Welcome to the revamped Recent Reads! As previously mentioned here, I’ve switched to a new book review format to accommodate a change in blogging priorities. Recent Reads will now be a retrospective of the books read over the past month, and will consist of multiple, shorter reviews. Now that I’m reading faster that I used to, I’m hoping this will be a more “economical” way of sharing bookish thoughts. So, in addition to any comments on the individual books, let me know what you think of the new format in the Comments section at the end.
So, onto the books I read last month!
What I Read in June
In addition to Tamora Piece’s Alanna: The First Adventure (reviewed here), here’s what I read this past month:
Someone had told me that once I’d read one book by New Zealand fantasy writer Juliet Marillier, I’d want to read them all. Dear heart, now I know why. Marillier’s debut novel Daughter of the Forest is an exquisite tale of love, loyalty, and sacrifice that sweeps readers into medieval Ireland. Young Sorcha of Sevenwaters is the only one who can break the curse placed on her six older brothers by her father’s new sorceress wife. Her task? To weave shirts for each of her brothers from the fibers of a nettle plant, and remain silent until she’s done – a task that proves increasingly difficult when Sorcha is captured by the Britons.
Marillier’s writing here is simple yet heartfelt, expressing Sorcha’s tangled emotions with ease. The romance between Sorcha and Red is also masterfully handled; it’s slow-building yet intense, without overpowering the plot. My only critique is that the long chapters (30+ pages on average) made reading this book feel like a marathon. Yet I felt for Sorcha so deeply and savored the undercurrents of Celtic paganism that set this book apart from other fantasy novels I’ve read. If you’re a fan of Ursula K. Le Guin or enjoy a dash of folklore in your fantasy, you really should consider Daughter of the Forest. I’m already looking forward to the rest of the Sevenwaters Trilogy, as well as the rest of Marillier’s repertoire.
With her debut novel Radiant, Karina Sumner-Smith introduced readers to a frightening beautiful world of magic-rich Towers, a crumbling Lower City, ghosts, nightwalkers, and an unlikely friendship between the living and the dead. Now, with Defiant, readers reunite with Xhea and her ghost-friend Shai as they’re hiding in Edren’s skyscraper so Xhea can heal from her injuries. Both girls know they’re only biding their time. The Lower City’s other skyscrapers envy Edren’s newfound wealth from Shai’s Radiant magic. One, however, seems more interested in Xhea’s darker, more sinister powers – powers that she finally begins to understand after she’s offered a chance for the privileged life she dared to dream of when homeless.
That latter thread is Defiant’s greatest strength: Xhea, and therefore the reader, learns more about her rare abilities as well as her origins, all while confronting a haunting moral dilemma. Shai also comes into her own, as she develops a new understanding of being a Radiant and communicates with the living in Xhea’s absence. Defiant plods along, however, and relies heavily on exposition and character thoughts to carry the story. This didn’t surprise me; Sumner-Smith used the same approach for Radiant, but it’s more noticeable with Defiant and not really to my tastes. I also had trouble connecting with some of the secondary characters this time. That being said, I was still fascinated by the build-up to all-out civil war, and with how Xhea and Shai come to terms with their roles in that battle. I can only guess how things will end in Towers Fall – but finding out the “how” is part of the fun of trilogies, right?
[NOTE: Other reviews that were previously shown in this post have since been redacted.]
What I’m Reading Next
I’m just under halfway through with Elizabeth May’s The Falconer, a YA steampunk fantasy about a Scottish debutante who kills faeries to avenge her mother’s death. It’s pretty good so far! After that, I’m planning to tackle Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn, Danielle L. Jensen’s Stolen Songbird, and Tina Connolly’s Ironskin. I have plenty more books on the TBR list to follow, but four sounds like a decent goal for this month. 😉
How about you? What books did you recently read? Have you read any of the titles mentioned above?