Middle Grade Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 1
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

In the valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.


Wow. I don’t even know what else to say about this book other than that it’s amazing and perfect and should be in every classroom, school, and child’s library. I mean, just, WOW.

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Review: The Angel of the Crows

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison

Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 4- (non-graphic disembowelment)
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

In an alternate 1880s London, angels inhabit every public building, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings under a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent.

Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.


I loved this book! Sherlock fan-fiction set in a London with every supernatural creature you’ve ever thought of (and some you haven’t) and a vaugly steampunk vibe, plus Jack the Ripper. What’s not to love?

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6 British Historical Fantasy Recommendations

I don’t know about anyone else, but historical fantasy is one of my very favorite sub-genres. I love when authors can play with alternate histories, and imagine how things might be different if there were dragons, or magic. While I prefer when it’s England proper, many authors create English-inspired nations and worlds. I especially love when authors are able to capture the tone of literature from that era, but update it to be fun for the modern reader.

Because, in my opinion, fantasy should be fun in the end.

So for you’re pleasure I’ve created a list of recommendations for historical fantasy based on the different eras of British history.

Tudor Era

The Tudor era is one of my favorite time periods to read about, but it’s not often adapted for fantasy. I don’t know why as it’s the perfect era for it. Sword-fighting, knights, dragons, they would fit in well here.

However, the second book of the All Souls Trilogy, titled Shadow of Night, involves time traveling to this very era! We even get to meet some of the giants of the time, including Kit Marlowe and Queen Elizabeth herself. I loved how it really submerged the reader into the culture and time period, and the details were so accurate. I’m also a huge sucker for time travel. While this wasn’t my favorite series (nice vampires again, snooze), I did really enjoy this book, and I think it’s worth reading if for no other reason than some good ol’ Tudor witches.

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Review: The Year of the Witching

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her. 


If you like atmospheric, brooding novels about witches toppling the patriarchy, look no further! If you’re looking for something mature and nuanced, or if you’re looking for terrifying horror, this isn’t the right book for you.

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Middle Grade Review: Shadow Weaver

Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly

Series: Shadow Weaver
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 1
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

Emmeline’s gift of controlling shadows has isolated her from the rest of the world, but she’s grown to be content, hidden away in her mansion with Dar, her own shadow, as her only company.

Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal: Dar will change the noble’s mind, if Emmeline will help her become flesh as she once was. Emmeline agrees but the next morning the man in charge is in a coma and all that the witness saw was a long shadow with no one nearby to cast it. Scared to face punishment, Emmeline and Dar run away.

With the noble’s guards on her trail, Emmeline’s only hope of clearing her name is to escape capture and perform the ritual that will set Dar free. But Emmeline’s not sure she can trust Dar anymore, and it’s hard to keep secrets from someone who can never leave your side.


Having made my way through the other Texas Bluebonnet nominees for 2019-2020, I’m just not sure how this book made the list. It was fine, but there are so many better middle-grade fantasies out there with more nuance and depth. Nor was this book exciting enough that you could categorize it as a “fun” read.

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Review: Harrow the Ninth

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Series: The Locked Tomb
Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

WARNING: Gideon the Ninth spoilers ahead!

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.

Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?


This book is going to be very difficult to talk about this book without spoiling it, so forgive me if this review is short and vague.

My biggest concern about this book going in was that I was worried that without reading from Gideon’s point of view I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. I mean, Gideon’s amazing voice was 1,000% of why I enjoyed the first Locked Tomb novel so much. And I was right, I didn’t enjoy Harrow quite as much. But Muir somehow still managed to deliver the feel of a locked-door mystery, which was the other 25% of what I loved about Gideon.

And I ended up becoming rather fond of Harrow. It was nice to get to know her and understand what made her so … bitchy. While I can’t claim to understand any of the magic involved with Lyctorhood (and therefore this book), getting insights into her past was fascinating.

What really kept me reading was my desperation to figure out what was going on. Without giving anything away this is hard to explain, but Harrow is written in such a way that the reader is going to be VERY confused. While I kind of loved that about Gideon, especially since it was mostly because Gideon herself couldn’t be bothered to understand anything, in Harrow I found it aggravating.

Muir’s writing (and her world-building) is, in general, so odd that I’m never fully sure I understand what’s happening in her books, especially when the climax comes around. But I didn’t get the end of Harrow at all. If someone wants to explain it to me in the comments, much appreciated. This is definitely a book I’ll have to re-read before I’ll feel I understand it well.

In the end I went ahead and gave this book four stars because of course I am going to buy book 3. But it was really more of a 4- for me. Obviously recommended for fans of Gideon the Ninth, but for everyone else READ GIDEON FIRST!

2020 SF/F Books with Black Covers

Apparently 2020 is the year of black covers over here in Sci-Fi/Fantasy land. It wasn’t until after I was looking at my pre-order list that I realized just how many there are, but golly y’all, every book I’ve bought or pre-ordered this year except for one has had a black cover! I wonder if this is something that’s intentional marketing (maybe black books are selling better right now?) or whether it’s just a coincidence. It might say something about how darker books are more popular right now too.

Anyway, I’m not complaining because all of these book covers are just jaw-dropping. Some seriously awesome cover design.

These are in no particular order.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

In this case I think the black cover is definitely meant to reflect the content of the book. I think there’s dark magic involved, and the school involved seems like it’s probably a pretty dark place in every meaning of the word. Anyway, this cover is sooooo cool looking. I love its simplicity and the way the gold pops against the black. A Deadly Education comes out in September.

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Review: Witchmark

Witchmark by C.L. Polk

Series: The Kingston Cycle
Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

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.


What a cool book! It’s fun, different, romantic, and fast-paced. Perfect for fans of Sorcerer to the Crown, A Natural History of Dragons, A Darker Shade of Magic, or Soulless.

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Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Series: The Broken Earth
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Maturity Level: 5
(Content Warnings: child abuse, harm to children, enslavement)
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.


WOW.

I’ve slept on this book before trying to start the review because I am just IN AWE, but I still don’t know what to write. How do you review on of the greatest pieces of speculative fiction of the 21st century?

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Middle Grade Review: Sweep

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

Genres: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 3 (Content Warning: Child Abuse)
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

For nearly a century, Victorian London relied on “climbing boys”–orphans owned by chimney sweeps–to clean flues and protect homes from fire. The work was hard, thankless and brutally dangerous. Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived–and a girl. With her wits and will, she’s managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again.

But when Nan gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire, she fears her time has come. Instead, she wakes to find herself in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature–a golem–made from ash and coal. This is the creature that saved her from the fire.


Sweep is historical fiction set in Victorian London with just a touch of magic. This is not a happy story, but is brutal in its honesty. While I didn’t find it particularly inspiring or touching, it’s impossible to deny the power of the story.

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