A Bittersweet Goodbye

Dear Readers,

We have a bittersweet announcement to make. You may have noticed that our regular posts have gone down in frequency and number over the past few months. The bitter news is that it’s time for Nicola, Alyssa and I to say goodbye to Coven Book Club.

CBC started as a place to honor women writers and recommend books, rather than just review them and we stand by that mission. We are devoted readers and always will be, but our lives have gone in different directions at this point and it isn’t sustainable to keep writing for CBC. We are so proud of this project and all that we’ve done here, but we’ve come to a natural end.

The sweetest news is that one of the reasons we’re saying goodbye is that each of us is working on the creation side of the book industry, rather than being only readers and recommenders. As our projects grow in scale and scope, we’ve found that we don’t have the time to do the sisterhood here at CBC justice. I think I speak for all three of us when I say we hope to bring books into the world that readers love and CBC has helped grow and solidify that dream for each of us.

We have appreciated your support so much and we wish you all the best. The website will stay, but the domain name will not be renewed and we will not continue to publish posts. Please feel free to say hi if you see us around the Twitterverse or on Instagram. We have loved talking with you all so much.

Forever with you in book mayhem and magic,

Allison, Nicola and Alyssa


Shameless, Allison, shameless.

Dear readers, I am going to make a shameless plug for myself now and I promise you, I won’t burden this space with annoyingly frequent uRaven&Bonepdates about this business… But….

I wrote a book, witches. I wrote a book and I did something absolutely terrifying: I entered it in Geek and Sundry’s Inkshares contest. I confess that I practically threw up when I put the news out on Facebook last week and I feel a bit itchy about asking you for support as well, but Amanda Palmer says that as artists we should ask for help, so I’m asking:

Please help me get Raven and Bone published.

To win the contest in needs to be in the top 3 by November 1st. The way to vote is to pre-order. If I don’t win, you get your money back. If I do, you get the book. I would really love for Raven and Bone to get out there in the world and if I don’t win, but there are lots of people interested, I may give another route a try, but it would be lovely to have Inkshares do the hard lifting on marketing, etc.

I started writing Raven and B11132103415_7dd94ed2f1_oone almost four years ago when a friend on Tumblr posted a wickedly chilling true crime story. In 1943, four boys tromped through Hagley Woods, in the English Midlands, hoping to poach some bird’s eggs. Instead of eggs, they found a human skull.

When the police went to extract the skeleton from the tree, they found it had actually grown around the bones. This led them to believe the body had been placed there while it was still warm. If that’s not creepy enough, they found that one of the body’s hands had been severed and buried near the tree.

Shortly after the body’s removal, someone began began writing “Who put Bella in the wych elm?” in the surrounding area. Many theories have circulated about who killed Bella. My favorite though, is that a cult of witches might have killed her as a part of a dark ritual.

Raven and SkullIt’s not surprising that I would latch onto this tale. I love urban legends, true crime and above all else: witches. In my mind, I watched the boys find the skull through someone’s eyes who knew the body might be there to begin with, someone who didn’t want anyone else to find it. I sensed that another watched that someone, and that Bella was a part of a larger story.

That’s when Ava showed up. A witch with anxiety, a lot of anger and a past so dark it’s kept her running for centuries. And at first she came with two pretty typical urban fantasy counterparts: a shapeshifter named Lex and a vampire named Vivienne. But things went sideways pretty quickly for me as I started writing their story. As a result, Raven and Bone is a sprawling genre mash-up: Part dark fantasy, part portal fantasy, part paranormal romance. A little bit scary, a little bit sexy, a lotta bit dark.

Not sure about Raven and Bone? You can read the prologue right now, and then decide. I’ll be releasing chapters periodically throughout the contest to reward my supporters.

A million times thank you, even if you don’t pre-order R&B. I just love ya all a million for sticking with us here at CBC.

Allison

P.S. I made the book cover for R&B myself, as well as these nifty little images, using images The British Library put online via Flickr. Check it out.


The Darkest Magic

The Darkest MagicA few months ago I recommended Morgan Rhodes’ A Book of Spirits and Thieves, the urban fantasy spin-off to her high fantasy Falling Kingdoms series. Last month the sequel, The Darkest Magic, was released. Carrying on from where ABOSAT left off, The Darkest Magic explores the consequences of Farrell’s decisions, the darker side to Maddox’s magic, and what Becca’s supernatural heritage means for her family.

As I mentioned in my recommendation for ABOSAT, the sibling relationship between Crys and Becca is nuanced and realistic; they’re neither best friends nor constantly bickering. The Darkest Magic adds a new level to this, with Becca’s burgeoning supernatural connection. It’s not something Becca wants, and it’s not something she benefits from in any perceptible manner, yet it’s undeniably important in terms of stopping Markus and Valoria. This leaves Crys envious of her sister’s importance, because it dawns on her that she’s the only one in her circle who is replaceable. At once she envies Becca and realises how ridiculous it is to envy Becca for something like this. It’s such a very sisterly thing to do, to both envy her sister and realise she shouldn’t, and I love that Rhodes doesn’t shy away from such contradictions.

Although Crys and Becca’s relationship is my favourite, the character whose POV I enjoyed the most was Farrell’s. At the end of ABOSAT, he accepted the third mark from Markus, subsuming his will to his master’s. While reading the book, it’s never quite clear how much of his thoughts and actions are truly his, and how much of them are Markus’. At times he clearly appears to be acting under Markus’ influence, while at other times he appears himself. And yet it’s in those moments that we’re faced with the undeniable truth: We’ve never ‘met’ Farrell as himself, because he was already under Markus’ command when he was introduced. What results is a character whose motivations are nebulous even when we’re reading his own internal narrative.

This depth of characterisation will be familiar to readers of the Falling Kingdoms series, as will Rhodes’ willingness to heighten the stakes and create heart-stopping plot twists. The Darkest Magic will have you on the edge of your seat, desperate to learn what happens next. Without spoiling anything, there was one moment in particular near the climax of the novel that had me frantically reading ahead, unable to peel my eyes away from the page.

The sequel to ABOSAT is a thrilling, emotional installment that will leave you eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the trilogy.

Nicola has been reading more Canadian fiction than usual lately, and she thinks you should too. You can find her on Twitter.


What I’m Reading (Sort of)

 

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I need to confess. I’m not in a reading rut, I’m in reading hell. I’ve been so busy the past ten weeks that I’ve barely read the internet, let alone a whole book. It’s depressing. BUT! Yesterday was the end of my last summer class, I have three weeks of vacation in front of me, and a Kindle loaded with books I’m excited to read.

So this isn’t my TBR, it’s my WBR (will be read):

The Book:

Spells of Blood and Kin, by Claire Humphrey

The Summary:

When her beloved grandmother dies suddenly, 22-year-old Lissa Nevsky is left with no choice but to take over her grandmother’s magical position in their small folk community. That includes honoring a debt owed to the dangerous stranger who appears at Lissa’s door.

Maksim Volkov needs magic to keep his brutal nature leashed, but he’s already lost control once: his blood-borne lust for violence infects Nick Kaisaris, a charming slacker out celebrating the end of finals. Now Nick is somewhere else in Toronto, going slowly mad, and Maksim must find him before he hurts more people.

Lissa must uncover forbidden secrets and mend family rifts in order to prevent Maksim from hurting more people, including himself. If she fails, Maksim will have no choice but to destroy both himself and Nick. (Goodreads)

Why I’m Excited:

I’ve been looking forward to a witchy read for a while now and this one seems like a good bet. A few friends have liked it, so I’m excited to give it a try. Plus (and I know this isn’t supposed to matter), look at that cover!!!

The Book: 

The Beauty of Darkness, by Mary E Pearson

The Summary: 

I’m going to skip the summary here for those of you who haven’t read Pearson’s Remnant Chronicles books. If you’d like to read an excellent recommendation for the first book, Nicola’s got that covered. Here’s a quick excerpt from Nicola’s review:

“Fleeing an arranged marriage to a stranger, Lia, youngest child and only daughter of the king and queen of Morrighan, runs away with her friend and settles in a village at the other end of the country. There she develops a new identity, living in a cottage and working in a tavern. Soon two men show up in town: the prince to whom she was betrothed, and an assassin sent to kill her to prevent the marriage from ever happening. Their identities are secret from Lia – and, indeed, from us.”

I really thought one of us had recommended the Remnant Chronicles here, but it must be that we chat about it so often! Despite the fact that we haven’t posted here about it yet, we have plans to discuss it in just a few weeks.

Why I’m Excited: 

I’ve mentioned this before, but the first book in this series The Kiss of Betrayal didn’t make me as excited as I’d hoped it would, until the second half, which I thought picked up quite a bit. And then the second book The Heart of Betrayal was one of my favorite books last year. I’m psyched to read this and get to chatting about it with Alyssa and Nicola (in public — we fangirl out about this series in private a lot).

The Book: 

The Throne of Glass series, by Sarah J Maas

The Summary:

In case you haven’t read the series let me whet your appetite: When the series opens Celaena Sardothien, the world’s greatest assassin, is sprung from prison to compete in a dangerous competition. The competition uncovers a secret so deep and frightening it will shake the world. Plus: Faeries, witches, and magic galore. These books are adventure driven! If you haven’t read them yet, get going! (Hint: lots of people don’t enjoy the first book as much as the others, keep going, you’ll be hooked).

Why I’m Excited: 

Empire of Storms comes out September 6th and I didn’t do a re-read before Queen of Shadows. I want to this time. I need to be honest with you here, having a book blog is great because it pushes me to read new stuff, but the honest to goodness truth about me is that I love to read my favorite books over and over, and sometimes blogging gets in the way of that. I need to get back to my reading roots. Fall and winter are my big reading seasons and I want to be back on better terms with books when September hits.

Here’s why I’m psyched to read this series again: It’s no secret that we love these books and Maas’ writing, in general. We write about her books a lot here. But there’s a few good reasons for this:

  1. Maas’ roots run deep into classic fantasy worlds like Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books. People who loved Pierce’s strong female characters, excellent worldbuilding and compelling storytelling will probably love the Throne of Glass series.
  2. Adventure, adventure, adventure. We love a good romance around here. Blink and you’ll catch us swooning over lovely love interests (Rhysand anyone? SWOON), but though these books have some romance in ’em, they’re primarily about adventure and intrigue.
  3. Amazing worldbuilding. This series’ worldbuilding is so rich I can picture it in my head right now. I can feel it. I love books that pull you in so deep they create a lasting feeling you can go back to any time.

I plan to write at least one recommendation for the series before we discuss Empire of Storms in September, so expect to hear more from me about this series then.

That’s it for now! We’ve got some juicy discussions brewing that we’re excited to share in the coming months, so stay tuned.

 

Allison Carr Waechter is ready for her reading vacation. Can you kill off all the mosquitoes so she can live in her hammock for the next three weeks? 


Faeries, Fate and Free Will

Wicked LovelyYou know those books you pick up excitedly and you can’t wait to read, but just never seem to get around to it? Wicked Lovely was one of them for me. It’s been on my TBR for, oh, two or three years now, and every time I saw it mentioned I thought, “Ooh, can’t wait to read that!”, but never got around to actually picking it up. Then on Saturday evening I was looking for a bedtime read and felt inexplicably drawn towards it. I don’t know why I picked that book on Saturday, when I’d passed over it for so long, but I’m so glad I did, because it’s one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in a while.

Wicked Lovely tells the story of 17-year-old Aislinn who, like her mother and grandmother, is gifted – or perhaps cursed – with the Sight. She can see faeries, and she doesn’t like what she sees. All her life she’s been taught to conceal her Sight from faeries, her Grams certain that such information being out in the open would make her a target, but when she finds herself the target of a particular faery’s attentions regardless she decides she’s done with hiding and running and ready to find out what they want from her.

I was utterly entranced with Marr’s faeries, right from the start. They’re at once the creepy, grotesque faeries of Celtic myth and multifaceted, sometimes even sympathetic characters. They’re clearly dangerous, many of them viewing humans as nothing more than playthings, yet not all of them are evil and cruel. Indeed, the core conflict of the novel stems from the fact that the Summer King is trying to protect his court from the encroaching Winter, and to do that he tramples on Aislinn’s life.

One of the most compelling aspects of the novel is the way that it plays with the paranormal romance genre. It sets up a relationship between Aislinn and Keenan, though with a catch; he may be a devastatingly handsome immortal, but all she sees is one of the race who invisibly pinch humans in bars or carry them off to their courts. He is convinced she will become his Queen, but she finds the notion repulsive. And through their developing relationship Marr explores the notion of free will versus fate; from the moment Keenan chose Aislinn, her future was inextricably bound to his, yet she still fights to carve out the life she wants.

Keenan chose Aislinn, and in doing so cut off her chance at a normal, human future. It slides into a wider theme throughout the novel, of how women in the faery world hold great magical power, yet are not treated as equal to their male counterparts. There’s a fascinating contrast between the magical power of faery women and their comparatively little social power and human women’s greater societal agency but impotent against faery magic. To add another layer to it, human women can and do become immortal and transform into faeries, at once gaining magical prowess but losing independence, but the only examples given are those girls Keenan has chosen and hoped to be his Queen in the past; although they ultimately make a choice as to whether or not to seek the throne, by the time they have reached that point they have been irrevocably changed by Keenan’s choice rather than their own.

Throughout the novel free will is a recurring theme – the free will of humans versus faeries, of men versus women – and Marr plays the grey line between choice and fate expertly. Are Aislinn’s choices truly choices when Keenan’s choice has already irrevocably changed her future? Was it even Keenan’s choice in the first place, or was it her destiny all along? These questions are never answered, but are left to be pondered.

Wicked Lovely is an enthralling, magical tale about choice and destiny, love and duty, that recalls faery stories of old and yet is wholly new. It forms a compelling start to a quintet that I can’t wait to continue.

Nicola lives with her husband in the ancestral home of the fey, down the road from the absolutely terrifying statues of kelpies