Tag Archives: magic

Demon Princes Get All the Girls

51kLYnddfHL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Lately I’ve been reading a lot of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ type YA. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, or I’m subconsciously picking out bestiality fanfic, but expect to see several B&B reviews.

In Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, Nyx was raised from birth knowing that one day she’d have to marry a Demon Prince. Her father had made a bad deal–in exchange for having children, one of the kids would have to be given back in to the Prince. I mean, those kind of wagers really never end in happiness right? and this is no different, as his wife dies after childbirth.

So after that happy beginning…Nyx is not really the happy-go-lucky twin, knowing that she’s going to be a virgin sacrifice. She resents her too sweet and loving twin sister, her harpy aunt, her vengeful father who has been training her to kill her new husband. I particularly enjoy that irony–we’re going to sacrifice you, but also we expect you to save us by killing this dude and freeing us forever.

Arcadia, Nyx’s hometown, is set in the world of Greek Mythology, but has been cut off from the rest of the world since the Demon Prince came to town. There’s a pretty complicated explanation on what happened to the monarchy and why their world’s in danger, and the sky looks like paper, etc. but I’m not going to try to explain that. Basically, there’s some magic that the humans have learned that Nyx is supposed to use to destroy the Demon Prince’s house, and that will bring down his empire too.

SO, Nyx rolls up to the DP’s (I’m tired of typing Demon Prince) crib, and it is like the Department of Mysteries in there, rooms rearrange themselves, doorways change, and most of the doors are locked, courtesy of the hundreds of keys the DP wears.

Oh and of course the DP is smoking hot. Also hot? His shadow Shade, who immediately starts macking on Nyx and making out with her on the sly and trying to help her solve the mystery of destroying DP. Then there’s a weird love triangle going on between Nyx, Shade, and the DP.

I am totally team DP because Shade is kind of drippy, and DP has some great sarcastic lines, plus in general demons have that whole bad boy vibe going on. Nyx is torn because she’s promised Shade she’d help him escape, but also she feels like she’s a Not Very Nice Person, and DP has all the best one-liners and is good in bed.

The pendulum on who she’s into keeps swinging back and forth. DP locks her in a room with all his former dead wives (point for Shade). Shade almost kills her trying to show her a magic room that will help her in her quest to destroy the house and free Arcadia and DP saves her (point DP).

Finally Nyx figures out the secret of the house and how to save Shade and DP, but it’s too late. Then shit gets weird and mad confusing. I understand basically what Hodge is trying to do here, but the ending was very convoluted, and not very satisfying.

So while it was an enjoyable read, I’m taking off ten points for the rushed ending.

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Louis Lowry Does It Again? Something?

I think The Giver (Louis Lowry) was my first foray into dystopian-future-YA.  I read it with my ‘gifted’ English class in seventh grade.  And, ermagard…I freakin’ loved it.  I’m pretty sure I stole that book.  Let’s just pretend I bought my own copy.  And then re-read it like a bajillion times.  And then I read Gathering Blue, which was pretty good, in a different way, and then The Messenger, which was kind of ‘eh,’ and now I’ve just finished Son.

Son, according to GoodReads, is the conclusion of this series.  That being said, I was really looking for some ANSWERS Lowry.  Some ‘tie-everything-together-answer-my-big-questions’ CONCLUSIONS.

Did she deliver?

Continue reading


Atlanta: That Magical Place

I usually prefer to write scathing reviews.  If given the choice, I probably would rather review a book I hated than a book I loved.  There’s just so much more to say.

But in this case, I really wanted to love this book.  Or at least like it.  It had so many promising features: it’s set in Atlanta, the word Peregrine is in the title which can only mean good things, orphans, magical creatures, secret worlds, little drawings, etc. etc.

Even so.

I rarely come across a kid’s book set in Atlanta, so that was pretty exciting for me.  Later, I was relieved to read that the author is from England, not Atlanta.  This explains why all of the ‘Atlanta’ references read as if they were lifted from a travel guide.  This is completely unnecessary—none of the plot hinges on the setting being in Atlanta—so there’s no need to be so heavy-handed with the Peachtree references, or try to work the Braves into completely unrelated sentences.  It felt like they were inserted later, or corporately sponsored.

In Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact, Darwen Arkwright, our protagonist, is an orphaned Briton, recently displaced from his working-class neighborhood to his aunt’s chic apartment.  While wandering around the mall (probably Lenox I’m presuming), he sees a large bird.  This bird, unlike the typical sparrows you see trapped inside shopping plazas, is a large, leathery bat-type thing with the face of a man.  Darwen follows the bird-thingie into a store in an empty corner of the mall (is there even such a thing?).  The store, Mr. Octavius Peregrine’s Reflectory Emporium Mirrors Priceless and Perilous, sells, unsurprisingly, mirrors.

And the weird bird/bat/man thing flies into one and disappears.  First Mr. Peregrine denies it, before admitting that it’s a flittercrake.  He doesn’t offer much more information than that, but he does give Darwen a parting gift, a small mirror.

Now, I personally wouldn’t accept a mirror from a man that seems kind of crazy from a shop where I saw a creepy bird thingie disappear into a mirror, but that’s why I rarely appear in supernatural children’s novels.

Darwen hangs the mirror in his room, and is shocked to find that after dark it becomes a window into another world.  So, of course he climbs through it.  Luckily he must be the size of about  a five year-old to fit through this tiny mirror, but whatever.

This leads him into a pretty boring world that consists of a circular path and a fountain.  Darwen thinks it’s the greatest though—has a conversation with a fairy thing named Moth, and almost gets killed by a dark shadow chasing him.  Of course, he loves it and can’t wait to go back. Continue reading


Boys and Plants and Magical Houses

So, when I bought the ‘Mostly True Story of Jack,’ by Kelly Barnhill–I for some reason thought it was going to be like this:

Not saying that I’m disappointed it’s not.  Jennifer Garner kind of gets on my nerves, and that little boy looks creepy as hell.

So what actually happens is that Jack’s parents are getting a divorce.  And while they ‘get things sorted,’ Jack’s brother goes to stay with friends, while Jack is dropped off at his aunt and uncle’s house.

Understandably, Jack is a little put out to be dumped in a weird house in the middle of nowhere with people he’s never met before.  Even though his previous home-life doesn’t seem that enviable—absent in all the family photos, he literally drew a picture of himself and pasted it in.  A little heartbreaking, that is.

And of course, the town that Jack’s been placed in is a little creepy, with his aunt and uncle’s house—the purple, green, every-color-of-the-rainbow house that seems to shudder and move, and also gives off electric shocks—well that’s the creepiest of all.

What Jack doesn’t know, and his uncle seems very slow to tell him (more a professor of the Socratic method I suppose) is that he is the key to the awakening of the town and it’s magical, nefarious guardians.

Upon arrival, after being almost ran-over by the town power player, tycoon Mr. Avery, Jack meets Anders, Wendy, and her twin brother Frankie.  Frankie was kidnapped several years ago, and mysteriously returned, speechless and with huge, red scars on half of his face.

Then shit gets complicated.  Continue reading


Wildwood=Wildgood

I like to keep with a theme, whether it be kids in space, dystopian youth gangs fighting the man, or scary birds.  So naturally, after reading The Aviary, I wanted to read another book about birds that may be plotting to kill you.

Wildwood starts at a brisk pace, with the kidnapping of Prue’s baby brother Mac.  This kidnapping, like most, happens in a split-second when Prue’s attention is diverted at the park.  However, unlike the usual America’s Most Wanted kidnapping stories, Prue’s baby bro is snatched up by a flock of crows.  A veritable, murder of crows if you will.

This large swarm of birds carry the child off into the distance, into the Impassible Wilderness, the large, imposing forest that no one in Portland (yes, Oregon) ever ventures into (or if they do, never returns from, natch).  Prue, obviously not a shrinking violet, strikes off on her own to rescue her brother.  She is joined at the last minute by her hapless, bespectacled (they always are bespectacled aren’t they?) neighbor, Curtis.

Not long after they enter the woods (and are immediately lost), Prue and Curtis almost stumble upon a crowd of arguing coyotes.  Coyotes wearing tattered uniforms and carrying rusty muskets.  Unfortunately, they are sniffed out quickly, and only Prue escapes.  Curtis, unfortunately, is marched back to the warren to meet the Dowager Governess.

While Curtis is getting drunk on homemade spirits, while getting acquainted with the Dowager, Prue is almost flattened by a mail truck.  The kind mailman escorts her to the South Wood, marvelling that an Outsider has made it into the woods, and gently letting her know that her friend Curtis and baby brother Mac have most likely been killed and dismembered by now. Continue reading


Ghosts of Indeterminate Gender

This kind of book is the number one drawback of having an e-reader.  Especially the e-ink type.  Sure, it doesn’t hurt your eyes and you can read it in the sun, but it sure stinks when your book has cool drawings.

I can’t think of an interesting, relatable anecdote to tie into the story, so I’ll just start telling you about it

Liesl’s father has died, and her stepmother, in usual evil-stepmother-style, has locked her in the attic.  Lonely and depressed, Liesl is less surprised than you’d think when a ghost and its pet show up in her tiny room.  Neither boy nor girl, Po comes from the Other Side, attracted to the light Liesl’s room, and intrigued by her imaginative drawings.  Po’s pet, Bundle, neither dog nor cat, goes wherever Po goes, so Liesl gets a package deal of friends.

Liesl and Po make a deal; Po will look for Liesl’s father on the Other Side, and Liesl will draw it a picture.

Meanwhile, Will is standing in the street, gazing up at Liesl’s window.  Will is an orphan and an alchemist’s apprentice—to a very nasty and mean alchemist.  This very night he is set to deliver the most powerful magic potion in the world to the Lady Premiere.  But tired and distracted, Will accidently switches the powerful magic with the ashes of Liesl’s recently deceased father.

Then things get interesting.  This mix-up sets all the characters on the same path, a journey to the house that where Liesl grew up.  The different motives and different viewpoints build an interesting and layered storyline that manages to be both alternately funny, sweet, and sad.  Continue reading


Guest Post: Bitterblue AKA Saf is a Toolbag

Today, I would like to hand the blogging reins over to my sister, The Llama (This is not just her blogging name. She generally prefers us to call her Llama, due to her love for the majestic spitting creatures.). After reading this, I think that we will all agree that she should be writing more for us here on Rampant Reads. So without further ado, I give you “The Llama Reviews Bitterblue.”

I’d like to say that I first started Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Dial, May 2012) with a little trepidation. Although I loved the epic cheese that was Graceling, I had significant trouble getting into Cashore’s prequel, Fire. So, it was with a slightly skeptically raised eyebrow that I picked up Bitterblue.

Fortunately, my worries are largely without merit. One of Graceling’s greatest assets was its pure readability. Despite clocking in at 576 pages, Bitterblue maintains the same page-turning quality as its predecessor. The story rarely lags and the multiple plots ensure there’s always something delicious in the hopper; making it an ideal book for a long weekend, plane ride, or camel trek. For this, the credit largely goes to Cashore’s excellent pacing and writing, as the plot itself occasionally wears thin.

The story is an extremely ambitious one that any writer would struggle with. Essentially, it’s about the rebuilding of Bitterblue’s psychologically and culturally crippled kingdom after the downfall of King Leck. The kingdom is divided into those who want to silence the crimes that took place during Leck’s reign, and those that want to bring the past to light. Conflict, backstabbings, hidden plots, and juicy intrigue results. In the midst of all this turmoil, Bitterblue grows into a Queen, a woman, and forms a relationship with a total toolbag. Po and Katsa also scamper around, accompanied by various Council members. A few memorable new characters are also introduced, like the fabulous librarian Death (Don’t let the stupid name throw you. He rocks).

If this sounds like a lot, that’s because it is.

But to give credit where it’s due, Cashore’s attempt at these highly challenging storylines largely pays off. There are, however, some issues that were (for me) pretty glaring. They don’t stop Bitterblue from being a fun read, but they do keep the book from reaching the next level. If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading here.

PS: I almost forgot to add that throughout the entire story I was desperate for a cast list and maps, only to finish the book and discover they’re tucked away in the back of the book. God only knows what the editors were thinking jamming them in there, but do yourself a favor and find them before starting Bitterblue.

YARG! YE BE APPROACHIN’ SPOILER ISLAND, MATEY!

1)    Saf is a tool bag.  Sapphire, or Saf, is Bitterblue’s love interest for the novel. He is also a self-righteous, narcissistic toolbag of the highest order. Which, I actually don’t have a problem with in and of itself.

Bitterblue is inexperienced, insecure, and emotionally damaged. Sadly, it makes sense she’d go for the toolbag. So even though you cringe for her while she’s making groveling apologies to the guy who stole her friggin’ crown and insults her after she saved his life, you also get it.

My problem is where he magically decides to act human again for five minutes, and they end up having sex. Which doesn’t sound so bad in and of itself either.

Except for the fact that they have sex right after she’s been completely and utterly traumatized by watching her advisor/father figure admit to horrific crimes and commit suicide while she desperately attempts to cling to him.

WAT.

I get that you asked for consent. And made sure to ask if she was really, really sure. Which is sweet. I guess. But HOLY SHIT. That’s like asking a girl who has 6 Appletinis whether or not she’s sure, and then banging her anyway. Yeah, I guess it’s nice that you asked, but…..how is deflowering a person right after a horrible trauma not basically rape?! The fact Saf is obsessed with the fact Bitterblue normally has more power than he just makes it worse.

But apparently, it’s not rape to Cashore, because Bitterblue is magically OK with the whole thing later on. And toolbag conveniently leaves the Queendom, so the repercussions of banging a guy who’s a proven toolbag never materialize. I don’t need to add how disappointing it is this comes from the author who treated the sex lives of Po and Katsa so well.

2)    Revelations and Psychology

Cashore comes very, very close to saying interesting things about the psychology of trauma, damage, and healing. Unfortunately, she never quite gets there. The story never really reaches the depths of psychological insight it flirts with, and things are left feeling a bit slap-dash at the end.

For example, the revelations that her advisors have been behind the murder of the truthseekers. It seems a huge jump for men who had to be forced to commit crimes…and are broken by their deeds…to move to voluntary murder without blinking. Cashore merely addresses the conundrum with a single throw away line; so instead of understanding their mental damage and clearly seeing what took them to this dark place, I was left as confused and surprised as Bitterblue herself. Very unsatisfying.

As an aside, I’m also not convinced that the level of Leck’s atrocities wouldn’t have been better conveyed with a lighter touch. The explicit detail used is cringe-worthy, but not necessarily called for or even the most effective means of conveying dread. It almost feels lazy.

Long story short: Bitterblue is a flawed but well crafted novel, and despite issues with tricky subject matter, I look forward to reading Cashore’s next work.