Title: Thorn Author: Intisar Khanani Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy Publisher: HarperTeen Source: Publisher Format: Paperback Release Date: March 24, 2020 Rating: ★★★★★
A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own
Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.
When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.
But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.
With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.
Princess Alyrra is sent to marry a prince of the largest kingdom. However, along the way to the palace, she is put under a spell which switches her body with her enemy who was traveling with her. Now Alyrra no longer looks like the princess who was sent to the kingdom. The new princess sends Alyrra to work in the barns with the geese, where she lives with servants. She has to figure out how to protect the kingdom from the witch who cursed her and the girl who has taken her place.
I wasn’t familiar with the fairy tale of The Goose Girl before reading this book. I didn’t look it up, because I didn’t want to spoil the story. The story was quite suspenseful, since I didn’t know what was going to happen.
There were some heartbreaking parts of this story, which really made me sympathetic towards Alyrra. She was abused by her brother before she went to the kingdom. She was on bad terms with her mother for a controversy she caused in her home kingdom. She also had to help some servants who were in less fortunate circumstances.
I really enjoyed this story! It’s a great debut fantasy novel.
Thank you HarperCollins Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1) by Laura Sebastian
The Black Witch (The Black Witch Chronicles #1) by Laurie Forest
Title: My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies #2) Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Publisher: HarperTeen Source: Owlcrate, Litjoy Format: Hardcover Release Date: June 26, 2018 Rating: ★★★★★
You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)
Or does she?
Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.
This is another fabulous book by the Lady Janies!
This story is an adaptation of Jane Eyre. The three perspectives are Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, and Alexander Blackwood. Charlotte attends Lowood school with Jane. However, Jane can see ghosts. She is recruited by Alexander to join a special ghost catching society, but she refuses so she can follow her dream of being a governess. Charlotte joins Alexander and her brother Branwell to try and convince Jane to use her unique powers to catch ghosts.
This story mostly followed the plot of Jane Eyre. Some of the strange plot points in the story were explained by ghosts appearing in this story. Other odd plot points were altered to make better sense in the story, like Jane’s sudden discovery of new cousins at the end of the original book.
Jane’s friend Helen, who died as a girl at school, is in this story as a ghost who follows Jane everywhere. I loved Helen’s commentary on the story. She commented on how ridiculous things were, such as the way that Jane insisted on being a governess when she could have had much more money in the ghost society.
I laughed out loud so many times while reading this book! I love Jane Eyre, so I really enjoyed the jokes about the novel. There were also loads of references to 19th century novels, such as Pride and Prejudice, which I also really enjoyed!
I can’t wait to read the next book in the Lady Janies series!
What to read next:
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings #1) by Mackenzi Lee
Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1) by Kerri Maniscalco
Title: Gretel Author: Ben Meares Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Graphic Novel Publisher: Zenescope Source: Publisher via NetGalley Format: Ebook Release Date: February 4, 2020 Rating: ★★★★
Gretel’s story has been more nightmare than fairy tale ever since the tragic events of her childhood involving her brother and a maniacal witch. These events have left her cursed with a life that will span centuries.
After consuming the heart of a psychic witch, Gretel has been gifted the power of premonition. But when she has a psychic vision foretelling the end of the world, Gretel must open old wounds if she wants to try and prevent it from coming true.
This story tells an alternate story of Hansel and Gretel, where Gretel became a witch.
I really enjoyed the plot of this story. Gretel searches for the original witch, and meets many others along the way. It also tells the story of what she has been doing for the hundreds of years since her brother and her were captured by the witch.
This was quite a gruesome and graphic comic. The witches in this story eat human hearts. They eat children’s hearts to stay young, and they eat the hearts of other witches to gain their powers. These parts had realistic illustrations, so they were graphic.
This was a great horror graphic novel.
Thank you Diamond Book Distributors for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Title: The Unwilling Author: Kelly Braffet Genre: Fantasy Publisher: Mira Release Date: February 11, 2020
A penetrating tale of magic, faith and pride…
The Unwilling is the story of Judah, a foundling born with a special gift and raised inside Highfall castle along with Gavin, the son and heir to Lord Elban’s vast empire. Judah and Gavin share an unnatural bond that is both the key to her survival… and possibly her undoing.
As Gavin is groomed for his future role, Judah comes to realize that she has no real position within the kingdom, in fact, no hope at all of ever traveling beyond its castle walls. Elban – a lord as mighty as he is cruel – has his own plans for her, for all of them. She is a mere pawn to him, and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
But outside the walls, in the starving, desperate city, a magus, a healer with his own secret power unlike anything Highfall has seen in years, is newly arrived from the provinces. He, too, has plans for the empire, and at the heart of those plans lies Judah… The girl who started life with no name and no history will soon uncover more to her story than she ever imagined.
An epic tale of greed and ambition, cruelty and love, this deeply immersive novel is about bowing to traditions and burning them down.
On the third day of the convocation, two of the Slonimi scouts killed a calf, and the herbalist’s boy wept because he’d watched the calf being born and grown to love it. His mother stroked his hair and promised he would forget by the time the feast came, the following night. He told her he would never forget. She said, “Just wait.”
He spent all of the next day playing with the children from the other caravan; three days before, they’d all been strangers, but Slonimi children were used to making friends quickly. The group the boy and his mother traveled with had come across the desert to the south, and they found the cool air of the rocky plain a relief from the heat. The others had come from the grassy plains farther west, and were used to milder weather. While the adults traded news and maps and equipment, the children ran wild. Only one boy, from the other caravan, didn’t run or play: a pale boy, with fine features, who followed by habit a few feet behind one of the older women from the other caravan. “Derie’s apprentice,” the other children told him, and shrugged, as if there was nothing more to say. The older woman was the other group’s best Worker, with dark hair going to grizzle and gimlet eyes. Every time she appeared the herbalist suddenly remembered an herb her son needed to help her prepare, or something in their wagon that needed cleaning. The boy was observant, and clever, and it didn’t take him long to figure out that his mother was trying to keep him away from the older woman: she, who had always demanded he face everything head-on, who had no patience for what she called squeamishness and megrims.
After a hard day of play over the rocks and dry, grayish grass, the boy was starving. A cold wind blew down over the rocky plain from the never-melting snow that topped the high peaks of the Barriers to the east; the bonfire was warm. The meat smelled good. The boy had not forgotten the calf but when his mother brought him meat and roasted potatoes and soft pan bread on a plate, he did not think of him. Gerta—the head driver of the boy’s caravan—had spent the last three days with the other head driver, poring over bloodline records to figure out who between their two groups might be well matched for breeding, and as soon as everybody had a plate of food in front of them they announced the results. The adults and older teenagers seemed to find this all fascinating. The herbalist’s boy was nine years old and he didn’t understand the fuss. He knew how it went: the matched pairs would travel together until a child was on the way, and then most likely never see each other again. Sometimes they liked each other, sometimes they didn’t. That, his mother had told him, was what brandy was for.
The Slonimi caravans kept to well-defined territories, and any time two caravans met there was feasting and trading and music and matching, but this was no ordinary meeting, and both sides knew it. After everyone had eaten their fill, a few bottles were passed. Someone had a set of pipes and someone else had a sitar, but after a song or two, nobody wanted any more music. Gerta—who was older than the other driver—stood up. She was tall and strong, with ropy, muscular limbs. “Well,” she said, “let’s see them.”
In the back, the herbalist slid an arm around her son. He squirmed under the attention but bore it.
From opposite sides of the fire, a young man and a young woman were produced. The young man, Tobin, had been traveling with Gerta’s people for years. He was smart but not unkind, but the herbalist’s son thought him aloof. With good reason, maybe; Tobin’s power was so strong that being near him made the hair on the back of the boy’s neck stand up. Unlike all the other Workers—who were always champing at the bit to get a chance to show off—Tobin was secretive about his skills. He shared a wagon with Tash, Gerta’s best Worker, even though the two men didn’t seem particularly friendly with each other. More than once the boy had glimpsed their lantern burning late into the night, long after the main fire was embers.
The young woman had come across the plains with the others. The boy had seen her a few times; she was small, round, and pleasant-enough looking. She didn’t strike the boy as particularly remarkable. But when she came forward, the other caravan’s best Worker—the woman named Derie—came with her. Tash stood up when Tobin did, and when they all stood in front of Gerta, the caravan driver looked from one of them to the other. “Tash and Derie,” she said, “you’re sure?”
“Already decided, and by smarter heads than yours,” the gimlet-eyed woman snapped.
Tash, who wasn’t much of a talker, merely said, “Sure.”
Gerta looked back at the couple. For couple they were; the boy could see the strings tied round each wrist, to show they’d already been matched. “Hard to believe,” she said. “But I know it’s true. I can feel it down my spine. Quite a legacy you two carry; five generations’ worth, ever since mad old Martin bound up the power in the world. Five generations of working and planning and plotting and hoping; that’s the legacy you two carry.” The corner of her mouth twitched slightly. “No pressure.”
A faint ripple of mirth ran through the listeners around the fire. “Nothing to joke about, Gerta,” Derie said, lofty and hard, and Gerta nodded.
“I know it. They just seem so damn young, that’s all.” The driver sighed and shook her head. “Well, it’s a momentous occasion. We’ve come here to see the two of you off, and we send with you the hopes of all the Slonimi, all the Workers of all of our lines, back to the great John Slonim himself, whose plan this was. His blood runs in both of you. It’s strong and good and when we put it up against what’s left of Martin’s, we’re bound to prevail, and the world will be free.”
“What’ll we do with ourselves then, Gert?” someone called out from the darkness, and this time the laughter was a full burst, loud and relieved.
Gerta smiled. “Teach the rest of humanity how to use the power, that’s what we’ll do. Except you, Fausto. You can clean up after the horses.”
More laughter. Gerta let it run out, and then turned to the girl.
“Maia,” she said, serious once more. “I know Derie’s been drilling this into you since you were knee-high, but once you’re carrying, the clock is ticking. Got to be inside, at the end.”
“I know,” Maia said.
Gerta scanned the crowd. “Caterina? Cat, where are you?”
Next to the boy, the herbalist cleared her throat. “Here, Gerta.”
Gerta found her, nodded, and turned back to Maia. “Our Cat’s the best healer the Slonimi have. Go see her before you set out. If you’ve caught already, she’ll know. If you haven’t, she’ll know how to help.”
“It’s only been three days,” Tobin said, sounding slighted.
“Nothing against you, Tobe,” Gerta said. “Nature does what it will. Sometimes it takes a while.”
“Not this time,” Maia said calmly.
A murmur ran through the crowd. Derie sat up bolt-straight, her lips pressed together. “You think so?” Gerta said, matching Maia’s tone—although nobody was calm, even the boy could feel the sudden excited tension around the bonfire.
“I know so,” Maia said, laying a hand on her stomach. “I can feel her.”
The tension exploded in a mighty cheer. Instantly, Tobin wiped the sulk off his face and replaced it with pride. The boy leaned into his mother and whispered, under the roar, “Isn’t it too soon to tell?”
“For most women, far too soon, by a good ten days. For Maia?” Caterina sounded as if she were talking to herself, as much as to her son. The boy felt her arm tighten around him. “If she says there’s a baby, there’s a baby.”
After that the adults got drunk. Maia and Tobin slipped away early. Caterina knew a scout from the other group, a man named Sadao, and watching the two of them dancing together, the boy decided to make himself scarce. Tash would have an empty bunk, now that Tobin was gone, and he never brought women home. He’d probably share. If not, there would be a bed somewhere. There always was.
In the morning, the boy found Caterina by the fire, only slightly bleary, and brewing a kettle of strong-smelling tea. Her best hangover cure, she told her son. He took out his notebook and asked what was in it. Ginger, she told him, and willowbark, and a few other things; he wrote them all down carefully. Labeled the page. Caterina’s Hangover Cure.
Then he looked up to find the old woman from the bonfire, Derie, listening with shrewd, narrow eyes. Behind her hovered her apprentice, the pale boy, who this morning had a bruised cheek. “Charles, go fetch my satchel,” she said to him, and he scurried away. To Caterina, Derie said, “Your boy’s conscientious.”
“He learns quickly,” Caterina said, and maybe she just hadn’t had enough hangover tea yet, but the boy thought she sounded wary.
“And fair skinned,” Derie said. “Who’s his father?”
Derie nodded. “Travels with Afia’s caravan, doesn’t he? Solid man.”
Caterina shrugged. The boy had only met his father a few times. He knew Caterina found Jasper boring.
“Healer’s a good trade. Everywhere needs healers.” Derie paused. “A healer could find his way in anywhere, I’d say. And with that skin—”
The boy noticed Gerta nearby, listening. Her own skin was black as obsidian. “Say what you’re thinking, Derie,” the driver said.
“Highfall,” the old woman said, and immediately, Caterina said, “No.”
“It’d be a great honor for him, Cat,” Gerta said. The boy thought he detected a hint of reluctance in Gerta’s voice.
“Has he done his first Work yet?” Derie said.
Caterina’s lips pressed together. “Not yet.”
Charles, the bruised boy, reappeared with Derie’s satchel.
“We’ll soon change that,” the old woman said, taking the satchel without a word and rooting through until she found a small leather case. Inside was a small knife, silver-colored but without the sheen of real silver.
The boy noticed his own heartbeat, hard hollow thuds in his chest. He glanced at his mother. She looked unhappy, her brow furrowed. But she said nothing.
“Come here, boy,” Derie said.
He sneaked another look at his mother, who still said nothing, and went to stand next to the woman. “Give me your arm,” she said, and he did. She held his wrist with a hand that was both soft and hard at the same time. Her eyes were the most terrifying thing he’d ever seen.
“It’s polite to ask permission before you do this,” she told him. “Not always possible, but polite. I need to see what’s in you, so if you say no, I’ll probably still cut you, but—do I have your permission?”
Behind Derie, Gerta nodded. The bruised boy watched curiously.
“Yes,” the boy said.
“Good,” Derie said. She made a quick, confident cut in the ball of her thumb, made an identical cut in his small hand, quickly drew their two sigils on her skin in the blood, and pressed the cuts together.
The world unfolded. But unfolded was too neat a word, too tidy. This was like when he’d gone wading in the western sea and been knocked off his feet, snatched underwater, tossed in a maelstrom of sand and sun and green water and foam—but this time it wasn’t merely sand and sun and water and foam that swirled around him, it was everything. All of existence, all that had ever been, all that would ever be. His mother was there, bright and hot as the bonfire the night before—not her face or her voice but the Caterina of her, her very essence rendered into flame and warmth.
But most of what he felt was Derie. Derie, immense and powerful and fierce: Derie, reaching into him, unfolding him as surely as she’d unfolded the world. And this was neat and tidy, methodical, almost cold. She unpacked him like a trunk, explored him like a new village. She sought out his secret corners and dark places. When he felt her approval, he thrilled. When he felt her contempt, he trembled. And everywhere she went she left a trace of herself behind like a scent, like the chalk marks the Slonimi sometimes left for each other. Her sigil was hard-edged, multi-cornered. It was everywhere. There was no part of him where it wasn’t.
Then it was over, and he was kneeling by the campfire, throwing up. Caterina was next to him, making soothing noises as she wrapped a cloth around his hand. He leaned against her, weak and grateful.
“It’s all right, my love,” she whispered in his ear, and the nervousness was gone. Now she sounded proud, and sad, and as if she might be crying. “You did well.”
He closed his eyes and saw, on the inside of his eyelids, the woman’s hard, angular sigil, burning like a horse brand.
“Don’t coddle him,” Derie said, and her voice reached through him, back into the places inside him where she’d left her mark. Caterina’s arm dropped away. He forced himself to open his eyes and stand up. His entire body hurt. Derie was watching him, calculating but—yes—pleased. “Well, boy,” she said. “You’ll never be anyone’s best Worker, but you’re malleable, and you’ve got the right look. There’s enough power in you to be of use, once you’re taught to use it. You want to learn?”
“Yes,” he said, without hesitating.
“Good,” she said. “Then you’re my apprentice now, as much as your mother’s. You’ll still learn herbs from your mother, so we’ll join our wagon to your group. But don’t expect the kisses and cuddles from me you get from her. For me, you’ll work hard and you’ll learn hard and maybe someday you’ll be worthy of the knowledge I’ll pass on to you. Say, Yes, Derie.”
“Yes, Derie,” he said.
“You’ve got a lot to learn,” she said. “Go with Charles. He’ll show you where you sleep.”
He hesitated, looked at his mother, because it hadn’t occurred to him that he would be leaving her. Suddenly, swiftly, Derie kicked hard at his leg. He yelped and jumped out of the way. Behind her he saw Charles—he of the bruised face—wince, unsurprised but not unsympathetic.
“Don’t ever make me ask you anything twice,” she said.
Kelly Braffet is the author of the novels Save Yourself, Last Seen Leaving and Josie & Jack. Her writing has been published in The Fairy Tale Review, Post Road, and several anthologies. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. She currently lives in upstate New York with her husband, the author Owen King. A lifelong reader of speculative fiction, the idea for The Unwilling originally came to her in college; twenty years later, it’s her first fantasy novel. Visit her at kellybraffet.com.
Have you read The Unwilling? What did you think of it?
Title: Ember Queen (Ash Princess Trilogy #3) Author: Laura Sebastian Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy Publisher: Delacorte Press Source: Purchased Format: Hardcover Release Date: February 4, 2020 Rating: ★★★★★
The thrilling conclusion to the series that began with the instant New York Times bestseller “made for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Sabaa Tahir” (Bustle), Ember Queen is an epic fantasy about a throne cruelly stolen and a girl who must fight to take it back for her people.
Princess Theodosia was a prisoner in her own country for a decade. Renamed the Ash Princess, she endured relentless abuse and ridicule from the Kaiser and his court. But though she wore a crown of ashes, there is fire in Theo’s blood. As the rightful heir to the Astrean crown, it runs in her veins. And if she learned nothing else from her mother, she learned that a Queen never cowers.
Now free, with a misfit army of rebels to back her, Theo must liberate her enslaved people and face a terrifying new enemy: the new Kaiserin. Imbued with a magic no one understands, the Kaiserin is determined to burn down anyone and everything in her way.
The Kaiserin’s strange power is growing stronger, and with Prinz Søren as her hostage, there is more at stake than ever. Theo must learn to embrace her own power if she has any hope of standing against the girl she once called her heart’s sister.
This book is the exciting ending to the Ash Princess series. It was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2020.
This story gave me everything I wanted in the ending of a book series. There were heartwarming moments, but there were also some tense moments where I was holding my breath. It didn’t have as many twists as the first two books had, because those plot points had to be resolved in this book.
I really liked the ending of this book. Some authors can be brutal with their characters at the end of a series, but I think Laura did a great job in completing the storylines in the least painful ways.
This was a great ending. I can’t wait to see what Laura Sebastian writes next!
Title: Fairy Unicorn Wishes (Fairy Mom and Me #3) Author: Sophie Kinsella, Marta Kissi (illustrations) Genre: Children’s, Fantasy Publisher: Puffin Canada Source: Publisher via NetGalley Format: Ebook Release Date: January 28, 2020 Rating: ★★★★★
Fairies, unicorns and magical wishes combine in this third book of the Fairy Mom and Me series from New York Timesbestselling author Sophie Kinsella!
Ella’s one wish is to become a fairy like her mom. She dreams of the day she will have her sparkly crown and Computwand. Ella even imagines what her first spell would be: a glittery unicorn of her very own.
But Ella knows that spells are often harder than they look, even with the special fairy apps available…and being a fairy in waiting is not all rainbows and butterflies.
Will Ella learn more magic to help her become a fairy someday? Or will she learn she doesn’t need to be a fairy yet for all her wishes to come true?
This is another great book in the Fairy Mom and Me series.
This story was very funny. Ella’s mom is a fairy, but she is always making mistakes with her magic. Sometimes her spells go wrong, like when a twirling spell made pigs and sheep dance. Another time, she installed a new spell app on her wand, which ended up granting all of Ella’s wishes, including giving her a unicorn. There were lots of pictures, depicting these spells going wrong, which were also hilarious.
I like that these stories show kids that adults can make mistakes too. Adults are constantly learning new things, just like kids. Ella’s mom makes mistakes with her spells, but Ella still admires her and wants to be a fairy when she grows up.
I really enjoyed this cute story.
Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
Amelia Bedelia Means Business by Herman Parish, Lynne Avril (illustrations)
Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor, Robin Preiss Glasser (illustrations)
Title: Infinity Son (Infinity Cycle #1) Author: Adam Silvera Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy Publisher: HarperTeen Source: Purchased Format: Hardcover Release Date: January 14, 2020 Rating: ★★★★
Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.
Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.
Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.
Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.
Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.
This story had all the elements of a great fantasy: a “chosen one” prophecy, twins, orphans, mythical creatures, and unexpected twists. This is a great start to a new series!
The world took a little work to get into. This book is set in an alternate New York where there are magical creatures called celestials and specters. Most people come into their powers naturally, if they will get any power at all. However, people can also use potions made of the blood of mythical creatures like phoenixes and hydras. The potions give people unexpected and dangerous powers.
This story had lots of drama and twists that I didn’t expect. It ended on quite a cliffhanger. I don’t know what will happen next but I’m excited for the next book!
What to read next:
Reverie by Ryan La Sala
Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard
Have you read Infinity Son? What did you think of it?