Book Reviews

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr, illustrated by Katie Harnett

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr, also Freymann-Weyr (Goodreads Author), Katie Harnett (Goodreads Author) (Illustrations)Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁

This is… a sad little book.

But it isn’t so much sad as in depressing, but sad as in: life is hard and it doesn’t always go the way we’d expect it to, we can’t have everything we want, and there’s sacrifices we have to make, whether we like it or not.

However, this book is written in tender, warm and fuzzy language that’ll make you feel like a child again, and that’s what I loved the most about it. It just feels whole-hearted all the way around. (By the way, if this were an objective review I’d give this 3 stars instead of 4.)

It’s hard to say much about the plot without spoiling half the story, but just know that it includes: magic that is hidden in plain sight, enchanted cats (one of which is named TATIANA!!!), an evil sorcerer, dragons with eyes and scales that come in every color, a bourgeois little girl with the warm-heartedness of a thousand suns, and enough kind souls to restore your faith in humanity.

Every chapter is headed by a full page illustration in black and white ink. The illustrations have that loose handmade folksy style that is so trendy nowadays.

The ending is… Not what you’d expect. The ending is the kind of thing I would have been super upset about as a child, so therefore, it would have been a great book to read in a class setting with guiding questions. There’s a LOT to discuss here, and I can see children having very strong opinions about this book for days.

I would recommend this to: young pensive children, and to adults who want to feel cozy before bedtime but also question themselves about the magics they may ignore on the daily.

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Book Reviews

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness, Rovina Cai (Illustrator)

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness,  Rovina Cai (Illustrator).jpgRating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁

And The Ocean Was Our Sky is one of those rare genre-bending books that sits in a niche all on its own. (It was shelved under “Teen”, probably because of Patrick Ness’s previous works, but it definitely doesn’t belong there.)

I would describe it as existential fantasy. 

It is the story of a small team of whales who hunt the humans who hunt them.  Their hardened captain, Alexandra, is in a vicious search for a mythical foe known as “Toby Wick”. 

Their story is told by Bathsheba, a young apprentice, and the only one who is asking the important existential questions that nobody else is. “Are we hunting a devil? Does that not make devils of us also?”

Besides the obvious phonetic similarity between Moby Dick and “Toby Wick”, the epigraph also quotes that book. I haven’t read Moby Dick yet but if you have, I’d be interested to hear about any parallels with Bathsheba’s story. 

Lastly, apart from loving Patrick Ness’s previous work, Rovina Cai is half the reason I got this book. Her illustrations skillfully set the dark, contemplative mood of the story. They are mostly monochromatic, using dark greys with the smallest tinge of dark blue, plus the occasional bright scarlet stream of blood. 

I would recommend this to: readers looking for something different and reflective, someone who wants a deep read that isn’t necessarily long and dense, and people who appreciate dark wispy illustrations. 

Book Reviews

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. ChakrabortyRating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁

The City of Brass is an adult fantasy set in the Middle East. (Specifying it falls under adult since this is one of those books that might be mistaken for YA just because of the cover and because the author and the main character are female.) 

Nahri, the main character, is a human (???) girl who has mysterious healing powers and has been able to understand a bunch of different languages since birth. She eventually befriends Dara, a magical being, who takes her to Daevabad, the hidden city where the daeva/djinn reside. 

Daevabad is a strict monarchic patriarchy where a large part of the population is discriminated against through: language, blood color, tribe, vocabulary and anything else the ruling class can concoct. The story constantly explores these themes of prejudice, marginalization and competing versions of history (depending on who you ask).  It’s as disorienting for the reader as I imagine it is for Nahri, who is brand new in the city, and it’s very dramatic to see her navigate through this political intrigue. 

There’s also a small bit of romance, in the form of a love triangle. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book but it took me a while to read because I lost interest after the middle when it switched from “dangerous epic journey across the land!” to “let’s suddenly be trapped in a snooty place with static upper class drama”. But that’s just me. 

The ending is very dramatic and it only sort of leaves you in a cliffhanger. It gives you enough information that you don’t feel cheated out of a good ending, yet it’s shocking enough to make you want to read the sequel ASAP. 

There’s a glossary in the back with all the Arabic words used throughout the book; and sadly it doesn’t include a map, but the publisher’s website has one. 

the city of brass

I would recommend this to: people who like strong female characters, and someone who would like to read fantasy that isn’t Middle Earthy for once. 

Book Reviews

Lady Cottington’s Fairy Album by Brian Froud

Lady Cottington's Fairy Album (Lady Cottington) by Brian FroudRating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

THIS BOOK IS SO SCANDALOUS OMG!!! Hahaha this book came highly recommended because of the inventive illustrations of “pressed fairies”. These are colorful watercolors by Brian Froud that pretend as if fairies had been squished between the pages of the book, leaving an impression on both sides of the paper.

But there’s an actual story in here and at first glance you may find it kinda boring in a stiff-lipped Victorian way, but by the end it is super shocking and worth sticking to!

Without spoiling too much, this is a photo album/diary written by two sisters. The older one began taking pictures of “fairies”, which she also wrote about, but unfortunately died shortly after finishing the diary. Her younger sister finds the diary and begins reading it, adding notes of her own, and squishing fairies while she’s in the process. It sounds very dull and tidy that way but the ending is quite interesting!

By the way, in case you’re planning to read this in public or would like to gift this to a child and are sensitive about this kind of stuff, the fairies in the watercolors are mostly nude and in include the occasional fully-exposed rear-end or breast.

Loved it and highly recommend it!

Book Reviews

The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, Brandon Dorman (illustrator)

The Caretaker's Guide to Fablehaven by Brandon Mull (Goodreads Author), Brandon DormanRating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁

The Caretaker’s Guide to Fablehaven is a classic take on the genre of fantasy bestiaries, complete with toned pages to resemble old paper and tons of beautiful, full-color art.

The guide also includes scattered handwritten notes by the main characters from the Sorenson family. The notes were on character, with Kendra and Seth’s adding humor and Patton and Grandpa Sorenson’s notes adding depth. (Seth’s input was irritating, as usual.)

Even if you haven’t read Fablehaven, the book is fun to casually browse if only for the art. However, if you haven’t read the Fablehaven series and would like to avoid spoilers, DO NOT read the characters’ notes! Besides that, there are still some light spoilers regarding the locations of the magical preserves, and the existence of some creatures that appear in later books.

In short, it didn’t add anything I hadn’t seen before in this type of art book, but it didn’t disappoint either.

p.s. The map at the end is grossly incorrect about the location of Tibet.

Book Reviews

Harry Potter: A Journey Through A History of Magic by British Library

Harry Potter- A Journey Through A History of Magic by British Library

Rating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

Back in 2017 The British Library held an exhibition called Harry Potter: A History of Magic in order to celebrate 20 years of Harry Potter. They published two exhibition books, the official one, and this children’s version of it. This version is easier to get in the U.S. and it only made me want to read the official version more!

The book is divided into the following Hogwarts subjects: Potions and Alchemy, Divination, Care of Magical Creatures, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy, Charms, and Herbology.

Each section has TONS of pictures including: historical artifacts from the exhibition (like bezoar stones, manuscripts, wands, and a witch’s mirror), tons of illustrations by Jim Kay (who is the artist for the fully illustrated editions), and some of the coolest bits are snippets from deleted chapters(!!), plus J.K. Rowling’s handwritten notes, outlines, and illustrations. You can see a lot of the items here: https://artsandculture.google.com/project/harry-potter-a-history-of-magic

If you’re a Potter fan, reading this is a no-brainer. Also since it’s supposed to be for kids, it does contain a handful of crafty activities, and some little additional explanations that small children might need to understand the text. Plus it’s decorated with fun typography and tons of color.

Highly recommended even if you’re a grown-ass adult!

Book Reviews

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi

 Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi AdeyemiRating: 🍁🍁🍁🍁🍁

Children of Blood and Bone is a hard book to write a review about because there’s nothing I can add that the book didn’t already say, you really should just be reading it right now instead of reading this.

It is a Very Important book, and if you read only one thing this year, read this.

In short: It’s a fantasy set in a country known as Orïsha, which was influenced by West African culture and mythology (the author is Nigerian-American). Magicians known as maji used to exist in this world, but they were all murdered during a genocide mandated by the king. who was afraid of them and their power. As a result, the now magic-less children of these maji have become second-class citizens and are openly discriminated against, slurs included. They are distinguishable by their white hair but are unable to perform magic anymore.

The daughter of one of these maji goes on a mission to restore magic to the world, and they won’t have another chance to do this for another 100 years. (This gave me a strong Avatar: The Last Airbender feel, which was also one of the author’s influences.)

But the importance of Children of Blood and Bone lies in its explicit parallels to real world events. By presenting these issues in a fantasy format, this can (ironically) help a lot of people to see reality more clearly by stepping away from it.

The Epilogue explains a lot more on that and it nearly brought me to tears because Tomi Adeyemi is quite successful at communicating all of that pain throughout the book.

Highly recommended.