Book Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell


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I have spent two weeks with my nose in this book.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a thousand pages long, but its spell extends beyond the pages. Its charm is bolder than its eye-catching cover; this book provides complete immersion in a story I wished would last longer.

It tells of the movement to restore English magic. It’s full of clever political strife, well-written battles, pesky faeries and beautiful forests. Faeries favor the least likely people; those with power and authority often lose faster.

With her magical style, Susanna Clarke takes historical fiction and gives it new depth. She takes England and enchants it with a new system, dynamic characters, and plot twists that creep up to the very end.

If you want a good work of escapism, I recommend this book. It will take some of your time, but I promise you’ll be glad you gave it.

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Book Review: Char by Kristina Wojtaszek


I accepted a review copy of Char, having been told beforehand that it was a good read. I think I expected it to be a good read anyway, because I love stories about faeries. The book did not disappoint me; I was excited to read this book and see what I’d find.

It was an emotionally scarring trip through the land of fae. I could feel dirt under my feet, taste smoke in the air; my heart raced during intense scenes.

The world of Char is one of magic and danger. Luna has embarked on a quest which costs her actual blood—a bit of her pinkie finger. It separates her from all the people she loves most, but she’s determined to follow through. She has a no-nonsense mindset, focusing on the task at hand.

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Char lived up to my expectations in almost every way. However, once I finished reading, I realized the love triangle felt over-emphasized. The interactions between Luna and her love interests were enjoyable—I certainly hopped on one of the ships!

However, I wonder if that emphasis on love was necessary in a story driven by urgency.

Why is Char different from the other faerie books out there? It gives you a sensation of freedom. You are living this journey with Luna, feeling her pain, facing the danger. It’s written so your heart feels like it’s dancing on the pages.

Also, the faerie queen is not perfect. She’s got haunts and regrets so powerful, she often seems like a normal girl. We do not like everything she does, but feel enough sympathy not to judge. It was nice to see her off the pedestal, struggling alongside her people.

Luna’s fate at the end was so harsh, it almost made me sick. It showed how human-like these faeries could be, making decisions based on feelings of fear and betrayal. Events in Char were arranged to shock readers, dropping a bomb.

Char has several traits which make it worth the read:

  • Clever character development. It must take delicate planning to make the faerie queen so vulnerable that readers feel sympathy, despite the darker things she has done.
  • A setting written like artwork. You smell the forest as it’s described, feel grass under your feet. You aren’t turning the pages of a book—you’re living a story!
  • The ending. It has a powerful effect, shattering what was generally a peaceful setting. We are pulled along harmoniously, and the ending shatters our daydream.

In all, Char was a beautiful book that’ll have my mind reeling for a long time. It’s a faery tale you can taste and smell. Give this book a try if you like faeries or are a lover of nature; I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Book Review: Under the Trees by Ashley Maker


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Desperate to prevent an abusive arranged marriage, Princess Araya flees to a neighboring kingdom, only to land at the mercy of the impulsive Crown Prince Thoredmund, who provides refuge in a secluded forest and teaches her survival skills. Her surprise at the unexpected hold the prince has on her heart mirrors his shock at falling for the one girl he can’t have.
As the young couple’s feelings for each other grow, the fragile alliance between the two kingdoms threatens to break apart. With a vengeful duke and an enraged king fast on their trail, Thor and Araya must decide how much they’re willing to risk for love.
Even if staying together means starting a war.

A beautiful fantasy romance, Into the Trees follows Princess Araya’s flight from home in search of freedom.

Araya is escaping an arranged marriage which looms over her like a shadow. Crossing into a neighboring kingdom, what is her luck? She runs into that kingdom’s prince, who has an impulse for helping people in need; hearing her story, Prince Thor swears to get her to freedom—and loses his heart to her on the way.

It’s a quick and charming escape for those who love fantasy worlds, written at a pace to reflect Araya’s urgency. Betrothed to a disgusting man, she would rather abandon her life of luxury and her title than marry him.

However, it’s not that easy. Having been raised a princess, she doesn’t know the first thing about living as a commoner; she can’t start a fire or figure out how people greet each other in a different kingdom.

Small details such as these make incredible worldbuilding. More books ought to pay attention to customs, otherwise cultures sound unrealistically similar. When at times the book got too fast-paced, Maker’s worldbuilding made up for it; she put satisfying thought into the realm she created.

I loved the scenes in the forest! I could almost smell the nature and trees—the river, moisture, flowers. This forest sometimes had more life than the characters wandering it.

Most of this tale takes place in the forest, where great love and panic unfold. Could these trees whisper about what they saw after the story ended? I wouldn’t be surprised, for the environment teemed with magic.

I felt the resolution was rather abrupt, but the ending satisfied me as a reader. Under the Trees is a tale where beauty and magic are balanced with corruption; there’s a charming prince as well as dark characters quick to abuse their power.

Araya wants to escape a grim fate; she’s willing to leave her comfort zone for it. The story sweeps you into her journey, so you experience both giddy love and foreboding fear. I finished this book satisfied that everyone had gotten the ending they deserved.

If only there were more books like this–focusing on the beauty of love in a lively setting, like that place under the trees.

Book Review: Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb


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Ship of Magic sweeps us into a world of pirates and sailors, traders and sea serpents. Don’t let the length of the story frighten you: There’s hardly a dull moment in this novel, the first installment of Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders trilogy.

It’s crafted with so much care, I found it difficult to tell who the villains were—and harder still to dislike them. These characters grow with each plot twist. One of the book’s strengths is characterization. We feel by the end that we’ve gotten to know them personally, even the pirate and the liveships.

The centerpiece detail of the series, liveships are vessels with talking figureheads crafted from wizardwood. They can be unpredictable and difficult to control. Some are wild with unsettled pasts, others are social and love to gossip. These ships are characters, a concept  I found very cool!

Though most of the chapters were gold, I struggled when we switched to the sea serpent’s point of view. Those scenes seemed too out of place, rarely revealing anything. Eventually I started to skim them, something I may regret when I start book two.

Overall it was beautiful, the characters rich with depth—like a pirate who wants to be pirate king, and an abandoned liveship named Paragon. He suffers the way a human would if left in utter solitude.

Ship of Magic will satisfy the reader who longs for adventure at sea. I cannot wait to start the next one.

Introducing The Autumn Prince (Coming October!)


I’m very excited–and extremely proud–to be trying a serial story on October. Here on the blog, I’m going to post a bit of it every weekday; it is a short story called The Autumn Prince, some of which is already written, but some of which I’ll be writing as I go.

I felt like harnessing the magic of Halloween for something different. You see, October is my favorite month; I feel so much power in the air when people are choosing their costumes. I love that buzz that we feel while telling ghost stories, I look forward to going door-to-door for candy.

Here is the premise of The Autumn Prince:

Nameless and lonely, the Autumn Prince reigns over a golden part of the year. He watches leaves fall from the trees, making a carpet of most exquisite beauty. But what he likes best about autumn is Halloween, his only chance to find a princess without being gawked at.

In a race against time with winter approaching, he meets a girl with a brave heart and vivid imagination. If Kelsea agrees to be his princess, she’d only see him for weeks every year. The Prince must decide if it’s worth hurting the girl he loves for a few weeks of companionship.

Should he beg her to stay in a cold, frozen love–or let her walk away?

Each segment I release will be 500-600 words long, the length of a regular blog post. I’ll post from Monday to Friday every week, and Halloween will be the grand finale. This is a long shot–I don’t know how many people will want to check this blog every day for 500 more words–but for the sake of experience, I’m eager to do this.

It’s teaching me to divide segments so they all have a hook, making the reader want to learn more. It’s forcing me to squint at the paragraphs, pretending it’s like a television series where the viewer needs the next episode now.

There won’t be any personal blog posts here on October. I’ve worked hard to schedule the entire month and see what I can do with my writing.

Are you interested in reading The Autumn Prince? 

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Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen


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Even a book can be dangerous in the wrong hands, and when that happens, you blame the hands, but you also read the book.
― Erika Johansen, The Queen of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling is gripping, with beautiful writing and bold characters forming a powerful story.

At nineteen years old, Princess Kelsea already faces battles. Her life leading up to them hasn’t been easy; through each second of her anguish shines a powerful will for someone so young.

She’s been raised strictly in preparation for the throne. It made her childhood one of bitter solitude with cold foster parents who showed little affection. Later in the book we see how this discipline roughened her to be the queen her people needed.

A lover of beautiful sentences, I fell for Johansen’s writing style. Not only did it paint Kelsea’s struggles, it made me fond of the character despite her many flaws.

Some books are written so eloquently that they’ll pull you in for hours. You’ll be floating in a dream, bound by extraordinary prose. I don’t know how to describe Erika Johansen’s writing style, but if the plot and characters had been mediocre, I would have still finished the book because of how it was written.

But the characters weren’t mediocre. The villains had a touch of humanity that made me understand them. The heroes weren’t always likeable, either. It meant each character felt real and alive, regardless to their role.

I read The Queen of the Tearling three months ago. It may be dark and gritty, but I walked away with my mind buzzing, wishing desperately for more. Soon I’ll be getting the second book to immerse myself once more in this world painted with such perfect words.