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review 2019-01-21 17:35
The thrilling sequel to ‘Reign of The Fallen’ takes us back to a very different Karthia; this time foreign invaders, political unrest, and Odessa’s relationship take center-stage
Song of The Dead - Sarah Glenn Marsh

This is the thrilling sequel to ‘REIGN OF THE FALLEN’, a novel that introduces us to Odessa, a necromancer in Karthia, where she has the special magical ability of raising the Dead. She is able to cross into the spirit world called the Deadlands, and she also is a fierce fighter; when monsters called Shades start kidnapping Dead nobility, Princess Valoria has Odessa and her fellow necromancers investigate (including Evander, someone who she loves deeply).

Odessa and her friends do all they can but  it’s not enough to save someone she loves; a Shade rips apart and kills Evander, and Odessa turns to ‘potions’ to cope with her loss.

 

Without revealing ALL details of the book (because you need to be reading THAT NOW before you read ‘Song of The Dead’!), by the end of the novel we have Odessa leaving Karthia aboard The Paradise to pursue Evander’s dream of seeing unknown. So where will the sequel lead us?

 

SONG OF THE DEAD

 

With Karthia behind them, Odessa and Meredy are aboard Kasmira’s ship The Paradise, ready to discover new lands and bring word back to Queen Valoria about the new world. They discover a friendly land, Sarral, where people keep dragons, and the Dead only come out at night, and before they get a chance to get settled, news of unrest back in Karthia has them back on their ship sailing for home, their long trip cut short.

Instead of the threats of the past, open borders  means the threat of foreign invaders, on top of political unrest, and Valoria is hoping that one of her mages can create a new weapon good enough to fight it all now that the Dead can’t help them win this battle.

 

While ‘Reign of the Fallen’ was filled with monstrous death and loss on account of the bloodthirsty Shades, giving the book a very dark tone, ‘Song of the Dead’ begins with a feeling of hope despite all that the Karthians have gone through. 

The beginning ocean voyage initially made me feel as though Odessa and the crew were going to be gone long from the difficulties of their homeland, and I was worried that things had got too easy for them (!), but the adventure of this book, while quite a departure from ROTF, quickly takes off. The book actually goes through several different ‘phases’, with the ocean voyage, the time in Sarral, the return back to Karthia, and because of the vivid world-building, you will be easily carried through them, experiencing all the different chapters and introducing new characters along the way.  

 

There is a lot of internal drama due to the political unrest in this book (the Karthians start to rise up against the changes that Valoria wants to make) as well as thanks to the new emotional ups and downs experienced by Odessa. The outside foreign threat and new civil crisis are a great juxtaposition, and I actually it think could be seen as a bit of a gamble when the first book was almost entirely  about the Dead and then they barely appear in the plot of the second. I personally think the gamble works.

 

But the biggest twist of all comes late in the novel, and while Odessa is not having to fight Shades or something as gruesome, she finds herself fighting something harder and puts her life on the line to save everyone. I think this twist is especially clever, particularly with how it ties in with the first novel and how Odessa’s magic works. 

 

At the heart of this exciting novel is the relationship between Odessa and Meredy, despite both of them reeling from the loss of Evander. Author Marsh, who champions LGBT romance, devotes plenty of page time to the complicated ‘keep us guessing’ relationship between the two girls. Marsh also includes a number of other characters with relationships on the LGBT spectrum, and the representation feels positive and realistic and actually as though it’s quote/unquote ‘normal’ (whatever that is!). This is a breath of fresh air, because it just feels like it ‘fits’ and there isn’t a lot of posturing or trying too hard. Marsh just gets it.

 

I am fortunate, nay, blessed, to be immortalized in this book as Baroness Katerina (along with my cat), and then to be acknowledged at the end. I will be forever grateful to Sarah for this. I am also so very sad that my trip to the magical Karthia and the Deadlands is now over, but I enjoyed it enormously. I can’t wait for another bookish adventure at the hands of Sarah Glenn Marsh, and I hope many YA fantasy readers enjoy these two books as much as I have.

 

‘Song of The Dead’ is available from Penguin Teen on January 22nd, 2019!

You can buy it right HERE!

 

*Warning: you will want a pink dragon after reading this book.

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/40125269-song-of-the-dead
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review 2019-01-13 20:15
Seventh Born
Seventh Born - Monica Sanz

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

This novel was partly a good surprise: I expected to see romance in it, but after so many YA books where said romance is just rushed in, let’s say that I’ve become pretty jaded… and fortunately, here, the romance was of the slow-building type, and not the be all-end all it too often is. Mostly the story focuses on Sera’s life at the Academy and on her collaboration with Barrington in his investigating gruesome witches’ murders—in other words, it was more about the mystery than about the usual ‘true love’ stuff that (just as usually) detracts from the fantasy plot. This definitely endeared me to it.

Getting into it was a bit of a strange process: the novel puts the reader in medias res when it comes to both world-building and characters. It’s something I tend to appreciate, rather than having to contend with history lessons/typical fantasy prologues, and I quickly found my marks. As for the characters, while the main chars were alright (with a sort of Rochester/Jane Eyre dynamic, e.g. Barrington’s way of infuriating people), the secondary ones really felt more on the cookie-cutter side: the bully, the teachers who generally blame Sera just because she’s a seventhborn, the best friend obsessed with boys, the cute and wealthy love interest, etc. So I didn’t care much for them; some more development was needed here, especially regarding two of them, since they become more important in the second half of the story.

The love relationships have their problematic sides, too, whether the boy who’s in love with Sera and keeps pushing (including stealing a kiss a couple of times when obviously Sera isn’t interested), or the potential student/teacher relationship (granted, she’s 18 and soon out of school, buuuut… it’s a YA novel, after all). On the other hand, it could also have been much worse, whether it came to the boy or to the ‘forbidden romance’ (that one, at least, moved slowly enough as to be believable, and they didn’t just fall into each other’s arms out of the blue by the end of the first third).

I would also have liked more details about the magic system and the world itself, particularly when it came to seventhborns. We know they are disliked because when they come into this world, their mothers lose their powers and die, and that they were linked to a plague, so people disliked them and still do… However, I can’t help but wonder: why do people in that world keep having seven children, since the (well-known) outcome is so bad for the families? Why don’t they stop at four or five: because they can’t? Or because they don’t want to? Couldn’t a witch use her powers to prevent herself from even conceiving this seventh child? This is the kind of ‘curse’ that could be easily avoided in a world with magic, so I have no clue why these kids are still born, and… that is a major plot hole here.

This said, I did enjoy the mystery/investigation part. Its direct impact is solved by the end of the book, so we get some resolution, but at the same time, there are still mysteries lingering in the characters’ backgrounds, that would make good material in a next book.

Conclusion: 2.5 stars. This novel has its problematic sides, but others I did like nonetheless. I might pick the second volume at some point to see if there’s more world-building there.

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review 2017-12-07 00:30
Necromancy and toilet humour make for surprisingly good MG
The Silver Mask (Magisterium, Book 4) (The Magisterium) - Holly Black,Cassandra Clare

This latest entry in wonderful MG magic-school series Magisterium balances some seriously dark themes and action with laugh-out-loud lines.

 

The first book or two's Harry Potter overtones with all the joy of discovering a new magic world were more fun, to be honest, but as the penultimate book, I can see how things are ramping up. I

 

'd say this is borderline YA - as the kids move on through the school years/grades, they're heading into teen territory, adding kissing and mild romance angst to death, identity crises, and necromancy. I'd recommend for older kids, maybe 10 or even 12+. But the relatively simple language and style of expression are solidly middle grade. Looking forward to the big wrap up in book 5!

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review 2017-09-04 09:35
Finn Fancy Necromancy (The Arcana Familia, #1)
Finn Fancy Necromancy - Randy Henderson

A different kind of urban fantasy for me, but I liked it.

 

Finn was framed for dark magic when he was 15 and exiled to the Fae world, where they fed off his memories for 25 years.  When he's finally released, an attack during the 'exchange' (a changing was using his body during his sentence) left him with his body back but without the usual memory transfer, leaving him with no idea what's happened in the world for the last 25 years.

 

This allows the story to occasionally wallow in cheesy 80's references, and his fellow exile Zeke to look like what sounds like a Nordic Mr. T.  If you're a child of the 80's or a fan of pop culture, it definitely makes the story chuckle-worthy.  

 

The plot revolves around Finn trying to clear his name and figure out who didn't want him released from exile.  The answer was both transparently obvious from the start and a surprise; I missed enough clues along the way that I didn't see the twist coming. 

 

I must be getting old, because I found myself skimming a lot of the action scenes, but I did thoroughly enjoy the book.  It's funny and well written and I cared about what was going to happen to the characters.

 

It's the start of a series, and I'll happily read book #2, but I'm not champing at the bit to rush out to buy it.  I'll come across it eventually and snap it up when I do.

 

 

(I was a bit worried at first that this book wasn't going to have ghosts beyond the first couple of chapters, but they end up playing a significant part in the plot, even though it isn't strictly a 'ghost' story.)

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review 2017-07-13 20:34
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire - Rosamund Hodge

[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss.]

Hmm, not sure about this one. It’s a retelling of ‘Romeo & Juliet’, in a city that is the last one standing while the rest of the world has been invaded by ‘zombies’, where three families share the power, and where the religious order of the Sisters of Thorn has to perform yearly blood sacrifices in order to keep the undead at bay. It has a mysterious plague that makes people rise again after their death if precautions aren’t taken, and in that city, ‘the Juliet’ is actually a warrior bred from birth through magic rituals, with the ability to sense if someone has shed her family’s blood, and the compulsion to avenge said family member in turn (in other words, she still does a few other things than feigning death, thinking Romeo is dead, and promptly killing herself in turn). Also, she’s doomed to turn mad at some point

All in all, why not? This was interesting. The story itself, though, was kind of confusing, and although it did end up making sense, there were quite a few things I would’ve seen developed more in depth. Such as the Night Games, or the Necromancer (who kind of turned up at the awkward moment), or the Romeo/Paris/Vai trio relationship.

I’m not sure about the characters. I sort of liked the Juliet? Because she had that idea that ‘I’m already dead, and Romeo is dead, so I don’t care about dying because it means I can see him again’, yet at the same time she was quite lively and determined and not actively trying to take her own life while moping; her story is also rather sad (stripped of her name/real identity in a family whose beliefs in the afterlife involve having a name in order to be saved... nice). Romeo, though, was kind of stupid, and Paris way too naive; of the power trio there, the one I definitely liked was Vai (with a twist that was a bit predictable, but eh, he was fun to read about, and I totally agreed with the way he envisioned problems and how to tackle them!). As for Runajo... I don’t know. Determined, too, yet there were several moments when I thought her decisions should have her get killed or cast out or something, and she wasn’t because Plot Device.

(And very, very minor thing that probably only peeved me because I’m French, but... ‘Catresou’ sounds just so damn weird. I kept reading and ‘hearing’ that name as a French name, which sounds exactly like ‘quatre sous’—that’s like ‘four pence’—aaaand... Yep, so bizarre.)

Conclusion: 2.5 stars. To be fair, I liked the world depicted here in general, and that this retelling is sufficiently removed from R & J as to stand by itself; however, it was probably too ambitious for one volume, and ended up confusing.

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