YA reviews for July

The ShadowsTHE SHADOWS
by Megan Chance
Skyscape Publishing
June 2014 ~ 4 Stars

Review:

At seventeen, Grace Knox has more to worry about than most girls her age. Debt collectors pound on the door. Her older brother drinks away what assets the family still owns. Grace helps care for her ill, bedridden grandmother. Then, there is her mother who wants Grace to marry and save them all. Grace doesn’t know what to do and in 19th century New York, there aren’t many options for a girl of her background, class and apparently scant education. Her wealthy childhood friend, Patrick Devlin has recently returned from a trip to Ireland and expresses interest in her. He wouldn’t be an old, disgusting husband and he loves Grace. Now, she must decide if he is what she wants. Complications arise when she meets his new stable-boy, Derry aka Diarmid, an ancient, reborn Irish warrior. Add in the retelling of old Irish legends along with Patrick’s determination to save Ireland from the British and the three of them begin a dance that will affect all of their futures.

This was a beautiful story populated with well-described and well-developed characters. Kind, lovely and generous, Grace isn’t a complainer or a whiner even when she has cause, like wearing a very old dress to a fancy dinner party. She accepts that she’s a marketable commodity in her time and will do what she needs to do to hold the family together. Her older brother seems to be a typical young alcoholic but seasoned author, Megan Chance never creates stereotypical characters so be prepared for him to evolve. Diarmid has an agenda of his own and the reader quickly learns what it is, even when Grace doesn’t. And Patrick is a wonderful hero too. It’s little wonder that Grace is torn between the two of them.

Okay, so what happened? Lovely characters, a fabulous historical setting described as only Megan Chance can, the possibility of ancient Irish warriors battling for the future of their homeland, a girl who holds the key, amazing writing – – -. Again, this was a beautiful story, but nothing happened. The characters began to know each other. Adversaries were introduced. Ancient legends were retold and connected to the characters in today’s world so the reader discovers how much danger Grace faces. It all resonated and the writing, the writing, the writing.

Lyrical, lovely, wonderful – each word matters in this story, as does each scene although I don’t know how much it will appeal to the intended audience. I’m not sure that many teens will appreciate Chance’s impressive literary technique. This is the beginning, the first book in the trilogy of the Fianna, an introduction to everyone important in the series. I will add it to my “keeper” shelf of Chance’s books. However, I’ll wait until the next two books hit the stands before I read any more of the series and hope the pacing improves so the characters’ adventures can truly be shared.

RIVER OF DREAMSRiver of Dreams
by Lynn Kurland
Berkley
January 2014 ~ 5 Stars

Review:

The next book in the Nine Kingdom series, River of Dreams continues the story that began in Dreamspinner. While the heroine Aisling is a little older than some New Adult heroines, she does follow the expectation of finding herself while on a somewhat mythic journey, which makes this a real “coming of age” story. When the last book started, she was chosen or assigned to find a mercenary, an assassin to kill the king who usurped the throne of her country. Failure meant her own death and she had a very limited time to fulfill the task.

A surviving son of a black or evil mage who tried to sacrifice him, elven prince Runach is willing to help Aisling. He still can’t believe that she doesn’t have any “magick” despite her claims that she is totally normal. She worked in the Weaver’s Guild as little more than a slave before she started her quest. So far he has seen her spin air, water and earth as well as saving his life more than once by using her talents to defeat his wanta-be enemies. There is something about this girl and he finds himself falling in love with her just like the reader.

This adventure draws the reader into a fabulous world of elves, dwarves, swords, sorcery, mysterious kings and queens as well as witches and shape-shifting horses. Intelligent, resourceful, kind and determined, Aisling worries not just about herself – she never actually planned to lead anyone to his demise, but is determined to locate answers to the questions of what is going on in her homeland. These answers may lie in the libraries of different castles in the Nine Kingdoms, so she and Runach must travel from one place to another, defeating the enemies determined to thwart them, many of which are his evil half-brothers.

The cast of characters, the humor-filled dialogue (at times), the sweetness of the building relationship between Aisling and Runach should continue to enthrall readers. Kurland has built a wonderful world in the Nine Kingdoms, well-described and always consistent. The main characters grew and changed throughout the tale. Still, there are threads of unanswered questions that can only be resolved by another trip to this magical realm. However, the resolution of Aisling’s and Runach’s adventures is six months away and it is sooooo hard to wait to discover what happens next.

Aargh! Still there are seven other books to enjoy in the series. After reading this one, albeit somewhat out of order, that meant a trip to the bookstore to find the others. And I could start over from the very beginning – it’s rare to find a series where each book is better than the one before, but Kurland pulls it off with such ease – that the reader can only marvel at her ability to create such wonderful stories.

DESPERADODesperado
by Sara Barnard
5 Prince Publishing
March 2014 ~ 3.5 Stars

Review:

Desperado is a short, (at 25 pages), suspenseful ghost story of a teen who isn’t totally thrilled at the idea of spending more time with her parents and younger sister on the family camping trip. No electronics means they sit around the campfire telling ghost stories. The one that her mother shares is supposed to be an old legend from bygone days and relatives. Now, Shelby has to determine what to do with a haunted mallet or hammer that follows them everywhere.

In this quick, fun read, Shelby has a great deal to contend with, not the least of which was the “haunted mallet.” There wasn’t much character development, but from the little we learned about her, she came across as a likeable girl – how many would allow a frightened, younger sibling plagued by nightmares to share their bed on a regular basis? Shelby does with minimal complaints. Granted, she thinks it’s her fault for making the mistake of allowing that same sibling to inadvertently see part of a horror movie. In addition, Shelby does get along quite well with both of her parents.

None of the characters really annoyed the reader, not even the ghost. It would have been nice to have more backstory to learn all of the motivation and/or details of the haunting. The explanation seemed a bit simplistic, but again this was a very short story ~ novella. It could easily have been much longer and then Shelby would have grown and evolved more. We could have learned more about her life and friends. She didn’t mention them and it was odd to have a contemporary story about a teen that didn’t text or spend an evening without a cell phone glued to her hands. Still, this was a fun, fast way to spend an evening. Who doesn’t like a Texas ghost?

 

Reviews were prepared by Shannon Space for The Book Breeze

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