Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Reading plays is always a bit strange for me, especially when I can clearly see the gaps where a really good actor would fill in all the empathetic parts and bring everything to life.

If you’re looking for another Harry Potter novel, you should just go read all the Harry Potters. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the world again for a quick read and don’t mind so much that it doesn’t follow the same format and isn’t quite as tightly controlled as the original books—then you’ll love this. Maybe not quite as much as I loved watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, since we did that recently. But, still. Die-hard HP fans basically have to read this play.

The plot is, dare I say it, similar to the season finale episodes of Season 5 of My Little Pony. Time travel changes the world and we need to go back and fix it and we learn we shouldn’t have meddled at all in the first place, sort of thing.

Harry plays a somewhat important role in this story, though of course his son Albus takes center stage. I really liked that Albus was friends with Scorpius. It feels like fate, and closure, of sorts, though it creates all kinds of problems for the parents, obviously.

This is a quick read and worth your time if you grew up on HP like I did. It’s no Harry Potter novel, but it gives us a little bit more of that world.

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A Torch Against the Night

Second books in a trilogy are sometimes lackluster. NOT SO WITH THIS BOOK. It doesn’t feel like a bridge between books one and three at all. This feels like an action-packed amazing continuation and escalation of the original story.

Elias and Laia and Helene—they are such beautifully-wrought characters. I can’t get enough of Elias and Laia, and getting to know Helene was supposed to be sort of tedious, right, because she’s all pious? Except NO WAY could Tahir’s writing ever be tedious. Every chapter was engaging and lovely.

The mythos woven into this story, the magical powers and legends, they build up at just the right pace. You never feel like she’s infodumping, and you always get the next bit just when you want a little bit more to keep you guessing.

Settings, perfect. Story, perfect. Well, okay. There was one thing I saw coming before it happened, but I think that was just because I was shipping a particular pairing so hard that I wanted to believe I was right about this other thing…and even then, I only guessed a small portion of what it actually was, and the greater truth was big and momentous.

All the feels, in this book. ALL OF THEM. If you haven’t read An Ember in the Ashes, start there, and DO NOT STOP until you’ve finished this one and are waiting as eagerly for the third book as I am. Seriously. Do it.

An Ember in the Ashes

OMG this book is frickin good. Wow. I LOVED it.

I’d heard a lot of good things, so I was excited about reading it, and I am SO GLAD I finally did. Laia is the daughter of the leaders of the Resistance, put in a difficult position, fighting her personal demons even as she tries to save her brother from death in prison. Elias is training to be one of the elite enforcers of the militaristic people who dominated Laia’s people long ago. Except, he doesn’t want any part of it.

Laia and Elias are SO compelling. They are fascinating and deep and have so many issues and so much messed up stuff to deal with. There’s a really interesting love square which gives you a lot of potential for different shippers. I won’t tell you who I ship directly, in case it’s a spoiler, but I’m in the most obvious camp. 😉

The plot is compelling and there are so many challenges for our protagonists to face. There’s suspense and beautifully fantastic elements woven in. The world’s history is released at just the right pace, so that you see threads that will weave through the rest of the story right when you want to see more of the world. I bet I know what book three is going to be about. At least, I hope it’s going to be about that. Though, I’m not going to lie, if Tahir wanted to stretch this into six, seven, even ten books…I would definitely keep reading. I love Laia and Elias. I love the secondary characters, too. There are all these questions I want answered, that I feel confident Tahir will provide later on in the story. The Commandant’s tattoo. What’s going to happen to Hellene. Who is Cook? (I think I know who she is, but the mystery is being drawn out enough that it makes me question it, and the whole thing is deliciously suspenseful).

I immediately picked up book two upon finishing this one. The prose is beautiful, the settings and world are well crafted, the characters couldn’t possibly be more compelling. Truly beautiful work.

A Storm of Swords

I was determined to read A Storm of Swords before I moved farther than season two in the show. Everyone was saying it was the best book in the series so far, and I wanted to read it before I watched it. I also, miraculously, avoided anyone spoiling the Red Wedding for me. So it was high time to read this book and see if the hype was equal to the story.

The first novel was fast-paced, suspenseful, and had me wanting to jump forward all the time to see what happened next to my favorite characters. The second installment of A Song of Ice and Fire was less engaging, dealt with more characters I could care less about, and ultimately felt like not much happened, even though arguably a lot happened because all the characters are in different places by the end than they were in the beginning.

A Storm of Swords, the third novel in the series, started out a little slow for me. I just don’t care much about Jaime Lannister, so to have chapters following him and Brienne was pretty tedious. Catelyn Stark also really annoys me, so you can imagine that I just suffered through all of those chapters.

Jon and Arya and Bran and Sansa and Tyrion all have interesting arcs, of course. They’re the best ones, and there always seemed to be new surprises, or new setbacks, for each of them.

Unfortunately, Martin has a tendency to end each chapter on a “surprise!” moment or a twist, and then you have to wait LIKE TEN CHAPTERS before you pick up that character’s thread again. That’s frustrating. You don’t need so many cliff-hangers when the chapter that follows doesn’t even remotely relate to the character of the chapter before.

Ultimately yes, I’m glad I read this book before watching the show. I don’t think I’m cut out to keep reading the books, though. My first love in fiction is always going to be YA, with less protagonists, more character-centric stories, and a hell of a lot less pages. After getting through the 3800+ pages of reading this book on my phone, I was so glad to open up Gaiman’s Norse Mythology and see it was only 516 in the same format! 😀

The Kiss of Deception

I really enjoyed the style of writing in Morrighan, so I was excited to read this novel, which happens generations later in the same changed world. I feel like I could understand the geography and different groups of people better having read the novella first.

I’m not going to lie—the plot is a little too convenient. Of course one of the people who finds Lia after she runs away to a small little town is her betrothed. Of course he falls in love with her. I do really appreciate the way the narrative was written, though, keeping you guessing which guy is the prince and which the assassin. That’s pretty clever, and it was mostly done well.

I enjoy Lia’s fiery spirit. I can respect someone who runs away from an arranged marriage, believing there aren’t any other options open to her. And she redeems any immaturity she has with her actions later on. All in all she isn’t the most deep character I’ve ever read, but still plenty enjoyable. Honestly, things are set up for much more intrigue at the end of the first book. I’m interested in reading the second book because now I want to see what happens, and who exactly this assassin guy is.

I was a little surprised that we follow her friend/lady in waiting’s story almost as closely. And I think it was way too convenient that she witnessed something out in the plains, where a certain character she knew just happened to show up in the big wide wastes of the friggin midwest (trying not to give away any spoilers here, so sorry for the vagueness).

Despite my small gripes, though, I still really enjoy this writing style, and the interesting world that Pearson has crafted. It’s nice to find a blend of post-apocalyptic and sort of courtly-tinged adventure story. I think the best part is Lia discovering more about the magical power her people are supposed to possess. That’s intriguing and I’m excited to find out more about it as the books progress.

This would be a great read for a younger audience, mostly female teens, who are into suspenseful, slowly-unfolding romance. You’ve got to like love triangles, too—I know a lot of people are tired of them as a trope, but I think this one is done pretty well and in a different sort of way.

Naamah’s Curse

I’ve never read a more beautiful, terrifying story.

If you know me, you know that a basically Pagan Celtic protagonist driven by her soul’s passion to form meaningful connections with people is…well, me. Reading characters that so closely mirror ourselves can be an interesting exercise. You learn a lot about yourself.

In reading this book—which is now my #2 favorite book of all time (second only to The Amber Spyglass—I learned so much about myself through the emotions that the story woke in me.

Moirin has an untouched innocence. She can be naive at times, sure, but I’m speaking more of the purity of someone born from Nature, unspoiled by civilization. Her heart has no bounds, and her travels lead her to make meaningful connections again and again and again. It’s lovely.

This volume in the trilogy takes us to the northern fields above Ch’in, and then west to Vralia, where a religion parallel to reality’s Christianity is on the rise. Then we travel all the way south to Bhodistan, which represents India.

The events in Vralia hit home for me. There’s a particular brand of horror out there for everyone—one thing that you are soul-deep afraid of, more than anything else. This portion of the book plucked that chord for me. I won’t give away the exact circumstances, but what Moirin faces there was so terrifying to me that I seriously considered putting down the book despite the gorgeous writing quality and how much I love the characters. I’ll say only that my religion is sacred to me, and I had to question whether I would possess the same strength as Moirin, or whether I would break under those circumstances. It’s a valuable thing, coming up against your true limits and finding out what’s on the other side. I did it with my pregnancy. I hope I would come out whole on the other side of what Moirin goes through in this section.

Then, offered almost as a balm for the terror-filled ache caused by the preceding events, Moirin’s time in Bhodistan is so moving and beautiful that I cried happy tears. She meets wonderful characters, and Carey proves yet again how strong and resilient her characters can be.

Ideally we would live in a world where strong, complex female characters were flooding the market. Since that isn’t quite the case, I’ll say that Carey’s fiction is a welcome respite from the harsh realities of a world where the political landscape makes you feel less than lucky to have been born a woman. Carey’s heroines are everything a young girl would want to aspire to, and her heroes are representations of truly equal men who aren’t threatened by powerful women, but seek to support them. The pairings in these novels are beautiful, and each partner seeks to complement the other. True equality, as it is meant to be lived.

This trilogy touches my heart and soul. Every bit of it resonates with me. I would recommend it most highly to anyone who wants to get to know me better, and aside from that any fans of Carey’s writing will love these. Fans of speculative fiction flavored with mythology and alternate history would enjoy these immensely, and anyone looking for female role models should definitely read them.

Naamah’s Kiss

I thought I wouldn’t be as interested in Moirin’s trilogy after I heard that it takes place so long after Phedre and Joscelin and Imriel’s time. I was wrong.

There’s an entirely different approach to this one. It’s the same in that the story starts with Moirin as a young girl, and we watch her grow up and grow into herself. Rather than being tutored in espionage and pulled into intrigue, though, Moirin is called by her goddess to leave the comfort of everything she’s ever known, and seek her destiny.

It sounds vague, right? Seek her destiny. But that’s part of the charm. It keeps you turning the pages. And there’s so much delightful misdirection! Moirin herself is fumbling around, trying to be true to herself and figure out her destiny and hopelessly drawn to sex with the most inopportune persons of state and importance. It’s silly at times, but in a lovely, innocent way.

If you read the Imriel trilogy, you’ll understand more about Amaranthe’s character than you did before by reading about Moirin. She’s a descendant of Amaranthe, and called again and again to fulfill the same type of companion role. It’s beautiful, how much perfect love one person can hold in their heart for different people.

I love that Moirin comes from the forests, from Nature. She’s naive in a deep, magical way. Her heart is more pure, her wisdom more true, because of it. And yet the complications of modern society work to complicate her life again and again, and she’s irresistibly drawn in each time.

I don’t want to give anything away, but Carey fulfills expectations by taking us to a far country we haven’t seen before in her books. AND she folds magic and mythology into this tale as seamless as ever. Without giving any spoilers, there is one rather—different—character who I have a great fondness for. And I have a lot of respect for the other players in Moirin’s tale. Each one is complex and beautifully-wrought, their desires often at odds or just at a slight angle to Moirin’s. It makes for a gripping tale, and realistic relationships. I can’t wait to pick up the second book in this trilogy.

Fearless

I always enjoy Cornelia Funke stories. Reckless was great, and the English translation quality was excellent, as per usual. Given how much I liked Reckless, I was surprised when I read Fearless and loved it SO MUCH MORE.

There’s an absolute beauty to the interactions between Jacob and Fox. There’s history there, and emotions, and a complexity that just makes your heart ache with its sincerity and authenticity.

Couple these fabulous characters and they’re fascinating relationship with one of the absolute best, creepiest villains I have encountered in a story in a good long time, and you have a novel that kept me absolutely riveted.

True story: I was reading this on the train on the way home from work and got so pulled in that I almost got off at the wrong stop.

There are fairy tale elements in this second book of the Mirrorworld series, of course. There’s even intriguing references to Jacob’s past, similar to what we got in the first book.

Fearless is devastatingly good. Y’all shouldn’t take my world for it—go read it for yourself. Then come talk to me about that villain (you’ll know which one it is). 😀

Immortal Fire

YOU GUYS.

OH MY GODS.

This book is better than I expected. Considering how much I absolutely LOVED the first and second ones, I was already expecting a lot.

Yes, the action is well-paced, the story structure is one of the most masterful I’ve read in ages. The characters are interesting and complex and so, so worthy of all the praise ever. But the arcs, you guys. The character arcs. The things they learn. The things that happen to them!

I seriously could never do this book justice, talking about it. When I’m this excited about a book, people tend to think I’m exaggerating or just being dramatic for kicks. So I’ll stop overselling this one and just say that it absolutely enriched my life to read it, and gave me all the achingly sweet and painful and inspiring feels. Read it or you’re missing out.

Dark Tempest

Okay, real talk: I wanted more of this book as soon as I finished listening to it, so I went back to halfway through and listened to the second half again. I wasn’t ready to move on to the third, because that’s too close to the end of the trilogy, and I never want that to happen. So I just listened to more of Dark Tempest again. 🙂

I’ve already recommended these books to a bunch of people, and I’m not even done reading them. I want more of Emi and Shiro. This story is SO good. The characters are deep and well crafted and intriguing. The mythos is woven in so well.

I think my favorite thing about this second book in the trilogy was the pacing. There’s this amazing balance between despair and hope that Annette Marie handles so beautifully well. It’s truly impressive. The midpoint had me on the absolute edge of my seat, ignoring everything in the real world until I found out what happened next. The thing is, with more time left in the books, you think she couldn’t possibly kill off the major characters. Except you don’t know that she won’t, and you start to get really really scared that she will…

It’s pretty fabulous, the way she keeps you guessing. The suspense is thrilling, the payoff at the end of battles always gives me the feels, even while circumstances are set up for the next big battle, the next potential death. I’ve rarely seen pacing this wonderful in any book.

Now, the next bit that I want to say has some spoiler potential, so do me a favor and go read the book, then come back to read the rest of this review. I just have to comment about it, because it’s refreshing and wonderful. But I don’t want to spoil anything for you—and you don’t want anything to be spoiled, either, so do yourself a solid and don’t read the following until you’ve finished the book!

*****

*****

*****

*****

*****

You know in Star Wars, how Han Solo basically corners Leia before he kisses her, and that’s supposed to be sexy because he’s a big strong man she can’t say no to? Or in Indiana Jones, where he literally pulls a woman toward him with a friggin whip and forces her into his arms? Well, those are pretty good examples of societal sexist microaggressions. Somehow we started promoting the narrative that ignoring a woman’s resistance was sexy. That’s shitty and awful and creates all kinds of weird and disturbing conflicts in a girl’s mind. Srsly. SO. It’s no surprise that my favorite fucking line of this entire book is: “Do you want me to move?”

I mean, how amazing is that? How AWESOME is it of Annette Marie to weave in this layer of CONSENT between Emi and Shiro? Seriously the sexiest thing ever. Remember all the feels you got when you read the line in the first book: “Do you promise?” I remember all mine. It was epic and aching and wonderful. But “Do you want me to move?” is better. Different emotions, different subtext. I consider it a fucking victory for all women. So thank you, Annette Marie, for writing that so well. You’re awesome. ❤