Li Lan is the seventeen year old daughter of a declining Chinese merchant family in colonial Malaysia. Her mother’s dead, the family business close to nonexistent, and her father’s addicted to opium. Then, Li Lan receives a marriage offer from the wealthy Lim family – for their dead son. Their marriage would placate his restless spirit. Li Lan refuses the marriage offer, but she soon finds herself haunted and drawn into an otherworldly realm.
The Ghost Bride is a historical fantasy novel with an extremely vivid, atmospheric setting. While The Ghost Bride isn’t marketed as YA, I think it could make an easy crossover. The protagonist is a teenager, the writing is graceful but accessible, and to cap it all up there’s a love triangle. Luckily, it wasn’t a super angsty love triangle, but it was there.
Wise Child is a quiet fantasy story set in medieval Scotland. A nine year old girl called Wise Child is taken in by Juniper, the isolated village witch. When Wise Child’s mother, a sorceress who uses her powers for her own gain, reappears, Wise Child will have to choose between two ways of life.
Wise Child is clearly aimed at younger readers. It tends to get shelved as YA, but I’d say MG would possibly be more accurate. It’s short, relatively simple, and has a coming of age theme. Yet, I think it can still be appreciated by older readers. Somehow it reminds me of Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. ★★★1/2
I liked The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, but I feel like I’ve read other of Claire North’s books where she better handles the same thematic material regarding humanity and immortality. Regardless, there’s still a lot that’s good about this historical science fiction literary mashup.
Harry August continues through his life time after time again, being reborn to the same parents, in the same year, in the same place. But he keeps the knowledge of all the times he has lived this life before. At the end of his eleventh life, a little girl tells him that the world is ending. And that the end of the world has been getting faster.
Trigger warning for sexual assault, suicide, and abuse.
Six-Gun Snow White is a dark, adult fairy tale novella from the masterful Catherynne M. Valente. While I enjoyed Valente’s prose, I ultimately found the book too strange for my taste.
Snow White is the daughter of a Nevada silver baron and a Crow woman he forced into marriage with him who dies in childbirth. When her father remarries, the stepmother, a socialite from the East Coast, renames the girl Snow White in reference to the pale skin she doesn’t have.
The Serpent is a lovely novella set among 17th century Venice and filled with an underlying mysticism.
Thene is a young woman married to a drunken gambler. She mainly exists from one day to the next, trying to get by, until her husband drags her with him to the Gameshouse. The Gameshouse is a mysterious place, and there are two levels within it. The first level is ordinary games, but if you are invited to pass through the silver door, you will find games that use the world as their board and people as their playing pieces…
A Darker Shade of Magic has fantastic world building and prose, but for some reason it just didn’t do it for me. The most likely reason is that I never connected well to any of the characters.
Kell is one of two people who can travel between the Londons – flourishing Red London, full of magic; bitter and murderous White London; mundane Grey London; and Black London, lost long ago. When Kell accidentally cares a dangerous parcel between worlds, he runs into street thief Delilah Bard, and they must work together to stop a dangerous magic from overrunning all the remaining worlds.