Coven Chat: The Remnant Chronicles

25944798Today’s Coven Chat is about Mary E. Pearson’s The Remnant Chronicles. Remember, spoilers lie ahead in a Coven Chat, so if you haven’t read these books yet, don’t go on!

Allison: I’m so excited to talk about the way The Remnant Chronicles wrapped up with you both. We’ve had so many conversations about these books over the last year. I was on vacation when I started The Beauty of Darkness and I had a tough time putting it down.

In terms of the adventure, I was a little so-so on things in this book, especially towards the end. There were parts I was really into, and others kind of dragged for me. The strong character development is what kept me reading. By no means do I feel that the pace lagged or at any time that I became disinterested in the book.

Nicola: I said this about The Raven Cycle a couple of weeks ago, but it applies to The Remnant Chronicles, too. In all three books in the series, I sometimes feel like almost nothing is happening in terms of the overarching plot, and yet I’m still completely engrossed in the story for the characters and their world. I think that displays real skill as a writer, as there are few who can pull this kind of thing off without me getting antsy for more action.

Alyssa: Yes, that’s a great comparison! Like with The Raven Cycle, I was more interested in the characters and their relationships than in the overarching plot. I love the world-building and multiculturalism in this series, too, and how the characters’ identities and relationships evolve because of their adventures in Morrighan, Dalbreck, Cam Lanteux, and Venda.

My only gripe with the world-building is that I wish I understood the mythology better. I’m still a little confused about how the excerpts from sacred texts, such as The Last Testaments of Gaudrel, relate to the series’ main plot. I’d like to read Morrighan because maybe it would explain that backstory for me, but I still wish the excerpts made more sense to me.

Allison: I also wish I’d understood a bit more about the world-building. I haven’t read Morrighan either, so I wish it had been integrated into the text. However, it reminded me a little of a series I read when I was a child, The Darkangel Trilogy, where there’s a “past” that isn’t remembered by those in the present day of the text, but it informs the way the world-building works. We get to know some things about the ancient people, but not all and that fact is integral to the plot of the story. It works for me.

My only real complaint with The Beauty of Darkness was that the multiple POV got weird for me. I don’t know. It’s not that I couldn’t “tell the difference” between the voices, but that at a certain point I was a little overwhelmed by them. I didn’t have this problem so much in the other books, so I was a little surprised. This might be me as a reader though.

Nicola: I was going to say exactly the same thing! I think it worked really well in the first book, because we’re not meant to be able to tell which of the two boys is the prince and which is the assassin (for the record, I was convinced Kaden was the prince), and their POV chapters tended to be short and to-the-point. I think what bothered me about the multiple POV in this book was that I did get a little confused as to whose head we were in at any given time, and sometimes the narrative seemed to jump back in time so we could read the same thing from someone else’s POV, which was rather jarring.

Alyssa: The multiple POV didn’t bother me for the most part–except during the battle scene at the end, when numerous multiple POV were in a chapter. Each POV was very short and that was a bit jarring.

Allison: Overall, I think the multiple POVs benefitted the series. It was cool to see how both Lia and Rafe change as they take more responsibility for themselves and that the ending isn’t some “pat” thing where one of them gives up their kingdom for the other. I do think it’s a little hard to see how they’re going to make things work, but I like the idea that they’ve both done things that were unimaginably hard and that they’re willing to work hard to be together, rather than being miserable apart. That’s a relationship I’d read about again!

Nicola: I actually really loved that it’s not exactly clear how they’re going to make things work. I think it’d be hard to come up with a solution that’s not too neat or cutesy, so by leaving it open like that we can see that they’ve done the important character development work of reaching the point where they are both committed to their kingdoms AND to each other, but without trying to tie it into a neat little bow.

Alyssa: Yes, I loved how Lia and Rafe’s relationship evolved throughout the series. While I was always hoping that they’d overcome all of their obstacles to be together–and I’m happy they did in the last two pages!–I also had reservations and conflicting feelings about their romance. I’m glad they spent time apart–and were not weakened or devastated by their separation–and that they didn’t give up their kingdoms and their other responsibilities to be together.

I also appreciate that Lia and Rafe were not always perfect for each other, and they still might not be. The ending is hopeful and romantic but feels realistic, too, and I don’t think it would have been tragic if they hadn’t gotten together in the end. I was 99% sure Rafe would show up–even when I only had three pages left!–but I was more excited about Pauline and Kaden’s romance by then.

Allison: Pauline and Kaden! This was a good match from my perspective. I love how it came together. It really made sense for me. It was slow and steady and I appreciated the way that Kaden’s vision came to pass. That was fantastic and just the way I always imagine prophetic stuff going: you see something, but it doesn’t happen at all the way you thought it would.

Nicola: Yes! I was really rooting for them as a couple.

I also loved the development of Lia’s relationship with her parents. From the start of the series, it’s clear she has a very close relationship with her brothers, but she has a much colder relationship with her parents, and I really liked seeing more background into why they made the choices they did with her upbringing, especially her mother. A lot of teenagers attribute nefarious motivations to their parents’ deeds, so although Lia’s stakes are higher it was a nice little reflection of rather typical teenage thought processes for Lia to assume the worst of her mother when in fact her mother is only trying to protect her.

Allison: I was also really interested to see more of Lia’s parents in this book. In the first book they’re positioned as very unfeeling and it was interesting to see how the political plot line interfered with Lia’s personal relationship with her parents. I wasn’t expecting a lot of the “reveals” in terms of both her mother and father in this book.

Alyssa: Yes, Lia’s reconciliation with her parents really strengthened the series’ ending. Not just because of the necessity of her homecoming after a long absence, but because we get an even better sense of how much she’s matured since The Kiss of Deception. In many ways Lia’s still the runaway princess we fell in love with, who defied her duties and chose her own destiny, but she’s also less selfish, more responsible, and more empathetic.

Allison: I love who Lia became over the course of the series. I love that she started as someone with substance and grew into someone with adult concerns and feelings. In fact, I like that all the characters grew so much. This is the benefit of the multiple POV. We get to see the inner-workings of each character and I think that Pearson does this well.

Nicola: Yeah, it feels like the characters started the series as teenagers and ended it as adults, and while the multiple POV thing didn’t quite ‘work’ for me I did appreciate being able to see into the characters’ minds and to understand their motivations.

Allison: Thanks everyone for joining our discussion of The Remnant Chronicles. Our next Coven Chat will be about Sarah J. Maas’ Empire of Storms, and the Throne of Glass series.


Fall 2016 YA Preview: October Books

Hi! I know it seems premature to preview October releases in June, but I’ll be reading and recommending many of these books over the summer. (Summaries are from Goodreads.)

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Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2), by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands. But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for Illuminae.

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When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore:  To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for The Weight of Feathers.

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A Darkly Beating Heart, by Lindsay Smith: A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.

No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.

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Beast, by Brie Spangler: Tall, meaty, muscle-bound, and hairier than most throw rugs, Dylan doesn’t look like your average fifteen-year-old, so, naturally, high school has not been kind to him. To make matters worse, on the day his school bans hats (his preferred camouflage), Dylan goes up on his roof only to fall and wake up in the hospital with a broken leg—and a mandate to attend group therapy for self-harmers.

Dylan vows to say nothing and zones out at therapy—until he meets Jamie. She’s funny, smart, and so stunning, even his womanizing best friend, JP, would be jealous. She’s also the first person to ever call Dylan out on his self-pitying and superficiality. As Jamie’s humanity and wisdom begin to rub off on Dylan, they become more than just friends. But there is something Dylan doesn’t know about Jamie, something she shared with the group the day he wasn’t listening. Something that shouldn’t change a thing. She is who she’s always been—an amazing photographer and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?

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Bound by Blood and Sand, by Becky Allen: Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.

Lord Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.

But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.

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Holding Up the Universe, by Jennifer Niven: Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. Until he meets Libby.

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for All the Bright Places.

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Blood for Blood (Wolf by Wolf #2), by Ryan Graudin: For the resistance in 1950s Germany, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun.

Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against the New Order, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But dark secrets reveal dark truths, and one question hangs over them all: how far can you go for the ones you love?

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for Wolf by Wolf.

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The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3), by Marie Lu: There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all that she’s achieved.

Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds when a new danger appears, putting not only Adelina at risk, but every Elite and the very world they live in. In order to save herself and preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.

ICYMI: Here’s my recommendation for The Rose Society.

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Frost Like Night (Snow Like Ashes #3), by Sara Raasch:
Meira will do anything to save her world. With Angra trying to break through her mental defenses, she desperately needs to learn to control her own magic—so when the leader of a mysterious Order from Paisly offers to teach her, she jumps at the chance. But the true solution to stopping the Decay lies in a labyrinth deep beneath the Season Kingdoms. To defeat Angra, Meira will have to enter the labyrinth, destroy the very magic she’s learning to control—and make the biggest sacrifice of all.

Mather will do anything to save his queen. He needs to rally the Children of the Thaw, find Meira—and finally tell her how he really feels. But with a plan of attack that leaves no kingdom unscathed and a major betrayal within their ranks, winning the war—and protecting Meira—slips farther and farther out of reach.

Ceridwen will do anything to save her people. Angra had her brother killed, stole her kingdom, and made her a prisoner. But when she’s freed by an unexpected ally who reveals a shocking truth behind Summer’s slave trade, Ceridwen must take action to save her true love and her kingdom, even if it costs her what little she has left.

As Angra unleashes the Decay on the world, Meira, Mather, and Ceridwen must bring the kingdoms of Primoria together…or lose everything.

Alyssa wants to start reading these books now! She thanks the Boulder Book Store, the publishers, Edelweiss, and NetGalley for digital review copies, for review purposes only.

 

 

 


Fall 2016 YA Preview: September Books

Hi everyone! I’m really excited about these September releases in young adult fiction. (Summaries are from Goodreads.)

 

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5), by Sarah J. Maas: The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t. As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Like a River Glorious (The Gold Seer Trilogy #2), by Rae Carson: After a harrowing journey across the country, Leah Westfall and her friends have finally arrived in California and are ready to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Lee has a special advantage over the other new arrivals in California—she has the ability to sense gold, a secret known only by her handsome best friend Jefferson and her murdering uncle Hiram.

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2), by Leigh Bardugo: Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. 

Frost Like Night, by Sara Raasch (Snow Like Ashes #3): Meira will do anything to save her world. With Angra trying to break through her mental defenses, she desperately needs to learn to control her own magic—so when the leader of a mysterious Order from Paisly offers to teach her, she jumps at the chance. But the true solution to stopping the Decay lies in a labyrinth deep beneath the Season Kingdoms. To defeat Angra, Meira will have to enter the labyrinth, destroy the very magic she’s learning to control—and make the biggest sacrifice of all.

Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor: Strange the Dreamer is the story of: the aftermath of a war between gods and men, a mysterious city stripped of its name, a mythic hero with blood on his hands, a young librarian with a singular dream, a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled, alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage. Welcome to Weep.

Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake: Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, by Rosamund Hodge: When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched. The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire #1), by Jessica Cluess: Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she’s shocked when instead of being executed, she’s invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers. Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.

The Forgetting, by Sharon Cameron: Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no remorse, when each person’s memories – of parents, children, love, life, and self – are lost. Unless they have been written. In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who hasn’t written the truth. Because Nadia is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten.

Metaltown, by Kristen Simmons: The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does.

Stealing Snow, by Danielle Paige: Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she’s not crazy and doesn’t belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.

Vassa in the Night, by Sarah Porter: In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood. In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue.

Of Fire and Stars, by Audrey Coulthurst: Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden. Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

As I Descended, by Robin Talley: Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them. Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey. Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

Stalking Jack the Ripper, by Kerry Maniscalco: Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life. Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

Here’s my reposted recommendation for The Reader , by Traci Chee: If I lived in a world where reading was rare and books were literally magic–and, like Sefia and Archer, my life was in danger because of the one book I possessed–I’d better be holding The Reader. Chee’s debut, celebrating literacy and storytelling, unlikely friendship and slow-burn romance, is a breathtaking adventure you’ll treasure. (Especially if you have to fight off pirates and assassins!)

Replica (Replica #1), by Lauren Oliver: Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it. Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing, they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…

And the Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich: When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the “blood manor” is cursed. The creaking of the house and the stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too–the questions that Silla can’t ignore: Who is the beautiful boy that’s appeared from the woods? Who is the man that her little sister sees, but no one else? And why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer?

The Women in the Walls, by Amy Lukavics: Lucy Acosta’s mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They’re inseparable—a family.  When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she’s ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother’s voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin’s sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.

What’s on your list?

Alyssa thanks the Boulder Book Store, the publishers, Edelweiss, and NetGalley, for review copies.


Short and Serial: Summer Comics

I am at the start of yet another summer of back to back summer school sessions. I teach writing online and in the summer, students are allowed to take a 15 week course in just 5 weeks. It’s crazy and I’m teaching two sessions that nearly overlap…

No, I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m letting you know that in times of extreme busy-ness, my reading list usually pares down to things like magazine and literary journals, rather than novels. However, in the last year I’ve gotten so much more into comics and they’re the perfect summer school balm to soothe my need for good storytelling, while providing a more substantial story arc.

I talked last week about Monstress, which I still absolutely recommend, but this week I’d like to tell you a little about the other comics I’ve been enjoying recently. While Monstress is written and illustrated by women, some of the following have male/female collaborations. To be honest, I’m not sure how that affects things in a larger sense. I’m not a wide comics reader, so I can’t speak to the issue on a larger level, but I have noticed that both Monstress and Pretty Deadly, which have women at the helm of the creative team both have a distinctly different vibe from other comics I’ve read. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the narration, art and story arcs overall have a slightly different vibe from comics I’ve read where men and women have collaborated.

Even in the case of Pretty Deadly vs. Bitch Planet, both written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, the narrative style feels distinct, and not just because they are different types of comics. Something about Bitch Planet, despite its overtly feminist themes feels more masculine than Pretty Deadly, with its mystical story arc and strange narrative style.

I know this is a less-than-well-supported assessment. In fact, it’s pure opinion, based on nothing but my feelings, but I do see a subtle difference in the ways the stories are told. Not that any are worth more than others, but after almost three years of reading nearly all fictional work written by women, there is an almost intangible way that women tell stories that differs from the way men do. I’d love it if someone else could speak to this in a more intelligent way!

Onto the recommendations:

Pretty Deadly, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

While Monstress is currently heading up my favorites list in the comics department, Pretty Deadly is a close, close second.

In Pretty Deadly:

Death’s daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father. Her origin story is a tale of retribution as beautifully lush as it is unflinchingly savage.

Saga, by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

I’ve loved Saga from the first issue. Fiona Staples brings amazing life to Brian Vaughn’s storytelling. Much like Monstress, Staples’ art is detailed in a way that is simply mind-blowing.

In Saga:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds.

Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro

I’ve just gotten started on Bitch Planet. And if I’m honest, I’m a little on the fence about it. One of the things that I love most about Monstress, Pretty Deadly and Saga are the beautiful art and I’m simply not as attracted to DeLandro’s style as I am to Takeda, Staples or Rios’. But I’m enjoying seeing where the story goes and I’d recommend giving it a read.

In a future just a few years down the road in the wrong direction, a woman’s failure to comply with her patriarchal overlords will result in exile to the meanest penal planet in the galaxy. When the newest crop of fresh femmes arrive, can they work together to stay alive or will hidden agendas, crooked guards, and the deadliest sport on (or off!) Earth take them to their maker?

Allison Carr Waechter is waiting for the rain so she doesn’t have to go water the garden. 


Star Touched

25203675I love fairy tale retellings and The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi felt fresh and familiar at the same time. Our heroine, Maya, is one of the Raja of Bharata’s daughters. She has spent her life as an outcast in the palace, as her horoscope predicts that she will partner with Death. Her mother is long-dead and her father’s harem doesn’t step up to care for her. She has a close relationship with one of her younger sisters, Gauri, but has no other friends.

The kingdom of Bharata is at war, and to try and forge a peace her father makes a dangerous plan for Maya’s marriage. Chaos ensues and Maya finds herself spirited away to a mysterious and magical land with a suitor named Amar. It is clear from the start that Amar’s kingdom is full of secrets, as he cannot reveal the true nature of his plans until a month has passed. The more Maya learns the more confusing things become.

Steeped in Indian folklore, The Star-Touched Queen feels familiar in that in many ways; it reminds me of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series or Rosamunde Hodge’s Cruel Beauty. At the same time, Chokshi builds a world that feels new and exciting from lots of fantasy work currently being published.

Maya is a clever character and I like that she is an intellectual warrior. Like Marie Rukoski’s Kestrel in The Winner’s Trilogy, she uses her wit to fight her battles, rather than weaponry. Before she is whisked off to Amar’s kingdom, and her father’s plan to marry her off, she hopes to spend her life in study. No one expects that she will marry because of her terrible horoscope, so she anticipates a life spent learning.

I love Maya’s relationship with her little sister, especially what we get to see of Gauri when she’s grown a bit. I’ve heard a rumor that the sequel to this book will be about Gauri, which excites me because she was such a vibrant character and we don’t get to see enough of her in this novel. Additionally, Maya’s relationship with Kamala, a flesh eating horse, is unusually sweet and the dialogue between them is funny enough that I found myself laughing aloud. Chokshi has a deft hand when it comes to mixing the horrific and strange with the beautiful, which was a bright spot in the book.

The worldbuilding and Chokshi’s descriptions of both Bharata and Amar’s kingdom, Akaran are lush and create a beautiful backdrop for the story. If I had one complaint, it would be that the book feels too rushed. The book is defined by two distinct parts and I think each could have been a book in its own right. There were some loose ends that didn’t get picked up that I feel could have used a bit more fleshing out. Basically, The Star Touched Queen was wonderful in so many ways, I would love to have had more time with the world Chokshi built.

Fans of Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn and Melissa Grey’s The Girl At Midnight will find common ground here in terms of the love story between Maya and Amar. Misunderstandings about Amar’s intentions abound. I hesitate to say more because doing so will ruin the story, but let’s just say that Maya doesn’t know what she thinks she knows and ends up paying dearly for it.

Overall, I enjoyed The Star-Touched Queen and look forward to reading more of Chokshi’s work. If you’re looking for a magical reimagining of Indian folklore, or just a fairy-tale retelling, I think you won’t be disappointed.

Allison Carr Waechter is back with her books after a long and painful slump.