Book Review: The Seventh Sun

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Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading—and the end of the world may be at hand.

For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.

Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a bloodred comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.

Rich in imagination and romance, and based on the legends and history of the Aztec and Maya people, The Seventh Sun brings to vivid life a world on the edge of apocalyptic disaster.

Review

Rating: 2.25 stars out of 5
Read: October 2019

It’s so satisfying to see a fantasy novel with a non-European setting. The representation isn’t the only thing to cheer about, though: There is a bevy of fantasy books written about medieval white people, so a novel focusing on people of color often speaks to some creativity on the part of the author. Lani Forbes’s The Seventh Sun centers on the fictitious Chicome people, whose culture is based on those of indigenous Mesoamericans. While I can’t speak to the Forbes’s historical or cultural accuracy, I can say that I appreciate the change of pace.

For the most part, though, this book is lackluster. The characters are mediocre at best and obnoxiously dull at worst. Mayana struggles with her moral objections to ritual sacrifices, which the religious leaders of the Chicome empire have essentially enshrined as dogma. This powerful internal conflict could have propelled a very interesting narrative had it been paired with a well-constructed character. I don’t despise Mayana – I even connect to her on some level – but she is just kinda bland. Prince Ahkin, the fantastically handsome and high-status love interest, is even emptier. For all of Forbes’s insistence that Ahkin is an intelligent man governed by logic, his behavior doesn’t match her claim. Not only is he apparently prone to tantrum-like outbursts and impetuous behavior, but he also overlooks critical information an alarming number of times, all while sporting the naivety of a child. He literally decides to kill himself immediately after hearing from a captured enemy solider that the sacrifice of his life is what will bring the sun back. He doesn’t bother to even consider this for a day or think about who might have ulterior motives; he just asks the high priest for his opinion and promptly marches off to the pit entrance to Xibalba, the underworld, to stab himself in the gut. The guy is repeatedly played like a fiddle – which is fair to say even if you factor out reasonable trust in the perpetrators. It’s no wonder Ahkin can’t swim: he’s got a head full of rocks. The supporting characters are way more interesting than the main characters. I would much rather hear how Yoli or Zorrah became who they are, or how Yemania has struggled with her father’s mistreatment, or Teniza’s story – a far more intriguing love story than the rushed romance in this book.

The plotlines – both romantic and not – are too foreseeable for my liking. While I enjoy the satisfaction of finding that my inferences are correct, it’s no fun if there’s no challenge to it. I smelled Coatl and Metzi’s game miles away. Maybe I just watch too much Dateline, but when a politically powerful, perfectly healthy man drops dead for no apparent reason, chances are there’s perfidy; who better to execute the crime than the palace healer? And Coatl’s potential motives are quickly elucidated when his sister Yemania arrives in the capital to be a bride/sacrifice and Princess Metzi requests to sit next to Coatl. Once Metzi is introduced, her shady, manipulative behavior promptly singles her out as a suspect. The whole scheme is so transparent that the “big reveal” lacks the wonderful coalescent effect in which the reader sees all of the details that they’ve overlooked crystallizing in one epiphanic moment. Instead, the moment of truth comes as absolutely no shock to anybody who’s been paying attention. Even the battles are unexciting. Honestly, I found the four-way catfight more interesting than the actual skirmish with death-worshippers that Ahkin takes part in.

Neither is Ahkin and Mayana’s romance in any way surprising. It seems crazy that Ahkin and Mayana have fallen madly and irrevocably in love in the course of like six seconds. It’s easy enough to figure out that Ahkin and Mayana end up together, which would be fine – except that the progression of their romance is just as trite and stupid as its beginning. A few tests and couple of illicit makeout sessions later and the deal is sealed: Ahkin and gorgeous, sweet Mayana are meant to be. The bummer is that Forbes could have explored one of a few other romances instead, one of which she herself actually mentions in the book. Instead of focusing on Mayana and Prince Hissyfit the Dumbfuck, Forbes could have written a new version of Stockton’s “The Lady, or the Tiger?” by delving into Teniza’s tragic love story. In my opinion, another more interesting romance would have been Ahkin (if he wasn’t such a mega clotpole) and Yemania, who is the plainest and shyest of the princesses but truly a diamond in the rough. Sadly, she opted for the cliche.

The long and short of it is that a lush jungle setting can’t compensate for a dull plot and equally dreary characters. If you’re a fan of The Bachelor, you’ll probably love this book, since that’s essentially what it is. Otherwise, stay away.

Synopsis and image are from BarnesandNoble.com.

Thank you to Edelweiss+ for the free digital ARC!

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Book Review: The Blue Road

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Synopsis

In this stunning graphic novel, Lacuna is a girl without a family, a past, or a proper home. She lives alone in a swamp made of ink, but with the help of Polaris, a will-o’-the-wisp, she embarks for the fabled Northern Kingdom, where she might find people like her. The only way to get there, though, is to travel the strange and dangerous Blue Road that stretches to the horizon like a mark upon a page. Along the way, Lacuna must overcome trials such as the twisted briars of the Thicket of Tickets and the intractable guard at the Rainbow Border. At the end of her treacherous journey, she reaches a city where memory and vision can be turned against you, in a world of dazzling beauty, divisive magic, and unlikely deliverance. Finally, Lacuna learns that leaving, arriving, returning — they’re all just different words for the same thing: starting all over again.

Review

Thank you to Edelweiss+ for the free digital ARC!

Read: September 2019

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This book definitely feels like it’s written for a younger demographic. Think elementary and middle school kids. But that doesn’t preclude adults from appreciating it – particularly if they’re like me and follow politics.

Art style can really screw up a graphic novel. Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist is one of my all-time favorite series – not just for the plot, but also for the gorgeous yet realistic (for manga, anyway) line art. On the other hand, while I comprehended the purpose of Octavia Butler’s Kindred, my enjoyment of the graphic novel (adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings) was seriously hampered by the art style. De la Noche Milne’s art does not follow the refined, crystalline style you might see in a museum or the starkly inked fashions typical of manga. Her illustrations have a smudgy, myopic quality that meshes with the fable genre of the book. Fables tend to be vague things: their details are minimal. Their audiences are given just enough information to follow the story, with elaborations forgone in the interest of creating concise stories that can be traded easily and often without muddling the central idea. In choosing a style that does not rely on details, de la Noche Milne bolsters the “fable” theme of the tale without making the background seem barren.

Immigration has been a major subject of debate for as long as I can remember. In particular, the firestorm has grown hotter since 2015, when a witless, bigoted motherfucking Oompa Loompa Donald Trump entered the presidential race. Trump and his immigration adviser Stephen Miller have been wreaking havoc upon immigrant families, whether they’ve been long established here in America or come to our border seeking protection and better lives. So many people write off crossing the border legally as “easy”. “Just come to the border like you’re supposed to,” these folks will argue. But even the slightest bit of research unveils a hellscape for people seeking entry into the U.S. – and a continuing looming threat over the heads of those who do gain legal entry.

Compton has clearly kept all of this in mind as he crafted his various allegories for the struggles facing immigrants. Despite their symbolic nature, Lacuna’s trials aren’t difficult to connect to real-world obstacles. The thicket of tickets through which Lacuna must travel represents the bureaucratic nightmare of obtaining the proper documentation to enter the country. The mirrors allude to the constant worry that surrounds temporary statuses and the plight of Dreamers: the so-called “mirror people” must constantly look over their shoulders in order to partake in the world. Perhaps the most poignant allegory is that of the faceless people, who sometimes would escape the regime of the northern kingdom and then bear children who were not faceless themselves but to whom their parents were faceless. This could apply to a number of scenarios, chief among them the tragic tales of forced family separations by the Trump administration and the suffering of the unaccompanied minor.

Don’t think, however, that simply because these ordeals are encapsulated in allegory means that the story is devoid of some harsh elements: In one scene, the border guard quite literally slices a bird in half because it flew across the border. The slaughtering of the bird is depicted on-page, and its corpse is shown lying broken on the blue road. In refusing to shy away from this draconian act, Compton and de la Noche strengthen the narrative of the brutal tribulations endured by the immigrant.

It’s also worth noting that the main character is a woman of color. Opting to portray the main character as a white person might have been the obvious choice to some because -let’s be honest – this story is aimed at folks with anti-immigrant stances, particularly white people, and children who might lack exposure to other cultures and races. Perhaps it would be easier for these particular audiences to identify with a white person, but that kind of pandering would do the real-world component of the story no justice. One aim of The Blue Road is to evoke the audience’s sympathy for Lacuna, even if she does not look like they do. Her skin is brown, she is a young woman, and she’s an immigrant, but Compton and de la Noche impress upon the audience that none of that renders her any less human or less capable than someone who is white, male, and a “natural-born” citizen.

Overall, The Blue Road is a powerful story about a strong young woman who fights against the odds to make a life for herself and ultimately succeeds. The Blue Road is more than just some graphic novel though: It’s life for numerous people. Immigrants might not literally have to drink ink or keep their eyes glued to mirrors at every waking hour, but they are forced to grapple with even worse realities. We can do something about that, though, Compton argues. This book is perhaps his way of encouraging us to take that first step to speak up for immigrants: to both look beyond our border to understand others, and to look within the border to correct the wrongs that persist here.

Synopsis and cover image are from BarnesandNoble.com.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Kaerling

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Synopsis

When Otta and Erl are banished from their village for angering the gods, they embark on a peculiar quest.

Commanded by a wandering god, Otta is obliged to follow the strange, elusive “unicorn’s trail.” Her twin brother, Erl, has lost his memory and is struggling to discover who he is and where he is.

As they travel further from the shelter of the Homestead, the siblings discover unpleasant traits in their personalities. They must learn to adapt and change before they are driven apart.

Who is the wandering god? Just what is the “unicorn’s trail” and where will it lead? What are the kaerlings? And who are the brown-robed travellers that trespass in Otta’s dreams?

Review

Read: Summer 2019

Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

A few months ago, I received an email from Freya Pickard asking me to review the first book of her Kaerling series. I’m ashamed that I didn’t complete this review much sooner, but ya know how life happens and ya get really busy. Anyway, I’m flattered that Ms. Pickard reached out to me to request a review.

In my reviews, I strive to adhere to the policy of honesty, and the honest truth is that I am unimpressed – and often befuddled – by Silver Fire. The story itself could be interesting, but it’s weighted down by a variety of issues. For one thing, the writing is choppy. Not only are the sentences often stilted-sounding; Pickard also has a tendency to throw in details where they aren’t really pertinent. In fact, those randomly placed details don’t shape the setting enough to prevent the reader from feeling like they’re just… watching a flipbook. There isn’t much buildup to plot events, either. Stuff simply happens very suddenly. My biggest beef, however, is with Erl’s amnesia. I get that amnesia is not always a blanket blackout, but I don’t get why Erl remembers one thing but forgets something else even though the thing he forgets is related to the thing he remembers. The best example: His concept of human decency is intact enough for him to sympathize with an ethnic minority and defend their right to live in their native land, but not enough for him to remember that attempting to rape anyone – especially the girl who insists that she is his twin sister – is a mega no-no. His priorities when he apologizes to her later are completely out of whack too. “This incest thing seems important to you so I’ll stop” doesn’t strike me as the first thing someone who has committed sexual assault against their sibling should say to said sibling; what they should say is more along the lines of “oh my god, I’m sorry I tried to rape you and I understand this not-being-raped thing is important to every human being so I’ll stop”. This whole incest/sexual assault ordeal adds nothing to the plot of the story; instead, it serves as just a giant what-the-fuck dead-end subplot. 

What I can say for Silver Fire is that I wasn’t bored while reading it. Whether that was because of the fast-paced plot, sheer curiosity, or the potential of the story itself, I really couldn’t tell you. Maybe it was all of the above. In any case, I’ll probably try reading the next installment of The Kaerling, just for kicks. 

Image and synopsis are from BarnesandNoble.com.

Book Review: The Storm Crow

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Synopsis

In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.

That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

Review

Read: July 2019

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It’s difficult not to have high hopes for a book with such a breathtaking cover and such a propitious premise. When my expectations are so lofty, the disappointment when a book fails to meet them is all the more disheartening. 

That’s not to say there’s nothing to like about Kalyn Josephson’s debut novel. For her story, she has clearly crafted a colorful setting with rich backgrounds. At the end of her novel, Josephson even provides two brief appendices: one summarizing the culture, politics, and economics of each country; the other covering information on the magical crows of Rhodaire. I’m an incurable sucker for this kind of stuff because it indicates that the author really exerted a considerable amount of effort creating their setting and that they bothered to think outside the box. So those of you who enjoy lore-laden worlds might appreciate this. 

Josephson also writes a diverse cast of characters in terms of race and sexuality. Anthia, the protagonist, is heterosexual and brown-skinned. Her sister, Queen Caliza, shares her skin tone but is bisexual (or pansexual, perhaps?) and is wed to the black prince of Trendell, Kuren. Thia’s best friend, Sakiva, is hella pale and hella lesbian, and her romance with Auma, a young Asiatic woman who happens to be a Jin rebel spy posing as a servant in Sordell’s palace, is a prominent subplot. It’s even implied that Thia’s mother is also LGBTQ, and the same-sex partners of a few other characters are referenced. Through Thia, Josephson tackles another aspect of diversity: mental health. If the idea is reminding depression sufferers that they are not alone, two facets of solidarity need to be addressed. Representation is easy enough to pick out, particularly with Josephson’s wise use of first-person narration. A significant portion of the story focuses on Thia’s healing process as she grapples with debilitating depression, a psychological wound stemming from the attack on Negnoch. Although Thia faces some stumbling blocks as the story progresses, she eventually finds the strength to get back on her feet. Knowing that other people wrestle with mental health is a step, but it’s also vital that people feel that they can connect with and rely upon others. Just as important as Thia’s struggle is Kiva’s support. Stalwartly loyal and empathetic, Kiva is the kind of friend that everyone should have. Instead of withdrawing from Thia when she needs her most, Kiva stays by her side, a reminder that friends will not abandon you because of a mental health struggle.

The shortfalls of The Storm Crow truly diminish what could have been a mighty story. In stark contrast to the in-depth world-building, the plot itself sports a detail deficit. For instance, Thia concocts an acid to dissolve an iron lock on a door guarding a room full of crow eggs. There’s no real description of Thia learning how to do this beyond “I decided to help Caylus make this random acid and put on some leather gloves”. Hell, neither the acid nor the ingredients are even given names. Although this might seem like a petty complaint, the use of this acid is rather important to the plot, and it strikes me as lazy to not put more effort into the setup of the plot device. The detail void sucks away the story’s life even as the plot moves forward unhindered by description. The result is a pace that is simultaneously sluggish and rushed. 

Character arcs too suffer when details are scant. Fewer details often mean fewer opportunities to explore characters thoroughly without resorting to infodumps. For some characters, Josephson executes arcs quite well. Ericen and Razel both have strong storylines: Razel’s background, discussed in several conversations, elucidates her motives for her cruelty; Ericen’s actions throughout the book illustrate a conflicted character with a desire to do the right thing. Other characters’ stories are not so skillfully carried out. Caylus in particular stands out as an example of this. The concept of him is adorable, but despite his devastating backstory, he’s still rather flat. Interactions involving him divulge something new about him much less often than they reveal nothing about him. Auma’s arc is hurried and thus has a shallow sort of feel to it; however, I grant more leniency in this case as Auma is meant to be mysterious and Josephson would be unlikely to show much of her hand in the first book of a series for such a character. 

The Storm Crow isn’t a bad book. It’s no masterpiece either. It certainly isn’t good enough for me to want to read it again, nor is it disappointing enough for me to not read the next installment of the series. I mean, come on, there’s an embattled prince whose fate I need to follow and a gazillion crow eggs that need to be rescued. There’s no way I can’t at least try the next book.

Image and synopsis are from BarnesandNoble.com.

Flash Review: Two Dark Reigns

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Read: April 2019

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

*Spoiler alert!*

This series gets better with each book.

This installment of Three Dark Crowns really highlights the amazing character arcs Blake writes. Arsinoe is as strong-willed as ever, much to the annoyance of her mainland host (boyfriend Billy’s mother), and once again that obstinate determination propels Arsinoe’s storyline. This time she’s headed back to Fennbirn, with a series of mysterious dreams as her sole lead. Mirabella and Billy love her too much to just let her do that on her own, though, so they’re coming whether she likes it or not. Meanwhile, Katharine is finally regaining some of her own personality, but the dead queens still lurk beneath her skin and stir up trouble. When the mist that enshrouds the island turns on the people of Fennbirn, Pietyr can only deduce that the dead queens are to blame. Fearing for the safeties of both Kat and the island, Pietyr steps well outside of his comfort zone to find a solution. All this occurs against the backdrop of an incipient yet powerful insurgency gaining steam throughout the island – an insurgency centered around Jules Milone, the Legion Queen, who is still trying to come to terms with her dual gifts and the yoke of leadership that’s being foisted upon her.

A number of times throughout this book I found myself beginning to like a character that I was once mostly indifferent to or previously hated. Mirabella started out as just “okay” in Three Dark Crowns because I viewed her as a sap and a source of drama. By this point, however, she has more than proven herself to be a strong young woman and probably one of the nicest and most loyal people in the series. Her friend Bree Westwood has evolved from superficially boy-crazy rich girl to burgeoning politician who definitely knows how to drive a bargain. And while Pietyr started out as an unctuous asshole, he’s shown that he truly loves Kat and wants what’s best for her, and that like his aunt Natalia, he possesses a great deal of political finesse. Multiple times he endangers himself for Kat’s well-being, even though that eventually costs him his life. By the end of Two Dark Reigns, even Madrigal had grown on me. As she tries to make amends with those she has wronged, Madrigal demonstrates that she’s not just a shallow, vain woman, that she actually has a heart. It’s quite fitting that Pietyr turns to Madrigal for aid in exorcising the dead queens from Katharine, because like Pietyr, Madrigal pays for her love with her own blood. In the end, she really steps up to her chance to shine as a mother, even if she’s not a maternal person.

Although the book is slow at times, most events are interesting enough to compensate for any dragging of the pace. Even though much of Two Dark Reigns centers on Jules’s rebellion, the action isn’t so much physical combat as it is traveling, discovery, and emotional development; the biggest enemy in this book – the mist – isn’t something that can simply be chopped, punched, or poisoned away. Like Game of Thrones, the conflicts that arise in the Three Dark Crowns series are often better solved via political or intellectual means as opposed to brute force – something I absolutely love. The twist at the end of the book is completely shocking, and I was not prepared to hear that Mirabella has to die to save Fennbirn from the mist. I’m really hoping that clever Arsinoe finds a way to save both Mirabella and Jules, but how often do we readers actually have wishes like that granted?

I’ll be preordering Five Dark Fates for sure. September can’t come soon enough!

Book Review: The Living God

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The Blurb

Saran and Keiler are elemental mages bound by love and sorcery: one destined to rule a kingdom, the other to destroy it. Five years ago, Saran reached into Keleir Ahriman’s heart and imprisoned the demon within him, tying her soul to his. Together, they’ve conspired against Saran’s father—a fanatical king who worships that world-ending demon inside Keleir, a being known as the Vel d’Ekaru. When Saran risks everything to save a village of innocent people, the king rips her magic away, splintering the wall she built around Keleir’s heart. Powerless and desperate, Saran struggles to see her rebellion finished and stop Keleir from becoming the Vel d’Ekaru – the Living God.

In a world that is equal parts magic and political intrigue, heroine and hero must now battle their way back to each other if they are to overcome their doomed destinies.

Review

Read: April 2019

Rating: 1 star out of 5

*Thank you to NetGalley for the free digital ARC!*

I probably should have known this book would be awful just by the first sentence of the blurb. Instead, I tried to be optimistic. Sometimes, hoping for the best pays off, but this time I was just disappointed. The Living God is just another book to add to my “Did Not Finish” shelf on Goodreads.

Chief amongst this book’s problems are its sucky characters. Saran is a gorgeous Time Mage who is engaged in a supposedly consequential rebellion against her father, the despotic yet sickly King Yarin D’Mor of Adrid. While Saran is strong-willed, just being involved in a rebellion against her dad isn’t enough to convince me she’s a badass. Her lover, Keleir Ahriman, is a Fire Mage who is esteemed by King Yarin. Since birth, Keleir hosted a demon called the Oruke, which is apparently also called the Vel d’Ekaru. Prior to the demon’s containtment – courtesy of the lovely Saran – Keleir committed terrible things with the demon. As a result, he bears the heavy yoke of guilt, and that makes him broody to an obnoxious extent. Between the fire affinity, the tenebrific disposition, and the stupid overprotective shit he does, he’s basically the bastard child of Edward Cullen and a garbage version of Prince Zuko. Rowe Blackwell is Keleir’s less interesting brother who somehow escaped the curse of the Oruke, despite the fact that Keleir was born with the curse. How this happened is unclear to me – either because the author never explains it or because I gave up before she did. And finally there’s Odan Marki. A commander or some shit in the Adridian army, he serves as the sexual predator antagonist who makes completely inappropriate advances on Saran, such as skulking around on her balcony to peep at her through the windows or attempting to extort her into sex. In contrast to Saran’s Fire Mage lover, Marki is an Ice Mage. Because that’s not at all cliché.

The beginning of the book is decent: It opens with an action-packed scene playing out in reverse as Time Mage Saran – who also happens to be the princess of Adrid – uses her powers to save a village of innocent people from slaughter at the hands of her father’s army. But an adequate start does little for a book if it’s the high point. By page forty-five, I thought of sloughing through all three hundred sixty-eight ass-damned pages with the consternation I usually reserve for large homework projects. The excitement of the opening scene fizzles out by Chapter Two, and it doesn’t return. Despite the rebellion’s status as a purportedly high-stakes conspiracy, nothing interesting really happens with it. In the portion I read, the most intriguing thing that happens involving it is Odan Marki discovering a rebellion-related letter in Saran’s room and then using it in an attempt to coerce Saran into fucking him. Yuck. I find it problematic that the attempted sexual assault is one of the more riveting (albeit one of the most horrific) points of the book. That’s just a low bar to set on so many levels. And all the fascinating potential of time/dimensional travel is wasted when Platt spends an entire fucking chapter on Saran and Keleir just… riding carnival rides. Yeah.

Platt’s writing is long-winded, but not in the charming way that J.R.R. Tolkien’s is. While Tolkien actually establishes his characters and universe in his monologues, Platt does not. Instead all I get out of her ramblings are tidbits about what color the curtains are. The details you do get are the details you do not care about or want to know at all. Consider, for instance, this sentence: “The full dining hall had long tables with men and women seated at them, eating the morning meal.” This detail is not presented in a manner that fleshes out the scene of a story; it’s just thrown in and sits awkwardly in the paragraph. If there is anything I want to know about the story, it’s nothing to do with the dining hall. I’d much rather know the name of this demon inhabiting Keleir – something that isn’t mentioned until well past where I called it quits. Then there’s this bit:

The wrestling ended with Saran mounted atop him, riding along a wave of ecstasy, while Keleir withered beneath her. He sought handfuls of flesh, and his mouth traced wet lines across her chest.”

Um, ew. Do I want to break this down? Of course I do. First off, if a lover ever told me that he wanted to grab “handfuls of flesh”, I’d immediately dump him and promptly alert the FBI of a potential serial killer. Also, don’t just say stuff like “his mouth traced wet lines across her chest” and then say pretty much nothing else before the simultaneous orgasms. That information floating on its own is plain gross. And is Keleir’s “withering” a recurring problem? Are you telling me that these people can contain parasitic world-eating horrors and travel between dimensions but can’t treat erectile dysfunction?

Just save yourselves some time and boredom, folks. Don’t read it. Just don’t.

Cover image and blurb are from BarnesandNoble.com.

Book Review: Blackbird, Volume 1

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The Blurb

Nina Rodriguez knows there’s a hidden magical world run by ruthless cabals hiding in Los Angeles. And when a giant magic beast kidnaps her sister, Nina must confront her past (and her demons) to get her sister back and reclaim her life. Perfect for fans of SYFY’s The Magicians, CW’s Riverdale, and THE
WICKED + THE DIVINE
, don’t miss the first collection of the smash-hit neo-noir fantasy series from fan-favorite writer SAM HUMPHRIES (Harley
Quinn, Nightwing) and red-hot artist JEN BARTEL (Black Panther, Mighty
Thor)!

Review

Read: April 2019

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

*Thank you to Edelweiss+ for the free digital ARC!*

*Spoiler warning!*

It’s worth noting that this is an ARC in the sense that it’s not yet been released in this bind-up format. (The content of Blackbird, Volume 1 has already been released.) Still, this is my first time reviewing a graphic novel ARC, so it’s nevertheless a cool experience. Blackbird isn’t the best graphic novel I’ve read (I’m trash, the ATLA graphic novels hold a special place in my heart), but it’s certainly enjoyable.

Art style heavily influences my opinions of graphic novels. Earlier this year I read a graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred, and although I understood the purpose of the story, the art style prevented me from truly appreciating it. Blackbird circumvents that problem with its skillfully rendered art. Its art isn’t just not so terrible or weird that it detracts from the storyline; it’s actually good. If I’d known who the artist was before I read this, my expectations would have been higher and I’d have been moderately less surprised by the quality of the illustrations. Best of all, the illustrations are in color – something that, after reading black-and-white manga for so long, I didn’t realize I missed until I started reading Blackbird.

Blackbird chronicles the adventures of some interesting characters. I’m a sucker for cats, so I of course adore Sharpie and care about him more than any of the human or Paragon characters. Clint is pretty much the stereotypical flirt with a golden heart and a scheming father. I’m curious to see how he’ll decide to play his cards in the next installment. Despite her tendency to be a little petulant, Nina is nonetheless portrayed as a complex character with a pregnant development arc. As she grapples with poverty, addiction to painkillers, and a broken family, Nina sets off on a journey to seize back control of her life as much as to rescue her sister, Marisa, with whom she has a complicated relationship. If I’m being honest, Nina’s character arc intrigues me more than any aspect of the Paragon world – excepting Sharpie, obviously.

The world the authors have constructed is fluorescently dazzling, but on some level it feels shallow. Occasionally it felt like they skimped on important events, causing those events to feel anticlimactic. Even when details are plentiful, the solutions to problems are often too simple given the storyline and what is known about the universe. In particular, Nina’s initiation as a Paragon is way too… comfortable, considering the horrific deaths that most of the other Paragons had to undergo. I mean, yeah, she was already sort of initiated partially after she died in the earthquake, but still, her full initiation is, perhaps fortunately dull.

All in all, Blackbird is an amusing read, even if it sometimes errs on the side of superficial. If you’re into urban fantasy like Shadowhunters, this might be a good graphic novel to try.

Cover image and blurb are from BarnesandNoble.com.