The Wicked Deep ★★★★☆

35297394The Wicked Deep was a creepy story with rich world building, beautiful language and amazing imagery. That, and the cover is amazing and so sparkly. I just need it on my shelves at all time, illuminated by a little spot light. But–there were plenty of issues too.

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

I want to say, right off the bat, that The Wicked Deep took me a long time to get through. It was touch-and-go for a little while, and I wasn’t sure if I was really going to be invested enough in it to finish.

I absolutely loved the way that book set up the world and the setting. There were small snippets between chapters that just set the mood and the scene in just perfect, bite-sized ways that made me love the story. Shea Ernshaw is amazing at writing settings. All those little bits were the perfect mix of tense, creepy and beautiful.

But then there was the dialogue.

The dialogue all the characters had felt so… off. It felt stilted and a little bit dated. The voices didn’t feel genuine and every time I had to suffer through a patch of dialogue it was tipping the scales towards the DNF side.

I was intrigued by the story, but I couldn’t make it through big patches of the book at once thanks to the characters. Maybe it was just me. Maybe this book is exactly your cup of tea. For me? Not so much.

The Wicked Deep
Amazon Barnes&Noble . BooksAMillion

Untitled design (1).png . Untitled design.png . PlayerFM

POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS
SUPPORT THE BOOKED ALL NIGHT PODCAST BY PURCHASING YOUR NEXT BOOK OR MOVIE THROUGH OUR AFFILIATE LINKS.

Ice Wolves ★★★★★

35068585I’ve only ever read one other book by Amie Kaufman, and that was IlluminaeSo when I saw she had a middle grade piece about kids who turned into wolves and dragons well… I needed to get my hands on it! And Elementals: Ice Wolves did not disappoint!

Everyone in Vallen knows that ice wolves and scorch dragonsare sworn enemies who live deeply separate lives.

So when twelve-year-old orphan Anders takes one elemental form and his twin sister, Rayna, takes another, he wonders whether they are even related. Still, whether or not they’re family, Rayna is Anders’s only true friend. She’s nothing like the brutal, cruel dragons who claimed her as one of their own and stole her away.

In order to rescue her, Anders must enlist at the foreboding Ulfar Academy, a school for young wolves that values loyalty to the pack above all else. But for Anders, loyalty is more complicated than obedience, and friendship is the most powerful shapeshifting force of all.

booked.jpg

Twelve-year-old scrappy orphan kids who suddenly become animals and have to join the institution they’ve been avoiding all their life? Oh, and one of them transforms into a dragon and is whisked away from her brother? A brother who depended on his sister for years while they lived on the street? Yaaaasssss.

This was such a cute book and a wonderful story about a little boy who turns into a confident kid when his life turns upside down. I couldn’t put Ice Wolves down for a second! It was not just cute, but Kaufman has a way with words. She doesn’t talk down to the kids that would be reading her book; she weaves a masterful story that’s intriguing and unforgettable.

So often, a middle grade piece sacrifices either a complex story or its vocabulary to be made “appropriate” for it’s intended demographic. People often forget that kids are smart and want deeper, complex books with a narrative that doesn’t talk down to them.

Ice Wolves didn’t sacrifice a thing. It showed the hardship of growing up on the streets, how hungry Anders and Rayna go when they’re not able to steal food or the sort of trouble they would face if they were caught pickpocketing. It shows how other kids on the street look out for one another.

And when Anders enters the Academy, he notes how everything there is more than he might have ever had in his life; the overabundance of food, a warm place to sleep at night, an education.

I loved the sense of found family Anders had with his pack, and how he never wavered in his quest to rescue his sister, despite finding out that she didn’t need rescuing after all.

And when I hit the last page, I was incredibly upset. Not because of the story, but because it was over and I knew it’d be at least a year before the second book came out.

So don’t hesitate to pick up Ice Wolves right now. You’ll thank me for it. Also, I won’t be alone in my suffering while I wait for book 2!

Ice Wolves
Amazon Barnes&Noble . BooksAMillion

Untitled design (1).png . Untitled design.png . PlayerFM

POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS
SUPPORT THE BOOKED ALL NIGHT PODCAST BY PURCHASING YOUR NEXT BOOK OR MOVIE THROUGH OUR AFFILIATE LINKS.

Inkmistress ★★★☆☆

Inkmistress_JKT_des2_CC15.inddI wanted to love Inkmistress. I wanted to so hard; I knew it was a prequel-companion type to Of Fire and Stars, which I hadn’t read yet but c’mon, queer ladies! I got about halfway through the book before I just had to put it down…

Asra is a demigod with a dangerous gift: the ability to dictate the future by writing with her blood. To keep her power secret, she leads a quiet life as a healer on a remote mountain, content to help the people in her care and spend time with Ina, the mortal girl she loves.

But Asra’s peaceful life is upended when bandits threaten Ina’s village and the king does nothing to help. Desperate to protect her people, Ina begs Asra for assistance in finding her manifest—the animal she’ll be able to change into as her rite of passage to adulthood. Asra uses her blood magic to help Ina, but her spell goes horribly wrong and the bandits destroy the village, killing Ina’s family.

Unaware that Asra is at fault, Ina swears revenge on the king and takes a savage dragon as her manifest. To stop her, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom, becoming a player in lethal games of power among assassins, gods, and even the king himself.

Most frightening of all, she discovers the dark secrets of her own mysterious history—and the terrible, powerful legacy she carries in her blood.

A bisexual demigoddess! Searching for her love who’s on a hell-bent quest for revenge! How awesome does that sound! As a queer author myself, I wanted to devour this book immediately!

Unfortunately, it only sounded awesome. I was disappointed as I read the story. I was into it at first, the first few chapters revolving around Ina and Asra were great, but then things took a turn when Ina went off. Things stopped making sense.

There was no tension. A rogue group of bandits attack Ina’s village and burn it to the ground because Asra used her blood magic to force the future, but then when Ina takes her animal form–a great dragon (awesome!)–she immediately finds the bandits and burns them to a crisp. There’s no hunt, no tension, no “will Asra stop Ina in time to save these people who should be punished but not by dragon fire?” going on. It was immediate and not at all satisfying.

I couldn’t get into the rest of the story; once Ina had disposed of the bandits, she suddenly wanted to go kill the king–something that came out of the blue. That left Asra trying to run after her. Asra meets another kid of the wind god and she realizes that she’s not who she thought she was and she’s left wondering who her godly parents really is. For this plot point alone I would have kept reading.

But I just couldn’t get myself to enjoy the dialogue; it felt forced and stiff, a little too out of place for a high fantasy story.

But I didn’t hate the book. I loved its rich magic and Coulthurst had some amazing worldbuilding too. But Inkmistress just wasn’t for me.

Amazon . Barnes&Noble . BooksAMillion

Untitled design (1).png . Untitled design.png . PlayerFM

POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS
SUPPORT THE BOOKED ALL NIGHT PODCAST BY PURCHASING YOUR NEXT BOOK OR MOVIE THROUGH OUR AFFILIATE LINKS.

booked.jpg

Reign of the Fallen ★★★☆☆

DUuNrfuWkAAhYzS.jpgThere are two things you, dear booknerds, should have gathered about me if you listen to our late-night podcast: one, I’m a lover of all things fantasy and two, queer books are my absolute faves. But Reign of the Fallen fell short of my expectations despite being an awesome queer necromancer fantasy.

Odessa is one of Karthia’s master necromancers, catering to the kingdom’s ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it’s Odessa’s job to raise them by retrieving their souls from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised–the Dead must remain shrouded, or risk transforming into zombie-like monsters known as Shades. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, the grotesque transformation will begin.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears among Odessa’s necromancer community. Soon a crushing loss of one of their own reveals a disturbing conspiracy: someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is faced with a terrifying question: What if her necromancer’s magic is the weapon that brings Karthia to its knees?

The concept alone (and also the sparkly cover. I’m a sucker for sparkly covers) made me request it immediately when it was available on Netgalley. That and I follow Sarah Glenn Marsh on Twitter and she’s mentioned how it was a story about queer girls.

I was hyped. I was ready.

I ended up a little disappointed.

I want to establish how much I loved the concept. The concept was the coolest thing ever. I loved the idea of necromancers working for good, doing their best to keep the dead “alive”. I loved a kingdom that’s had the same king for hundreds of years, a king that outlawed change.

But nothing felt right when I read the book. Maybe it wasn’t for me, that happens. I felt the execution needed work. Few scenes felt tense, and the ones that did were immediately rectified by having the tension swept away. At one point, the main character sacrifices herself to kill a Shade–the undead monsters–by pulling it into a raging bonfire, since fire is one of two ways to kill the Shades.

That’s such a good moment! The main character sacrificing herself, her health, to save the people around her! She’s pulled out of the fire, horribly burned, and I just knew that was going to be a huge tension point for the entire book! She’s burned! She’s hurt, but she’s supposed to be the kingdom’s best necromancer, how will she defend everyone from Shades when she… oh… a healer came up. Okay, sure, he’ll take away the worst of the pain but she’ll still be worse off because of her rash actions… Oh. She’s 100% healed, good as new, like nothing happened. Well. Shit.

That, I think, was the worst that can happen in a story. Characters fall to ruin from their own actions but never feel the lasting consequences. Yes, they spend half a page thinking they’re going to die from the burning, but then by the next page they’re perfectly okay thanks to a healer’s magic and they learn nothing. I wanted to see characters suffer from their own misguided actions and become better for it–that’s how character development works! But it never happened within Reign of the Fallen and it sucked all the fun out of the book for me.

I have to give this one three stars for stellar concept, a pretty cover, lots of queers and badass ladies, a deep look into addiction and grief, and getting me to at least finish the book instead of DNF’ing it. Unfortunately, this won’t be one I’ll be revisiting or picking up a sequel to. Though I’ve seen lots of other people love it, so perhaps it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

The Best Kind of Magic ★★★½☆☆

25436641.jpgA cute premise with great potential that was squandered by a forgettable character voice and boring writing.

Amber Sand is not a witch. The Sand family Wicca gene somehow leapfrogged over her. But she did get one highly specific magical talent: she can see true love. As a matchmaker, Amber’s pretty far down the sorcery food chain (even birthday party magicians rank higher), but after five seconds of eye contact, she can envision anyone’s soul mate.

Amber works at her mother’s magic shop–Windy City Magic–in downtown Chicago, and she’s confident she’s seen every kind of happy ending there is: except for one–her own. (The Fates are tricky jerks that way.) So when Charlie Blitzman, the mayor’s son and most-desired boy in school, comes to her for help finding his father’s missing girlfriend, she’s distressed to find herself falling for him. Because while she can’t see her own match, she can see his–and it’s not Amber. How can she, an honest peddler of true love, pursue a boy she knows full well isn’t her match?

The Best Kind of Magic is set in urban Chicago and will appeal to readers who long for magic in the real world. With a sharp-witted and sassy heroine, a quirky cast of mystical beings, and a heady dose of adventure, this novel will have you laughing out loud and questioning your belief in happy endings.

A lot about this world is never clear from the start, including many key points about our protagonist. Her voice fluctuates from sounding like a 13 year old to a 16 year old, I never get a clear picture of her—and in fact only find out she had funky colored hair about a third of the way through the book—and her slang is outdated. In fact, it goes from Amber saying “amazeballs” to saying “gag me”.

There’s a lot of overcorrection and inconsistencies in the narrative, which not only means it’s annoying to the reader but also confusing. It feels like a waste of my time if the character spends a paragraph going “Well, actually…”. On multiple occasions, Amber mentions that not a lot of people know about magic or the magical underworld of Chicago, and yet a majority of her high school population is some brand of fey or troll or magical being.

I wasn’t invested in the story or even interested in really finding out what happens to the characters until nearly half way through the book. As a matter of fact, I was bored through most of it.

And even worse, the climax felt cheap as the threat never threatening at all. The one redeeming quality of the finale was Kim, as that would have been the only reason I would continue to read the story.

All in all, I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it, and I was more intrigued by the concept than the actual story. Amber’s voice irritated me and I didn’t quite root for her during the story. I would read book 2, but I wouldn’t buy it.

Buy it here!