Daughter of the Forest, a retelling of a classic fairytale, is set in the ancient British Isles. The beginning of the book follows a girl named Sorcha as she grows into a teenager and has to protect her father’s lands from invaders. She is thwarted when an evil sorceress turns her brothers into swans and she has to find a way to change them back. The setup of the book was fascinating, but Sorcha’s character arc is so conventional that I knew how the story would end when I was less than halfway through the book. Marillier’s world-building draws on folk tales and mythology and creates a vivid landscape, but the plot quickly descends into predictability. The story has promise, but anyone even vaguely familiar with fantasy tropes might as well close the book a third of the way through and fill in the rest themselves. – Amelia H. ’19
Heller’s Tale is a novella that follows Andrew Heller, a welder working at the South Pole, as an intended adventure with his friends goes, well, south. The details of the setting are based off Cohn’s own experience working in Antarctica and give a fantastical feeling to the story, particularly for those of us who have never actually been to Antarctica. Multiple timelines are also used to great effect by interspersing events so that they continuously build up the plot, instead of by chronology. The novella format keeps the story from dragging, while still allowing for complexity. I would recommend Heller’s Tale to anyone looking for an immersive, setting-driven story. – Amelia H. ’19
Binti is a teenage girl traveling to a university called Oomza Uni on another planet, the first in history of the Himba people to be admitted. On the way there, her ship is attacked by the Meduse, an alien race with a vendetta against humans. Binti is short, but it packs in the same complex world-building and characters as a SciFi novel three or four times its length. The book is a little slow in introducing the main conflict, considering that the story is only ninety pages, but that is made up for by the excellence of the writing. Okorafor’s prose is eloquent and yet concise, immersing the reader in the story. A quick read that will inspire thought long after the last page is turned. – Amelia H. ’19
Dawnthief is a fantasy novel centered around a group of warriors called the Raven, who are tasked with helping a mage save the kingdom from evil creatures called the Wytch Lords, who are assisting barbaric tribes in invading the kingdom. The characters on the whole seem to be motivated solely by what will drive the plot forward. The Raven is joined along the way by a notable cast of characters including numerous people who turn evil for no discernible reason, feuding barons whose conflicts are given more paragraphs than they deserve, and women whose importance to the plot depends on their relationships with men. Indeed, the only woman particularly central to the plot is relegated to being a healer even though she has the same warrior capabilities as the men in the Raven, and it is vaguely mentioned that she will have amazingly powerful children, which is why she is important. There are elves, indistinguishable from humans except for being able to see in the dark and being referred to as elves. Additionally, the prose is clunky, with awkward phrasing that disrupts the flow of the writing, inconsistent dialogue, and inaccurate wording. Dawnthief is an interesting concept, carried out very poorly. – Amelia H. ’19
Crooked Kingdom picks up the story where Six of Crows left off. The fight between the heroes and villains of Six of Crows finally culminates in an explosive finale. A fast-paced plot full of twists takes the reader on a whirlwind of a ride, moving at a breathless speed that makes every action and line of dialogue seem as if it’s happening in that moment for the first time. So much is packed in that the reader might feel daunted at the end of the first section, but everything links together into one cohesive narrative that ties up every loose thread it creates. The ending is as unforeseeable as it is thrilling, keeping the fast pace up till the last. This book was a perfect wrap-up to the Six of Crows duology. – Amelia H. ’19
The title, Fangirl, refers to Cath, a fanfiction writer who begins the story by moving into her freshman dorm at the college. Off-balance because she and her twin sister Wren are no longer attached at the hip, Cath has to navigate her fiction-writing class and her relationships with her sister, father, roommate, and her roommate’s on-and-off boyfriend. Rowell’s characters initially seem to lack depth, but through their interactions and reactions they develop a uniqueness that brings them to life. While the story definitely has plot, some of the arcs are not explored to their full potential, such as the situation of Cath and Wren’s mother. I found the use of excerpts from Cath’s fanfiction quite effective–both as a way to inform the reader about the fictional book series Rowell has invented, and as a way to offer commentary within the story on the events that have occurred. Those who enjoy light-hearted romance and whimsical prose will enjoy this book.
Six of Crows is a fantasy heist story, with a cast of characters who practically spring off the page into real life and a world fleshed out to the tiniest detail. Bardugo’s gift for writing scenes and characters leaves readers feeling as if they themselves have followed the characters on their journeys step by step. Although the author spent considerable time setting up the main plot initially, after finishing the book, I could think of no unnecessary scenes or chapters. Everything came together in the final chapters of the book, which offered just enough closure to satisfy the reader but left enough unsolved that the reader has continue on to the sequel. If you like to immerse yourself in richly detailed fantasy worlds and carefully planned heists, this book is for you. Perfect for fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora. – Amelia H. ’19
Myra Carlyle’s senior year of high school is going perfectly normally until her classmates start spontaneously exploding. Starmer’s witty narration and snarky protagonist take a tragic story and give it a comedic twist, following Myra through her senior year as everyone tries to both solve the mystery of the senior class and move on from it.
I enjoyed reading the narration, which was unexpectedly humorous, and Myra’s own growth as a result of her struggling is fascinating to read. Some might find the ending unfulfilling, but I liked how the story closed and would recommend it to anybody looking for a highly unusual coming of age story.