by Macmillan Audio on November 5, 2019
Length: 16 hours and 32 minutes
Source: Library, Purchased
All's fair in love and anarchy...
Supernova, the epic conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Marissa Meyer's thrilling Renegades Trilogy finds Nova and Adrian struggling to keep their secret identities concealed while the battle rages on between their alter egos, their allies, and their greatest fears come to life. Secrets, lies, and betrayals are revealed as anarchy once again threatens to reclaim Gatlon City.
In the final book in the series, things are turned upside down for quite some time. I won’t go into details about why since that would definitely be a spoiler, but suffice it to say that things between Nova and Adrian take a sour turn and Nova has plenty of other things to deal with. Of course, this final book also brings us the final showdown of the series, so it’s full of action. And this installment also has Nova truly examining where her loyalties lie and why. There are lots of revelations, some of them I expected and some I didn’t. In the end, things go down pretty much the way I’d been expecting them to the whole series, but I still definitely enjoyed the ride! Oh, and then there’s that epilogue—now, that I wasn’t expecting! I guess Meyer is planning on writing more books in this world!
Overall, I really enjoyed this series. It was entertaining and the moral questions it poses are worth thinking about. Since I listened to the final two books in the series, I got to hear the fabulous Rebecca Soler, who narrates all of Meyer’s books—she is definitely my favorite narrator! DanI’m excited to see what else Meyer has in store for us in this world!
The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor by Shaenon K. Garrity
Illustrator: Christopher Baldwin
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on July 20, 2021
Genres: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: YA (Some violence)
meets Paper Girls with a literary twist in this wickedly funny graphic novel about a teenager who is swept up in a strange new universe and must save it from an all-consuming evil in order to return home.
One dark and stormy night, Haley sees a stranger drowning in the river. Since her greatest passion is Gothic romance novels, she knows her moment has come. But when Haley leaps into the water to rescue the stranger, she awakens in Willowweep. It certainly looks like the setting of one of her favorite books: A stately manor. A sinister housekeeper. Three brooding brothers. There’s even a ghost.
Except Willowweep is not what it seems. Its romantic exterior hides the workings of a pocket universe—the only protection our world has against a great force of penultimate evil, and its defenses are crumbling. Could cruel fate make Haley the heroine that Willowweep needs?
This graphic novel is just plain fun! Haley is a huge fan of gothic romance. She’s read every book and lives and breathes facts from the time periods that they were written in. This all comes in very handy when she is transported to an alternate universe that is basically a gothic romance come to life. I loved everything about Haley, especially her sheer delight at everything she finds in this strange new universe. She comes to learn that the place she’s found herself is really a protective barrier between her own (our actual) universe and an evil bile universe that would contaminate her world if it had the chance. Unfortunately, not only is there a leak, but a bile creature disguised as a villainous monk is on the loose. Lots of crazy adventures ensue as she uses everything she knows about the rules of gothic romance to try to save the world—and then she throws those rules out completely to do things her own way. From the crazed zombie bunnies to the overdramatic gothic poetry, this graphic novel is full of zaniness that made me laugh again and again. I loved every minute of the adventure! Oh, and I absolutely loved the art style as well—every page was a surprise!
***Disclosure: I received these books from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***