Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman
Series: Elementals #1
Published by HarperCollins on March 27th 2018
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Middle Grade
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Everyone in Vallen knows that ice wolves and scorch dragons are sworn enemies who live deeply separate lives.
So when twelve-year-old orphan Anders takes one elemental form and his twin sister, Rayna, takes another, he wonders whether they are even related. Still, whether or not they’re family, Rayna is Anders’s only true friend. She’s nothing like the brutal, cruel dragons who claimed her as one of their own and stole her away.
In order to rescue her, Anders must enlist at the foreboding Ulfar Academy, a school for young wolves that values loyalty to the pack above all else. But for Anders, loyalty is more complicated than obedience, and friendship is the most powerful shapeshifting force of all.
Ice Wolves is a fun, magical little story about families with magic in their veins with children who become wolves or dragons. When Anders shifts into a wolf – and his sister Rayna a dragon, the two go off into their own adventures, discovering more about themselves.
This was a quick, magical read with a lot of charm and adventure. I liked how the core of the story was about acceptance of each other regardless of what they become. Wolves and dragons never interact, creating rumours and myths about each other, but Anders knows better because of his sister. The academy part seemed to be rather short, with many of Ander’s friends and classmates kind of blending in with one another. The characters also weren’t particularly memorable despite them being shapeshifters. I did adore Lisbeth, the smart, resourceful young girl who helps him on his journey and puts everything aside to trust in him.
It’s a coming of age story as he grows deeper in understanding, friendship and confidence. It’s also a story of magical creatures, shapeshifting and cold, wintery days.
Rating: 3 out of 5
I received a review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss.Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children #3
Published by Tor, Pan Macmillan Australia on January 9th 2018
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Magical Realism, Fiction
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Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the "real" world.
Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.
What I’ve come to love about this series is haunting, horror-like world with great intersectional diversity. Sadly, I missed the horror-like world in this one, as the characters visit a Nonsense land of Confection where everything is made out of cookies and dessert. While I liked the diversity in terms of characters, the fat and disability representation, I felt like there was something a bit forced here.
I liked Cora well enough, being an athletic mermaid but also being fat – and how the book covered the angst she had and addressed the many prejudices that she dealt with for a body shape she could not control. There were elements of the story that lead to Cora’s angst and confidence in being in this new world, but I didn’t really feel that closure (because the story wasn’t really about her per se). You’ve also got Nadya who is a disabled girl with no arm, who also gets treated equally in the book (and doesn’t get subject to what she would in the “real world”). I really appreciated the disability and fat representation and how it dealt with the prejudices head on, although it did feel really heavy-handed.
The narrative isn’t really focused on Cora or Nadya though, – the adventure follows Rini, a Japanese girl who comes from the Land of Confection who is looking for her dead mother. Now I liked the return to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, but when they entered the Nonsense world of Confection, the plot kind of falters a little. For a short book, it didn’t really hold my interest because it lacked a strong narrative like the previous books. I loved the land of Confection, it was really fascinating but so many of the concepts to do with logic just flew past my head. I feel like this novella in particular would’ve been perfect for a graphic novel but the strangeness was kind of difficult to place.
For a short book, it had trouble holding my interest and there wasn’t really a strong character arc for anyone here. Yes it’s a novella and that’s expecting a lot from a short story, but given my expectations were pretty high after Down Among the Sticks and Bones, I can’t help but feel disappointed.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me this review copy!
Beneath the Sugar Sky is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$29.99.Sightwitch by Susan Dennard
Series: The Witchlands #0.5
Published by Tor Teen, Pan Macmillan Australia on February 13th 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
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Sightwitch is an illustrated novella set in the Witchlands and told through Ryber's journal entries and sketches.
Before Safi and Iseult battled a Bloodwitch...
Before Merik returned from the dead...
Ryber Fortiza was a Sightwitch Sister at a secluded convent, waiting to be called by her goddess into the depths of the mountain. There she would receive the gift of foretelling. But when that call never comes, Ryber finds herself the only Sister without the Sight.
Years pass and Ryber's misfit pain becomes a dull ache, until one day, Sisters who already possess the Sight are summoned into the mountain, never to return. Soon enough, Ryber is the only Sister left. Now, it is up to her to save her Sisters, though she does not have the Sight--and though she does not know what might await her inside the mountain.
On her journey underground, she encounters a young captain named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he got there. Together, the two journey ever deeper in search of answers, their road filled with horrors, and what they find at the end of that road will alter the fate of the Witchlands forever.
Being a novella, I had no idea that Sightwitch would pack such a punch, especially with its unique format to the rest of the series – it’s told through diary entries from two perspectives, filled with illustrations, maps and one helluva story. Sightwitch captures the essential heart of the series – sisterhood, wicked banter, diversity and elemental-based magic.
The friendship between Ryber and her fellow sightsister, Tanzi rang true throughout the whole book, as Ryber’s purpose is to save her when she gets summoned away. You can tell that they mean a lot to each other, and I loved how the friendship was shown throughout Ryber’s thoughts and feelings as she’s mainly alone throughout the book. It gave us a great insight into who Ryber was as a person, the way she strictly abided by the rules, how she longed to be summoned and how she forewent ritual for her gut instinct. This girl has her flaws but she’s slowly trying to break out of it, and seeing her find her feet was rewarding.
We’re also given the perspective of the Eridysi – a famous Sightwitch from thousands of years in the past. Their storylines run parallel to one another, and it was interesting seeing how much they really had in common. I did find Eridysi’s perspective to be fairly distracting though, as they would appear in the midst of Ryber’s (defining both of their perspectives could’ve been a bit clearer). The blurb also alludes to Captain Kullen’s apperance, and we do find out his back story, but he plays a more minor part to the story than what was portrayed.
The world-building here was absolutely fantastic – I loved how the sightwitches comprised of women from all races and religions, and how they built up their own rules to abide by, and how their magic came from within and was not given. The maps, drawings, puzzles and prayers definitely added a fun element to the clan and it was fascinating seeing what their beliefs were. I also adored The Rook, who is the raven companion that accompanies Ryber and the Sightwitches on their journey.
If you’re a fan of the Witchlands series (see my reviews for Truthwitch and Windwitch), picking up Sightwitch is a no brainer. It adds so much to the world building of the series, fills in some questions and backstories about some of the characters and also leads into the next book in the series, Bloodwitch.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me this review copy!
Sightwitch is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$16.99.
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Aw, no. It makes me sad that you didn’t love Beneath the Sugar Sky as much as the previous books in the series. Down Among the Sticks and Bones was so good – I actually enjoyed it more than Every Heart a Doorway – I really loved the horror aspect. I think going into Beneath the Sugar Sky knowing that it’s different to the first two is a good thing. So thank you for the warning! I’m still keen because the books are so unique and diverse 😀
When I read Truthwitch I wasn’t really blown away, but I really liked Windwitch! So I’m super keen for Sightwitch. Though I’m sad it doesn’t have a UK cover that matches the first two :/ I’m excited to find out more about characters we’ve met in the other books but haven’t really had the chance to connect to yet.
Lovely reviews, Jeann!
Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity recently posted…My Fave (Newer) Disney Movies
Yesss Down Among the Sticks & Bones was also my favourite as well in the series! It was sooo good. Glad to hear you loved Windwitch, it was so different from the first book though. Thanks lovely!
It’s been so long since I read a middle grade book, and Ice Wolves sounds really cute, but also magical and unique. Thanks for sharing!
Aimee (Aimee, Always) recently posted…16 YA Novels to Add to Your Never-ending TBR This May 2018
It was a really adorable book Aimee! I know, I really don’t read MG much.
lovely reviews, im excited to start Dennards books. i bought the first one last month
lauren recently posted…ARC Review: Everless by Sara Holland
Yay, I hope you enjoy them Lauren, I really like the Truthwitch series!
Been dying to start Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children. Still considering it.
The other books sound like fun, but you know me and fantasy novels don’t mix. Lol.
Joy // Joyousreads recently posted…: Come From Away by Genevieve Graham
I hope you do enjoy the series when you pick it up Joy, I loved it!
Ice Wolves looks fun! And Sightwitch sounds great- I need to start that series.
Greg recently posted…Mini- Reviews
They were fun reads Greg!
I kind of wondered if I should read Ice Wolves but I’m just not sure. I feel like I’m out of touch with MG these days?! So I might skip it if it wasn’t astounding. And omg I actually love where the Beneath the Sugar Sky is set then but not sounds a bit preachy?? Pity none of these wowed your socks off but I love reading your reviews always!
Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…10 Things Book Characters Do That I Just Doooon’t Understand
Yeah, I’m not a big MG reader tbh! Hmm it wasn’t too preachy, if you like the setting you might enjoy it 😀
I liked Sightwitch!!! I am a huge fan of the illustrated novel/novella thing. Plus it was cool how long the novella was (as opposed to most novellas, which are like 90 pages long). I’m glad you mostly liked it, Jeann!
Great reviews! Have a fantastic week. =)
Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!
Alyssa Susanna (The Eater of Books!) recently posted…Review: On His Watch by Katie Ruggle
I know, I loved how it was a shorter novel but it fit in such an impactful story with so many illustrations and stuff! Thank you lovely!
These all sound intriguing. I’m not one for novellas unless I’m hooked on their series, But the Ice Wolves one sounds brilliant. Do you think it would be suitable for a mature 6yo reader?
I think the writing might be slightly a bit too advanced for a 6yo reader, but maybe around the 8 year old bracket?