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Witches and Werewolves: Review of Mooncakes

Book: Mooncakes

Author: Suzanne Walker

Artist : Wendy Xu

Year Published: 2019

  • Story: 3/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Art: 5/5
  • Overall: 3.5/5

Mooncakes was an endearing graphic novel with an enchanting (pun intended) cast of characters and themes of hope, family and love. I’d never actually read a graphic novel before this one so I had no idea what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised with a sweet story that filled me up with all those warm, fuzzy feelings. My only grumble is that the plot was quite basic and focused more on the relationships between characters than specific details but I still had a great general experience despite this.

Nova Huang was a teen witch who worked in her grandmothers’ bookshop and helped them loan out spell books and look into any magical mishaps in the surrounding area. One day she stumbled across her childhood crush called Tam Lang– a werewolf who had been lost and wandering for far too long. They banded together to battle occult forces but ultimately they ended up rediscovering their love and discovering the extent of the potential they both held.

The foundation of this novel was the bonds between the various characters. Nova and Tam’s relationship was the pinnacle of cuteness and I loved their quiet, hopeful trust in each other. The endless love and support from Nova’s grandmothers and the rest of her family was heart-warming as well as the humorous scepticism of Nova’s scientific best friend.

I also loved the diversity! Both Nova and Tam were Chinese American. Nova was hard-of-hearing and Tam was nonbinary. It just fills my heart with so much joy to see so much representation. Furthermore, the illustrations were gorgeous and created an adorable, whimsical mood to the story.

In essence, Mooncakes was a tale of self discovery. Of growing up and ‘leaving the nest’ but also of coming home. Yes, the plot was a bit lacking for me but it was still an enchanting read that I’d recommend and that has definitely made me want to read more graphic novels in the future.

Thank you to Oni Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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When Dreams Become Reality: Review of Reverie

Book: Reverie

Author: Ryan La Sala

Year Published: 2019

  • Plot: 4/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Writing: 4.5/5
  • Overall: 4/5

Reverie was one of the most imaginative, chaotic and unique novels I’ve ever read. It was a wild, wild roller coaster ride of a book but also one that I feel will resonate with many readers and I enjoyed it very much.

“We are all people between worlds.”

The protagonist was Kane Montgomery, a boy who woke up half-dead in a river nearby a burnt down mill with no memory of how it happened or most of his life before. However, slowly by surely he began to put the puzzle pieces together by finding his friends from before the accident and uncovering the sinister truth of what really happened.

Kane and his friends (who called themselves ‘the Others‘) all had various superpowers and they used these to control and unravel ‘reveries’ wherever they arose. Reveries were manifestations of a person’s deepest hopes, fears and dreams that leaked into reality and ensnared anyone in the vicinity of their source. They normally came with an elaborate plot that the people caught inside would unconsciously act out but the Others all possessed the ability to remain lucid in a reverie and could make sure it stayed safe and didn’t go out of control.

“Sealed off things that steep too long in the human mind are doomed to grow bitter”

The reveries were all well fleshed out and intriguing and the author integrated these magical micro worlds into the real world very skillfully. I thought it was an extremely creative magic system but I would have liked it to be more explained as there are still aspects of reveries that I don’t understand like the triggers, limits and rules of them. Also, I don’t think Kane and his friends’ purpose was well explained because most of the time, they seemed to make the reveries more dangerous than they were supposed to be.

Kane was caring, thoughtful and funny but his accident and the consequent amnesia made him feel like an outsider from himself. Also, his uncertainty in who to trust made him push away those trying to help him and he ended up feeling alone. He was the only openly gay person in his school and he keenly felt the pressure of people’s judgement upon him, always feeling out of place

However, as Kane discovered details about his life the reader did too, making his confusion really relatable. He rediscovered his previous friends and it was lovely to see how, after a bit of miscommunication, he started to rebuild his relationships with them once more. His whole character arc was about self-discovery, about giving himself a second chance and using it to save the world.

“Dreams can be the artifacts we excavate to discover who we really are”

The other characters were all nicely layered as well. I loved Ursula‘s calm yet strong nature and Adeline’s steely no-nonsense attitude. Dean had a mysterious, aloof exterior but was actually really adorable and I’m glad that him and Kane had each other. I wish we got to see their relationship develop more. I also liked how Kane’s relationship with his younger sister was portrayed. It was turbulent at times but during hardships their unconditional love and support shone through. The villain of the story was a drag queen sorceress called Poesy who, as the book states many times, was ‘power personified’.  While her motivations and decisions were very questionable she was a sassy, trinket gathering villain who was hard to always hate.

At its core, beneath the chaos and rainbows, Reverie was a story about how people, especially those ostracized by society, create refuges in their own minds and what happens when these go out of control. With its heartfelt LGBTQ+ representation, beautiful prose and loveable characters, Reverie is most certainly a worthwhile read. I had a few issues with the magic system but it was overall an enjoyable story.

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinion expressed are my own.

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Magic, Betrayal, Demons: Review of Shadow Frost

Book: Shadow Frost

Author: Coco Ma

Year Published: 2019

  • Plot: 4.5/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Overall: 4/5

Shadow Frost was a fun, sizzling fantasy full of intrigue and betrayal and although it wasn’t perfect I still thoroughly enjoyed it!

Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria, was tasked along with her companions to vanquish a demon that was terrorizing the lands. However, there was much more to the situation than met the eye and the group of friends had to gradually uncover a web of secrets and lies.

Asterin was a headstrong, tenacious character who desperately wanted to prove she was worthy to one day be queen and make her mother proud. She was likeable at the start but some of the choices (especially one in particular) she made later on in the book really disappointed me and I honestly thought better of her! My favourite character was probably Rose because she seemed to be the most down-to-earth and was one of the kindest, smartest characters in the book. Quinlan fell into the classic, ‘love interest with a haunted past’ trope and I really felt bad for him because the poor thing was smitten with Asterin and she was the last to realise!

The main appeal Shadow Frost had was the fact paced, constantly changing plot. There were some shocking twists which I did not see coming and they kept me hooked right until the very end. I’m very excited to see how the story and characters will develop into the next book. Furthermore, I loved the elemental magic system!

Nevertheless, I had one giant, gaping problem with this novel. It kept emphasising how all of the characters were stereotypically attractive and it really annoys me when books do this because we are not all perfect as there is no such thing as perfection. Our diversity makes us beautiful. I don’t think it’s alright for books to promote the idea that everyone has to look gorgeous with big muscles or flowing hair or impeccable bone structure because it’s a ridiculous notion to live up to and is an unhealthy way of thinking. We need books about people of all shapes, colours and sizes.

Overall, Shadow Frost was an entertaining read and very impressive considering the author wrote the first draft at fifteen. It had a very similar vibe to Throne of Glass so if you liked that book, you’ll like this one too!

Thank you to Blackstone Publishing for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: The Resurrectionist of Caligo

Book: The Resurrectionist of Caligo

Authors: Wendy Trimboli, Alicia Zaloga

Year Published: 2019

  • Plot: 3/5
  • Characters: 3/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Overall: 3/5

The Resurrectionist of Caligo was a Victorian fantasy and murder mystery with strong themes of medicine, grief and illness. It had a promising premise and although I liked the ideas in it, I felt slightly let down by it at the same time.

Roger Weathersby was a resurrectionist– a person who unlawfully unearthed corpses to sell on to medical schools. However, when he one day discovered a strange and horrifying corpse he began to follow the clues surrounding a string of terrible yet similar murders along with the help of his former friend, princess Sibylla, and together they went down a dark and dangerous path from which there was no return.

I liked the way Roger’s character was developed because although at first glance he seemed like a careless rogue he was actually a really kind person who just wasn’t very good at dealing with authority and had a knack for getting himself into messy situations. I liked the way he looked out for Ada and her mother.

Sibylla was interesting because she could seem petty at times but she did care deeply for her people. My only problem with her was that she wasn’t particularly memorable in any way. Now, when I think about the book I can’t think of one thing she did that really stood out to me or was very admirable. The dynamic between Roger and Sibylla was… weird. They did like (maybe love?) each other and though their relationship did grow stronger once more I felt like it didn’t really go anywhere.

Also, this novel had major pacing issues. I’m pretty sure around 68% of the way through it I found myself wondering whether the main story was going to get started yet, then realising to my horror that I’d already surpassed over half the book. It was extremely slow at the start and then at the end there was a few plot twists and reveals and that was it. The ending was ambiguous and while I sometimes appreciate books that are open-ended I didn’t like this one because it didn’t give me any sense of conclusion or leave me with any implications or thoughts to ponder over.

The Resurrectionist of Caligo is a creative yet flawed read. I think it’s worthwhile giving it a go- just don’t go in with very high expectations.

Thank you to Angry Robot for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Sorcery of Thorns

Book: Sorcery of Thorns

Author: Margaret Rogerson

Year published: 2019

  • Plot: 4/5
  • Characters: 10/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Overall: 4.5/5

Sorcery of Thorns was an utterly enchanting read and I feel miserable now that it’s over- especially because it’s a standalone. The thought that I will never read about these characters again makes me want to cry.

Elisabeth was an orphan who grew up in a Great Library. It was not an ordinary library full of ordinary books but one full of grimoires– books of sorcery with a mind and life of their own. As she grew up among the rustle of pages and the scent of magic, she developed an affinity for grimoires, a deep understanding of their being. The library was her home. However, damaged grimoires morph into grotesque beasts called Maleficts and when powerful Maleficts started to escape from all of the Great Libraries and Elisabeth was wrongfully labelled as a traitor, she was thrust out into the world and her adventure of sorcery and courage began.

Elisabeth was one of the most hilarious, genuine and kind characters I have ever read about. Her tendency to charge into dangerous situations, whilst waving around a sword, to try and help or save others often got her into terrifying predicaments but her sheer ferocity always got her out of them. She was very endearing but when times got tough she had bucket loads of valour and my favourite thing about her was that she was always herself and she was proud of it. She never tried to be someone she was not or allow other people to pressure her into doing certain things or behaving in certain ways. Basically, she’s the type of person I wish could be my best friend.

Nathaniel was a well-known sorcerer and he accompanied Elisabeth in her quest to deliver justice. On one hand, he was incredibly funny , very sarcastic and generally amazing, but on the other hand, he was afraid of the destruction his sorcery was capable of bringing about and was weighed down by many years of guilt and grief. The relationship between Elizabeth and Nathaniel was adorable and I felt like their personalities complemented each other in every way. They’re both slightly insane and that’s probably why they were so in love.

Sorcerers obtained their power by bargaining away several years of their lives to a demon and Silas was Nathaniel’s demon. Although I’ve already rambled about how much I love Elisabeth and Nathaniel, Silas most certainly stole the show for me. He was always trying to convince everyone that he was a horrifying demon that can’t be trusted when in reality he was very prim and proper and very caring. Demons were supposed to be callous and indifferent by nature but Silas broke free of that mould and learnt the meaning of love. I’m really struggling to explain this in coherent words but in a nutshell: Silas is such a legend and the best character in existence.

The only reason that I knocked off half a star is because the character’s opinions surrounding sorcery were quite contradictory. The people who worked in the libraries hated it and seemed to think it was something to be contained but at the same time sorcerers were prominent and respected in society and they were allowed to access and use the grimoires however they wanted, to an extent. I found this very confusing and I wish it was explained better.

In essence, Sorcery of Thorns was a book about books. If you like hilariously lovable characters, sorcery, sword-waving and foiling intricate plots to dominate the world, then this book is for you!

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Margaret Rogerson for proving me with an arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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