Tag Archives: Magic

You might have missed Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff, and that would be a real shame

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You might have missed Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff, and that would be a real shame

This haunting and otherworldly book is such an enchanting tale.  I read it in just a few hours, but I’m still thinking about it months later.


Goodreads Summary

Only women and girls are allowed in the Red Abbey, a haven from abuse and oppression. Thirteen-year-old novice Maresi arrived at the Abbey four years ago, during the hunger winter, and now lives a happy life under the protection of the Mother. Maresi spends her days reading in the Knowledge House, caring for the younger novices, and contentedly waiting for the moment when she will be called to serve one of the Houses of the Abbey.

This idyllic existence is threatened by the arrival of Jai, a girl whose dark past has followed her into the Abbey’s sacred spaces. In order to protect her new sister and her own way of life, Maresi must emerge from the safety of her books and her childish world and become one who acts.

My Thoughts

I loved the setting – a sanctuary for women and girls with a magic and mythology that feels epic.  I loved the well drawn characters and their transformations in the course of the action.  The action is engaging and builds to a satisfying and suspenseful climax.  While there are dark elements in this tale, Maresi is ultimately an uplifting read with themes about friendship and finding inner strength in the face of fear.  Fans of Naomi Novak’s Uprooted will definitely want to check this out, but I think anyone who loves a good fairytale or folktale will be swept away by this read.  This is a translation, but you wouldn’t know it – the prose is fluid and magical all on its own.  I can definitely see many of my high school girls enjoying this, particularly those who like the His Fair Assassins series and Marie Lu’s Rose Society books.  It’s going on my classroom library wishlist.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Bone Witch

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The Bone Witch

I had really high expectations for Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch, especially because the publisher said it was for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir.  The comparison is fair – these authors offer fantasy with diverse cultures and exotic settings.  They all feature magical elements and female protagonists who find themselves outside of their comfort zone in battles they never asked to fight.  My problem is that those comparisons lead me to expect a lot of action in The Bone Witch, and when it didn’t deliver, I was disappointed.  That is a real disservice to this book, though.  The Bone Witch has a lot to offer fantasy readers, and it is a solid four star read if you go into it with the right mindset.


Goodreads Summary

The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

My Thoughts

This is a beautifully detailed book that develops a strong narrative voice and a rich culture and setting.  There is an elaborate way of life that readers must come to understand in order to see what the narrator is up against, but that takes a lot of time to establish.  If you are looking for more action, it is likely you will grow impatient with the minutiae of Tea’s life and training.  Readers who pick this up with clear expectations that this book is building to what I believe will be an epic battle in the next book will fare better.  I was particularly interested in the dual narrative – the author alternates  between Tea in the present and Tea in the past.  I liked how that built a lot of suspense, and I thought it was an interesting way to break up the monotony of dancing,  combat lessons, and detailed clothing descriptions.  I found the ending very intriguing, so I’m pretty sure I will pick up the next book, and hope that all the heavy lifting is done and we can advance to some pretty fierce action.  The exotic setting and the necromancy will interest many of my high school readers, but I question how many of them would stick it out, so I would recommend it to readers who have the patience to let a story build over those who want girls hacking away with swords every second (not knocking that, since usually I’m that reader).  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

If you liked The Night Circus, try Stephanie Garber’s Caraval

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If you liked The Night Circus, try Stephanie Garber’s Caraval

I love my tattered copy of The Night Circus, but I’m desperately tired of waiting for the author’s next stroke of genius.  I am always delighted when I find a book that evokes some of that magical enchantment, and Caraval did that for me.  I gave it four stars – it has its weaknesses, but the feels outweighed them.


Goodreads Summary

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . . 

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever. 

My Thoughts

Caraval is magical and engaging, and a little brutal at times.  There is definitely some danger and horror mixed into the enchanting world of of this tale.  It is this contrast – feverbright setting and a lingering, light dread – that really feels spot on.  Think Wonderland, with its topsy-turvy setting and characters, meets THAT nightmare, the one built on your deepest desires and darkest fears.  I wasn’t scared, but I certainly feared something terrible was around every corner.  I do have to say some of the backstory and the ultimate “why” are threadbare and patchy, but I enjoyed it anyway.  While I couldn’t help thinking of The Night Circus while I read, I also couldn’t help thinking it was so much more YA friendly.  I know many of my students will enjoy this dark and sumptuous tale, so it’s going on my high school classroom library wish list.  Language and situations appropriate for grades 9+. 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Gilded Cage by Vic James is perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series

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Gilded Cage by Vic James is perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series

Vic James’ Gilded Cage has a lot to offer YA readers who enjoyed Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series.  The social order is divided between those with extraordinary powers and those with no power.  It has intrigue and forbidden feelings, and things are not always as they seem. There are some big differences, notably that Gilded Cage is somewhat terrifyingly gothic, but I think the two call to the same ideas of equality and humanity.  While I gave them both four star ratings, I think Gilded Cage is the better book.  


Goodreads Summary

Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world. 

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.
Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price? 

A boy dreams of revolution.
Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution. 

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.
He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy? 

My Thoughts

This is a solid read.  The divided classes and the tyranny of those with power will speak to many YA readers – young and old.  The setting is intriguing, and, though the story dives in with little explanation, it was easy to pick up on the rules. Some readers will find the story slows as care is taken to explain some of the politics of the society, but it is necessary to really grasp how far under the thumb the powerless are. I particularly appreciated the fact that every one of the ruling class had a very ominous feel, even when they were being kind enough – it made it easy to understand the anxiety of the narrators and it helped me connect with them. There are several twists in this story, and many of them knocked me sideways. I was pleased that this wasn’t predictable, but I know it will leave some readers feeling a bit bowled over. This book does take a little brainwork. A cast of many characters and the intrigue mean you have to pay attention, but I thought it was well worth the effort. I’m pretty interested in what the second book holds, and I think my high school readers will enjoy it as much as I did, so it is going on my classroom library wishlist. Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.