The Blazing Star by Imani Josey. ★★
By the end, reading The Blazing Star was painful. If I weren’t intending to review this one, there is no way I would have finished. I was seriously considering quitting when I only had twenty percent of the book left.
Portia White has always dwelt in the shadow of her genius twin sister, Alex, and a rift is starting to grow between them. Then Portia picks up an ancient Egyptian artifact and is transported back into the past, her sister and another girl unwittingly brought along with her. In ancient Egypt, Portia will find her own chance to shine, discover that magic is real, and maybe even heal the wound between her and her sister.
Gilded Cage by Vic James. ★★★1/2
Gilded Cage is a compulsively readable YA fantasy dystopia. I’ll admit, I was wary of picking it up. I haven’t had the best experiences with the YA dystopian genre, and at this point it feels like there’s a certain sameness to most of the books. But when Imyril over at x + 1 gave it a positive review, I reconsidered. As it turns out, I am glad I did.
Gilded Cage takes place in an alternate version of England where the ruling segment of the population, the Equals, posses immense magical skill. The vast majority of the population are commoners, who are utterly without magic or power. They have to give up ten years of their lives to serve as slaves for the Equals, a modern update on medieval fiefdom. Abi and Luke Hadley are commoners, and they’re about to begin their slave years. But due to Abi’s genius and hard work, she’s gotten their family a place at the Jardine estate instead of the sweatshops of the slave town. But as the day arrives, something goes wrong and Luke instead finds himself being sent to Millmoor, the aforementioned slave town. There he finds something entirely unexpected: revolution. Meanwhile, his sister Abi begins to wonder if she’s made the wrong choice by having the family serve the Jardines, for she soon finds that they can be heinously cruel in their power.
Iron Cast by Destiny Soria. ★★★★1/2
I loved this book a lot more than I ever could have predicted. If you have any interest at all in a YA historical fantasy with a focus on female friendship, you should read this book.
Ada Navarra and Corinne Wells are best of friends who preform together at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, the year of 1919. But their performance is no usual routine, for Ada and Corinne are hemopaths – people who’s afflicted blood gives them magical abilities based on the arts. Ada can affect people’s emotions with her music and Corinne can use her poetry recital to craft illusions. But it’s not easy to be a hemopath in Boston of 1919. Performances have been outlawed and while the club still performs illegally, Ada and Corinne have been running cons to make ends meet. At the beginning of Iron Cast, Ada has been captured and imprisoned in one of the institutions designed to be the “humane” solution for the hemopath “problem.” But that’s only the start of the pair’s trouble.
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey. ★★1/2
Going into Guardians of the Dead, I had only vague ideas of what it was about. I knew that it was set in New Zealand, involved Māori mythology, contained an asexual side character and appeared on many asexual representation lists. The last two are largely why I picked up the book. Plus, I was in New Zealand at the time and thought it would be cool to read a book set there.
Ellie Spencer is a seventeen year old who’s counting down the days until she can graduate from boarding school, where she really only has one friend – Kevin. Her largest concern is getting roped in to do martial arts choreography for a local student play, but strange things keep seeming to happen to her. First of all, something is up with Mark, that guy she has a crush on. And who’s the strange woman who’s practically stalking Kevin? Soon Ellie will find herself unwittingly involved in the worlds of myth and magic.
Ida by Alison Evans. ★★★1/2
Ida has a secret – she can travel in time. She can close her eyes and go back to the moment before she makes a decision, moving herself into an alternate reality. She starts time traveling more and more until one day, it starts getting out of her control. Now she’s at risk of becoming lost in the multitude of her own lives.
Ida was a quick read – I finished it in about twenty four hours. The prose is plain and the story moves at a fast clip. While a lot of science fiction stories are focused on big pictures, Ida looks at the small. It contains aspects of a psychological thriller, the frightening sensation of Ida’s life unraveling.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. ★★★★
It’s hard to review a book which is so closely associated with my childhood. I have clear memories of sneaking pages of Howl’s Moving Castle during mandatory 5th grade camp, desperately trying to air conditioned places to read in. I’m happy to say that even reading it years later, Howl’s Moving Castle is still a book worth loving.
Sophie Hatter is the oldest of three sisters, and she knows she won’t amount to much. Her youngest sister will probably go off and seek her fortune, having great adventures, but Sophie? Her future holds nothing more than hats. Then the infamous Witch of the Wastes comes into the hat shop and curses Sophie, transforming her into an old woman. In a state of shock, Sophie wanders out of the hat shop and off into the hills, where she comes across Howl’s Moving Castle. Howl is nearly as infamous as the Witch of the Waste, and Sophie’s always been told to stay away from him since he devours young women’s hearts. But Sophie’s no longer a young woman, so what does she have to be afraid of? She barges her way into Howl’s castle and makes a deal with a fire demon – if she breaks the demon’s contract with Howl, the demon will free her from the curse.
Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani. ★★★★
Memories of Ash is a full, novel length sequel to the YA fantasy novella Sunbolt. In my review of Sunbolt, I noted that I was waiting to see where the sequels would take the series. Well it was worth the wait! Memories of Ash was even better than the first installment. It’s so much of what I want in a fantasy novel – a focus on adventure rather than romance, amazing world building, and a clever and kindhearted heroine.
While I suggest reading Sunbolt before Memories of Ash, you might be able to go into it without having read the novella. But why would you? Sunbolt is a lot of fun. Anyway, it was over two years since I’d read Sunbolt, and I didn’t find myself getting confused. Do note that there will be spoilers for the novella in the rest of this review.