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Sorcery & Cecelia

Wrede, Patricia C & Stevermer, Caroline. Sorcery and Cecelia (2003 ed.) 316 Pages. Harcourt. $17.00

The full title is, of course: Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: being the correspondence of two Young Ladies of Quality regarding various Magical Scandals in London and the Country, which I absolutely think was a brilliant choice considering their setting, and the tone of the work as a whole.

From the Back Cover

There is a great deal happening in London this Season.

For starters, there’s the witch who tried to poison Kate at the Royal College of Wizards. (Since when does hot chocolate burn a hole straight through one’s dress?!)

Then there’s the strange spell that’s made Dorothea the toast of the town. (Could it possibly have something to do with the charm-bag under Oliver’s bed?)

And speaking of Oliver, just how long can Cecelia and Kate make excuses for him. Ever since he was turned into a tree he hasn’t bothered to tell anyone where he is!

Clearly, magic is a deadly and dangerous business. And the girls might be in fear for their lives.. if only they weren’t having so much fun!

First Lines

8 April 1817

Rushton Manor, Essex

Dearest Kate

It is dreadfully flat here since you have been gone, and it only makes it worse to imagine all the things I shall be missing. I wish Aunt Elizabeth were not so set against my having a Season this year. She is still annoyed about the incident with the goat, and says that to let the pair of us loose on London would ruin us both for good, and spoil Georgy’s chances into the bargain.

Thoughts

Apparently, Wrede and Stevermer decided to play “the Letter Game,” which started out as a bit of fun, and turned into something which could actually qualify as a book. They cleaned it up a bit, fixed up some bad storylines, and bits that led nowhere, and got it published (originally in 1988). Despite its humble origins as a fun writing exercise, it became quite an entertaining mystery.

Cecelia and Kate are fascinating characters, cousins who are very close, and who were upset to learn that they would not be debuting together. Unfortunately, because of the “goat incident,” Cecelia was left behind. (Kate’s younger sister Georgina could not debut before her, so Kate was taken to London.)

There’s a lot going on here; Kate and Cecy have had unfortunate encounters with wicked wizards, and they know that something is afoot, if only they could figure out what. It’s fascinating to watch them work it out, as they drag you further and further into their contemplation of the mess.

It’s a fun story, with a hint of Austenesque humor, and a solidly built regency setting. It’s fascinating to see what changes the addition of magic makes to the society of the times.

I was in high school when I first attempted to read this; Sorcery and Cecelia had just been re-released in paperback format, and knowing how much I loved Patricia C Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles and Caught in Crystal, I opted to pick up this book as well. I wasn’t ready for it then, as I lacked the familiarity with and appreciation for Austen or regency settings. I’ve since discovered a love for both, so I decided that it was high time to try reading this book again. (I’m glad I did.) There were a few times when I was genuinely laughing, moments of true puzzlement, and occasional distress as I wondered what was going to happen next.

This volume gets a 5 of 5, for being clever and fun without being too young, or stupid.

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Glass Houses

Caine, Rachel. Glass Houses (2006). 239 Pages. Penguin. $6.99

The Morganville Vampires: Volume 1

From the Back Cover

Welcome to Morganville, Texas. Don’t stay out after dark.

It’s a small college town filled with quirky characters. But when the sun goes down, the bad comes out. Because in Morganville, there is an evil that lurks in the darkest shadows– one that will spill out into the bright light of day.

Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation. The popular girls never let her forget just where she ranks on the school’s social scene: somewhere less than zero. And Claire really doesn’t have the right connections– to the undead who run the town.

When Claire heads off campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don’t show many signs of life. But they’ll have Claire’s back when the town’s deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood…

First Lines

On the day Claire became a member of the Glass House, somebody stole her laundry.

When she reached into the crappy, beat-up washing machine, she found nothing but the wet slick sides of the drum, and–like a bad joke– the worst pair of underwear she owned, plus one sock.

Thoughts

I clearly have a strong bias towards strong female characters, which are not really present in this series. Claire is smart, but she’s a victim; she doesn’t get revenge, doesn’t stop the bullying, and the violence, she just flees. There are definitely times when retreating is the best idea, and this book is full of those times.

There’s a lot going on here; an entire town is run by vampires, and most of the human denizens live in fear, and are largely treated as livestock. They are branded by their “protector” who has control over many parts of their lives. They are required to donate blood, their movements are tracked, and they don’t even pretend to have the freedom to leave. What makes them put up with it? Fear and complacency.

Perhaps because of the fear and complacency, when Claire gets into trouble, the only people who try to help her are the loners and outsiders, the people who nobody else wants; Eve, Shane, and Michael. Things start to get really crazy when the four outcasts realize that they can’t keep running, and they aren’t safe, even together.

The novel manages to be interesting, and relatively unique. Everything fits together, and it seems cohesive, which is something. It’s hard to read about characters who are victims to everyone, who never have a true victory, and who are unfortunately at the bottom of the totem pole with no hope of ever rising from that position. There are still moments of humor which lighten the whole thing up, and which count for quite a bit.

This particular volume ends in a semi-cliffhanger, so I would advise having the second volume on hand to continue the story.

It gets a 3.5/5; it’s good, but not amazing.

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The Seduction of His Wife

Chapman, Janet. The Seduction of His Wife (2006). 331 Pages. Pocket Books. $6.99

It’s not often that I come across romance novels that I feel are worth reading more than once. Despite the beautifully and perfectly cliché title and cover, this is a good story, with a fun romance and an interesting premise.

From the Author’s Website

Sarah quite willingly – and happily – becomes a wife, a mother, and a widow all in one week by agreeing to marry by proxy Grady Knight’s eldest son, and adopt Alex’s children to secure their custody before it is publicly known Alex is dead. But sometimes even the most well-intentioned plan can backfire on its perpetrators – which Sarah discovers the day Alex Knight comes back from the dead.
So what’s a woman to do when she finds herself married to a complete stranger? Run back to her tiny island in the Gulf of Maine, and resume running a Bed & Breakfast she no longer owns? Or put up with her very-much-alive husband just long to keep Grady Knight out of trouble, then quietly divorce Alex and continue her plan to operate a set of sporting camps three miles farther up the shoreline of Frost Lake?

Bolstered by the smart, confident, feisty heroines in the romance novels she reads, Sarah decides to stay and fight for her dream – all while fighting her growing attraction to her maddening husband. Alex, on the other hand, sets out to seduce Sarah for all the wrong reasons, but quickly finds himself falling in love with her for all the right ones.

First Lines

Alex Knight fought the fatigue weighing on his eyelids and brushed an unsteady hand through his hair in an attempt to wipe the fog from his brain. He needed to stay focused on the road ahead, to avoid the final irony of cheating death in the jungles of Brazil only to die in a car wreck less than ten miles from home.

Thoughts

It’s difficult to know what to expect when reading a romance novel; will it be the same old (winning*) formula with different names and a new setting, or will it somehow put new twists on an old story to make it fresh again? Sometimes, all that really matters is that there are two characters who eventually love each other, and who live happily-ever-after (or at least for now).

It’s not often that you start with characters who are already married, who don’t really know each other, and who end up falling in love. That’s part of what makes this so interesting. Add to that a sense of humor– Sarah reads silly romance novels which Alex discovers he enjoys reading out loud to her– and a few good characters, and what you’ve got is a funny, relatively-unique (for the genre) book which is solidly written.

I also enjoyed the setting; rural, northern Maine, in a logging town. I’m from a fairly small, rural town (which had its own fair share of logging after the San Francisco Fire). It’s always sort of fun to read books which are either reminiscent of or outright about your hometown, and this book was no exception. (It helped that I have at least a passing familiarity with most of the big equipment mentioned in the book).

Because it is a romance novel, which tend to have a low re-read rate, and I did re-read it, this book gets a 4/5.

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* Romance novels are a huge market for good reason; they’re nice, fluffy books which make you feel good as they set ridiculous standards for the behaviors and relationships of men and women. The idea of boy-meets-girl-they-fight-then-fall-in-love-and-live-happily-ever-after may not be unique, but it is gratifying to know that you were right from the beginning, and they could be happy together.

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Trickster’s Queen

Pierce, Tamora. Trickster’s Queen (2004). 444 Pages. Random House. $8.95

Daughter of the Lioness Book 2

I actually own two copies of this book; a hardcover copy, because I could not wait for it to come out in paperback, and a paperback copy, because I hate having part of a series in paperback, and part in hardcover. It has to be all the same, for the sake of my shelving system; hardcovers go on the top shelf, paperbacks go on the lower shelves and series are grouped, so when I have to either put paperbacks on the hardcover shelf, or hardcovers on the paperback shelf, I get a bit grumpy.

Anyway, Trickster’s Queen is a continuation of Trickster’s Choice,which opens in Spring, with Aly and the Balitangs returning to Rajmuat, the capital of the Copper Isles. With the death of Duke Mequen Balitang, as well as King Oron and Prince Bronau at the end of the preceding volume, the political environment of the Copper Isles has been transformed. It is a country on the verge of revolution, or civil war, a country ready for a new queen from an old royal family; Sarai Balitang.

Alianne Cooper, daughter of legends, spymistress for the Balitang household, Duani of the raka revolution has come into her own. She is done living in her parent’s shadow, and has become irreversibly entangled in the conflict in the Copper Isles. This book takes off, with rapid pacing, drama, conflict, surprises, and battle. It is the climax which Trickster’s Choice was building toward, and sets up a very interesting finale.

First Lines

As the ship Gwenna glided through the entrance of Rajmuat harbor, a young woman of seventeen years leaned against the bow rail, taking in her surroundings through green-hazel eyes. Despite her white skin, she was dressed like a native raka in sarong, sash, and wrapped jacket.

Thoughts

In the first volume, each chapter was preceded by an excerpt from things Aly read, or conversations Aly had with family members while growing up. For example, Chapter 10 is prefaced with:

Assassins approach a problem differently from soldiers, you see. They can’t lay siege, they can’t offer an honorable fight. In their trade numbers are dangerous. An assassin’s advantage lies in folk missing him when he’s about. He hits hard and fast, then goes. Once you’ve tried to kill the first time, the target has the wind up. Failure the first time means it’ll be that much harder to get close a second time. – Told to Aly when she was eleven, in a conversation with her father*

These excerpts from Aly’s life made it more acceptable for her to know so much about spy work, because she had been trained from childhood. Having an idea of where she had received her knowledge (from her father, grandfather, mother, etc.) made a difference as well. It was a nice touch, which helped to ground Aly, and round out her story. These bits are lacking from Trickster’s Queen, which is unfortunate, because I really appreciated them.

This volume takes off, picking up speed rapidly, and racing toward the conclusion. Aly has grown up quite a bit since she left Pirate’s Swoop in a huff. She is not alone, others have grown, and are growing up with her, though much of it happens off-page. There is some unexpected character development, and a few unpleasant surprises for Aly. (There are pleasant surprises, too.)

It is almost a pity to leave Aly and the Copper Isles; there is still a lot to be said about the islands and their new queen. (Though it has been said that there will be a set of books dedicated to her, later.) It is also very, very fun to get to read about the children of some old favorites (Daine and Numair’s new baby, for example), and it is clear that Pierce has grown as a story teller since she first put Alanna’s story on paper.

The volume gets a 4.5/5, and the series gets a 5/5. If you are a fan of Tortall, you will most likely enjoy this series.

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* From Trickster’s Choice, Page 232.

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Trickster’s Choice

Pierce, Tamora. Trickster’s Choice (2003). 403 Pages. Random House. $8.95

The Daughter of the Lioness Book 1

I told myself I’d review the Tortall books  in order, but clearly that’s not happening. Alianne Cooper’s books (Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen) are the last books set in “present” Tortall; after this, they revert to Beka’s story, which is the Tortall of the past. The reason? Pierce couldn’t bear to think about a world after Alanna’s generation was gone, or even when they were old. I understand completely. However, if you are thinking of just picking up Tamora Pierce books, these are not the ones to start with; they spoil an awful lot of plot points from earlier sets, because these come much later. If you read Tortall, it is best to start with The Song of the Lioness and move forward from there.

Synopsis

It’s not easy being the daughter of legends; her mother is the Lioness, Champion of Tortall, and her father is The Whisper Man, the Tortallan spy-master. Aly’s twin, Alan, is a knight-in training, her older brother, Thom, is a student mage, her adoptive uncles and aunts are the most powerful, and influential people of their generation. It’s no wonder that Aly feels a little lost, and unsure of what she’s going to do with her life. Frustrated by arguments with her parents, Alianne sets out from Pirate’s Swoop to Port Legann, but she never makes it. She is caught by slavers, and shipped off to the Copper Isles.

Determined to make the best of a bad situation, and survive until she can escape, and get home to her family, Aly endures her time as a slave. When she arrives in the Copper Isles, she is purchased by the Balitang family, and then approached by the Trickster, her father’s patron  god, and the deposed patron of the Copper Isles. He proposes a wager with Aly,  one which will give her a direction, and a goal (at least for the summer), and which will help him. All she has to do is keep the two Balitang daughters alive… how hard could that be?

First Lines

George Cooper, Baron of Pirate’s Swoop, second in command of his realm’s spies, put his documents aside and surveyed his only daughter as sh e paused by his study door. Alianne– known as Aly to her family and friends– posed there, arms raised in a Player’s dramatic flourish. It seemed that she had enjoyed her month’s stay with her Corus relatives.

Thoughts

I remember reading that the reason Tamora Pierce switched from quartets to pairs was that JK Rowling’s Harry Potter had proven that kids will read long books, so rather than having to force Aly’s story into four separate volumes, it could be split into just two. I am eternally grateful for this, though smaller volumes are much easier to carry around in purses or backpacks.

Aly is disappointingly perfect*. Admittedly, most of the Tortallan women are nearly perfect, but Alianne takes it a step further. Even when raised by brilliant, talented, and gifted parents, it is a little much to accept that she could be as brilliant as she is. The girl is basically a walking spy handbook. It doesn’t get any better, but as you get used to it, it’s possible to focus on other things.

Aly’s story, however, and her supporting cast are interesting enough that she can be forgiven for being too perfect. The Balitang family, and their servants, and the relationship the two have with each other is interesting, given that the context of the Copper Isles is that the two groups (the natives and the colonizers) largely hate each other. The raka— the natives– are thought of as lesser, and are largely subordinates to luarin— the colonizers– with very few exceptions. As an outsider, Aly has no attachment to either group, which both weakens and strengthens her position in the country.

When all is said and done, I do like this series (though it isn’t my favorite), and I think it is worth reading. Trickster’s Choice, the first volume, scores a 4/5.

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* I’ve heard people call her a “Mary Sue” and I don’t think I can really argue with that.

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Starcrossed

Bunce, Elizabeth C. Starcrossed (2010). 351 Pages. Scholastic.$17.99

I’ve been eying Starcrossed since I read A Curse Dark as Gold, and an opportunity to read it finally presented itself. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of starting this book in the evening, and I could not bring myself to put it down. It was 5am when I finally went to sleep. It’s a wonderful adventure story for fans of fantasy and political intrigue.

Synopsis

In a world with seven moons, there are seven gods who each have their roles, and who were once worshiped equally. Eighteen years before the novel starts, everything changed. The followers of Celys– the Great Mother goddess– declared war against the followers of Sar– the patroness of magic– and by extension all other gods. To be a magic user or a Sarist is to be a treasonous heretic, which is punishable by gruesome death. In this dark, unbalanced world, a cruel king rules, aided by Lord High Inquisitor Werne the bloodletter. The only hope for the common people is the hope that King Bardolph will name Prince Wierolf as heir, rather than Prince Astilan (who is known to be as cruel as his uncle.)

Sixteen year-old Digger is not concerned with politics or religion, she is merely concerned with surviving. (Something which was much easier before she and Tegen were ambushed by Greenmen.) Now Digger is on the run, alone, and unable to trust anyone. When a group of drunk nobles offer her a chance to escape Gerse, she takes it. Soon, Digger is disguised as Celyn Contrare, safely hidden in the snow-bound, remote Bryn Shaer, working as lady’s maid to Lady Merista Nemair. What was looking to be a quiet winter in the castle, waiting for spring, is quickly turning into the most dangerous situation Digger has ever been involved in.

First Lines

I couldn’t think. My chest hurt from running, and I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place. Tegen had given my directions to a tavern on the river– was this where he’d told me to go, if things went wrong?

It didn’t matter. I had to get off the streets. Behind me, the Oss splashed moonslight over a row or fiverside storefronts, bright enough for me to make out the sign of a blue wine bottle and the short flight of stairs down into the alley. Down was shadows and safety. I took it.

Thoughts

I was entranced from the first, unable to stop reading for fear that I might miss something.* The world is unique, the characters strong and dynamic, the writing effective and descriptive without meandering. All told, it’s a very well-done book which I truly enjoyed reading.

Digger is a fascinating character; a runaway with a mysterious past whose only goal until recently has been to survive. She’s a clever girl who uses her wits and some thieving skills to get by** and until recently has been under the radar. We meet Digger as she realizes that Tegan has died– a death she spends most of the book getting over; he was her lover as well as her partner– and that she must get out of the city. Things don’t ever seem to get easier, but her determination keeps her going. It is perhaps the fact that she keeps going, rather than lapsing into self-pity that makes her so very interesting. She is a strong character, a girl who can (and does) kick butt.

Surrounding Digger is an equally as interesting and important supporting cast; Meri most especially, but also the others stuck at Bryn Shaer. There is a mystery surrounding the place and the people, a mystery which Digger uncovers. There is a lot more going on in this novel than can be resolved in 351 pages; there is at least one more volume (Liar’s Moon) coming.

As a whole, I thought the book was well-done and very, very interesting. It moves along much more quickly than A Curse Dark as Gold did, which makes it more appealing to people who need faster pacing. This story gets a 5/5, and if you like fantasy with political intrigue at all, I would strongly suggest reading it.

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* When I’m reading, I’m not seeing words on the page, rather, it’s like my own mental cinema. I sometimes forget that I can “pause” by closing the book.

** Character-wise, Digger reminds me of Tamora Pierce’s Aliane Cooper. Setting-wise, she reminds me of Beka Cooper. However, Digger’s story is unique enough that the similarities are not a bad thing.

The story continues in Liar’s Moon, release date TBD

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The Hero and the Crown

McKinley, Robin. The Hero and the Crown (2000 ed.) 246 Pages. Puffin. $5.99

Aerin is a king’s daughter, a first-sol, and an outsider in her own country. Her mother was a Northerner, a mysterious woman who many said bewitched the king. Having always been hyper-aware of her tenuous position in her father’s kingdom, Aerin has allowed herself to be pushed aside, and overlooked.

When she comes across a recipe for kenet- which promises fireproofing, even from dragons- Aerin finds a purpose. She gains a reputation for dragonslaying, but this is only the beginning of a fate which is much greater than anyone could have guessed.

First Lines:

She could not remember a time when she had not know the story; she had grown up knowing it. She supposed someone must have told her it, sometime, but she could not remember the telling. She was beyond having to blink back tears when she thought of those things the story explained, but when she was feeling smaller and shabbier than usual in the large vivid City high in the Damarian Hills she still found herself brooding about them; and brooding sometimes brought on a tight headachy feeling around her temples, a feeling like suppressed tears.

Thoughts:

This is one of those books which I have quite literally loved to pieces. I first found The Hero and the Crown during a hard time in my life– mom and I were living with a crazy landlady, and we both needed our escapes. Perhaps it is because of those memories that this book will always have a special place for me. I am completely and utterly in love with Damar, and the stories set there.

Despite the fact that The Blue Sword was written first, I always start with The Hero and the Crown, because it comes first in Damarian chronology. I love reading about Aerin* and everything she does. She might be one of my favorite heroines ever* and her story is fantastic.

I am not going to pretend to be reasonable about my love of this book, because after so long, nothing reasonable remains. As far as I am concerned, it is a brilliant story with brilliant writing and brilliant characters. If I had to complain about something, it would be that McKinley has said that there may be more Damar books but she has not written them yet.

This book gets a 5/5 and the unwavering insistence that if you like Fantasy, you should read this book.

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* I swear, it’s not because her name is so similar to mine.

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Pegasus

McKinley, Robin. Pegasus (Nov 2, 2010). 404 Pages. Putnam. $18.99

Once upon a time, humans forged an alliance with Pegasi (who are not winged horses), to share a beautiful, fertile land. Generations later, this alliance is still upheld in practice through the binding of the two royal families. Princess Sylviianel is the youngest of her family, and the last to get bound to her pegasus.

Princess Sylvi, who has never enjoyed the spotlight, finds herself at the center of everything, when it turns out that she can speak to Ebon without the aid of a translator. Their bond is deep from the moment they first meet, but there is a chance that it will threaten everything.

First Lines:

Because she was a princess she had a pegasus.

This had been a part of the treaty between the pegasi and the human invaders nearly a thousand years ago, shortly after humans had first struggled through the mountain passes beyond the wild lands and discovered a beautiful green country they knew immediately they wanted to live in.

Thoughts:

I’ve been waiting for Pegasus since it was first mentioned as a story which had grown too long to be part of the Air anthology. I’ve been waiting, and reading snippets, and longing for the day it would come out, and even when I was warned that it would end in a cliffhanger, I knew that I would devour it when it came out, because I have never read a McKinley book I did not love.

The cliffhanger killed me, by the way.

This book was beautiful and brilliant and heartwarming and heartwrenching and everything I had hoped for and more. Sylvi and Ebon’s relationship is so beautiful and perfectly written that I could not put the book down. It is clear from the beginning who the Bad Guy will be, though he is not the only bad thing going on. It is clear from the fact that it is about royalty that there will be political turmoil. There are so many things which are so important which are hinted at, but never quite explained.

I was not surprised when I got to the last page. I had sort of expected its direction from about the middle of the book, and there is this sense of something big looming on the horizon. And then it was the last page, and I just wanted more, but the rest will have to wait, because “Pegasus II” as it is currently called is still a part of the distant future.

This book certainly calls for the same thing most McKinley books call for– patience. She takes the time to build her worlds, so the adventure is that much more thrilling, because it is grounded in a solid world. Her characters never fall flat, because in such a real world, they could not be anything less than real themselves. However, sometimes several chapters may be devoted to the beginning, which can seem slow to many, but man, it’s so worth it.

For being so brilliant, this volume gets a 5/5. (I would give it a 6, but that might set a bad precedent…) Despite the agony of the cliffhanger, it is good that the story was not forced into a single volume, and was rather split, in order to do it proper justice.

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Wolf Tower

Lee, Tanith. Wolf Tower (1998). 223 Pages. Puffin. $6.99

The Claidi Journals: Book 1

There is the House and Gardens, and then there is the Waste. Claidi is bored and miserable, she serves the awful Lady Jade Leaf, and is trapped by the Rules and Rituals of the House. Should she dare to deviate, speak out, or disregard a Rule or Ritual, she could find herself banished to the Waste.

That isn’t seeming like such a bad fate, at the moment. Especially if she gets to make her escape with the handsome Prince Nemian. What awaits her in the Waste is not what she expected, and Claidi, free at last, learns more about herself and her world with every day.

First Lines:

Yes.

I stole this. This book.

I don’t know why. It looked… nice, I suppose, and nothing has been  nice for years. Well, not often.

It was in h er stationery chest, out of which she sometimes makes us– mostly me– get her a piece of silk paper or thick parchment. Then she doodles a few stupid lines of awful “poetry.” Or a foul painting, like used washing-water in the Maids’ Hall with something dropped in it– lime juice or jam. And then we all have to applaud. “Oh! How clever you are, Lady Jade Leaf. What bright-shining genius!” Because she”s royal. And we are not. Oh no. We couldn’t ever do anything wonderful like that.

Thoughts

Claidi’s world is simultaneously similar to (they have ice cream) and different from (there are still roving bandits and places like the House) our world, which can be tricky to pull off. It is, however, well done.

Claidi herself is a very interesting character; she starts off as a rather meek maid, and grows in determination and personality as her story progresses. At first, things just happen to her, but by the end of the book, she seems ready to make decisions for herself. At times, Claidi is inconsistent; on one page, she says that she is not good at science, on another she talks about the microclimate of the House and how it disrupts storms. But, for the most part, the issues are easily overlooked.

As a whole, with an endearing character who grows into an interesting character, the book is well worth reading. It gets a 4/5.

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Rampant

Peterfreund, Diana. Rampant (2009). 402 Pages. HarperTeen. $8.99

I was first introduced to Diana Peterfreund’s man-eating unicorns in Kiss Me Deadly, which is when I knew I had to read Rampant. I didn’t bother even reading the back of the book, I just jumped in. I was not expecting what I got:

“‘I will never really leave,’ said the unicorn. Diamond sparkles floated from the tip of its glittering silver horn. ‘I will always live in your heart'”

I swallowed the bile rising in my throat and forced myself to continue reading.

“Then the unicorn turned and galloped away, its fluffy pink tail swinging merrily as it spread its iridescent wings to the morning sunshine.”

Oh, no. Not wings, too.

“Every time the unicorn’s lavender hooves touched the earth, a tinkling like the chime of a thousand fairy bells floated back toward the children.”

Having just read a story about man-eating unicorns, this was not at all what I expected to find on page 1. I closed the book, walked away for a few minutes, then came back and gave it another go. This time, I got what I was expecting.

Astrid Llewelyn never thought her mother’s crazy stories about unicorns were true. When one attacks her boyfriend in the woods, she has no choice but to believe. Unicorns– previously thought extinct, even by her mother– are back with a vengeance, and Astrid will learn much more about her heritage than she ever knew.

Before she’s really had time to process, Astrid — a descendant of Alexander the Great, and thus a hunter– is on her way to Rome to study unicorn hunting at the Cloisters of the Order of the Lioness. Of course, since the last unicorn was killed several hundred years before, the Cloisters have fallen into disrepair, but that might be the least of their worries. Other hunters need to be found, a task which is easier said than done, as they must not only be descendants, but they must also be virgins (a rarity in teen girls this day and age.) Astrid (and the other girls) must learn to fight like true unicorn hunters, or they will die.

I loved this book. I was totally a unicorn girl when I was little. Our games would go something like: “I’m a princess, and I have a unicorn who’s sky blue with sparkly pink wings and purple mane and tail and her horn is silver and she’s super special because she’s a unicorn princess… … … etc etc etc” A few hours later, when we were done describing our unicorns, we could get to playing our game. I’m not sure I ever really outgrew that phase. I do love that this manages to be completely unexpected; who would think of unicorns as carnivorous and evil? I know I wouldn’t have. I also love the modern setting because Astrid’s disbelief mirrors the reader’s own.

Astrid manages to grow from the beginning to the end, and she transforms into a true warrior. She’s got her problems along the way, and she’s not always happy with her choices, but she keeps going. I really liked that about her.

In Conclusion:

With what can only be called a unique approach to unicorns, Diana Peterfreund manages to make Rampant a special book about butt-kicking teenage girls. It’s firmly based in real mythology, and despite the fantastical beasts, feels like something a lot of teens could go through. It gets a 5/5 because it was that good.

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Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction