A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand.
Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…
Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.
But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.
Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.
I don’t pick up YA contemporary as often as I pick up other genre’s— this year I’ve read a lot of it though, and The How and the Why has been one of the high points throughout that journey.
The How and the Why by Cynthia hand is, at its heart, a story about love, family, and hope. I loved so many things about this book.
First and foremost, this is an emotional book in the best of ways. I am an emotional reader, I tend to read with my heart first and this book took that and tugged me along by the heartstrings again and again. The way Hand writes emotion is also notable too, she does such a good job of writing about the way something feels. Unlike many others who fall into familiar metaphor, I felt the characters emotions because the description was subtle but so accurate and insightful. I felt for these characters, I felt with these characters.
This book also uses alternating storylines that are set in different times, which I thought was a masterful decision for this book. One timeline follows our main character, Cass, as she struggles through her Senior Year in High School, and the other follows Cass’ birth mother while she was pregnant, writing a series of letters to her daughter. The effect was compelling, kept me reading long into the night, and brought on laughs and tears alike.
Lastly, I really liked the characters in this book. They felt real and whole, lived in and alive, and so relatable. Cass herself is a theatre kid at her High School, which I loved. I was also a theatre kid, and all the funny and relatable experiences she goes through, as both a student and theatre nerd, brought me back to all those years of being a theatre nerd myself.
The How and the Why was beautiful, relatable, endlessly readable, and heartbreaking in the best of ways. If you read with your heart and love to love the characters on the page, do yourself a favor and don’t miss this wholehearted, authentic little gem of a debut.
Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for teens, including the UNEARTHLY trilogy, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, MY LADY JANE and MY PLAIN JANE (with fellow authors Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows), THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE, and the upcoming novels THE HOW AND THE WHY and MY CALAMITY JANE (also with Ashton and Meadows). Before turning to writing for young adults, she studied literary fiction and earned both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. in fiction writing. She currently resides in Boise, Idaho, with her husband, two cats, one crazy dog, two kids, and mountain of books.
Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn’t listen…
Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons.
Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.
But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.
When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.
A.M. Strickland’s imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai’s own soul, but the entire kingdom…
Are you kidding? A spooky, LGBTQ+, fantasy read that just happens to fall in the spoooooky month of October? I was SO in.
Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland was a fun read. It was dark and moody, gothic and spooky, fantastic and magical, and just complex enough to keep me reading all the way until the end. More than anything about this book, I was just– interested: to see how it ended, to see what happened next, to see what would happen to Kamai in the end.
The magic in this system is completely new and original, which I loved. The concept of “soul walkers” was wild and a little esoteric, but what I found so wonderful about this book was the way that the system and the explanations of this form of magic were written so well. Her concepts are complex, but the way Strickland writes about them was accessible, relatable, and dare I say- magical.
I loved the representation in this book most of all, I was so excited to see a book (especially a fantasy book) lean into a character who falls into the Aromantic/Asexual spectrum. Especially given that the character, internally, struggles with these feelings and perspectives, which I found wholly and utterly relatable. This book uses many metaphors to show how asexuality is a grey area where many people fall along a wide spectrum. I loved the use of moon phases, which also tied into the magic in this story, to examine gender identity and the character’s conflicts with sex and her work.
I rooted for Kamai throughout this book. I wanted her to succeed and find what she was looking for, even when things became murky and it looked like that might be unlikely. Kamai is impulsive, flawed, stubborn, and has her own internal conflicts aplenty, but all of this combines to make a immensely human character inside an already fantastical world.
I hesitate to talk too much about to romance or “romance,” depending on your POV, because I don’t want to give anything away. Needless to say, it was refreshing to see a dark, villainous love interest actually— you know, stay dark and villainous. So often in YA novels, when an author is trying to write an abusive or manipulative or dark romantic plot like, these edges can be somewhat rounded off and instead we get a villain that is sympathetic and understandable. I enjoyed the fact that this was not the point of the romance in Beyond the Black Door. The fact that this relationship in the book is unhealthy, manipulative, and dangerous is never argued, ignored, or glossed over. I am always so grateful when an author can acknowledge these dark truths, especially in a romantic plot line, because as much as we enjoy these stories, it also reminds us that this is not how romance ‘should’ be.
I will say one thing: I want more. I have so many questions left and I go back and forth over whether or not that’s a great thing or a frustrating thing. I just want to know more. So here’s hoping!
Overall, this was a strong debut for Strickland into the crowded field of YA and I will be keeping my eye out for what comes next from this author.
Check it out for yourselves and I hope you enjoy!
AdriAnne Strickland was a bibliophile who wanted to be an author before she knew what either of those words meant. She shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, her pugs, and her piles and piles of books. She loves traveling, dancing, vests, tattoos, and every shade of teal in existence, but especially the darker ones. She is the coauthor of SHADOW RUN and SHADOW CALL (Delacorte/Penguin Random House) and author of the forthcoming BEYOND THE BLACK DOOR (Imprint/Macmillan).
Hey all! I am so excited to share with you my stop on the Angel Mage Tour. I’ve got some creative content for you, a review of this awesome new book, and a giveaway down at the bottom! Hope you enjoy. x
“More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.
A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.
But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.
The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .”
When I heard that Garth Nix was releasing another book, I was SO excited. Then even more excited when I earned an advanced copy and a spot on this tour!
If you don’t know this about me, I used to read Nix’s Old Kingdom series when I was younger and it was one that I consistently went back to as I grew up. Starting with Sabriel, the Old Kingdom series was like quicksand for me, it sucked me in and never let me out again. But the wonderful thing about the way Nix writes is that it seemed to almost age with me: I noticed new things, I understood the relationships and complex world even better, it was a whole new experience.
Suffice to say, because of all this, I had high expectations for Angel Mage. After all, this is the same world as the Old Kingdom series…only 100 years later. If you’re familiar with the Old Kingdom series, you’ll recognize and enjoy callbacks and references to parts of the world you remember. But the real joy of the way Nix has written this book is that it can also stand alone. You don’t need any credentials to pick up and enjoy this book, aside from wanting to.
And Angel Mage starts off with a bang. Nix throws us into this insane world without warning and with plenty of action. Given that Nix has a writing style that not everyone finds easy to read, I was pleasantly surprised by how fast-paced, action-packed, and tight this book really was. The plot moves quickly and I found myself waiting, on the edge of my seat many times, just to find out what was going to happen next.
It wouldn’t be possible to talk about a Garth Nix book without pointing out what a beautiful job he does with the world-building and mythology in his work. The World of Angel Mage is so full of fascinating things to latch onto, question, and wonder about. The magical and ‘religious’ and/or angelic pantheon system that Nix has created in this story is immense and complex and so unique. I’ve yet to read anything else like it and it was one of my favorite parts of the book, figuring out how this fascinating new system of fantasy worked.
Another thing Nix always delivers well is a solid, character-driven story. Despite the plot moving full speed ahead, the characters that we travel with throughout this story have not been forgotten about in the least. I loved to hate the main character in the weirdest way: I empathized with her, felt so deeply for her, and also constantly wanted to shake her by the shoulders. Her drive and stubbornness are such a deep part of her character and mission that she felt alive.
Even Angel Mage’s side characters, of which there are four of note, are all unique and full and tangible. I felt their friendship for each other, which is another feat I appreciate so much in books, it felt so real. Their complex histories and personal drives were all so rich and woven into the story so as to dangerously intertwine at just the right moment.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Angel Mage was gripping, character-driven, quick, and wonderfully magical. Once you ease into the style of Nix’s writing, the world is immersive and beautifully written and I think anyone, adult or young adult, who enjoys fantasy might enjoy this too.
Sound interesting? I thought so! In fact I LOVE a good book that can take something so big and vast and complex as the topics of Angels and Gods and turn it into something fresh, original, and new.
Here are a few more of my favorite books that delight in showing off the most original facets of the Divine:
This might be my favorite take on angels today. (Yes, its also my favorite series, so I am biased, but still.) I hesitate to say too much here, for the simple fact that you might be reading this series and not have gotten to and/or realized the bigger picture of this bizarre and fascinating urban fantasy world. If not, you are in luck; there are huge, shocking, wonderful, horrible twists ahead for you. Butcher uses a myriad of references and entities to weave a bigger story into his narrative and it continues to blow me away. If you like your Angels and Demons smart, subtle, and truly old-as-time, this is the series for you. (Adult, Urban Fantasy)
Is there another book that uses gods and angels and higher beings so creatively? I’m not sure. American Gods is a big, wandering, complex book that is a wild ride to read, I’ve enjoyed it many times. What I love most about it though is how it uses America, a country that’s (ideally) known for being a ‘melting pot’ of different beliefs and cultures, to show a new side to how that might affect those gods being believed in. What happens to a god when their worshippers are driven from their homes and have to find a new way of life? What happens to a god when their people have to assimilate into a new culture? What happens to a god when they are forgotten about? There are so many questions, and so many more, that American Gods both answers and poses, but if these questions interest you then the book will too. If you like your Angels and Demons a little bit gritty, jaded, and all varieties of pissed off, this might be the book for you. (Adult, Urban Fantasy)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Gaiman made this list twice. But given that these two list entries could not be more different from each other, I’m going to say its a fair count. Good Omens is the antithesis of American Gods in many ways, but also it’s just…its own wonderful thing. Good Omens is funny and irreverent, smart and clever, and full of Gaiman’s trademark profundity and Pratchett’s beloved sense of humor. The two of them come together to create something that is, all at once, a thriller, a coming of age story, a cosmic battle between good and evil, and also just a story of a boy and his dog. This book is hilarious, beautiful, sad, and sweet, and most of all, just a great time. If you like your Angels and Demons to be equal turns snarky and adorable, human-loving and rule-breaking, really into their organizations and maybe a little bit in love with each other too- this book is for you. (Adult, Fantasy)
I didn’t expect this series to have anything at all to do with gods or angels or the like, but Megan Whalen Turner has a way of surprising me in everything she does. While these books center on political and royal intrigues for the most part, the reader can’t deny that a bigger picture starts forming early on. The main character, Eugenidies, doesn’t want the gods’ attention and didn’t ask for it, but he seems to have it. Between being sent dreams, his fate being turned at a whim, and even direct contact, Eugenidies can’t ignore the very real truth that the gods want something with him. And they want something bigger, too. As each book builds on itself and his life changes in ways he couldn’t imagine, the picture starts to become clearer and so many things hinge on his trust in his gods. If you like your Angels and Demons subtle but direct, amused, and willing to change a person’s fate to meet their own ends, this may be the series for you. (MG/YA, Fantasy)
Tamora Pierce has been a beloved author of mine since I was young, and I’ve read all her books. She’s written multiple series, but all of them fall into one of two worlds: Tortall or Emelan, named after the countries these stories spend the most time in. Each of these series are different, with different protagonists, struggles, and even magical and religious systems across the two worlds. There is so much variety in the way the people in these worlds worship, which gods they worship, and especially how magic factors into it all. In one world Pierce paints her gods as distant but accessible, benevolent. They exist but on a more practical, worldly level that each character can turn over and decide how it makes them feel. It feels fresh and honest and magically fascinating, and if that sounds like something you’d like be sure to check out her books in Emelan. In Tortall, the gods may feel distant for some but they are ever so very, very present. If you like your gods and angels and spiritual entities meddling and emotional, personal and relational, and potentially able to visit, that might be the series for you instead. Pierce has so much to offer in this arena.
This series is relatively new; its a trilogy but only two of the books have been published so far, Furyborn and Kingsbane. I enjoyed them both. The most fascinating part for me, in both of them, was the way that Legrand writes this world: magic and religion and angels and science all wrapped up together into one complex thread that cannot be unraveled. If you like your Angels and gods to span centuries and stories, to do whatever it takes to complete their mission, this might be the series for you.
All of the books from Tolkien’s Middle-Earth
Oh, Tolkien. How could I not include Tolkien? I don’t know about you but I am a huge fan of Middle-Earth and all of its stories. Tolkien’s work may be dense, but what makes up for it, especially when it comes to angels, demons and gods, is the immense amount of culture and world-building that he manages to fit into every story. Tolkien’s world has gods and beliefs and cultures that go back so far into the history of Middle-Earth that most people on real Earth don’t know the half of it. If you like your Angels and Demons to be distant, more mythological than personable, more story than entity, this is the right world for you. There are so many facets to explore.
I had so much fun reading Angel Mage and honestly I had so much fun making this list. I could ramble on here about more ideas for the rest of the day, but I hope I’ve at least given you some new titles to check out for your next divine read. What a wild world it is.
Garth Nix has been a full-time writer since 2001, but has also worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve.
Garth’s books include the Old Kingdom fantasy series, comprising Sabriel, Lirael; Abhorsen; Clariel and Goldenhand; SF novels Shade’s Children and A Confusion of Princes; and a Regency romance with magic, Newt’s Emerald. His novels for children include The Ragwitch; the six books of The Seventh Tower sequence; The Keys to the Kingdom series and others. He has co-written several books with Sean Williams, including the Troubletwisters series; Spirit Animals Book Three: Blood Ties; Have Sword, Will Travel; and the forthcoming sequel Let Sleeping Dragons Lie. A contributor to many anthologies and magazines, Garth’s selected short fiction has been collected in Across the Wall and To Hold the Bridge.
More than five million copies of his books have been sold around the world, they have appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today and his work has been translated into 42 languages. His most recent book is Frogkisser! now being developed as a film by Twentieth Century Fox/Blue Sky Animation.
When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.
What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.
Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.
It was everything.
She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.
If you know me, you know that I really enjoy Ruth Ware. I’ve read all of her books but one (The Woman in Cabin 10) and have enjoyed all of them; some of them I’ve enjoyed a LOT. So I was highly anticipating this Summer release date for The Turn of the Key. After finally getting my hands on this one, I can happily report that I’m not disappointed.
The Turn of the Key is pretty much everything I wanted from Ware. It is atmospheric, thrilling, creepy, and completely sucked me in from the first chapter.
One aspect I really enjoyed in this novel was the constant wondering WHAT the threat in this book actually was: Supernatural? Mundane? Psychological? I loved bouncing back and forth between theories for the majority of this book and, though the ending still left me with a lot of questions, I genuinely had a lot of fun throughout the roller coaster that was this story.
My favorite thing about this book was how hard it was to listen to in the dark. I don’t get creeped out easily but just imagining that “creeeeeak” that she writes so well coming from the floor above her bed, I began to hear and think about it when I was laying in bed myself. This book was eerie and continually compelling because of that fact. Turn of the Key manages to keep the urgency of a thriller while still creating the slow, deeper dread that a horror novel usually produces.
One thing I’ve always appreciated about Ware’s characters is that they are not detectives or police or even “crime-solving citizens” they’re just women. Women who respond to these mysterious and scary moments with relatable fear, confusion, and just trying their damndest to figure out what they’ve gotten themselves into. I relate to that, especially in the types of mysteries that Ware tells, tangled in the further complicating factors of love and family and work. Aside from a few twists and revelations, this book was no different. Though I wanted to throw Rowan across the room for many of her choices, Ware is great at wrapping the fog of “what is right and true” tightly around her story and her character’s actions, forcing us to also ask the same of ourselves.
I also enjoyed the format and style of this book; I love a good first person narrative. Turn of the Key begins with a letter from Rowan to an unnamed attorney, and the anticipatory dread this created added to the urgency throughout the book. It reminded me a little of the book Alias Grace, where you’re left to decide so much for yourself about what’s actually happened in the story.
The only thing I might have changed is the ending. While it was a shocking and interesting twist, I still have so many burning questions now that the book is over! I feel like there were certain threads throughout the story that got lost in the final pages. I still didn’t see that twist coming, so I consider this a semi-win. I’d love to hear your opinions on this ending if you’ve read it yourself!
Overall, Turn of the Key was a creepy, pulse-pounding thriller that I sped through in a day and I would do it all again. I just had fun reading this book and continuing to find out what happened at every turn. Despite its small plot holes, I still enjoyed this new addition to Ware’s body of work. I hope that you do too!
From the author of When Elephants Fly comes an exceptional new novel about falling down, risking everything and embracing what makes us unique. Don’t miss this compulsively readable novel about the most unlikely of heroes.
Danger “Danny” Danielle Warren is no stranger to falling. After losing an eye in a childhood accident, she had to relearn her perception of movement and space. Now Danny keeps her head down, studies hard, and works to fulfill everyone else’s needs. She’s certain that her mom’s bitterness and her TV star father’s absence are her fault. If only she were more-more athletic, charismatic, attractive-life would be perfect.
When her dad calls with an offer to join him to film the next episode of his popular survivalist show, Danny jumps at the chance to prove she’s not the disappointment he left behind. Being on set with the hottest teen movie idol of the moment, Gus Price, should be the cherry on top. But when their small plane crashes in the Amazon, and a terrible secret is revealed, Danny must face the truth about the parent she worships and falling for Gus, and find her own inner strength and worth to light the way home.
The Speed of Falling Objects takes off at light speed and does not slow down even once. This story was swift, well-paced, and a thrilling survival tale of a family doing whatever it takes. I had ups and downs with this story, but overall- a frightening, wild tale. Starting the first page off with a plane crash sure does jump-start a book!
The best thing about this book was the rich, descriptive, immersive world that the author creates in the boundless Amazon Rainforest. What seems like such a beautiful and rich place, full of all kinds of different life forms that continue to flourish, proves to be a much less hospitable place than I imagined. For instance: when so much of what’s around you is poisonous, how do you find anything to eat? I’d never thought about that before.
Fischer has a great writing style that clicked well with me too. Her writing simple, straight-forward, and focused. This made it so easy and effortless to read and I flew through this YA contemporary survival story.
My only struggle was that I profoundly disliked one of the characters, the main character’s father. I’ve read some other reviews that struggled with the same character, which leads me to believe- maybe that was the point? Were we supposed to hate him? I’m not sure but, regardless, he will not win father of the year.
Overall, this was a fast, fun, and crazy ride through the jungle at top speed and I flew through this book. If you like thrilling survival tales, this book might be for you. If you like complex characters that make you feel conflicted, this book would be right up your alley.
Check it out for yourself! This one hits shelves tomorrow.
I’m a published author with children’s, teen and adult titles including: The Golden Globe, Lyric’s World and Promises (Junior Jedi Knights Trilogy) for LucasFilm (Berkeley Press), Feel No Fear, The Power, Passion and Politics of a Life in Gymnastics (Hyperion), Monica: From Fear to Victory (HarperCollins), A Journey: The Autobiography of Apolo Anton Ohno (Simon & Schuster), Nadia Comaneci: Letters to a Young Gymnast (Basic Books), and Winning Every Day with Shannon Miller (Bantam Books).
I’ve written for a circus, a graduate school, tried my hand at waitressing (I was terrible!), baking carrot cakes (I was messy but good!), and been lucky enough to ultimately do what I love – write.
I live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and our mostly wonderful (but sometimes vorpal) Vizsla. When I’m not conjuring a story, I love to kite-board, bike, ski or plan adventures with my two guys, who both make me laugh for different reasons and are the best partners in fun a gal could ever imagine.
If you want to learn more about my latest novel, When Elephants Fly (publication date September 04, HarperCollins/Harlequin Teen), please visit my website!
Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes.
Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm.
Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.
Not one has ever returned.
When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed.
To kill it.
But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known.
That is, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.
From young author Coco Ma comes a dazzling new tale of adventure, power, and betrayal, weaving together a stunning world of magic with a killer cast in an explosive, unforgettable debut.
Where do I start with Coco Ma’s stunning new fantasy debut, Shadow Frost? Because there is so much to talk about.
Let’s start with my favorite thing about this book: the people in it. Within the first half of this book I had already decided that I would read the rest in the series, simply because I grew so attached to the characters that the story centers around.
Our main character, Asterin, Princess of Axaria, could so easily have fallen into the “Mary Sue” or “Chosen Princess” stereotypical character role and not been much else. But Asterin is no pushover Princess who’s going to follow the “rules” of whatever this “genre” thing is. Her world is complicated, dangerous and dark and she has no time to be anyone but herself. Asterin is fierce, headstrong, and more than anything else- relatable. Flawed and imperfect, all she wants is to live up to her mother’s legacy and be the Queen her people deserve. Like most of us though, she doesn’t know exactly how to do that and makes choices and mistakes that lead her down a winding and completely unforeseen journey instead. This felt so true to life for me, watching Asterin try and find her footing amidst so much uncertainty and danger and, of course, dark magic.
The supporting cast are nothing to scoff at either. If you’re a fan of characters that make you feel so soft you want to just scoop them up and put them safely away in your pocket, Shadow Frost has got you covered. I was so worried for these sweet lil cinnamon buns!! From down-to-earth, to dark and brooding, to refreshingly frank, there is no aspect of personality left unexplored in these characters and I enjoyed that immensely. The banter and the way they play to each other’s strength and weaknesses was so well blended in with the story that it felt natural, at ease, and so effortlessly compelling.
I was also very pleasantly surprised at how fast-paced and twisty this book was! I wasn’t expecting so many plot twists (which was awesome) or what they ended up being (which was even more awesome), and this happened more than once. It was pure enjoyment to constantly be wondering if the status quo will be maintained or upended once more and because it moves so quickly, it gives the story this feeling as if it’s pulling you along instead of waiting for you to read.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how absolutely astounding it is that Coco Ma wrote the first draft of this novel at age 15. While some of the characters have aspects or make choices that highlight this fact occasionally, I was blown away by the luxurious complexity, intricate world-building, and twisted plot surprises in this book. This was an absolutely impressive read, but more than that- it was pure entertainment.
If you’re looking for a rich new world in a series that is only just beginning, this book is for you. If you’re looking for whole and emotional character building or a magic system with a refreshing breath of new life inside it, this book is for you. If you’re just bored and want to try something new and a little surprising and creative, definitely for you.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. — A
Coco Ma is a Canadian-Chinese author and pianist. She wrote her first novel, Shadow Frost, at the age of 15. Since she began playing the piano at the age of five and a half, she has also performed on some of the world’s greatest concert stages and graduated with a pre-college diploma in piano performance from The Juilliard School in New York City. Currently, she studies at Yale University. When she isn’t practicing piano, writing, or studying, you might find her bingeing Netflix or eating cake. Lots of cake.