Gideon the Ninth Review

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

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There’s been a lot of rave for this book, but I am not sure I will fully rave about it. I enjoyed it a lot and it kept me hooked and reading it, but the way it had been pitched and talked about meant I was expecting something else.

If you’re looking for lesbian necromancer in space, you won’t really find that here. This is NOT a space opera, there’s very little “space” part in it, which was what made me unhappy the most. I was expecting some crazy space opera with necromancers and most of the space talk is them moving from their planet to another, which takes a few pages and that is it. There aren’t really any more space themed things going on beyond the fact that tehy are on a planet (I mean, in most stories you read, the characters are in a planet or something of the kind).

We get most of the story from Gideon’s point of view, so if you don’t like much her prickly/snarky want to be a hero and not super focused but rather emotional way of being, you won’t like the way this is narrated (which seems to be one of the main issues I see others found not great). I liked the snark and sarcasm and prickliness of her and her interactions and shenanigans made me like her a bit or at least be fond of her antics.

The story is mostly about them trying to solve a big puzzle in an abandoned building to become the best necromancer for the emperor. But it isn’t easy and it comes at a cost, plus being a necromancer doesn’t mean you are immune to death (one wishes, right?). I enjoyed the way necromancy is divided by houses and abilities, where each house has a focus on how they use necromancy and what they use it for. I also liked the whole mystery how are we going to solve this, do we try to work on our own or team up? thing.

There’s a lot of competition and lots of backstabbing (figurative and literal) and a lot of fighting and crazy stints and I enjoyed this a lot. One of the downsides is that there are a lot of characters and at times I couldn’t really remember which house they belong to, who they had come in with and what abilities they had. Nor could I fully remember they had or hadn’t achieved to a certain point in the story because we get a lot fo the story from Gideon’s point so we miss a lot or only what she cares about (which is fine, but can make the story confusing and I only really cared for a few characters rather than the whole set).

All in all, it was a crazy fun necromancy read. Just don’t expect the whole crazy space part because it wasn’t that.

The Okay Witch Review

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Magic is harder than it looks.

Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all! When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. Secrets surface from generations past as Moth unravels the complicated legacy at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.

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This book that I sadly haven’t seen anyone raving about is a hidden gem. It’s a graphic novel with cute artwork, and lots of coming into your magic, plus small town vibes and school shenanigans!

Moth loves everything that is magical and witchy, but that means she’s a little out of the main circle in school. However as she makes a new friend because she is friendly, she accidentally comes into magic powers. And boy, they are interesting and scary and also, magic is hard!

Not to spoil anythign but Moth lives in a small town that was really against witches, there is a talking cat, and there is a school play, Moth’s friend trying to impress his father (mysterious character that the father is), and then Moth’s own mother is keeping some really interesting secrets of her own.

But none of that will stop Moth from trying to learn how to do magic and use it better than by accident! She is one determined girl and this is a fun read full of joy, adventure, crazy stuff and bucketfuls of magic and history.

Highly recommended if you like empowering books about preteens/teens coming of age and finding powers, if you like magic, and friendship and family. It’s a really lovely book.

Shadow Review

Shadow by Lucy Christopher and Anastasia Suvorova

In our old house, Ma told me there was nothing to be scared of. No monsters hiding behind doors, or in wardrobes, or under beds. She said there were no dark places at all. But, in the new house, under my new bed, that’s where I found Shadow.

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I like having a stack of illustrated books to go through when I am not feeling well enough or in the mood for a big read. That isn’t to say they aren’t as wrothy, but rather, this type of books are very powerful in a small number of pages, and Shadow is one of those. [This review contains “spoilers”]

Shadow takes us on a journey into depression and “shadows”. How grief and fear can stop the world and sometimes put the ones we love into the shadows and push them away. The little girl has a good life and then they move to a new place and Ma isn’t the same so she finds a new friend to play with, Shadow.

The book is quite powerful, the artwork is very fitting in a limited palette that hints at darkness and more, but it is a good book, with lots of detail in the artwork and the wording. Good for children who would read a fun story about an imaginary friend and a daughter and mother, or for older ones who know grief, anxiety and depression.

Black Canary Ignite Review

Black Canary: Ignite by Meg Cabot and Cara McGee

Thirteen-year-old Dinah Lance knows exactly what she wants, who she is, and where she’s going. First, she’ll win the battle of the bands with her two best friends, then she’ll join the Gotham City Junior Police Academy so she can solve crimes just like her dad. Who knows, her rock star group of friends may even save the world, but first they’ll need to agree on a band name.

When a mysterious figure keeps getting in the way of Dinah’s goals and threatens her friends and family, she’ll learn more about herself, her mother’s secret past, and navigating the various power chords of life.

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This was an impulse buy because the superhero name sounded familiar but I couldn’t remember much and it looked cute.

We meet Dinah as she is singing for a band rehearsal, she and her two friends know they want to win and are ready to rock the world! However there is this weirdo mysterious person who keeps appearing at ood moments and that seems very interested in Dinah.

Things progress quite fast in the story but it was easy to read, didn’t feel like I was missing much even if there was a lot of dumping of mum’s past (wish it had been done a bit better). The artwork felt very fitting to the story and like it captured Dinah and her family and Gotham’s feel well, there wasn’t a mismatch between art and story and it didn’t feel like one was carrying the other but rather complimenting each other nicely and to me that is always a really nice ting and sometimes missing in other graphic novels.

I enjoyed this graphic novel, had fun, wanted to know more about Dinah after the story ended (would read another one of them) and felt satisfied with it, which is a good thing and kinda what I want of this type of book. It only doesn’t get 5 stars because it didn’t blow me away. But definitely enjoyable and fun to read.

Sanctuary Review

Sanctuary by V. V. James

The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback.

Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.

Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?

As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching

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I read Sanctuary a while back but had a backlog of reviews, so only doing it now. My bad! Because this book was a wild ride and it kept surprising.

The only thing to consider is that this is a book about a witch hunt, a “murder” and contains rape of a minor by another minor (slightly older). There’s a lot going on in this book.

I found this book a wild ride because the beginning is a hit in the face, and then it shifted from a muder mystery/investigation to a bit of “The Real Housewives of Sanctuary”. This was the part that took me the longest to get through, as it is exactly that type of drama and relationships that I try to keep myself away from and do not particularly appreciate in personal relationships (Vic wrote it brilliantly, which is why I struggled with it, it was too “real”).

The concept of a “small” town full of secrets was very intriguing and it was good to see the secrets reveal themselves a little through Maggie but also to get them from each of the characters involved and then seeing different sides of the same story. And seeing characters suddnely connect the dots and go “oh dear”.

Abigail and Michael drove me up the wall, but I have known people like them and yeah, wide berth. No wonder Daniel was as he was.

I liked Sarah and one part I wanted to know more of was the magic system, the Conclave, everything. It is a world where being a witch is allowed and technically not persecuted (the nuance on how it can be a useful but slightly complex skill and how to use it, plus the implications on keeping records, and what actions you can do or not, was fascinating. I could read a book on how it is meant to work, or more details of it, seriously).

To be fair, in general, the characters kept me wondering or hating them very much. For some I just wanted them to stop being so obtuse, and the ending was good, as was the explanation of the mystery and if it was a murder or not. Plus all those layers of secrets on secrets and lies on lies were very intriguing and kept connecting the story throughout. Shame that the children sometimes end up having to live through everything the parents have done and undone.

Still, if you want a good witchy scary feminist book, with a murder and a mystery, go for this book. it won’t disappoint!

Once upon a Unicorn Horn Review

Once upon a Unicorn Horn by Beatrice Blue

Do you know how unicorns got their horns? It all began once upon a magic forest, when a little girl called June discovered tiny horses learning how to fly in her garden. But one of the poor horses couldn’t fly at all! So, with the help of her parents, June thought of a very sweet and very delicious way to make her new friend happy. I wonder what it could have been…

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When June discovers a bunch of cute tiny horses trying to learn to fly and then there is one that can’t, she tries her best ot help the little horse fly. And so goes this heartwarming story.

The artwork was perfect and I love it because it is very cute, the colour palette was perfect for this and not just too bright but lovely. I want a tiny horse that flies.

I also liked the fact that June’s parents aren’t absent but they actually help her try things to help the little horse. And the fact her clumsiness kind fixes this and of course that there is ice cream was fun.

I had never thought of the origin of unicorns this way and it was super cute, mad eme smile and just want my own little mini unicorn/flying horse and a cone of ice cream and just to go sit under a tree and read and enjoy life (I know, a bit random).

Lovely book about not giving up, good for reading out loud and for just showing pictures, it’s just super lovely.

Under the Pendulum Sun Review

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.

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Under the Pendulum Sun was a trip. One crazy interesting trip of a read. Catherine Helstone has managed to figure out how to get to Arcadia, the land of fae where her brother is a missionary and who seems to have gone misisng, not responding to her letters.

Once she arrives there, things aren’t exactly how she expected them to be, and despite most of the story happening in a single place (Laon’s house, Gethsemane, which was the house of the previous missionary that came to Arcadia) and the whole story is carried by Catherine, some of it by Laon and by other of the characters that make it (the main cast is limited, as in it isn’t a big cast).

There is a lot of fairy in this and I don’t mean the cute Tinkerbell style, but the cunning truth and lies and negotiating fae that are Irish and old time tales than the ones that just grant wishes. Faeries here have fangs and won’t think twice before using them on you. One of the details I really enjoyed was the fact that you have to salt any food you receive (sweet or savoury) while there, from a special salt shaker. This tiny “plot” thread was a thing in itself and it is a recurring thread throughout the story.

Actually, the whole story is like a tapestry, woven out of many small plot threads making up the background, the details of the main plot (Catherine meeting Laon and the Queen of Fae visiting them and trying to negotiate with her). At first, all you see is the main picture and lots of small threads around it that are there and don’t seem to do much except be there and then as the story progresses, every thread seems to have become part of the whole.

This book is heavy on pondering religion, and the story of creation and where Fae come from. Most of the elements in the story are not new and therefore, having read many stories with one or many of those elements before meant I had a lot of background and could get extra nuance with some fo the actions or parts of the story.

Moments where I thought “oh, I think this may be where we are going because I remember that the story for this goes that way and it is in the nature of x to do y”. And it wasn’t that it was utterly predictable but more that despite knowing some of what could happen it was still a full tale and story.

One of the nuances that kept giving me what I call food for thought was the focus on religion. Catherine, Laon and some of the other characters each have a view of the same core religion and as the story moves on, they either affirm those beliefs or start questioning or morphing them into dissonance to try to match them with truth and reality. God, so many places I stopped and thought “yes, I know exactly what is being dissected here and I could add some more dissecting of my own to this”.

I didn’t want to put the book down and even though I don’t think I’d like to live in Arcadia this was a very interesting and fascinating tale. Highly recommended if you liek fairy tales sprinkled with philosophy and lots of nuance.