Book Review: Give The Dark My Love

give the dark my loveGive The Dark My Love
by Beth Revis
Young Adult/Fantasy
351 pages
Published September 2018

Yet another lady necromancer book! I do really love this topic. It’s also really interesting to see the different flavors various authors can give it. Sometimes it’s binding wandering spirits into physical objects, or bringing spirits back from the Shadowlands to live in our world as normal people, or being a warden against great undead beasts, or, in this case, trying to stop a cursed plague that might have necromantic origins.

There are a lot of commonalities, though, even with how different these ladies’ reasons are. There’s always some line, usually the line into “true” necromancy, that she shouldn’t cross, and which she normally does. There’s always a loved one who ultimately supports her even if they’re not sure she’s doing the right thing. There’s always a sense of desperation driving her to what she sees as the only solution.

What’s amazing is that given that framework, these books continue to surprise and delight me. Each one is still such a unique take on the “dark art” of necromancy. These ladies aren’t evil. Nedra, here, is trying to save her family and her people from a plague that evades any kind of scientific explanation. They have no idea how it spreads. It usually starts in the extremities, and if you cut off the infected limb, sometimes that stops it. But sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes it starts over the heart, or right in the brain. Some people simply seem to be immune. Nedra works with the sick for months and never gets it, but some people come down with it without having any contact with a sick person. Her teacher at school finally confesses that he thinks it might be necromantic in origin, and things begin to cascade from that point.

There is a romance in the book, though it’s definitely a side plot. Nedra’s studies and work on the plague is the main focus. We have a bisexual character in Nedra’s twin sister, but again, she’s really just a side note. The book ended on a bit of a cliff hanger, and the second book doesn’t have a title or a release date yet, unfortunately. “Sometime in 2019” is all we’ve got, which is quite disappointing because I need it NOW!

While Give The Dark My Love wasn’t the best of the lady necromancer books I’ve read recently, it was still pretty great. I am eager for news of the sequel!

From the cover of Give The Dark My Love:

Seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yügen Academy with only one goal in mind: master the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island’s wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids at Yügen.

Until she meets Greggori “Grey” Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who, he notices, is especially invested in her studies. And that’s for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the north, and it’s making its way toward the cities. With her family’s lives – and the  lives of all of Lunar Island’s citizens – on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague.

Grey and Nedra grow close, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy’s most dangerous practices. And when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.

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End of Year Wrap Up!

So it’s the end of 2018. Good riddance, really. It’s been a hell of a year, right? I didn’t actually fully complete any of my reading challenges – I totally bailed on my intentions to read the American History book (Oops) – but I’m still pretty satisfied with my progress on the rest.

I completed 42 out of the 50 PopSugar tasks.

I did 19 out of the 24 Litsy Booked tasks, even if I didn’t do so well at actually posting them to Litsy!

I finished last year’s Read Canadian Challenge (It goes July to July) and didn’t do this year’s.

I DEMOLISHED my original Goodreads goal of 100 books. As of this writing, Goodreads says I’ve read 209 books (I upped my goal to 200 midway through the year, when I hit the original 100!). I’ve read 64,992 pages, according to Goodreads. I’m going to round that up to over 65,000 since I’m most of the way through The Dreaming Stars!

I haven’t gone back through and tallied things, but I feel pretty good about my personal goal of reading more minority authors. Once I actually started looking for them, I found my reading list absolutely FULL of minorities! From black authors to Asian authors to LGBT authors, Jewish authors, Middle-Eastern authors, Native Americans, Autistic authors (I simply do not have the room to link all the books I’ve read this year!) – the variety of stories is amazing, and once you’ve found a couple of places that are publicizing minority authors, your reading list will be too full to complete, very quickly! It’s honestly astounding how easy it is to overlook them if you’re not actually looking for them. And these stories are SO. GOOD. So that’s a total win this year. I was horrified when I originally looked back through the blog and realized how white my reading had been. I hadn’t purposefully been excluding minority authors, so why weren’t they represented in my reading? But that is fixed now, and going forward. I love the non-Western European fantasies I’m reading, and seeing old tropes reinvented for minority stories. That’s probably my favorite thing about what I’ve read this year. I’ve fixed my reading habits and I’m definitely the better for it.

Another pretty big win – Around April and May I started trying to post here almost every single day, and I’ve mostly succeeded. I’ve only missed 10 days since the start of May! There’s been a distinct positive effect on the blog’s views, so that’s pretty exciting. I’m still very much a small-time blogger – I haven’t broken 1000 views in a month yet – but every month it gets a little busier!

I’m currently in the middle of the #EndofYearathon, a mini reading challenge hosted by Amanda at Classy x Book Reviews and Vicky at Vicky Who Reads. I unfortunately haven’t had a lot of time to read since Christmas; I read Give the Dark My Love for a book released in 2018 (review will be up tomorrow!), and I’m currently reading The Dreaming Stars (sequel to The Wrong Stars) for a Christmas-colored cover. (Red, Green, or Gold – this cover is gold.) I hope to read Black Wings Beating for the “Over 400 pages” prompt, Silence Fallen for the “next in a series” prompt (Mercy Briggs), and any of a NUMBER of books on my nightstand for the “before 2018” prompt.

Tuesday I’ll be posting my Best of 2018, so I won’t go into that here. Next Sunday I’ll detail my goals for the blog (and life!) for 2019! I hope everyone has survived 2018 more or less intact, and may 2019 be a better year for everyone!

Book Review: The Weight of Feathers

the weight of feathersThe Weight of Feathers
by Anna-Marie McLemore
Young Adult/Romance/Shakespeare Retelling
308 pages
Published 2015

The Weight of Feathers is a Romeo and Juliet story, with two families feuding over real and imagined slights, and a young person from each family falling in love and fighting their conditioning and the control of their families to be together. McLemore has added a touch of magic to the story, but it’s deft enough that at first it can be mistaken for metaphor.

Lace Paloma is the Palomas’ youngest mermaid, only just allowed to show herself in the shows, but not yet allowed to interact with fans. A big part of their performance is not being seen out of the water, out of costume, so when the show is over, all the mermaids swim off to deserted edges of the lake they perform in to exit, change, and make their way home. On her way home after one such performance, Lace is caught in the woods when some kind of acid rain from the nearby adhesive plant coats the town. While somewhat caustic, the rain is really only dangerous if it hits cotton clothing, which Lace is wearing. One of the Corbeau boys finds her in the woods, rips off her cotton clothing, and gets her to the hospital. Because she was in her normal clothing and not her costume, he didn’t realize she was part of the rival family. This meeting and rescue is not actually the start of their contact with each other; they’d talked briefly in town, when each thought the other was a local, but it does turn it from a passing contact to something more, and when Lace is spurned by her family, she winds up under the Corbeau boy’s protection.

The book is about family secrets, corporate conspiracies, abusive families, and control of one’s own destiny, swirled together with a touch of magic, feathers, and mermaid scales. While it is definitely a Romeo and Juliet story, McLemore has taken the story and truly made it her own. Both the Paloma family and the Corbeau family have such a mythology woven about themselves that each family really has an identity that defines them. (Feathers and “flying” for the Corbeaus, scales and swimming for the Palomas.) When Lace and Cluck try to bridge the gap between the two, things get difficult.

I really loved this book, and it has made me even more eager to read Blanca & Roja, McLemore’s next book. Her writing is gorgeous and surreal and I love it.

From the cover of The Weight of Feathers:

The Palomas and the Corbeaus have long been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for more than a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows – the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.

Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught since birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep could be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees. 

Beautifully written and richly imaginative, The Weight of Feathers is an utterly captivating young adult novel by a talented new voice.

Friday 56 – The Weight of Feathers

the weight of feathersThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

Today’s quote is from The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore. The character here has been caught out in some kind of acid rain.

But she couldn’t even move enough to crawl. All she could do was pull herself under the nearest tree, gritting her teeth against the feeling that her dress was soaked and heavy with poison. She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping to keep out what was falling from the sky. If she blinked enough of it in, it might leave her blind.

The rain burned into her. She curled up tighter, cheek against her sleeve. She shut her eyes tight enough to see comet trails of light. She tried to keep out the feeling that the rain was a million lit matches. And the strange smell in the air that was a little like apple cider if apple cider was the venom of some night creature, the rain and stars its teeth.

Book Review: Damsel

damselDamsel
by Elana K. Arnold
Fantasy/Young Adult?!
309 pages
Published October 2018

Before I even get into this review.

CONTENT WARNING. DOMESTIC ABUSE. SEXUAL ASSAULT. ANIMAL ABUSE. GASLIGHTING. 

For all that, though, I loved this book. The protagonist suffers through all of that and perseveres. But it’s important to expect those things going into this book, because the central plot of the book is our protagonist being severely gaslit, with the rest of the abuse being in support of that. I agree with other Goodreads reviewers that it’s surprising it’s being marketed as a Young Adult book because these themes are VERY adult.

So. With those caveats, this book was outstanding. The book opens on Prince Emory riding his horse towards the castle of the dragon, intending to slay it and rescue his future wife, as his tradition in his kingdom. Emory seems to be your typical prince, accomplished, at ease with his sword, his horse, and himself, yet there is the occasional part of his inner narration that comes off…oddly. He enters the dragon’s castle, defeats the dragon, and leaves with his prize, a damsel who can remember nothing about herself or her past. A blank slate. Perfect for a queen-to-be.

But as Ama, so named by Emory, learns more about her new kingdom and future husband, and what her place will be, she realizes this is not what she wants. The more Emory tries to convince her that it IS what she wants, the more we get into the abuse factor of the book.

It’s very well done. It’s a dark fairy tale, it’s a consistent metaphor for – well, humanity’s treatment of women, really. Sit down, shut up, look pretty, and birth the next generation. You are important because only you can do that, but don’t let it give you uppity ideas. All that kind of patronizing misogyny.

I really loved this book, but it’s definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and the triggers might be too much for some of the people who WOULD otherwise like it. So know that going in.

From the cover of Damsel:

THE RITE HAS EXISTED FOR AS LONG AS ANYONE CAN REMEMBER

When the king dies, his son the prince must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon or what horrors she faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome young man, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny of sitting on a throne beside him. It’s all like a dream, like something from a fairy tale.

As Ama follows Emory to the kingdom of Harding, however, she discovers that not all is as it seems. There is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows, and the greatest threats may not be behind her but around her, now, and closing in.

Elana K. Arnold, author of the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of, has written a twisted and unforgettable fairy tale, one that is set at the incendiary point where power, oppression, and choice meet.

Library Loot Wednesday

Just two books this week – last week was super busy with my husband’s graduation, and the first part of this week was Christmas, of course! (I hope everyone got lots of books!) Today is the first day of the End of Yearathon, so I’ll be reading a lot this next week. The two books I picked up this week are a graphic novel (that I read immediately!) and a much-anticipated new release.