Mini-Reviews: Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse + Witchmark

I have been a terrible blogger as of late and I apologize. I am planning on taking a formal break, but that won’t be until early next month. Today I am happy to share a couple of mini reviews for some recent reads. I am actually really behind on posting reviews and have quite a few in my drafts waiting to be edited. I wanted to make sure I posted this one first though as I will be reviewing the sequel to Muse Squad in a couple of weeks.

Title: Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse Author: Chantel Acevedo Series: Muse Squad, #1 Pages: 368 Publisher: Balzer + Bray Release Date: July 7th 2020

TW: death of a family member, fatphobia

"The first in a middle grade fantasy duology about a Cuban American girl who discovers that she’s one of the nine Muses of Greek mythology.. Callie Martinez-Silva didn’t mean to turn her best friend into a pop star. But when a simple pep talk leads to miraculous results, Callie learns she’s the newest muse of epic poetry, one of the nine Muses of Greek mythology tasked with protecting humanity’s fate in secret. Whisked away to Muse Headquarters, she joins three recruits her age, who call themselves the Muse Squad. Together, the junior muses are tasked with using their magic to inspire and empower—not an easy feat when you’re eleven and still figuring out the goddess within. When their first assignment turns out to be Callie’s exceptionally nerdy classmate, Maya Rivero, the squad comes to Miami to stay with Callie and her Cuban family. There, they discover that Maya doesn’t just need inspiration, she needs saving from vicious Sirens out to unleash a curse that will corrupt her destiny. As chaos erupts, will the Muse Squad be able to master their newfound powers in time to thwart the Cassandra Curse . . . or will it undo them all?

Chantel Acevedo’s Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse centers love and friendship in the first novel in her middle grade fantasy duology. Callie Martinez-Silva is like any other eleven year old, just trying to survive 6th grade and deal with her ever changing family dynamics. When her best friend Raquel suffers another bout of stage-fright, Callie takes it upon herself to cheer her on. But then something strange happens, Raquel undergoes a sudden metamorphoses. She doesn’t just dazzle her peers, soon her performance goes viral. Callie can’t shake the feeling that something she did might have something to do with her best friend’s sudden fame and her suspicions are confirmed when she discovers she is one of the nine Muses, tasked with inspiring and protecting humankind. It’s a lot of responsibility, especially when she learns one of her classmates, whose future might reshape the world, is in danger and she, along with a group of young Muses must protect her. One of my favorite things about this middle grade book is how much emphasis there is on friendship. Callie’s relationship with her best friend Raquel goes through some ups and downs. It’s hard on both when it feels like they are growing apart and the jealousy they can’t quite admit makes it hard to reconcile. At the same time, Callie is making new friends like those in the Muse Squad, a group of new muses her own age, who are also learning about their new-found abilities. Their friendship doesn’t quite fill the hole left by Raquel, but it makes learning how to be a Muse a lot easier. I really enjoyed Callie’s relationship with Maya Rivero, whom she is tasked to protect. Maya is smart, but awkward and doesn’t have very many people in her corner. Through this friendship and throughout her journey, Callie becomes more conscientious as a person. She learns that it’s far too easy to be dismissive of other people and she has to work on learning how to relate to others. Muse Squad: The Cassandra Curse is perfect for those who love fun middle grade novels with a mythological spin.

★ ★ ★ ★
(4/5)


Title: Witchmark Author: C.L. Polk Series: The Kingston Cycle, #1 Pages: 318 Publisher: Tor.com Release Date: June 19th 2019

TW: PTSD, homophobia, suicide, domestic homicide

"C. L. Polk arrives on the scene with Witchmark, a stunning, addictive fantasy that combines intrigue, magic, betrayal, and romance.... In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own. Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family's interest or to be committed to a witches' asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans' hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is. When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

C.L. Polk’s Witchmark is an expertly-paced fantasy, enrapturing readers with its magical system and swoon-worthy romance. Miles Singer is a seemingly ordinary doctor tending to veterans returning from the Aeland war against Laneer. As a veteran himself, Miles knows the true horrors of war. There isn’t just a physical cost, but a mental cost as well. But when a stranger arrives with a dying man in his arms who claims to know Miles’s true name, his carefully crafted life is turned upside down. Witchmark‘ has one of the most interesting magical systems whose layers make for complicated dynamics between characters. Most notably is Mile’s relationship with his sister Grace. As a Secondary, Miles’s was destined to be bound to a Storm-Singer, to exist to strengthen his sister’s magic rather than be free to find his own place in the world. But Miles has always wanted more and has been the only person in his own corner for so long. The freedom he has attained isn’t something he is ready to let go of, not even for his sister and her own ambitions. Miles’s relationship with the enigmatic Tristan is deliciously slow-burn, full of tension and just the right amount of longing. If there is one thing I wish the book had spent more time on its more of a look into Tristan’s world. I don’t want to give anything away, but the small glimpses we get has me really curious about his people’s history in this world. Witchmark mixes magic and politics effortlessly with a likable protagonist and swoony romance that is sure to keep readers glued to its pages.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
(5/5)

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