This steampunk western adventure includes a bevy in a brothel, a lethal sewing machine, and love at first sight. Elizabeth Bear introduces her audience to KAREN MEMORY (actually spelled ‘Memery’), a working girl at the Hôtel Mon Cherie with a penchant for dime novels and a huge heart that gets her into trouble. The ladies of Madame Damnable’s are worth following all on their own, but Bear sweetens the pot with a series of mysterious murders in the vein of Jack the Ripper. The novel’s only misstep is in mild over-plotting, but there’s no denying it’s one hell of an adrenaline ride at the end.
Posts Tagged: 1st person
SUSPICION by Alexandra Monir, is pitched as a modern version of the classic thriller Rebecca, and it definitely creates that vibe, along with a pretty solid mystery, and a dash of The Princess Diaries. Between that and the romance of reconnecting with a first love, this book didn’t need anything else – but it’s ‘urban fantasy,’ and so magic must appear. It’s rare for me to wish a story lacked a supernatural element, but with SUSPICION (a nonsensical title for the novel) enough is happening that the subplot about an ancestor with an unusually green thumb and the inheritance of “Elemental” powers just unbalances the plot.
THE LAST CHANGELING by Chelsea Pitcher is Ordinary People-meets-Maleficent – and if that sounds like a strange combination, that’s because it is. Almost all of the information given in the blurb on the back of the book is actually kept from the reader for more than a hundred pages, and Elora’s motives for attending a human high school are extremely vague. Instead of a faerie war, we mostly get Taylor’s still-fresh grief over losing his younger brother and the torment of his high school. Elora’s ‘otherness’ (not to mention otherworldly beauty) gives Taylor something to focus on aside from his family’s pain, but it’s a long time before the reader gets to know her endgame.
Though the world of SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sara Raasch is a bit uninspired in its construction, Raasch more than makes up for kingdoms named after seasons and capital cities named for misspelled calendar months with Meira and the other refugees of the Kingdom of Winter. An aspiring soldier, desperate to be important to her people and her lost homeland, sixteen-year-old Meira struggles with being kept off the battlefield and forced into a world of political machinations. She’s a pawn, she’s a symbol, she’s a hero – much like THE HUNGER GAMES Katniss, all Meira really knows is that she wants to survive. That, and she’s in love with her best friend, the once and future king.
Mix the short-lived NBC show Awake with the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors, and put the protagonist in high school, and you get ONE PAST MIDNIGHT by Jessica Shirvington. Unlike Jason Isaacs in Awake, however, Sabine has been shifting between two lives for as long as she can remember. Though there’s some confusion early on about the mechanics of Sabine’s double lives, not to mention the unlikely reality of a young girl living in two universes without going mad, Shirvington paints a beautiful portrait of a lonely, desperate girl struggling with a lack of identity. Despite the extraordinary circumstances, the push to meet other people’s expectations at the cost of personal expression is something a lot of adolescents can relate to.
SCORCHED by Erica Hayes: wherein a young woman by the name of Verity Fortune is a telekinetic Batgirl in a city with a rogues’ gallery to rival Gotham’s. Appropriately nicknamed the Gallery – part mafia, part supervillain cabal – its members wage a never-ending war against the ‘augmented’ Fortunes, who run the multinational Fortune Corp by day, and masquerade at night in various superhero guises. It’s Verity who gives this novel its Christopher Nolan-esque grit right from the start, after she escapes an asylum where she was held and tortured for nine months, with a shattered memory and little control over her powers.
TURNING TIDES by Mia Marshall is framed as a locked room murder mystery where the ‘room’ is an isolated island full of water elementals, and the primary suspect in the deadly explosion is the only person present who can control fire. Even though most of the crowd think the answer is obvious, the question of whodunit is paced nicely throughout the novel, and the unmasking of the culprit at the end would do Hercule Poirot proud. By then, however, the book is about much more than a single death, and I expected the punishment to better fit the crime.
Downton Abbey by way of Anne Rice, THE MIDNIGHT WITCH is a touching period romance, set against a backdrop of a dying class system and a secret magical war over the ability to raise the dead. Though the exact purpose of the Lazarus Coven and their sorcerer rivals, the Sentinels, is vague, Brackston does an excellent job of painting Lilith Montgomery’s classic struggle between her duty to her craft and her heart.
Every genre has its pitfalls, its tropes that get repeated all too often. In YA, it’s an overdose of angst and the dreaded insta-love. SOME QUIET PLACE has a premise that not only eliminates even the possibility of those annoyances, but creates a protagonist that is utterly distinct–and all the more compelling for her uniqueness–from any other heroine the genre has produced.
Pure fun. That’s what Natalie Whipple’s TRANSPARENT is. Universal themes regarding identity and independence are explored alongside twisty fun supernatural abilities like flight, the protagonist’s invisibility, and all the way down to seemingly trivial powers like fear induced stink. More series issues arise thanks to Fiona’s crime lord father and ‘jobs’ he literally charms her into carrying out for him.