ARC Review: Odd & True by Cat Winters

Title: Odd & True
Author: Cat Winters
Series: N/A
Pages: 368
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: September 12th 2017
**I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not influence my review**

      “Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.
      In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

swirl (2)

Cat Winters’s novels are some of the best, but underappreciated historical fiction I’ve ever read. Od and Tru grew up with stories about their mother and her siblings’ bravery. They grew up believing in the paranormal, that monsters exist and it was their family’s responsibility to protect the world from them. But life has taken many things from both Od and Tru. Their father disappeared when they were young and their mother hasn’t been in their life. Even their beloved Uncle Magnus hasn’t been seen for years. After being sent away, Od shows up at her sister’s window, begging her to come away with her and to accept their family’s legacy. But Tru no longer believes in monsters. Still, her love for his sister Odette will take them far from the safe haven of their aunt’s house and into a dangerous, unknown world. Using dual perspectives and shifting timelines, Cat Winters crafts a tale of two sisters whose lives are full of loss, but also perseverance.

At the heart of this story are two sisters who hold very different views of the world. As the oldest, Odette has always felt that she needed to protect her younger sister. Her stories of monsters and the heroes that slay them have been the only way in which she has been able to help shield her sister from the realities of life. What goes unsaid is that Odette is also in need of these stories. Being older has exposed her to the flaws of the adults in her life and it’s been easier to embrace a story about these people than to accept who they really are. Unlike her sister, Tru no longer holds fast to these myths. Ever since her sister was forced to leave her aunt’s home, Tru has grown up to resent these tall tales and the letters from her sister that speak of harrowing travels. While life with her Aunt Viktoria has been stifling, Tru isn’t sure she’s brave enough to step outside into the great unknown. Though she’s suspended any belief in the paranormal, she’s taken to reading tea leaves in secret because a part of her still wants to believe in her sister’s stories.

Odd & True takes its time separating fact from fiction as the girls embark on a hunt for Leeds Devil which has been terrorizing the people of New Jersey. From the cover and synopsis, I expected an action-packed novel about monster hunting, but instead was treated to a slow-paced narrative about a flawed family, two sisters who survive despite injustices done to them, and the power of a story to weave magic if only one takes a leap of faith and believes.

4/5

★★★★

Advertisements

ARC Review: Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel

Title: Black Bird of the Gallows
Author: Meg Kassel
Series: N/A
Pages: 300
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Release Date: September 5th 2017
*I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not influence my review*

      “A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.
      Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.
      What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

swirl (2)

Meg Kassel’s Black Bird of the Gallows is your average, run-of-the-mill fantasy novel with a predictable plot and lackluster characters. Angie Dovage’s life takes a turn when Reece Fernandez moves in next door. Almost immediately, strange occurrences begin to happen. The closer Angie gets to Reece, the more she begins to realize that these strange events are tied to her new neighbors. As a harbinger of death, Reece can sense when death is near and he’s come to Angie’s town because disaster is imminent. But there are even darker players who have descended upon Cadence with their own nefarious plans and Angie is about to be caught in the middle.

When it comes to fantasy novels and especially ones that showcase a romance, I always feel that it’s better for an author to establish the world and protagonist first before introducing a love interest. This was not the case with Black Bird of the Gallows and it was difficult from the first page to care about Angie and Reece as a potential couple when there was no time to grow to like them as individuals. While I wouldn’t necessarily class this as an insta-love story, Angie is taken quite suddenly with Reece that I almost put down the novel. In one conversation, specifically with one look, Angie already thinks she can understand him on a “deep level.” She notes a couple of lines later that it was a six minute conversation. If there relationship had progressed rapidly from this point, I wouldn’t have been surprised. The story saves itself somewhat by allowing these two characters to be in each other’s presence for a more appropriate amount of time before a relationship between them begins.

Harbingers of death are really interesting entities in this world as they don’t cause calamities themselves, but they feed off the energy of the dead. There was apt opportunity to explore these creatures more in the novel, but readers are limited to only learning about Reece at length. Because of this, I never felt like the world-building was fully realized. The Beekeepers are another nonhuman creature in Cadence, one more diabolical than harbingers of death. Using a bee sting to infect humans, Beekeepers cause chaos by driving those stung into doing horrendous things. What bothered me the most about the Beekeepers is the fact that the story seemed to rely on them only preying on the “mentally unstable.” The text does not make it clear if this is in reference to those with mental health problems or just those who have problems controlling their anger. Either way I found it be a really unsettling premise, especially when later the Beekeepers proclaim that they don’t like to sting strong people.

Black Bird of the Gallows fails to really delve deep into its characters, its relationships lacked the kind of emotional depth that would allow me to feel invested, and the world-building felt too small when it came to its imaginary creatures.

2/5

★★

Mini Reviews: Woman in Cabin 10 + Wesley James Ruined My Life

MiniI have one more mini-review from my July reads to share plus another book I picked up in August. You probably won’t see another set of mini-reviews until the end of September, possibly October. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: The Woman in Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware
Series: N/A
Pages: 340
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Pres
Release Date: July 19th 2017

      “In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

swirl (2)

“A hand grabbed at my wrist, the grip far stronger than mine. Blind, mad with panic, I groped in the pitch black with my free hand, searching for something, anything, to use as a weapon, and my hand closed over the bedside lamp.”

Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 did not have as many thrills as I would have liked, but is still the kind of novel that reminds me that I need to give this genre another go. The novel opens with a bang as the protagonist undergoes a traumatic experience with a burglary. Ware does a great job of showing the aftereffects of Lo’s experience as she tries to regain a feeling of security. Still in an emotionally fragile state, she boards The Aurora, an upscale cruise liner, on its maiden voyage. Lo never gets a chance to catch her breath as she stumbles upon what she believes to be a murder, but with everyone on the boat accounted for, no one is taking her seriously. Lo’s growing sense of isolation is what drives the story forward as she is determined to find answers. She doesn’t know who to trust and begins to doubt herself. There are plenty of suspects in this one and I would have liked the author to have given more time to different players beside Lo. With mysteries, I always feel like as a reader I need to be a part of the unraveling portion of the story, so would have appreciated knowing more about the other people on the cruise. Overall, The Woman in Cabin 10 was a decent psychological thriller that has me contemplating what other books from the genre I need to pick up. Give me your book recommendations in the comments!

Rating: 3/5

★★★


Title: Wesley James Ruined My Life
Author: Jennifer Honeybourn
Series: N/A
Pages: 256
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: July 18th 2017 

      “Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend—until he ruined her life, that is.
      So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score all at once—by getting him fired.
      But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to just get over it.

swirl (2)

“Unfortunately. I will never not see him because he’s everywhere. And that has to change, because I just can’t take it.”

I wanted to enjoy Jennifer Honeybourn’s Wesley James Ruined My Life so much. It had all the makings of a really entertaining, fast-paced contemporary, but as soon as I got more acquainted with Quinn’s animosity for former friend Wesley James, it lost me. In truth, the only reason I ended up finishing this one instead of setting it aside was because it was so short. Quinn hatches an immediately plan to get rid of Wesley from her life as soon as he reenters it. He may be over their falling out that took place five years ago, but Quinn isn’t. While I can buy into an eleven-year-old Quinn hating Wesley for revealing a secret that ended up being the last straw for her mother, ending her parents’ marriage, I found it really silly that a sixteen-year-old Quinn would still use the same kind of flawed logic. While I understand that Quinn needs someone to blame and for her it’s hard to see her father as the catalyst for the disintegration of her parents’ marriage, it still bothered me that she needed this spelled out before she could even begin to forgive Wesley. I will say that I enjoyed both the complicated and rich familial relationships in this book. Quinn is incredibly close to her grandmother and has been struggling to come to terms with her Alzheimer’s diagnosis and what it means for their relationship. Quinn’s father has a gambling addiction that the protagonist isn’t always sure how to deal with. I do think it would have been nice to see her mother take a more active role in helping Quinn cope with having a father with an addiction, but she was mostly absent.

Rating: 2/5

★★

Mini Reviews: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda + Lucky in Love

MiniYes, I have yet another set of mini reviews for you. If you haven’t written mini-reviews yourself for the blog, I highly recommend them when you don’t have a lot of time to spend on a full review or you feel like the words just aren’t coming as readily as they should. This week I have a few thoughts to share on Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Kasie West’s latest release Lucky in Love. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 7th 2015 

      “Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
      With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

swirl (2)

“So, I keep thinking about the idea of secret identities. Do you ever feel locked into yourself? I’m not sure if I’m making sense here. I guess what I mean is that sometimes it seems like everyone knows who I am except me.”

Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is as charming as its reputation. Simon Spier has never officially come out and has been dreading it thanks to his overly enthusiastic family. When his emails to the mysterious “Blue” fall into the wrong hands, Simon’s not-so-clear relationship with his secret penpal is in danger of crashing and burning before he ever figures out who Blue is in real life. I absolutely adored Simon’s voice from the very first sentences. He’s an emotionally complex character whose journey I really enjoyed reading about. His email exchanges with Blue are an absolute delight and if the You’ve Got Mail trope is your thing, you need to pick this one up yesterday. I had a pretty good idea early on who Blue was, but still really loved getting to know him along with Simon through emails first. He’s very introverted and hesitant to open up. As much as this is about Simon finding himself, it’s also about Blue as well and how the two teens find strength and inspiration in each other. Albertalli’s minor characters are a treat. They all feel incredibly real and I was surprised to find how much depth each of them had. There’s a really messy, yet interesting dynamic between Simon and his three best friends. It felt like those growing pains you go through when everyone in your close-knit group are all discovering who they are and how you relate to one another begins to evolve. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a novel I regret not picking up sooner as it had me grinning from ear to ear with its final pages.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★


Title: Lucky in Love
Author: Kasie West
Series: N/A
Pages: 333
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: July 25th 2017 

      “Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —
      She wins!
      In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.
      Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?
Why does happiness have to be so hard?”

swirl (2)

“In the kitchen, all by myself, I leaned against the counter and covered my face with my hands. I was a multimillionaire. All our problems were about to disappear. This is what true happiness felt like, I was sure of it.”

While Kasie West’s newest release Lucky in Love is not my favorite by her, it’s nonetheless a fun and adorable contemporary read. Maddie Parker is a driven protagonist who has worked hard to earn her way into college. But with money tight at home, college seems like an impossible dream without financial assistance. When she buys a lottery ticket on a whim and wins, her life takes a dramatic turn. Maddie is a protagonist that I immediately related too. Family is incredibly important to her and she feels responsible for keeping them happy and together. There is a tension under every conversation between her parents. Her father lost his job several years ago and her mother juggles two jobs just to keep the family afloat. Her older bother Beau is back from school, hoping to find a job to pay for his next semester of college. Maddie is constantly trying to make things right between her parents, so winning the lottery feels like a godsend. She learns that money isn’t always a blessing and that it can only be a temporary fix for people’s real problems. So much of Maddie’s life revolves around what makes other people happy and she doesn’t often put herself first. She can be a bit of a pushover and I grew a little frustrated over how often she let other people manipulate her, but also understood it was a part of her personality and lack of experience with having this kind of wealth. I really liked the dynamic between Maddie and her friends, Blaire and Elise, but probably would have liked to have gotten to know both more. Seth was a sweet love interest who very much cared about Maddie. His easy smiles always brightened her day, but it was the small glimpses of the more serious side of his personality that I wanted to hear more about. Despite its flaws, Kasie West’s Lucky in Love is still a must for fans of the author.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

Mini Reviews: More Happy Than Not + Geekerella

MiniI’ve got another set of mini reviews for you today and it won’t be the last you see this month. I usually post one set of mini reviews per month, but in July I decided that I was going to spend more time reading and less time on reviews. This means for the majority of my July reads, I wrote mini-reviews instead of full ones. I got to say, I didn’t hate the experience. This week I have a couple of contemporary reads that could not be more different in tone. Both I believe are worth picking up, but for different reasons. I read my first Adam Silvera novel More Happy Than Not as well as picking up Ashley Poston’s fairytale retelling Geekerella. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Publisher: Soho Teen
Release Date: June 2nd 2015 

      “In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.
      When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is. 

      
Why does happiness have to be so hard?”

swirl (2)

“There’s a hole inside me too, and questions in my head I can’t ignore.”

Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not is one of the most emotionally-gripping novels I’ve read this year. Dealing with life after his father’s suicide and his own suicide attempt isn’t easy, but Aaron is taking life day by day. His girlfriend Genevieve has always been there for him and he’s got a close group friends who have his back. When Thomas comes into his life, Aaron begins to question who he really is. Does he really care about Genevieve or only wants to? The more time he spends with Thomas, the more he comes to realize that he wants more than just friendship. Admitting he’s gay to himself is one thing, but letting the people around him know is something else entirely. Silvera takes us on a roller-coaster of a journey as we follow Aaron struggling to come to terms with his sexual identity in a homophobic environment. Community plays a huge role in Aaron’s life which makes their rejection of him so much more painful. Always in the foreground is the Leteo Institute with their experimental procedure that promises to rid its clients of unwanted memories. The harder Aaron’s life gets, the more he considers this to be a better alternative than living in a world that refused to accept who he is. One of my favorite parts of this novel is how effortlessly Silvera explores both the ethical dilemma of this kind of procedure as well as asking readers to question who we are at our core. More Happy Than Not is brutally honest, gut-punching in its impact, and unforgettable at every turn.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★


Title: Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release Date: April 4th 2017

      “When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.
      Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

swirl (2)

“I hide the phone under my pillow. Because I’m not a princess. And this is the impossible universe, where nothing good ever happens.”

Ashley Poston’s Geekerella is at its core an ode to fandom culture and all things deemed nerdy. If you’ve ever seen any kind of modern adaption of Cinderella, you’ll be familiar with the bones of this one. Elle Wittimer is treated unfairly by her stepmother and stepsisters, who have always regarded her as more than a little weird because of her obsession with the cult science–fiction television show Starfield. For Elle, her connection to Starfield and its characters have a lot to do with the times she spent with her father geeking out over the show. In a way, being a part of the Starfield fandom helps her to feel wholly herself and gives her blog gives her an outlet to express who she is. When she comes across an old Starfield relic of her father’s, she takes it as a sign that maybe she can finally do something for herself. In these types of stories, I’m used to reader’s perspectives being limited to one protagonist, but Geekerella features a dual perspective and so we get more than just a glimpse at who our prince charming is. Darien Freeman has just landed the biggest role of his career, stepping into the shoes of Federation Prince Carmindor as a Starfield is set for a movie reboot. Die-hard fans are immediately skeptical, including one particularly harsh blogger, but Darien is determined to be the best Carmindor he can be. While Elle’s character arc revolves around her learning to take a step of faith and finally gaining control of her own life, Darien grapples with fame being a double-edged sword. Feeling trapped most of the time, Darien is always playing a part. If it isn’t the paparazzi keeping a close eye on him, then it’s his father who is much better at playing the part of manager than being a supportive parental figure for his son. Geekerella is a quick read that encourages every nerd out there to embrace who they are in a world that may not always understand their enthusiasm while also having fun a familiar fairy tale trope.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

Mini Reviews: Three Dark Crowns + Song of the Current

MiniI decided to do something a little different in July and wrote mini reviews for all the books I read. This week I have two mini-reviews for fantasy novels, one of which I enjoyed way more than the other. Covers below are linked to Goodreads.

Title: Three Dark Crowns
Author: Kendare Blake
Series: Three Dark Crowns, #1
Pages: 398
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: Septemebr 20th 2016 

      “In 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.
      But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

      The last queen standing gets the crown.

swirl (2)

“Looking into the mirror, she imagines her body in pieces. Bones. Skin. Not enough blood. It would not take much to break her down to nothing, to strip away scant muscles and pull the organs out to dry in the sun. She wonders often whether her sisters would break down similarly. If underneath their skin they are all the same.”

Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns starts off promising, but its muddle storylines in the end left a sour taste in my mouth. I really appreciate novels that focus on sisters because it’s a great opportunity for an author to explore these complex relationships. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly what I got with Three Dark Crowns. Every generation triplets are born to the queen and they spend their formidable years apart until their sixteen birthday when they must fight until only one of them is left standing. Katharine, Arsinoe, and Mirabella have been raised apart under the influence of some of the most powerful players on the island of Fennbirn. Though one of them is destined to become queen, who they are and how the navigate the world has been influenced by people who have their own interests in mind. In many ways, these three girls are the least influential players in their own lives. I loved how distinct each sister is from one another and in the beginning, what held my attention was the character study of each. Katharine, though weak in many people’s eyes, is surprisingly ruthless; Arsinoe hides behind a mask of indifference, but has earned the unshakable loyalty of many; Mirabella who is one the most powerful elementals to be born has a very soft heart. About half way through the book, I began to lose interest. At times the novel spent far too much time on its minor characters and although I appreciated this scope, it was at the detriment of its main characters. There was one particular romantic relationship that really derailed this novel for me, both figuratively and literally. I’m still shaking my head at how little preamble there was and wished this novel had focused more on the relationship between the sisters.

Rating: 2/5

★★


Title: Song of the Current
Author: Sarah Tolcser
Series: Song of the Current, #1
Pages: 373
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books
Release Date: June 6th 2017

      “Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.
      Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.

swirl (2)

“Once we reached the murky dark of the opposing riverbank, I didn’t stop. I rowed so hard it sent up a swirling wake behind our stern. My heart pounded and my blood rang hot. The rain fell in torrents, trickling down the collar of my jacket and into my sleeves. The knit cap kept my ears warm, but my fingers were clammy and half-numb.”

Sarah Tolcser’s debut novel Song of the Current is a swashbucking adventure where a young woman discovers that fate has more in store for her than she ever imagined. Caro Oresteia grew up on the water. The Cormorant isn’t just a wherry, it’s her home and her destiny to take over for her father as captain one day. Her life takes a unexpected turn when her father is taken captive and Caro agrees to deliver a mysterious box in exchange for his release. Caro’s resolve is tested throughout her journey. She discovers more about herself and what she is willing to sacrifice for the people she cares about. I really enjoyed Caro as a character and loved that so much of the novel focused on who she was, her complicated feelings when it came to her mother and heritage, and the internal struggle she has with accepting her fate. I don’t want to give too much away when it comes to her romantic interest, but I loved that although the two characters immediately clash, they eventually develop a mutual respect for one another and they both challenge the other to see the world differently. I was really impressed by Tolcser’s writing considering this is a debut, her descriptions really brought this one to life. The minor characters were also really interesting and I’m particularly curious to learn more about Caro’s cousin Kenté. Song of the Current is a fun fantasy with a touch of romance and magic that’s sure to intrigue fans of the genre.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★