An Interview with Author Amy Rose Capetta

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Huge thanks to Amy Rose Capetta for putting together this fantastic post for us today! Her forthcoming novel, The Brilliant Death (October 30th, 2018), is a captivating and unique fantasy story filled with magic, the love and loyalty of family, a beautiful and irresistible queer romance, and a powerful reminder of the importance of being true to ourselves no matter what. In anticipation of its release, Amy has graciously agreed to join me for a Q&A about the novel and her career as a writer. Please make sure to check Amy out on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads!

Click here to check out my full review of The Brilliant Death!

Echo After Echo | Entangled | Unmade | The Brilliant DeathOnce & Future | The Lost Coast

How did you get into writing, and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?

WritingWriting-768x768I don’t remember a time before I was reading voraciously, and for me reading flowed naturally into writing. I was always story-obsessed. When I was eight years old, I went to writing camp (which, when I say out loud, people confuse with “riding camp”—but I’m not much a horseperson and I have the stories to prove it.) At writing camp, I wrote stories about opera singing yaks and sentient grocery stores. My best friend there wrote exclusively about magical pandas. I think everyone at the time thought it was a cute kid hobby, but she and I both grew up to be authors.

I decided to pursue writing as a career towards the end of college, but it took a while to figure out exactly what kind of stories to focus on. When I found YA genre fiction, I felt like I’d found my home. And when I started writing queer main characters, the stories started pouring out of me at a startling rate. Learning writing craft was important but putting my true heart in my stories was the missing piece.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of the writing process?

Feelings! I always have to go back and layer them in as I draft, because I’m usually discovering and working through my own feelings as I go. For The Brilliant Death, I had to get even more in touch with feelings about power and family and fate and gender and carving a new way forward in a patriarchal world.

I know some writers whose emotional truth pours out of them in torrents. I’m awed by those folks. I have to enter the world first, and find the cast of characters, and work my way in.

But now that I’ve written several books, it’s getting easier to cut straight to that honest place.

What inspired you to write The Brilliant Death?

Since I was young, I’ve wanted to write about my family’s history and stories of the small town they came from in Italy. Those tales always felt magical and epic in scale, so it wasn’t hard to take it a step further and add strega magic and some mafia scheming.

The other truth is that I wanted to write a story that gets underneath the idea of a “girl disguised as a boy.” I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with “pants” roles. Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is the original Italian femme in slacks, and I both loved her and always felt so frustrated by the need to bring these stories back to an ending where girls are girls and boys are boys and there has to be one of each in love with each other for a happy ending. I wanted a character who goes a lot farther in terms of exploring the wide world of gender and sexuality and coming to a new understanding. It always felt like a missed opportunity to me!

When writing The Brilliant Death, who was your favorite character to create and why?

I hope anyone who reads the book will be able to see the joy that went into writing Cielo. I can’t exactly claim to have created the character—Cielo is very much inspired by my own real-life love interest (and sometimes co-author!) Cori McCarthy. There are differences of course! Cielo’s enchanted book was born when I read the Italian folktale “The Canary Prince.” And there’s a touch of an homage to Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle in Cielo as well…

What books and/or authors have inspired you the most?

onceandfutureI am endlessly inspired by the work of writers in YA fantasy, who are pushing at the boundaries of all of our maps.

Leigh Bardugo, Melina Marchetta, and Kristin Cashore are pillars of my collection. Libba Bray is like no other. Kiersten White and Heidi Heilig are writers I turn to for inventive stories with historical roots. In contemporary worlds, Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper series is radically good and Zoraida Córdova’s brujas are my favorite witchy girls. Nova Ren Suma and Melissa Albert take fantasy to deliciously dark places. Nnedi Okorafor writes across all age groups, and everything she does is glorious. Malinda Lo is the first queen of YA queer girl genre fiction. Sarah McCarry has written mythical punk tales in the most beautiful prose. Alex London’s new (gay!) falconry epic, Black Wings Beating, is beyond exciting to me.

I have five queer YA fantasy novels coming out, starting with The Brilliant Death, and it wouldn’t be possible without the authors who paved that route.

I’m also a lifelong fan of Italo Calvino, whose Italian Folktales collection gave me solid ground for the magic in this series. When I was reading through hundreds of pages of old stories, I saw a thread that ties them all together: transformation. (Which is about the queerest theme out there, and one of my favorites. Maybe it’s why I was drawn to stories of magic all along.) Transformation is what breaks us out of a single, set way of seeing things and paints the world in every shade of possibility.

And I’m inspired the most, every day, by Cori McCarthy. I was a fan of their writing before we even spoke to each other. We talk craft constantly and chase stories together—but our love is my favorite story.

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Author Bio:

Amy Rose Capetta c. Cori McCarthyAmy Rose Capetta [she/her] is an author of YA fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery. Her first novel, Entangled, was a BEA Buzz Book. Her latest, Echo After Echo, is a queer love story wrapped in a murder mystery and set on Broadway. It received two starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild selection. Upcoming: The Brilliant Death (Viking 2018), The Lost Coast (Candlewick 2019), Once & Future (co-written with Cori McCarthy, from Little, Brown’s Jimmy Imprint in 2019). She holds a BA in Theater Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. Amy Rose is the co-founder of the Rainbow Writers Workshop, the first-ever LGBTQIAP workshop for YA and middle grade. She lives in Vermont with her partner and their young son.

Check Out The Book:

thebrilliantdeathThe Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: For Teodora DiSangro, a mafia don’s daughter, family is fate.

All her life, Teodora has hidden the fact that she secretly turns her family’s enemies into music boxes, mirrors, and other decorative objects. After all, everyone in Vinalia knows that stregas—wielders of magic—are figures out of fairytales. Nobody believes they’re real.

Then the Capo, the land’s new ruler, sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families that have long controlled Vinalia. Four lie dead and Teo’s beloved father is gravely ill. To save him, Teo must travel to the capital as a DiSangro son—not merely disguised as a boy, but transformed into one.

Enter Cielo, a strega who can switch back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book. Teo and Cielo journey together to the capital, and Teo struggles to master her powers and to keep her growing feelings for Cielo locked in her heart. As she falls in love with witty, irascible Cielo, Teo realizes how much of life she’s missed by hiding her true nature. But she can’t forget her mission, and the closer they get to the palace, the more sinister secrets they uncover about what’s really going on in their beloved country—and the more determined Teo becomes to save her family at any cost.

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Review: The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

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thebrilliantdeathThe Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 30th, 2018

Publisher: Viking

Pages: 352 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: For Teodora DiSangro, a mafia don’s daughter, family is fate.

All her life, Teodora has hidden the fact that she secretly turns her family’s enemies into music boxes, mirrors, and other decorative objects. After all, everyone in Vinalia knows that stregas—wielders of magic—are figures out of fairytales. Nobody believes they’re real.

Then the Capo, the land’s new ruler, sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families that have long controlled Vinalia. Four lie dead and Teo’s beloved father is gravely ill. To save him, Teo must travel to the capital as a DiSangro son—not merely disguised as a boy, but transformed into one.

Enter Cielo, a strega who can switch back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book. Teo and Cielo journey together to the capital, and Teo struggles to master her powers and to keep her growing feelings for Cielo locked in her heart. As she falls in love with witty, irascible Cielo, Teo realizes how much of life she’s missed by hiding her true nature. But she can’t forget her mission, and the closer they get to the palace, the more sinister secrets they uncover about what’s really going on in their beloved country—and the more determined Teo becomes to save her family at any cost.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This novel was, by far, one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it absolutely did not disappoint. I was instantly drawn into this story from the very first page and it held me captivated all the way through. The richly designed, Italian-inspired world of Vinalia is incredibly immersive, combining magic and politics in a way that deeply intrigues. A long-believed fantasy come to life, the magic-wielding strega—that come to us in the forms of our protagonists—drive the narrative to fascinating lengths. A tale of family and friendship, bravery and strength, gripping conspiracies, capped off with a refreshingly unique, gender-fluid romance, The Brilliant Death is an absolute delight to read.

In this novel, we follow Teodora DiSangro, a strega and the daughter of a mafia don. The strega are nothing but a myth to the people of Vinalia—there is no way they could be real—but Teo’s powers prove otherwise. She has kept her powers a secret from her family for many years, partaking only in turning their enemies into music boxes or other such trinkets. But circumstances change suddenly when her father, one of the heads of Vinalia’s Five Families, is sent a poisoned letter that leaves him critically ill.

Teo is thrust into a world of politics where secrets abound and enemies lie in wait, and must fully harness her gift by transforming herself into a DiSangro son. With the help of Cielo—a strega who can shift between genders, and with whom she is falling in love with more each day—Teo embarks on a journey to the capital in order to save her family and face the man responsible for their suffering.

The magic system featured in this story is truly unique and beautifully woven into the fabric of the plot. I appreciated how it begins in a somewhat humorous way that, while it is weighted with much importance, takes off to a lighter start. However, as the narrative progresses and becomes increasingly more complex, Teo’s abilities reflect this change, showing more depth and dimension—from the creation of decorative objects to the shifting of one’s entire being. Her power is inextricably linked to and bolstered by her love for her family and the pure strength that she shows in order to protect them proves that they are, in a way, the true source.

The characters are some of the best parts of this novel and they are a major force that drives the narrative forward. Teodora is a superbly crafted, multi-dimensional character who makes the perfect protagonist and heroine for this particular story. She is easy to connect with and root for and works brilliantly as the narrator. Seeing the events of the plot through her eyes and thoughts serves to further enhance the already intriguing tale. We see her move from transforming people and objects on the outside to learning to transform herself on the inside—both literally and figuratively—as she grows and develops as a character. And as if I could not love the characterization found here any more than I already did, in comes Cielo.

Cielo is charismatic, mischievous, and one of those characters who is just impossible not to love. I do not often go for the romances in most stories—I do not find myself shipping many characters or falling in love with them myself. They have to be extremely special and well-crafted to really reach me, and this one did reach me by a long shot. As Cielo takes on the role of Teo’s magic tutor, as they come together and grow in and with each other, Capetta depicts their interactions in such a pleasing way. The chemistry between Teo and Cielo is palpable and their story is an absolute joy to watch unfold.

Capetta’s writing is excellent and very captivating. From her loveable characters to her detailed and strong world-building, it is easy to become completely immersed in every aspect of the novel. She creates a compelling backdrop for the myriad of events that form this spectacular saga and seamlessly entwines her characters with each other and their surroundings. At times I felt the events were a bit too fast-paced and I occasionally became a little lost among everything. Some scenes and character decisions were a bit rushed and confusing. Nevertheless, these moments did not detract much from the overall storyline. Capetta’s words are fluid and I still felt carried effortlessly through the pages.

I feel I must admit that I do believe this book is not one that will appeal to every reader. Much of it is quite quirky and unusual, a very singular and extraordinary style, and the action moves very rapidly. However, I highly recommend giving it a read. The messages that this novel conveys are progressive and important beyond words. It strives to remind us to always be true to ourselves and to never give in to the expectations and pressures of others or the world around us. It speaks of the significance of getting to know ourselves and discovering our identities. The power at the core of these words increases in intensity and takes hold of you through—and well-beyond—the final pages.

Personally, I found The Brilliant Death to be a beautiful and enchanting story of love and the lengths that one is willing to go to save and protect their family. It was all that I hoped it would be and more. Capetta has created an utterly distinctive tale—a powerful and enjoyable adventure with characters that will undoubtedly win many readers’ hearts. It is one of those novels that is quite refreshing to come across in today’s young adult fantasy market, and I applaud her for breaking the mold and making her own voice stand out. She proves herself to be a very talented writing through and through, and I really look forward to reading more of her work. This is a story that will stick with me for quite a while.

4.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

Amy Rose Capetta c. Cori McCarthyAmy Rose Capetta [she/her] is an author of YA fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery. Her first novel, Entangled, was a BEA Buzz Book. Her latest, Echo After Echo, is a queer love story wrapped in a murder mystery and set on Broadway. It received two starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild selection. Upcoming: The Brilliant Death (Viking 2018), The Lost Coast (Candlewick 2019), Once & Future (co-written with Cori McCarthy, from Little, Brown’s Jimmy Imprint in 2019). She holds a BA in Theater Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. Amy Rose is the co-founder of the Rainbow Writers Workshop, the first-ever LGBTQIAP workshop for YA and middle grade. She lives in Vermont with her partner and their young son.

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Kate Marshall’s Top 5 Must-Haves in an Author Survival Kit

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Huge thanks to Kate Marshall for putting together this fantastic post for us today! Her forthcoming novel, I Am Still Alive, is a captivating survival thriller that comes out on July 24th. In anticipation of its release, Kate is here to share the top five must-haves in an author survival kit! Please make sure to check Kate out on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads! I will be posting a full review of I Am Still Alive very soon!

Top 5 Must-Haves in an Author Survival Kit

You might think that an author, set adrift in the wilderness, has the same survival needs as any other person. You would be wrong. Authors are peculiar creatures, and need specialized gear even for short excursions into the wild. Before handing your author a compass and dropping them in the deep woods, make sure you’ve packed their bag with these essentials.

Sunscreen & Sunglasses

Authors become less tolerant of sunlight the closer they come to deadlines. The mid-draft author may, in fact, become confused when exposed to bright light, and attempt to find the keyboard shortcut to dim the sky. Liberal application of sunscreen will allow the off-roading author to slowly acclimate to the presence of the daystar without suffering sunburn.

Notebook & Pens

Ask any park ranger, and they will have a harrowing tale to share of encountering a lost writer in the woods, searching beneath bushes for an outlet to charge their dying laptop, having failed to secure shelter, water, or food in favor of this fruitless quest. To prevent such tragedy, replace the laptop with high-quality, water-resistant notebooks and pens.

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Books

It may seem as if books are an impractical choice for wilderness survival—unless you’re talking about survival guides. But while manuals on plant identification, hunting, and other survival skills are useful, for the author it is particularly important to pack some of their favorite reads. This is because a bored author is a dangerous author. The key to survival is caution. The bored author gets “creative.” You don’t want to discover that instead of gathering firewood, your author has turned the kindling into a stick-person society complete with lushly detailed culture, rituals, and myth. Keep your author entertained, and you’ll keep your author alive.

Caffeine

Many a hiker has come across a listless author on the trail. Most wilderness first aid courses now teach how to nurse the author back into consciousness through the gradual introduction of coffee or other caffeinated substances, first by waving the thermos under their nose, and then allowing small sips. But the best treatment is prevention, which you can accomplish by supplying your author with a ready source of caffeine. Coffee may be impractical; “the coffee gap,” the well-known phenomenon in which mistakes are made in the acquisition of coffee due to not having had your coffee yet, is exacerbated in a wilderness situation. We suggest chocolate-covered espresso beans as an easy substitute.

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Simulated Companion Object

While authors are often solitary animals, they frequently require moral support, brainstorming, and appreciation for their wit. To prevent a repeat of the “stick-person culture” scenario, consider identifying an object (any object will do, really) as their “companion.” Draw a face or heart on the object if your author seems reluctant to bond. Encourage your author to “just bounce some ideas off of it” to get things rolling. You will know you have succeeded when your author creates social media accounts for the companion object. You have gone too far if the author begins laughing at the companion object’s jokes.

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As you can see, there are special responsibilities in outfitting an author for a wilderness excursion. Nonetheless, I highly encourage exposing your author to a variety of such experiences, as (if they survive) the benefit they provide to the author’s descriptive abilities will prove rewarding to author and readers alike. 

Author Bio

KateMarshallPhotoKate Alice Marshall started writing before she could hold a pen properly, and never stopped. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with a chaotic menagerie of pets and family members, and ventures out in the summer to kayak and camp along the Puget Sound. Visit her online at katemarshallbooks.com and follow her on Twitter @kmarshallarts.

Check Out The Book:

iamstillaliveI Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

Synopsis: After
Jess is alone. Her cabin has burned to the ground. She knows if she doesn’t act fast, the cold will kill her before she has time to worry about food. But she is still alive—for now.

Before
Jess hadn’t seen her survivalist, off-the-grid dad in over a decade. But after a car crash killed her mother and left her injured, she was forced to move to his cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness. Just as Jess was beginning to get to know him, a secret from his past paid them a visit, leaving her father dead and Jess stranded.

After
With only her father’s dog for company, Jess must forage and hunt for food, build shelter, and keep herself warm. Some days it feels like the wild is out to destroy her, but she’s stronger than she ever imagined.

Jess will survive. She has to. She knows who killed her father… and she wants revenge.

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Review: Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty

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33344380Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Heartseeker Series

Date Published: June 5th, 2018

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Pages: 336 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A vibrant fantasy-adventure debut about a girl who can see lies.

You’re a Fallow of the Orchard. You’re as tough as a green apple in summer . . . 

Only Fallow was just six harvests old when she realized that not everyone sees lies. For Only, seeing lies is as beautiful as looking through a kaleidoscope, but telling them is as painful as gnawing on cut glass. Only’s family warns her to keep her cunning hidden, but secrets are seldom content to stay secret. 

When word of Only’s ability makes its way to the King, she’s plucked from her home at the orchard and brought to the castle at Bellskeep. There she learns that the kingdom is plagued by traitors, and that her task is to help the King distinguish between friend and foe. But being able to see lies doesn’t necessarily mean that others aren’t able to disguise their dishonesty with cunnings of their own.

In the duplicitous, power-hungry court, the truth is Only’s greatest weapon . . . and her greatest weakness.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Heartseeker is one of those novels that makes me even more glad that I am given the opportunity to read and review books, especially those for younger audiences. Reading has always been such an important part of my life ever since I was a kid, and it is something that has led me to find my other biggest passion of writing. I get such joy out of encouraging people of any age to read, and discovering a middle grade gem like this that I can so highly recommend is always wonderful. This novel reminds me of the fantasy stories I adored when I was younger, that piqued my imagination and creativity and solidified my love of reading. It is a beautiful tale full of love, magic, and strength that will captivate readers of any age.

In this novel, we follow a young girl named Only Fallow, who has the ability to see lies. When people lie, she sees them ringed in a whole variety of colors, each connected to the type of lie and intentions of the person. However, this power comes with the curse of not being able to tell a lie without experiencing physical pain. As magic, or “cunning”, is not accepted among her people, she is forced to keep these things a secret—but sometimes secrets have a life of their own.

When Only’s powers are discovered by the King, he takes her from her home to live and work in his castle at Bellskeep. The King’s intentions are to have her assist him in determining deceit among those of his kingdom, as there are many traitors about. But this plan is not foolproof, as the potential cunning of others is not taken into account. Now, Only must navigate her new circumstances, where her greatest power can also be her greatest weakness.

This is such a unique and interesting story that I found myself immediately swept up into. The idea of seeing lies as colors—as well as the meanings given to each one—is not only an inventive way to portray this power, it is also truly and utterly magical. Readers are given the chance to fall into a vibrant world and an epic adventure that captures and carries the imagination into new realms. As a whole, this narrative is something that I believe will spark the creativity of all of its readers—I know it definitely did that for me.

Beatty has crafted every component of this novel beautifully. Her writing is incredibly easy to get caught up in, and fluidly carries the reader over the pages. The style in which she writes is very distinctive and fitting for the setting—this adds further dimension to the novel as a whole. The world is carefully constructed and vividly described. It unfolds and builds up around you as you fall into Only’s life. Beatty’s writing breathes life into her narrative and fully immerses the reader in every aspect of the story.

Only is an incredibly strong heroine. She is brave, intelligent, and extremely loyal—a very admirable female lead. Beatty does a great job of filling out her character, taking the time to really build her a three-dimensional personality. I had a quick and easy time connecting with her and coming to love her. The characterization as a whole is very solid, as Beatty fills this work with a cast of memorable characters. My particular favorites were Non, Jon, and Gareth. The relationships between everyone in this novel are very well-portrayed, and everyone plays a massive role in driving the narrative.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in this heartwarming and exciting adventure, and was very reluctant to leave. The escapades of these characters continue to replay in my mind, and will surely stay with me for a long time. It is a story that I can see being universally accessible among readers of all ages. Heartseeker is a charming and wholesome read that I would highly encourage younger readers to pick up, and that I would recommend to everyone in general.

5.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

16179801Melinda Beatty has had years of practice trying to explain to others why she was just having an imaginary conversation between two people that don’t exist, so becoming a writer seemed like the best way to stop everyone looking at her funny. After years of narrowboat living on the English canals, she and her British husband are now back on dry land in Maryland where by day, she’s a mild-mannered Indie bookseller, and by night, she wrangles words, craft projects, a Labrador and two fierce mini-women. Heartseeker is her debut novel.

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HEARTSEEKER BLOG TOUR

WEEK ONE

May 28 – @Book_Ventures – Book Asethetics

May 29 – RhythmicBooktrovert – Review

May 30 – GladiatorGlory – Review + Playlist + Moodboard

May 31 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Review 

June 1 – Bookopolis – Great Adventure Heroines in contemporary and classic books

Review: The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

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unnamed-75The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: March 6th, 2018

Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books

Pages: 288 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A Scottish medieval adventure about the youngest in a war-band who must free her family from a castle prison after knights attack her home.

One dark night, Drest’s sheltered life on a remote Scottish headland is shattered when invading knights capture her family, but leave Drest behind. Her father, the Mad Wolf of the North, and her beloved brothers are a fearsome war-band, but now Drest is the only one who can save them. So she starts off on a wild rescue attempt, taking a wounded invader along as a hostage. 

Hunted by a bandit with a dark link to her family’s past, aided by a witch whom she rescues from the stake, Drest travels through unwelcoming villages, desolate forests, and haunted towns. Every time she faces a challenge, her five brothers speak to her in her mind about courage and her role in the war-band. But on her journey, Drest learns that the war-band is legendary for terrorizing the land. If she frees them, they’ll not hesitate to hurt the gentle knight who’s become her friend.

Drest thought that all she wanted was her family back; now she has to wonder what their freedom would really mean. Is she her father’s daughter or is it time to become her own legend?

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This turned out to be quite a charming and enjoyable read. The general concept of the novel is very traditional, but it is spiced up by many unique elements and plot twists that Magras employs throughout. I had such a fun time following the journey of this brave young warrior and her friends. The story mixes danger, mystery, and intrigue with warmth, love, and friendship to create a highly immersive read. With solid characters, a well-written narrative, and plenty of action and adventure, it is incredibly easy to fall in love with this tale.

In this novel, we follow a young Scottish girl named Drest, who’s life is turned upside-down when her father and brothers are captured and taken to the prison at the nearby Faintree Castle. After these knights invade her home, Drest barely escapes the hostility brought upon her family, be she is the only one to do so. Therefore, she is thrown into an unexpected adventure, and must find the courage deep within herself in order to save the ones she loves the most.

Trusting one of the wounded knights to lead her to the castle, she draws strength from the encouraging voices of her five brothers that she hears in her head. Joined early on by a young boy named Tig, the unlikely trio soon become comrades, as they fight through the many perils that lie ahead of them.

However, not everything is as it seems, and the indiscretions of the war-band—her family—are beginning to come to light. This leaves Drest questioning not only who she should put her trust in and whether her family should actually be freed, but also who she is. Despite the obstacles she fights through along the way, the most challenging part of her journey might in fact be at the very end.

I found this to be a very captivating and fast-paced story, and I fell into it very easily. It hooked me right from the start, as we are thrown directly into the action. And the characters were a very high point of the novel. Drest is an incredibly strong heroine and a fantastic model of bravery, both physically and mentally. She develops very realistically throughout the course of the narrative, starting off much more timid and unsure of her abilities and steadily blossoming into a true warrior. A multi-dimensional and dynamic character, Drest is truly the driving force in this novel.

I would have liked to have seen the relationships between the characters developed a bit more than they were, particularly the war-band. We get a fairly good idea of their personalities as the story unfolds, but I think that area could have been focused on slightly more. This was by no means a huge detriment to the story, but I feel as though that would connect the reader even more to the characters, their relationships, and how those elements are tested throughout the narrative.

As far as the writing itself goes, I thought this novel was beautifully written. Magras really has a way with words—everything flowed perfectly and carried me quickly and smoothly through the story. Her writing suits the target age range for this novel so well. She words things very intelligently and clearly. The text is not pared down so far that it comes across as too basic or simple, but it never feels as if it would be too difficult for young readers to understand. She expertly wrote in a style that challenges but would not confuse a middle grade audience.

Magras also does a fantastic job of accurately building the setting of this Scottish headland and beyond. Every detail is not only clearly depicted, everything is very realistic. The backdrop of this story is full of depth and history. In the same vein, the language used feels spot-on for both the time and location, and you can tell the effort and research she put into this aspect of the narrative. The slang used, the way all the characters address one another, it all feels authentic and immerses you deeply in the story. I had no trouble both transporting myself into the world and hearing every line of dialogue with the accompanying Scottish accent.

The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is a very well-crafted and enchanting story of the strength and courage one can find within oneself in the face of adversity. Though it is targeted at a younger audience, I believe that readers of any age will be able to take an interest in this novel. The messages that radiate from this story are very positive and enlightening. It is sure to teach a middle grade reader important lessons about the warrior we all have inside of us. This is full of heart, and is a wonderfully wholesome and exciting fantasy that young readers will surely eat up.

5.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

15572575Diane Magras grew up on Mount Desert Island in Maine. The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is her debut novel. She is the editor, writer, and chief fund raiser for the Maine Humanities Council.

She volunteers at her son’s school library, and is addicted to tea, toast, castles, legends, and most things medieval. Diane lives in Maine with her husband and son and thinks often of Scotland, where her books are set.

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Review: Robin Hood’s Dawn by Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer + Giveaway

Giveaway Open: If you would like to receive an e-book copy of Robin Hood’s Dawn, leave a comment below, let me know what your favorite retelling is if you have one, and provide a link to your Goodreads, Twitter, or an email address I can use to contact you!

Robins Hood's Dawn Book CoverRobin Hood’s Dawn by Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Robin Hood Trilogy #1

Date Published: January 16th, 2018

Publisher: Angevin World Publishing

Pages: 432 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: England, 1154-1194

A kingdom under assault.

A conspiracy born of anarchy.

A hero standing against tyranny.

Falsely convicted of a shocking crime, Robin Fitzooth, the Earl of Huntingdon, finds refuge in Sherwood Forest and becomes Robin Hood. 

Leading a band of men against the injustices of a malevolent sheriff and his henchmen, Robin begins to unravel a web of treachery threatening the English royal family.

As shadowy forces gather to destroy the future of a nation, Robin faces deceit, betrayal, and the ravages of war as he defends his king, his country, his people, and the woman he loves from a conspiracy so diabolical, so unexpected, that the course of history hangs in the balance. 

From the mists of an ancient woodland, to lavish royal courts teeming with intrigue, to the exotic shores of the Holy Land – Robin Hood leads the fight in a battle between good and evil, justice and tyranny, the future and the past.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Though I am a massive fan of any and all retellings, this reading experience was a bit different than usual. I have not actually read any Robin Hood stories yet, so I went into this knowing far less about the original source material. Typically, I don’t read retellings when I have such a small amount of knowledge of the story it’s trying to retell. However, after reading the synopsis of this novel, I absolutely could not pass it up—and I am extremely glad that I didn’t, for multiple reasons.

First and foremost, I thoroughly enjoyed my general reading experience. This exciting story and its memorable cast of characters, this fictional adventure embedded in historical fact—it all works together beautifully to create a riveting and witty narrative. Second, it was interesting for me to essentially go in blind, not having any substantial frame of reference. While I have little to no ability to compare and contrast this retelling to anything else, I feel that I have a handle on the way it comes across on its own, without any preconceived ideas of how things should be. That gave me a personally unique perspective compared to what I’m used to when it comes to retellings.

In this novel, we follow Robin Fitzooth—Earl of Huntingdon and an experienced swordsman and archer—during the events leading up to and immediately follow his transformation into the Robin Hood we all know and love. A false murder conviction sends him to Sherwood Forest and into the role of a hero, fighting for justice over a corrupt force within a country at war, all while retaining his loyalty to the king and his own integrity. He risks everything to right the wrongs inflicted on the poor and innocent, and to combat an immoral group of men who are conspiring to destroy a kingdom and threaten to harm those closest to him.

I will go ahead and say now that being unfamiliar with the original stories did not dampen my enjoyment of this novel in any way whatsoever. In fact, I am now even more eager to read those classic tales. Longueville and Plummer give us a well-rounded view of the lives as well as the familial histories of our main characters. We not only experience the adventures of Robin Hood and his men, but also witness the events that brought them together, even reaching back through multiple generations. The comprehensive rendering of fictional events woven into historical ones allows for a deeper understanding of the time period, and subsequently a multi-dimensional narrative.

I have to admit, this ended up being a bit of a slow read for me. This was not at all a reflection of the writing or story quality—rather, it was just my own ability to immerse myself in the world and plot. The text itself flows very nicely and is consistently absorbing, particularly as the action picks up a few chapters into the novel. The world-building is vivid and captures the time period well. Longueville and Plummer clearly put a lot of time and effort into researching the history that sets the stage for this adventure to play out on, and their knowledge causes the story to be even more tangible.

One thing I am unsure of is how exactly Longueville and Plummer split up the task of writing, but nonetheless, I was very impressed with the seamlessness of the text. I didn’t notice any major shifts in the writing or storytelling style, which is no small feat in a dual author narrative. The pair demonstrate a great deal of skill and knowledge in both prose and history, and make for a strong literary duo.

Longueville and Plummer do a fantastic job building three-dimensional characters who are easy to either root for or hate, and are always memorable. The relationships between the characters are beautifully depicted as well, the love story between Robin and Marian being an outstanding example. I am particularly pleased with how they portrayed Marian—while Robin is very protective of her and desperate to save her, she remains very independent, strong, and brave in a horrible situation. Robin’s relationships with the members of his band are another major highlight of this novel.

Overall, I found this to be a solid and well-crafted fantasy. Though it took me a bit longer to get through, I did feel very engaged and invested all the way to the end. Both fans of Robin Hood’s adventures as well as readers new to these characters can easily find enjoyment in this novel. While things do not end in any sort of cliffhanger, I was still left wanting more. I’m eager to see where the story goes, so I will definitely be picking up the next two installments as they come out.

3.5 TARDISes

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Review: Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

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reignofthefallenReign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Reign of the Fallen #1

Date Published: January 23rd, 2018

Publisher: Razorbill

Pages: 384 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Without the dead, she’d be no one.

Odessa is one of Karthia’s master necromancers, catering to the kingdom’s ruling Dead. Whenever a noble dies, it’s Odessa’s job to raise them by retrieving their soul from a dreamy and dangerous shadow world called the Deadlands. But there is a cost to being raised: the Dead must remain shrouded. If even a hint of flesh is exposed, a grotesque transformation begins, turning the Dead into terrifying, bloodthirsty Shades.

A dramatic uptick in Shade attacks raises suspicions and fears around the kingdom. Soon, a crushing loss of one of her closest companions leaves Odessa shattered, and reveals a disturbing conspiracy in Karthia: Someone is intentionally creating Shades by tearing shrouds from the Dead–and training them to attack. Odessa is forced to contemplate a terrifying question: What if her magic is the weapon that brings the kingdom to its knees? 

Fighting alongside her fellow mages–and a powerful girl as enthralling as she is infuriating–Odessa must untangle the gruesome plot to destroy Karthia before the Shades take everything she loves.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I was incredibly impressed and pleasantly surprised by this novel. It can be difficult to find young adult fantasy novels that are noticeably distinct from many of the others out there. And for me, this was one of those fantasy novels that separated itself from all the rest. A truly unique and diverse narrative of strength and courage plays out against a glittering and exquisitely depicted backdrop of a kingdom falling into the hands of deception. Reign of the Fallen is one of those novels that captivates you from page one, and sweeps you into a darkly alluring world of magic and intrigue, where nothing is as it seems and friendship, family, and love are victorious.

In this novel, we follow Odessa, a young master necromancer who attends to the Dead that rule the kingdom of Karthia. With her rare abilities of sight and sense, she has served in a key role of her society, traveling into an enchanting and treacherous world called the Deadlands. Here, the spirts of those who have recently died roam until they pass on to their final resting place. Odessa and her partner carry out the ritual of returning spirits from the Deadlands back to their bodies, and their families.

However, those who are raised have a dangerous price to pay—they must remain entirely shrouded, hidden from the eyes of the living, or risk turning into a deadly creature called a Shade. Shade’s stalk the shadows of the Deadlands, feeding on both spirits—and any humans who enter this world—in order to gain size and power. Through a series of devastating losses, Odessa and the other necromancers in her community realize that something about their two worlds has shifted. Shrouded people are disappearing, Shades are materializing in Karthia, and these Shades seem to be trained to attack.

This is Sarah Glenn Marsh’s second published work, and she is already clearly displaying a remarkable amount of talent and creativity. She skillfully paints a picture of this mysterious and sinisterly magical world and the people that dwell within it. Her world building is top-notch and her character creation is solid. While not wholly unpredictable, the plot is exciting and original, and it travels at a fast pace that captures the reader’s attention. The tone of the narrative, the evolution of the characters, and the textual illustration of the setting seamlessly work together to give this story a realistic and almost tangible quality.

Both love and death have a crucial role in the way this novel’s plot unfolds. Death is a theme that shapes the society and lives of the Karthians, and is what kicks off the actions of our main characters. However, the strong love that resides in the connections between both lovers and friends is shown to contain the most power. Through pain, tragedy, and hopelessness, this is where the true strength can be found. No matter how hard death tries to reign supreme, love will always triumph. This is the message that resounds throughout the novel, and this is the true beauty that emanates from every page.

Marsh’s characters are, by far, my favorite part of this novel. She did a brilliant job of making each and every one of them memorable and three-dimensional—easy to imagine and to connect with. I became invested in these characters from the page that they entered the narrative on, and they have stuck with me long after finishing the novel. This is also where much of the diversity of this novel lies. No one is judged on appearance or gender; sexuality is not a point of contention. These topics are not dwelled on, they just are. Aside from some barriers due to position in the society of the kingdom, everyone is generally free to love and live in the way they wish.

I completely and utterly adore Odessa. In short, she is one of the most badass heroines I’ve come across in a while. She is a fighter in every sense of the word. One of my favorite parts of the way Marsh depicts Odessa is that she does not shy away from displaying Odessa’s flaws. This makes Odessa even more realistic and relatable; she is not at all a perfect heroine. She makes many mistakes and bad choices. She goes through extreme struggles and trials, fighting both outer and inner demons such as addiction as a source of mental pain relief—and yet, nothing manages to stop her. Odessa’s strength always pushes her to do the right thing, to save the people she cares about as well as herself.

The biggest surprise of this novel for me was how much I actually liked the romantic aspects of the plot. I’m not someone who often tends to enjoy stories that focus too heavily on romance, and romance is a massive part of this particular book. However, it has an incredibly pivotal role in the direction of the narrative, and therefore is very necessary for many of the events that play out.

Romance is by no means a trivial aspect of the plot or a distraction from the most important events. This is what brings our main characters together and gives them the courage and determination to fight back and protect the people of Karthia. Marsh creates very sweet and beautiful romances, as tangible as her characters themselves, and very fitting to the plot.

Overall, I found this novel to be refreshingly unique and compelling. There is so much creativity and detail put into the creation of both Karthia and the Deadlands, making it exceptionally easy to enter in your mind. The main characters are lovable, and Marsh crafts them in a way that makes the reader come to be deeply invested in their lives and their fates. Very well-written, carefully crafted and paced, this story has remained with me and grown on me more and more as I’ve thought about it. Though this could easily be a perfectly satisfying standalone, I have very high hopes for the future novels of this series, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes in further installments.

4.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

sarahglennmarshSarah Glenn Marsh has been an avid fantasy reader from the day her dad handed her a copy of The Hobbit and promised it would change her life; she’s been making up words and worlds ever since. When she’s not writing, Sarah enjoys painting, ghost hunting, traveling, and all things nerdy.

She lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and their menagerie: four rescued greyhounds, a bird, and many fish. She is the author of Fear the Drowning Deep and Reign of the Fallen.

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