ARC Review: Edgewood

Title: Edgewood
Author: 
Kristen Ciccarelli
Genre: 
Young Adult/Contemporary Fantasy
Version: ARC – eBook
Page Count:
384
Publisher:  Wednesday Books
Synopsis: GoodReads | StoryGraph
Notable Notables:  A bard-like protagonist; lesbian side characters
Recommended Readers: Basic fantasy lovers and those who like stories about sentient woods
CAWPILE Rating: 4.57
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

My Review

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli is a contemporary fantasy YA novel about a girl named Emeline, who is on the cusp of breaking into the music industry as an established folk singer. However, she can never quite escape the creeping woods of her hometown, which permeate her performances whenever she sings no matter where she is.

When she gets word that her grandfather and caretaker has gone missing—potentially taken as a tithe to the mysterious Wood King—Emeline races back to Edgewood to find him. Braving the mysterious woods, she finds the Wood King’s court and strikes a bargain: she will become the Wood King’s new minstrel in return for her grandfather’s freedom. To do that, she must work together with the king’s tithe collector, Hawthorne, to recover the Song Mage’s lost sheet music and discover the cause of the wood’s corruption.

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Book Review: Redemptor

Title: Redemptor
Author: 
Jordan Ifueko
Genre: 
Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: Hardcover – Illumicrate Edition
Page Count: 
441
Publisher: 
Hot Key Books
Synopsis: GoodReads | StoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Diverse cast with a Black girl as the main character; asexual representation
Recommended Readers: 
Liked the first book, Raybearer? See what happens next
CAWPILE Rating: 4.57
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

My Review

I was convinced after finishing Jordan Ifueko’s Raybearer that the sequel, Redemptor, would be a five-star read easy. Yet here I am, presenting it with a two-star rating and sighing tiredly to myself.

I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.

This review may be best served to look back on my review for the first book and see what made me excited to continue with the second one. What was I anticipating? What was I hoping for? What did I want Redemptor to be? Maybe that way I can see why this much-hyped, lauded duology wound up being second-rate and unredeemed.

Obviously, spoilers for both books will follow here.

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Book Review: Raybearer

Title: Raybearer
Author: 
Jordan Ifueko
Genre: 
Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: Hardcover – Illumicrate Edition
Page Count: 
476
Publisher: 
Hot Key Books
Synopsis: GoodReads | StoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Diverse cast with a Black girl as the main character; asexual representation; good fae content; found family trope
Recommended Readers: 
Are you tired of Western-based YA fantasy books? Here’s your cure.
CAWPILE Rating: 7.86
Rating: ★★★★☆

My Review

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko is an engaging bildungsroman full of heart, spirituality, and magic as its wonderful protagonist Tarisai chases these ever-important questions: Who do I want to be? Where do I belong? Can I be loved for who I am?

From the beginning, Raybearer captured my attention, the novel opening with a small Tarisai meeting her fairy father, Melu, and his wings of blue fire, where he tells her a few truths about her reason for existing. Using three wishes, her mother, The Lady, has bound Melu and conceived Tarisai for a greater, darker purpose, but Melu insisted on giving Tarisai her own name in the hopes she can find her own path and avoid The Lady’s unclaimed third wish.

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Book Review: Truthwitch

Title: Truthwitch
Author: 
Susan Dennard
Genre: 
Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: Paperback
Page Count: 
430
Publisher: 
Tor Teen
Synopsis: GoodReads | StoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Original magic system, female friendship-inspired yet unbalanced
Recommended Readers: 
Casual fantasy readers
CAWPILE Rating: 2.29
Rating: ★
☆☆☆☆

My Review

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard was the latest pick for my book club I started this year with a few of my friends, and I had high hopes about delving into a once-hyped fantasy series I missed getting into back in 2017. The emphasis I was seeing from other reviews and the marketing of Truthwitch itself boasted female friendships as its main focus, bolstered by original world-building and a developed magic system about different kinds of witches. Unfortunately, reading the book led me to a crushing reality: over-hyped book was over-hyped and perhaps did not get better with age.

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Book Review: Lakesedge

Title: Lakesedge
Author: 
Lyndall Clipstone
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Version: 
ebook – ARC
Page Count: 
384
Publisher: 
Henry Holt and Co.
Synopsis: GoodReads | StoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Original fantasy world, a death god is here
Recommended Readers: 
Young adult readers who like emotional stories
CAWPILE Rating: 4.57
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My Review

Violeta Graceling travels with her younger brother, Arien, to Lakesedge estate, expecting to be at the mercy of the Monster of Lakesedge. The lord of the estate, Rowan Sylvanan, is said to have drowned his parents and brother in the lake. However, once she arrives, neither lord nor lake are what they seem. She discovers that Rowan has a connection to the Lord Under, a sinister death god that makes bargains for a terrible price. She vows to save Rowan, the estate, and herself, all while discovering why she is also being drawn to the Lord Under.

I was so, so hopeful for Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone, a novel that promised to be about monsters and magic, told in a lush gothic style—but was it truly a gothic work in the end?

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ARC Review: Iron Widow

Title: Iron Widow
Author: 
Xiran Jay Zhao
Genre: 
Young Adult/Sci-Fi
Version: ebook – ARC
Page Count: 
400
Publisher: 
Penguin Teen
Synopsis: GoodReads | StoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Based in Chinese culture with a Chinese-coded cast; inspired by China’s only female emperor; polyamorous relationship
Recommended Readers: 
Fans of mecha anime and revenge stories
CAWPILE Rating: 7.14
Rating: ★★★★☆

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My Review

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao is a stand-out, explosive debut that is sure to capture the imaginations and whet the appetites of readers searching for female revenge stories. With sci-fi being a rarer sight in the YA genre, Iron Widow takes a bold approach with its mecha anime-inspired roots along with being steeped in Chinese history.

In Huxia, boys dream of becoming ace pilots of Chrysalises, which are giant, transforming robots powered by syncing up with female concubine-pilots. It doesn’t matter that the girls die of mental strain, only that the mecha aliens beyond the Great Wall are stopped. Wu Zetian volunteers as a concubine-pilot to assassinate the male pilot who killed her older sister, only to emerge from the cockpit unscathed and with her co-pilot dead after overcoming him through their psychic link. Instead of being his One True Match and Iron Princess, Zetian is an Iron Widow, a much-feared and often silenced female pilot who can sacrifice boys instead. To subdue her, she is paired with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial pilot in Huxia, but she is not interested in being cowed. Instead, she plots to use Shimin and their newfound notoriety to survive attempt after attempt against her life until she can discover why the pilot system works as it does and stop more girls from being sacrificed for male dominance.

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Book Review: The Captive Prince Trilogy

This is going to be a somewhat different post from me because it’s a review of not one book but three: the entire Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat, comprising of Captive Prince, Prince’s Gambit, and Kings Rising. I consumed these books in a month after a Herculean effort of trying to pace myself, to absorb what I was reading instead of blazing through it in a “head empty, no thoughts” mindset. This has been the first trilogy I’ve read all the way through in quite some time, and I had nothing but a good time, a realization that thrilled me to no end.

For a few years, I’d been eyeing these books, staying away for a few reasons that all amounted to my own unfounded assumptions and others’ naysaying. These books were in the romance section, which means they likely weren’t well-written. They contained just sex covered by the thinnest veil of plot. They were hugely problematic in the way they glorify sexual slavery, rape, and other issues. The list goes on, but finally, I’d had enough of believing the fears. I picked up Captive Prince because current fiction and romance have been boring me to death lately, and before long I realized I was utterly—wait for it—captivated.

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New Books I’m Hyped for: July – December 2021

Welcome back to another post where I highlight books I’m excited for in a truly excessive fashion. Will most of these books be featured on other people’s lists? Probably. Will that stop me? No. I like what I like, and the sounds of these are very pleasing. We have an East Asian YA fantasy that is a retelling of The Wild Swans; an adult fantasy novel where all the protagonists are renowned villains; a work set in Victorian London featuring an African tightrope dancer who cannot die; and much more!

I’m looking forward to seeing which of these will be my favorite book releases between July and December 2021, especially compared to which ones the book community at large will fawn over.

[slaps the roof of this post] This baby can fit so many books inside it, so let’s get started!

July

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim
(July 6th)

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

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Book Review: The Will and the Wilds

Title: The Will and the Wilds
Author: 
Charlie N. Holmberg
Genre: 
Adult Fantasy
Version: 
ebook
Page Count: 
267
Publisher: 
47North
Synopsis: GoodReadsStoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Original fae lore, strong standalone fantasy, enemies-to-lovers
Recommended Readers: 
Lovers of fairytales and trickster characters
CAWPILE Rating: 
9.14
Rating: ★★★★★

My Review

A modern-day fairytale does exist that can sweep you away into adventure and make you sigh wistfully, and it’s The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg.

I’ve had my eye on this book for awhile, especially since a certain long-winded, so-called fae court series continued to disappointment me and fuel my hatred. Didn’t any author besides Holly Black actually know what fae are? Can’t anyone capture the sense of adventure and danger that comes with bargaining with magical creatures that exist beyond human understanding? Is enemies-to-lovers well and truly dead, with my choices being either “had an argument once”-to-lovers or animalistic alpha male rutting and mating bonds? “Nay!” said Holmberg. “I am here for you, my child.”

Thank you, Ms. Holmberg, I owe you my life.

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ARC Review: Black Water Sister

Title: Black Water Sister
Author: Zen Cho
Genre: 
Contemporary/Fantasy
Version: 
ebook – ARC
Page Count: 
384
Publisher: Ace Books
Synopsis: GoodReads, StoryGraph
Notable Notables: 
Malaysian lesbian main character, Malaysian setting and mythology, Chinese culture
Recommended Readers: 
Fans of Yangsze Choo and anyone looking for a modern, magical Southeast Asian read
CAWPILE Rating: 9.29
Rating: ★★★★★

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My Review

Contemporary fiction is not a genre I usually pick up because most of it simply doesn’t interest me. Contemporary fantasy, however, is an entirely different matter, and Zen Cho’s Black Water Sister struck gold with me from the very first chapter.

If you’ve read and loved either Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride or The Night Tiger, then the setting, tone, and mythology of Black Water Sister may come across as familiar to you, to say nothing of someone who already has a Malaysian background. I only mention Yangsze Choo because 1) I love her works and 2) she started this love for Malaysian contemporary fantasy that I possess now, and I am beyond delighted that Zen Cho has contributed to that love. I cannot wait to check out Cho’s other books now.

Black Water Sister opens with jobless Harvard graduate Jessamyn Teoh moving back with her family to Malaysia after her father loses his job in America. Between hiding her lesbian relationship from her traditional parents, attempting to re-assimilate to a country and culture she hasn’t been a part of in decades, and adjust to the sudden swarm of relatives, Jess is understandably stressed. Hearing voices should come as no surprise—except the voice she hears is the ghost of her estranged, opinionated grandmother, Ah Ma, who was a spirit medium to a god called the Black Water Sister. Now, Ah Ma wants Jess to help her exact vengeance on a gang boss and businessman who has offended the god, or she won’t be able to pass on to the afterlife. However, the more Jess becomes entrenched in the supernatural, the more her own life and destiny are thrown into jeopardy.

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