Last Coven Chat of 2016: Crooked Kingdom

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Dear readers,

You may have noticed that the frequency of our posts has gone down a bit. You’re not wrong! The witches have been waylaid by life, as of late, but we are not gone. We’ll be taking our traditional winter hiatus and will be
back with more Coven Chats after the New Year breaks.

Until then, please enjoy our chat about Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom. As always, remember that we are discussing spoilers for the book and the series at large, so if you haven’t read the books, don’t read the chat yet!

Nicola: I really liked the change in tone  in Crooked Kingdom, compared to the first book; the story flows really well from one to the other. In Six of Crows, while the characters are risking their lives and are doing something terribly dangerous and not entirely sensible, they are, broadly, in control. It was their decision to take on this heist, and they pull it off successfully. In Crooked Kingdom that’s turned on its head.

Allison: This is interesting and I completely agree. Six of Crows had a very slick, heisty feeling to it — almost like Ocean’s Eleven. All of the chaos and danger was really entertaining. This book turned that over in the best way possible. It complicated the characters in a way that I wasn’t expecting. It was more complex, emotionally.

Alyssa: True. Perhaps this has to do with how the characters overcome adversity. Even though the group’s conflict with Pekka Rollins and Jan Van Eck still drives the plot in Crooked Kingdom, the characters seem to struggle more substantially with their inner demons than they do in Six of Crows. Thus, their ability to overcome their internal conflicts is perhaps more important than their triumph over their enemies.

Nicola: I loved the re-appearance of characters like Zoya, Genya and Sturmhond (I loved all the little references to King Nikolai, too). It was done in a way that I think wouldn’t have made anything seem out of place to those who hadn’t read the original Grisha trilogy, but it added a nice touch for readers who had, especially seeing Nina’s relationship with them. I can so easily see young Zoya growing up into a stern mentor!

Nicola: Zoya and Genya, especially, were amongst my favourite characters in the original trilogy because they were so enigmatic. Neither was villainous, but likewise neither was a pure heroine. To see Nina in the same place they were – a young Grisha soldier who doesn’t always make the most sensible choices – viewing them as the responsible adults was interesting.

Allison: YES! This is one of the reasons I think Bardugo will come back to the Grishaverse. These books proved that she has a way of remixing her characters that is fresh and allows her newer story not to be overshadowed by the old. I think there’s a lot going on here that can (and will!) be developed. I know Bardugo’s new series will be in a different worldbuilding framework, but she has said she’s not done with the Grisha, so I’m looking forward to more storytelling like this.

Nicola: I really, really, really like the development of Kaz and Inej’s relationship. They both have a lot of trauma that would make it unrealistic if they were to suddenly fall into bed together, but in that sense the small intimacies they have are all the more powerful, because to touch another person for them like they do is a huge moment of vulnerability.

Allison: I thought this was a really great development, especially for a YA series. There are lots of teenagers (and people, in general), who for a variety of reasons may not feel as ruled by hormones as we sometimes get use to seeing young people portrayed. This was a complicated issue and I was so glad to see a different framework for sexuality portrayed here.

Alyssa: Yes! I also really like the development of Kaz and Inej’s relationship for the reasons both of you mention, and that these strong characters are struggling with trauma.  

Nicola: Speaking of Kaz, I really enjoyed the way we get a better understanding of whom he is in this book. I remember in our Six of Crows discussion we talked about how he was the character we all felt was the hardest to really understand, and I think that’s still true in this book, but to a lesser extent. I mean, there were times when I thought his brutality was purely for survival, but at the same time I was never quite sure if he really had kidnapped and buried Pekka Rollins’ young son. He manages to play the line between ‘brutal enough to survive’ and downright cruel.

Allison: I enjoyed the fact that we don’t get to push Kaz into a “white hat/black hat” place. Inej is firmly in the “criminal with a heart of gold” category. We understand her crime and can easily justify her actions because ultimately, she is noble. Kaz, on the other hand, doesn’t get “outed” in this book as secretly noble, which I love. He stays firmly in that “grey” area and refuses to get out. I think Inej’s understanding of that fact complicates her as well, in a way I wasn’t expecting.

Alyssa: I love that all of the characters–and especially Kaz–are complex and can’t be pigeon-holed. Kaz remains complicated and morally ambiguous, and he’s just as likely to act brutally as nobly. Jesper is also a complicated character who has done “bad things,” but he feels more shame and empathy than Kaz as a result. Jesper is not cruel in the same way that Kaz is. Perhaps, this has something to do with the fact that Jesper has a father who loves him, whereas Kaz has been abandoned or betrayed by those he’s loved.

Nicola: I loved Jesper’s father. In a story like this, the parents naturally can’t be present much because then there’d be no story, but in contrast to his friends, he’s the only one who ever had anything like a choice in the matter. Wylan’s father disowned him, Nina was taken to join the Second Army as a child, Kaz’s family is dead, and Inej was abducted and sold. Jesper, on the other hand, chose to avoid his father out of shame, and in spite of all that his father still loves him and tries his best to look out for him.

Allison: And it makes sense that he would come looking for him. It also puts the little world the crew has built for themselves into sharp relief. They are playing a dangerous game, an adult game, and the arrival of Jesper’s father complicates that dynamic significantly. We get to see that yes, they are still children, but also they’ve entered a world where there are no children. The underbelly of Ketterdam doesn’t allow for childhood.

This is part of what makes Kaz such a complex character, but really is what makes Bardugo’s characterization really masterful. She’s very carefully laid out for readers what happens when children are forced into servitude, sex trades, poverty and wars: they become adults, and often they become criminals. When Jesper’s father arrives, we see that very clearly.

Jesper had the opportunity to be a child and he chose against it, but the others did not and we get a chance to really see the horrors of the Grishaverse because they are contexualized in such a way that we understand that not everyone is having this same experience (as opposed to the Shadow and Bone series where war has taken over everyone’s lives and there are no “children”). However, there are university students in Ketterdam that are having a very “normal” late adolescence, which Jesper is supposed to be having. That experience exists right alongside what Kaz’s crew has always had. I think it’s remarkable commentary on how privilege and the lack thereof, so often exist literally on top of one another.

Nicola: Yes! And I think we see that in a different way with Wylan, too. Jesper doesn’t come from a wealthy background, but he comes from a loving one. Wylan, on the other hand, is more traditionally privileged, but because of his father he was also deprived of the chance to be a normal teenager, even though his father had the means to allow him to do so.

I cried when Matthias died. To be honest, Matthias was probably my least favourite of the group, so if someone had to die I’m glad it was him, but still! Nina’s one of my favourites so I felt sad by proxy.

Alyssa: Matthias is also probably my least favorite character of the group, but I may like his character development the most. While all of the characters have struggled with and overcome a lot of internal and external conflicts, Matthias perhaps evolves the most–because of his love for Nina.

I think this series needs someone like Matthias, whose personality we may not like, but who is transformed by his love for “the enemy.” Nina is also one of my favorite characters, and I felt sad for her when Matthias dies. And yet, I also like that Nina does not seem devastated by his death, and we are left feeling hopeful about her future.

Allison: I was sad about Matthias, but like both of you, Nina is one of my favorite characters so I’m hoping this means we’re going to see more of her. I’m hoping this twist is an opening for another series. I think it seems clear from this book that Bardugo isn’t done with the Grisha. It seems to me that there are too many big worldbuilding plotlines left open for her to be done with it.

Nicola: Yes! I definitely feel like the Grishaverse is Bardugo’s “Middle-earth”, so to speak, in that it’s her one world she’ll keep returning to.

Alyssa: I’m also hoping for another series set in the Grishaverse, and I’d love to see more of these characters. But I’m also glad that this series ends without a lot of ambiguity and loose-ends; we have closure. I also like that this series includes characters from the Grisha trilogy, so that we have a satisfying end to both series.

Allison: I feel like Crooked Kingdom gives us a close to one part of the story, but leaves open a whole world of storytelling for Bardugo’s future, which I confess, I love! Thanks everyone for joining us today. Warmest wishes for your holiday season and we’ll see you again in 2017!

Allison, Alyssa and Nicola

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Coven Chat: Lady Midnight

25494343Today Nicola and I are discussing the first book in Cassandra Clare’s highly anticipated new series, Lady Midnight. The new series, The Dark Artifices, picks up five years after the events in City of Heavenly Fire and follows the members of the LA Institute.

When we last saw Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn, they were children, but now they’re practically grown up. Emma is deeply invested in investigating the murder of her parents, as she doesn’t believe that Sebastian Morgenstern caused their deaths. Julian has taken on the role as parent to his younger siblings, after killing his father in the attack on Idris in City of Heavenly Fire. They are parabatai, but their secrets are damaging their relationship.

Everything comes to a head when a series of murders reveals that a serial killer is targeting faeries. Fae leaders bring Mark Blackthorn, the eldest Blackthorn brother, back from the Wild Hunt as a bargaining chip to manipulate the LA Shadowhunters into helping them. Emma and Julian would do anything to have Mark back and so the adventure begins…

Remember, in a Coven Chat we assume you’ve already read the book. So if you don’t want spoilers, don’t read on! We highly recommend Lady Midnight, so if you haven’t gotten ahold of it yet, go do that!

Allison: This is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. It satisfies so many of my fantasy itches. In particular, I always want to be reading Shadowhunter books, so I’m terribly happy there’s going to be another series! In my recommendation of The Mortal Instruments I talk about Clare’s willingness to torture her darlings, and holy crap does she deliver with Emma and Julian. I think this tops the book Clary and Jace thought they were siblings and I thought nothing could top that.

Nicola: Right?! The worst bit is that I saw it coming from the start – at least, I knew they were going to fall for each other; I didn’t foresee the Clave’s reason for prohibiting it. I mean, I knew it was a Shadowhunter book, and the one person Emma can’t fall in love with is the one person who means the most to her – and vice versa. What else was Clare going to do? So I knew they were going to fall in love and I noticed all the little things between them that showed they were falling for each other and it was like watching a trainwreck in slow motion.

What I appreciated was that the book didn’t treat it like a surprise, as TMI did with Clary and Jace’s supposed sibling connection, because like I said I saw it coming before I even opened the book. Rather, it’s an exploration of their forbidden love. I liked it a lot more than Clary/Jace, partly because I think Jace is a jerkass and never understood why Clary fell for him, but also because of the utter hopelessness of their situation. For Clary and Jace to pursue a relationship would be to ignore an enormous societal taboo – and, don’t get me wrong, that is a HUGE thing – but for Emma and Julian to simply have these feelings for each other is to risk utter destruction of everyone they love. They can’t break their parabatai bond, and they can’t simply cease to love each other. On a purely worldbuilding level, I’d always wondered why parabatai can’t love each other, so I liked that there was a concrete reason for it; it’s a nice reminder that even though the Clave can be harsh and bigoted, sometimes the laws they put in place really are the right choice.

Allison: I really like how Clare sets this up; I feel like it was really clever. The fact that we get such a clear picture of the harsh (and sometimes deeply bigoted) nature of the Clave leads us to believe that the reasons parabatai shouldn’t fall in love is somehow unreasonable and wrong, such as the case with Helen’s exile and the Clave’s refusal to help Mark. She establishes the utterly nasty side of the Clave in a way in this book that I don’t remember from other books in the Shadowhunter universe. They are almost portrayed as an antagonist in this book. So to find out that the reason parabatai shouldn’t fall in love is completely legitimate, as is the reason it’s such a secret, was a bit of a twist. I enjoyed it, and really didn’t see it coming. I assumed that the big horror of it all would be the punishment the Clave would dish out for disobeying the rules, not that it will eventually kill the Shadowhunter.

Your point about it destroying everyone they love is so salient for me. It’s not just Emma and Julian who will die (if they continue their relationship), or be heartbroken (if they end it), but all the Blackthorn kids will be destroyed along with them. Maybe not literally, but it will destroy a family that’s already been destroyed once and that prospect makes the stakes even higher. Julian’s role as a parent means everything to him, and to the kids themselves. It’s one of the most powerful aspects of the book.

Nicola: Yes! Julian’s relationship with his siblings really struck a chord with me because of the ways it’s so similar and so different to my relationship with my younger sisters at his age; I loved them dearly, as Julian loves his younger siblings, but I also had caring parents so I wasn’t responsible for them in the same way, and I certainly was not as mature an older sibling as Julian is. I think my heart cracked a little when Tavvy wandered off late one evening and Julian supposed he had been waiting for Julian to put him to bed. The fact that Julian has tried so hard to be a parent to these kids and that they’ve still missed out on so many things they would have taken for granted if they’d had a proper adult guardian is just heartbreaking, for Julian and the others.

Allison: Oh my gosh, yes. The part where Julian remembers the first time he thought of Tavvy as “my baby” instead of “the baby” had me in tears. Hell, it has me misty and choked up right now. I feel like his love for all of them, his fear that Mark will be liked more, his terror at Tavvy’s kidnapping all felt so vivid. Beautiful, but heartbreaking at the same time.

Nicola: Yeah. I think their whole relationship is one of my favourite parts of the book just for the sheer level of feels. It did make me uncomfortable that the mechanism Clare used to give Julian all this responsibility was a mentally ill guardian; while I realise that being the eldest child in a family with an ill parent/guardian is a huge burden to bear, it didn’t really feel like we got a sense of Arthur’s own suffering, so his illness was essentially a plot device to cause Julian angst. I get that this is a YA novel so it makes sense to focus on the effect of this on the children rather than the adult, but I would have preferred for Arthur’s ineptness as a guardian to come from his own choices and actions, rather than his mental illness.

Allison: To a certain extent, I agree with this, and I am hoping that we get some more “fleshing out” in subsequent books. But I do think that a reality of untreated and mentally ill parents/guardians is that children are sometimes (not always) neglected. I think in any case where a single parent or guardian is dealing with a serious chronic illness on their own there’s a chance that children will suffer. So for me, that part felt very realistic.

I do completely agree with you though that it seems like it was a plot device, at this point,  rather than a character trait that was fully developed. I think there’s some hints that Arthur’s time in Faerie is going to be explored more fully. Still not sure how I feel about the idea that Faerie made him mentally ill… Or maybe he was predisposed to mental illness beforehand? Only time will tell. Arthur is a fascinating character all around, so I’m looking forward to seeing him develop.

Nicola: Yeah, I’m hoping to see more development, too. Clare’s actually pretty good at developing her adult characters/parental figures moreso than some YA (Jocelyn and Luke come to mind, as do the younger Charlotte and Henry), so I am optimistic that we’ll learn more about him. At the moment, though, the most relevant part of it all is how it’s forced Julian to be a parent, and even to be somewhat brutal and ruthless in protecting his siblings. In particular, the way Julian framed Anselm Nightshade at the end was rather unsettling. I mean I completely understand why he did it, but I also hope it’ll come back to haunt him later because I’m not really okay with a minor character being punished (probably brutally) to protect the protagonists.

Allison: That was a surprise for me. I didn’t expect that from Arthur or Julian, though I suppose I should have. I feel like this book establishes how both the Clave and the Downworlder governing bodies are so harsh in a way that other books haven’t, so yes, I am very worried for poor Anselm. While this book focuses on Emma and Julian, I was really impressed with the way the supporting cast was fleshed out, especially as there are so many of them! I love the dynamics Clare is setting up with the way the supporting cast interact with Emma and Julian. Who were some of your favorites?

Nicola: Emma and Cristina, hands down. I always love a good female friendship, and I really enjoyed the way the two of them supported each other throughout the novel.

Allison: Yes! I was really glad to see this because I think that Clare’s books haven’t had this depth of focus on female relationships before and it’s cool to see that she is Emma’s closest peer relationship outside of Julian. I also like that we start to get more of her POV as the book goes on.

I was fascinated with the way Mark and Emma interact from the first day he returns to the Institute. I’m interested to see if Mark becomes a viable candidate for Emma’s love. I think it’s clear that she and Julian are the endgame here, but let’s remember that Simon and Clary did have a real romantic relationship when Clary thought Jace was her brother. I think it’s possible that Mark and Emma have a bit of a chance.

Nicola: That hadn’t even occurred to me, but now that you’ve brought it up, I think it would be fascinating to read. Julian’s jealousy over his siblings around Mark would easily extend to Emma, while Emma would, I imagine, feel incredibly conflicted; even though she wants to make Julian think she’s in love with Mark so he stops loving her, she’d still, I think, feel it was a betrayal to actually fall in love with Mark. And caught in the middle would be Mark, blissfully unaware of his brother’s forbidden feelings for his girlfriend.

All in all, The Dark Artifices is shaping up to be my favourite Shadowhunter series yet, and I can’t wait to see where the next book takes it.

Allison: You took the words out of my keyboard. I agree, The Dark Artifices already has my heart. Can’t wait to see what happens next! Next week we’ll be wrapping up our Shadowhunters discussion with some fangirling over Clare’s who universe, and dishing about the TV show. Tell us what you thought about Lady Midnight in the comments!  


Coven Read: Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch

21414439Well, we said we’d discuss Truthwitch in January and now it’s February. What can we say? Life happens. Still! It’s Truthwitch Tuesday and we’re ready to talk Witchlands with you.

Remember, ahead lie spoilers. If you haven’t read Truthwitch yet, don’t read on! 

Allison: One of the things that I really loved about Truthwitch is that it felt familiar and fresh at the same time. The alter-verse aspect of the Witchlands and its correlations to our ideas about Europe evoke a similar feel to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse and there’s a certain element of Dennard’s magical framework that calls Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass to mind.

Nicola: I loved the European feel to the world! A lot of high fantasy settings are vaguely pre-industrial/feudal European, but the Witchlands feels more historical European than ‘Standard Mediaeval Fantasy Setting’. While I love reading about fantasy worlds that are based on other world cultures, as a European reader I do have a soft spot for a well-constructed European-esque world, and the Witchlands hits the spot (though I wouldn’t complain if future books expanded the world into Middle Eastern or African AUs!). I particularly liked Veñaza City; I visited Venice last year and fell in love with the city, so it’s no surprise I appreciated seeing a fantasy version of it in the Witchlands.

Alyssa: I’m not sure if you two saw this youtube video in which Susan Dennard explains that the Witchlands are loosely based on Imperial Europe. Her fascination with the small republics that were able to stay independent during centuries of war between the Venetian, Austrian-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires greatly inspired her writing this series. I love that her alternate Imperial Europe includes witcheries–which significantly influence political and social structures.

Allison: Yeah, the idea that magic influences everything from the personal to the political (and global, in the case of the Cahr Awen) makes a lot of sense to me — of course if there are people with all this immense power running around, it’s going to shape everything about the world. I’m enjoyed the fact that magic wasn’t just a feature of Dennard’s worldbuilding, but the force that defines it. It’s also a very cool idea that magic is “real” in that there are actual threads connecting people, emotions and interpersonal interactions.

Nicola: What did you think of the whole Threadsister/Thread-family thing? Personally, I loved the focus on Safi and Iseult’s platonic friendship; so often in YA the most significant relationship for the protagonist is romantic, which I love, but it’s so nice to see a strong non-romantic relationship.

Allison: It’s probably no surprise that I love the idea of Safi and Iseult’s relationship being the primary focus. I like that Dennard didn’t hold back about it being the primary relationship either. I love the idea that they are more than friends, that there’s a “more than friends” that isn’t romantic. I think it’s so normalized to see stories where two men have a strong homosocial relationship, but not so much with women. It’s one of my favorite things about the book. I love the idea that Thread-family is built in so many different kinds of ways– anger, love, compassion, just basic human stuff. It’s a really cool idea that there’s a tangible way to understand how we’re bound together.

Alyssa: I love this concept too! As you both point out, romance is the dominant relationship in most YA (and fiction in general). And in fantasy, in particular, there’s the tradition of bromances having centerstage. So what makes Truthwitch special and very refreshing is that the Threadsisters’ friendship is the most important relationship. I also really like that Merik and Kullen are Threadbrothers, making male friendship important too.

Nicola: I don’t know if either of you ever read Something Strange and Deadly (if not, you should!), but in that series, the idea of a ‘found’ family is treated as a valuable and precious thing. Eleanor loves her mother and brother, but there are complexities to those relationships that aren’t found in the Spirit-Hunters’ unwavering support for each other. I have no doubt that if the Spirit-Hunters lived in the Witchlands they’d be bound by the same Threads that link Safi and Iseult, Merik and Kullen. It’s interesting to see how Dennard follows on the same theme in Truthwitch but adds a magical component to it.

Alyssa: I love that Dennard created the phrase Mhe verujta, which means in Nomatsi “trust me as if my soul were yours,” and how valuable this concept is for romantic love (Heart-Threads) as well as non-romantic love.  

AllisonMhe verujta got me right in the feels, because I think we all want to feel that way with someone, whether it’s non-romantic love or romantic love. Dennard has a knack for exploring non-romantic relationships in a way that I really appreciate. That the bond between Thread family is more than other relationships was especially powerful because I do think in most fiction that romantic and familial relationships are portrayed as the most influential and powerful. It’s especially intriguing to me in Truthwitch that she decided to make these bonds tangible (and visible to Threadwitches).

Nicola: Yeah, I really liked that there’s a palpable quality to these relationships in the Witchlands; it contrasts the way that fantasy in particular often focusses on shared blood or marital alliances. The concept of Threads is one of my favourite parts of the worldbuilding, not just in the way they represent relationships but also in the paradoxical way that Threadwitches are constantly barraged by other people’s emotions yet expected to suppress their own. I’m excited to see more of the Threads in the next book!

Allison: Me too. It’s cool to think about how the Threads will play into the larger idea of the Origin Wells and the Cahr Awen. I saw the reveal about Safi and Iseult being the Cahr Awen coming, but I’m really interested in how the narrative itself played out. Dennard has managed to fit quite a lot of complex worldbuilding into one novel, especially given the ensemble narrative, which I thought added a lot to my understanding of the Witchlands, overall.

Nicola: I really liked the ensemble narrative. They’re hard to pull off, but each character’s motivation, and the resulting tension and conflict, felt so real and important to me. Merik clashes with Safi over Iseult’s safety because he’s trying to save his people, while Safi cares most about her Threadsister, and even though I favoured saving Iseult I could completely appreciate both of their perspectives. Aeduan’s probably the POV character for whom we get the least sense of underlying motivation, but there’s still some indication of family loyalty (or perhaps fear) that drives him to pursue Safi.

Alyssa: Yes, I like the ensemble narrative too and I think it works well overall in Truthwitch. I also like that we don’t know Aeduan as well as the other POV characters. He remains a bit of a mystery in terms of his motivation and loyalty. He’s a “bad boy” who may be “good”–especially if he fall in love with Iseult. I really enjoyed his complex feelings towards Iseult because of his “life-debt” and his confusion when it comes to trust and loyalty. Will he follow through on his sworn duty to protect the Cahr Awen or will he try to capture the Truthwitch for his father?

Allison: I found Aeduan incredibly intriguing. I feel like we got a pretty good sense of who some of the other characters are, but not as much with him. I think we’ll see much more of him in the next book. I thought the end was brilliant, by the way. It was one of those endings that blew the story open entirely. I’m really excited to see what happens next. I get the impression that we’re going to see a whole new side to Safi and that really excites me.

Alyssa: Yes, Aeduan is intriguing. I love that his witchery makes him very vulnerable and yet it’s such a powerful witchery. The Monastery protects him from a world that wants to kill him because he is a Bloodwitch; yet, he did not choose that life and is not a true believer in the Cahr Awen. He seems to be the most complex and conflicted character in this series. Which is why I’m really curious to find out what he does in the next books.

I look forward to seeing more of Vaness and the Empire of Martok, too, in Windwitch. And Safi. She really embraces her powers at the end of Truthwitch when she realizes that she “can do anything.” She demonstrates such bravery and strength when she gives herself over to Vaness in exchange for a trade agreement that benefits Merik and Nubrevna. I wonder how she and Vaness will get along in the next book. How will their relationship develop? Will they become friends? How will her time with Vaness and in Martok change her and her relations with Iseult and Merik? The ending definitely left me wanting to know more.

Nicola: Yes! The ending was everything the ending of a first book in a series should be. It wrapped up some storylines and opened up some others. I don’t even really count it as a cliffhanger, because it’s a natural resolution to the core conflict that drives the book (maybe not the resolution we expected, but not one we didn’t expect, either), and I expect it will form a major part of the conflict in the second book, rather than being something that gets resolved quickly in chapter 1. I’m so excited to see the fallout for Safi and Vaness, Iseult and Merik.

Allison: Needless to say, we’re looking forward to finding out what happens next in Windwitch, set to publish in 2017. Thanks for joining us today and let us know what you thought of Truthwitch in the comments or on Facebook!

In book magic and mayhem,

Allison, Alyssa and Nicola


Happy Birthday, Coven Book Club!

Hello dear readers!

Last January, the idea I have every year popped into my brain again, “I would like to start a book blog.” And like every year, I thought of how difficult it is to read that many books and also write about them. So I thought I’d asbirthdAYk my friends to join in. I knew Alyssa would be with me, but what about everyone else?

We’ve have some great contributions to Coven Book Club over the past year and we are very grateful to our guest bloggers for showing up and recommending great books by women. The TBR grows weekly! Our biggest milestone came in March when we found Nicola, or she found us. I don’t even remember exactly how it happened now, it feels like she’s always been with us and we quickly became a trio. As time went on, it became clear that CBC is a project of love between Nicola, Alyssa and myself and we slowly started shifting into what has become our regular three-day-a-week schedule. It’s been such a rewarding journey and I’m so happy to share this space with so many people I love.

Today, we want to say Happy Birthday to ourselves and share a little about why we love CBC and some of our favorite recommendations that we’ve written and read.

Allison: Nobody has ever influenced me to read as much as you two. Whether it’s been in our private chats (we almost always have a chat going on Facebook!) or in the recs you write, I’ve read some really great books because you gals talked them up to me. I don’t know if I would ever have found The Remnant Chronicles if you two hadn’t suggested them. The Heart of Betrayal was one of my favorite books I read last year.

Alyssa: Thanks so much, Allison, for starting Coven Book Club! And thanks, Nicola, for joining us in March! Being part of a group book blog is very important to me. For years (as a bookseller) I’d been meaning to blog about all the books I was reading, but I struggled with having enough time and motivation. I love that I’m not blogging on my own; that I’m part of a team. It’s very inspirational and an excellent support system. And I’ve written so much! And it’s been FUN! When I was a student and college teacher, writing and reading lost some of that fun factor. It’s great to be doing both as part of a blogging community. While I still write short recommendations for the Boulder Book Store (where I worked for more than a decade), I love that I’ve gotten into the routine of writing longer, more extensive book recommendations for CBC. I really enjoy the social media aspect, too, and that writing for CBC has introduced me to a larger community of readers, bloggers, authors, and publishers.

Nicola: I know exactly what you mean about writing and reading losing its fun when you’re at college, Alyssa. That’s one of the things I appreciate so much about our bookish discussions, because it’s reminded me why I studied English lit in the first place: because I love to think – really think – about the books I’m reading. You both give me so much to think about in our discussions, either on Facebook or our CBC posts, and it’s such fun!

I’m so glad to have found Coven Book Club – and both of you, of course! In some ways I can’t believe it’s been almost a year already since I found the site and met you, and in other ways I feel like I’ve known you forever. Your recommendations are all so spot-on; you’ve both expanded my TBR so much and I’ve found some new favourites, like An Ember in the Ashes and The Wrath and the Dawn, thanks to you.

Allison: Both Wrath and Ember are some of my favorites from last year as well and I probably wouldn’t have read them if Alyssa hadn’t recommended them first. One of the best things about having bookish friends is hearing about what they’re reading, but it’s not often that you find bookish friends who also have the same taste as you. Between the two of you, I always know that I’m going to find something good to read next.

It may be nostalgia speaking, but my favorite recommendation I’ve written on my own was my first (for The Night Circus). Coming in a close second though was our discussion of Queen of Shadows. Our readers can’t know this, but we talked for weeks about the book between ourselves before we even got to the post, so it was really fun to turn that private conversation into something we shared with everyone. What were your favorite books you recommended last year?

Nicola: Ooh, that’s difficult. I’d say my favourites are probably The Falconer/The Vanishing Throne, just because I love that series so much. I also loved recommending The Winner’s Curse; I’m in awe of the way Marie Rutkoski weaves emotional tension throughout the narrative. As for my favourite discussion, I’d have to say it’s the one we had on A Court of Thorns and Roses; I loved hearing what you ladies had to say on Feyre and faeries.

Alyssa: Some of my favorite posts have been our discussions! Our post about the blurry lines between YA and adult fantasy is perhaps our most thought-provoking. And I loved going into more depth about some of our favorite series featuring kick-ass heroines, such as A Court of Thorns and Roses, Queen of Shadows, and A Darker Shade of Magic. I also really enjoyed recommending books together that have a similar theme, such as my post on YA literary horror, my post on cross-dressing heroines in YA westerns, and my post on YA time-traveling adventures. And my first recommendation ever, for All the Bright Places, will always have a special place in my heart!

Allison: I agree that our conversations have been some of my favorite parts about CBC. We have many more planned in the coming year. I know I speak for all three of us when I say a hearty Happy Birthday to Coven Book Club, as well as a heartfelt thank you to our contributors and readers. We love you all tremendously. We’re so happy to have such a positive platform to discuss our favorite books.

This is a labor of love for us. With busy schedules and other commitments, CBC isn’t our job, it’s an extended love letter to all the books and authors we appreciate so much. We thank you again so much for joining us, and cheers to another trip around the sun.

In book magic and mayhem,

Allison, Nicola and Alyssa