Posts tagged ‘Mythology’

City of Light, City of Dark

City of Light, City of DarkTitle: City of Light, City of Dark
Author: Avi
Illustrator: Brian Floca
ISBN: 97805311068007
Pages: 192 pages
Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, c1993.

People! The land you wish to build on belongs to us, the Kurbs. Still, we are willing to lend you this island as well as our power so you may have the light and warmth you humans require. But there is a price. Each year you must enact a ritual to show you acknowledge that this island remains ours and is governed by our rules. If you fail to perform this ritual-be warned!-the consequences for you will be dire! (8)

Before people had arrived in New York, the Kurbs controlled the lightness and darkness. When people landed on the island, the Kurbs agreed to hide the power somewhere on the island and give the people six months to find it as the land progressively got colder and darker. If it wasn’t returned noon on December 21st, it would be plunged into darkness, but if it was returned it would gradually get lighter and warmer until it was hidden again on June 21st. One woman needs to find the power and return it to the Kurbs, but a greedy blind man, his reluctant assistant, and a young girl and her friend are all searching for it too for very different reasons. Who will find it first?

This is Avi’s version of the Persephone myth, adapted for modern-day New York. I liked the concept, but with my love of Avi’s stories, I was surprised at the narration, which seemed rush and disjointed. The book starts as a mixture of text and graphic novel panels, and then eventually transitions to only graphic novel format. There is too much plot time between the background setting flashback in the beginning and then the bulk of the story. It took him that long to track down the token… Really? Maybe other reviewers are right and it would have been better as a textual novel, as large amounts of the plot are layer out in stilted, expository dialogue.

With Floca’s recent Caldecott Award win, and repeated recognition by the Sibert committee, I was surprised by this first effort at illustrating a novel. Maybe he should stick with the picture book format and continue to color his drawings. I expected more of the sweeping skyline that we see on the cover of the original publication, but the black and white renderings found in the interior seemed rushed, vague, and not detailed. On page 35, he actually draws arrows to guide readers from panel to panel, which seemed unnecessary and awkward. All told, it would be a nice thing to provide readers who are interested in stories influenced by mythology, but it is not the best work of either the author or illustrator.

Dark of the Moon

Title: Dark of the Moon
Author: Tracy Barrett
ISBN: 9780574581323
Pages: 310 pages
Publisher/Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, c2011.

It isn’t true what they say about my brother–that he ate those children. He never did; he didn’t even mean to hurt them. He wept as he held out their broken bodies, his soft brown eyes pleading with me to fix them, the way I always fixed his dolls and toys. […]
I couldn’t fix the children, of course. They were dead, their heads flopping on their necks, their arms and legs pale and limp. My mother ordered the slaves to take them away and give them a proper burial, and I held my brother as he sobbed over the loss of his playmates. […]
When the replacement children died as well, my mother said: No more playmates. My brother wailed and roared in his loneliness, deep beneath the palace, until the Minos took pity and said: Just once more. But not children from Krete. The people would stand for it no more, he said.
And so they came in their long ships. (prologue)

Ariadne is She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess, having been born to her mother while had assumed the role of the Goddess and will assume the role when her mother dies. Her brother Asterion is He-Who-Will-Be-Minos, a kind of token king who assists with the rituals where the Goddess promises wealth and prosperity. The problem is that her brother will never be able to perform the necessary duties of the position, having been born with physical and mental deformities. Neighboring communities call him the Minotaur, believing him to be half man and half beast, but Ariadne knows differently. However, she soon finds her loyalties torn between her brother, her village, and her obligations as a new batch of slaves arrive and she struggles to explain her culture to strangers, especially Theseus, the son of the king of Athens.

The most engaging aspect of this book is the unique presentation of the Minotaur myth. Asterion seems to be a cross between the Beast (from Beauty and the Beast) and a highly autistic child. Ariadne’s religion/culture is difficult for Theseus to understand (and I keep using the word unique to describe the whole concept). One woman doesn’t just assume the symbolic role of the Goddess, but every year actually becomes the Goddess in order to promote growth, health, and a good harvest. The rest of the time, the Goddess is separate from the chosen woman, her presence and watchfulness represented by the cycles of the moon. It’s presented as almost like a temporary possession of the person in question. The same can be said for her consort Velchanos, who every year chooses a male body to inhabit for the harvest celebration, during which time the two “deities” consummate their relationship. Then the male is sacrificed by the Minos (similar to a high priest/protector of the Goddess) and the blood will be used to fertilize the fields for the coming year. The first boy and girl who are born to the She-Who-Is-Goddess as a result of the consummation become She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess and He-Who-Will-Be-Minos.

The problem of course arises because Asterion, the Minos-to-be, is completely incapable of fulfilling his duties due to his inability to communicate and his physical limitations. While Ariadne’s initial lack of this realization seems implausible to me, especially considering how involved she is in this culture’s religion and events, it adds political upheaval and tension to the climax of the story. Also adding climax to the story is Theseus’ naivety to the whole blood spilling process, thinking that a pin prick will be enough for this sacrificial society.

Another unique aspect of this book is the way Ariadne’s relationship with Theseus ends. EPILOGUE SPOILER ALERT (highlight the text below if you REALLY want to know):
“Now that I know what love is, I know I felt nothing like that for Theseus. Friendship, yes; gratitude for his kindness to Asterion and for seeing me as a woman and not a goddess in training, yes; but not love. That is something different, and something I hope my friend Theseus will find.” (309-310) It’s interesting to see a character change her idea of her feelings and not get swept away by the gorgeous new stranger (how often have we seen that plot?). Ariadne is a woman who knows what she wants out of society and eventually questions her blind acceptance of a role thrust upon her. She’s a strong female character who doesn’t lose sight of her more feminine qualities.

For readers who are familiar with the fantasy genre, this is some extreme out of the box thinking, and I’m seriously impressed. This wholly original take on a very old story will intrigue fantasy fans and inspire a new way of viewing a well-known and popular myth. What Gregory MaGuire did to Elphaba in Wicked, Tracy Barrett does for the Minotaur and Ariadne in Dark of the Moon. (And with a very cool book cover to boot!)

The Son of Neptune

Title: The Son of Neptune
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Joshua Swanson
ISBN: 9780307916815 (book on CD)
Pages: 521 pages
Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion Books, c2011.
Discs/CDs: 11 CDs, 13 hours 30 minutes

The snake-haired ladies were starting to annoy Percy.
They should have died three days ago when he dropped a crate of bowling balls on them at the Napa Bargain Mart. They should have died two days ago when he ran over them with a police car in Martinez. They definitely should have died this morning when he cut off their heads in Tilden Park.
No matter how many times Percy killed them and watched them crumble to powder, they just kept re-forming like large evil dust bunnies. He couldn’t even seem to outrun them.(3)

Percy finds himself in California, running away from snake-haired ladies with no memory of who he is or why he’s being chased. While saving an old lady, he stumbles across Camp Jupiter, a camp for half-mortal, half-Roman deity children, and is instantly called upon to rescue Thanatos, the God of Death, from the clutches of the giants. If they don’t complete their task in the next three days, the camp will be overrun by monsters who can’t be killed. Accompanied by Hazel, who has her own troubles with Death, and Frank, an unclaimed demigod who might have more powers than he imagined, they’ll travel to the icy waters of Alaska in search of Thanatos. But pursuing them are unkillable monsters who seem to know more than any of the three about what they are up against, and no one is sure who Thanatos will side with in the end.

Another well done audiobook from the Heroes of Olympus series. Joshua Swanson distinguishes the characters from one another nicely, and the pacing benefits from Rick Riordan’s habit of working cliff hangers into the chapter endings. Although more advanced readers might grow tired of having the character’s feelings spelled out for them, it’s refreshing to have such detailed character analysis, even if it’s repetitive. The fast paced action and kid humor excuses any over emphasis, such as when a battle is centered around a pile of schist, which is a type of rock. (Remember the Hoover Dam sequence from earlier in the series? Yes, it’s that type of thing.)

Based on Frank’s background, which I won’t reveal here, it will be interesting to see how things pan out. (I sense glimpses of Riordan’s next series, when he’s done with the two he’s got going now.) Hazel has her own interesting back story, but we don’t get to see very much of it in Son of Neptune, just whatever glimpses appear through the flashbacks she suffers from. Ella is the comic relief for this title, a bookworm of a harpy whose photographic memory comes in handy on more than one occasion and talks in disjointed sentences, referring to herself in the third person and overstating the obvious. I also can really appreciate what must have gone into giving the gods and goddesses their own unique Roman personalities, which readers witness through Ares being portrayed as Mars. Since Greeks and Romans valued different qualities and traits, readers of both series will notice the differences, although some things unavoidably stay the same.

What is refreshing about this series is that readers don’t have to be familiar with the previous Percy Jackson series. Although Percy does run across people he’s met previously (namely Nico di Angelo), because he has had his memory wiped he’s just as clueless as uninformed readers as to why someone might be acting strange around him or seem familiar. In fact, readers who familiar with the series obviously have the edge over Percy and will probably enjoy the ability to gloat. In the long run though, this quest is just the beginning, as Gaia is waking and as I think Percy mentions at one point, she is not the friendly Mother Earth that gets portrayed today.

The Throne of Fire

Title: The Throne of Fire
Author: Rick Riordan
ISBN: 9781423140566
Pages: 452 pages
Publisher/Date: Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group, c2011.

If you didn’t listen to our first recording, well . . . pleased to meet you: the Egyptian gods are running around loose in the modern world; a bunch of magicians called the House of Life is trying to stop them; everyone hates Sadie and me; and a big snake is about to swallow the sun and destroy the world.
[Ow! What was that for?]
Sadie just punched me. She says I’m going to scare you too much. I should back up, calm down, and start at the beginning.
Fine. But personally, I think you should be scared. (1)

It’s been several weeks since Carter and Sadie Kane rediscovered their powers as descendants of an Ancient Egyptian house of magicians. They though they would have a chance at mastering their new skills before being called upon to save the world again, but the gods have other ideas. The Chaos snake Apophis is breaking out of his cage, and the set of siblings believe the only way to fight the Chaos is to revive the sun-god Ra. That’s easier said then done, as they first have to recover the three separate pieces of the Book of Ra, then find the slumbering sun-god since no one knows for sure where he is. And did we mention that not all the gods are thrilled with the idea of waking Ra in the first place?

Okay, I can see now the benefits of having some previous knowledge regarding Greek and Roman mythology. I was able to follow Percy Jackson series, and even the Lost Heroes series. The last time I discussed Egyptian gods and goddesses was probably in grade school, where we learned about mummies and the Egyptian empires and the Pharoah’s hat that looked like a bowling pin. Suffice it to say, it’s CONFUSING, especially since apparently they sometimes had more than one god or godly incarnations for the same thing, like Ra, who has three incarnations (morning, noon, and dusk).

That being said, I still think it’s the action that draws readers to these stories. The cliff-hanger chapter endings work, but since this is supposed to be a recording of Sadie and Carter telling the story, it gets a little choppy, since I can’t see most people stopping in the middle of the story and saying “Okay, you tell your story now, and I’ll continue mine when you get halfway done.” It just doesn’t work that way. The magical workings also seem a little haphazard, as the rules seem to skew to “this is how it works when it’s convenient” as opposed to “this is how it works — period”. I have to admit, some of the tricks the Kane kids pull out of their bag sound really cool, like applying magic to a smaller representation in order to affect something larger. Some of the twists towards the end are appealing unexpected, and add a dimension to the story that will definitely affect the plot in future books.

I’m a little worried that Rick Riordan is going to become something like James Patterson at the rate he’s writing these books. Is he going to start “collaborating” with other people in order to produce more books? I certainly hope not. While I liked the series, I found I had forgotten quite a bit of what happened in the first book, and that’s a sure sign that it’s not going to make my top ten list for the year.

The Lost Hero

Title: The Lost Hero
Series: The Heroes of Olympus, Book One
Author: Rick Riordan
Narrator: Joshua Swanson
ISBN: 9781423113393
Pages: 557 pages
Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion Books, c2010.

“So, a crash course for the amnesiac,” Leo said in a helpful tone that made Jason think this was not going to be helpful. “We go to the ‘Wildnerness School'” –Leo made air quotes with his fingers. “Which means we’re ‘bad kids.’ Your family, or the court, or whoever, decided you were too much trouble, so they shipped you off to this lovely prison–sorry, ‘boarding school’–in Armpit, Nevada, where you learn valuable nature skills like running ten miles a day through the cacti and weaving daisies into hats! And for a special treat we go on ‘educational’ field trips with Coach Hedge, who keeps order with a baseball bat. Is it all coming back to you now?”
“No.” Jason glanced apprehensively at the other kids: maybe twenty guys, half that many girls. None of them looked like hardened criminals, but he wondered what they’d all done to get sentenced to a school for delinquents, and he wondered why he belonged with them. (7-8)

Jason wakes up on a bus that’s winding its way to the Grand Canyon on a school field trip. Problem is, that’s one of many things that he doesn’t remember. His friends Piper and Leo fill in him, but all three quickly learn that even they don’t know everything, as wind spirits attack their group and they are rescued from demigods Annabeth and Butch who take them to Camp Half-Blood. It turns out that Jason and his friends have a quest laid out ahead of them; to find and rescue Hera, the queen of the Greek Gods. Along the way, they might find clues to help the search for a missing camper. First though, they have to learn to trust each other, even as they realize that each person has secrets that might jeopardize their mission.

Rick Riordan has done it again. A fast-paced adventure thrill ride that weaves Greek and Roman mythology together into one cohesive story. The cross-country quest involves a flying metal dragon, a high-security house, fiery inferno, and a “stolen” helicopter ride (although Piper might object to that description). As a Michigan person my whole life, I did take a little offense at Leo’s assumption that a closed car plant automatically meant they were in Detroit, since Detroit has a lot of other things to offer. The other annoying thing was that the final twist took a REALLY long time to come to light, and I’d figured it out WAY before the characters finally figured it out. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know, but their cluelessness got on my nerves, the way they kept reiterating all the pieces but couldn’t put them together.

All three of the main characters have a difficult pasts that slowly come to light. Leo seems to have suffered the most difficulties out of the three, although it surfaces that Piper was a problem child. Another commonality is that it seems like all three of the main characters have a special ability that sets them apart from others like them, although I’m kind of surprised Jason is seen as the “leader” of the trio since he seems to have the least knowledge about what to do and has the least skills. Riordan spells out the character’s motivations in clear detail, which might annoy some readers and might delight others to be so clearly inside the characters heads. That’s a big difference with these books, is the fact that the point of view shifts consistently, sometimes painting events in multiple lights in order to understand everything that’s happening. This also allows the action to continue even when someone is asleep, frozen, or knocked unconscious, which happens quite frequently. However, it does cut down on the surprises, because readers know ahead of everyone else each character’s secret. The trio reminded me a lot of the Harry Potter, with Piper being Hermoine, Jason being Harry, and Leo being Ron.

Joshua Swanson does an excellent job narrating, distinguishing the raspy, cocky, and wise-cracking sarcasm of Leo (which he NAILED in my opinion) from the more sincere tones of Piper and the honest but clueless Jason. His bad guys also have otherworldly voices, ranging from guttural, terse questions like “Smash now?” to seductively persuasive. I found myself laughing out loud at some parts, and his timing was spot on. Fans will not be disappointed, and considering I haven’t finished the Percy Jackson series and wasn’t lost, I think new fans can enter the series without missing much.

The Red Pyramid

Title: The Red Pyramid
Author: Rick Riordan
ISBN: 9781423113386
Pages: 516 pages
Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion Books, c2010.

“Hold on,” Carter said. “My father’s disappeared, and you want me to leave the country?”
“Your father is either dead or a fugitive, son,” the inspector said. “Deportation is the kindest option. It’s already been arranged.”
“With whom?” Gramps demanded. “Who authorized this?”
“With…” The inspector got that funny blank look again. “With the proper authorities. Believe me, it’s better than prison.”
Carter looked too devastated to speak, but before I could feel sorry for him, Inspector Williams turned to me. “You, too, miss.”
He might as well have hit me with a sledgehammer.
“You’re deporting me?” I asked. “I live here!” (42-43)

Carter and Sadie are brother and sister, but they barely see each other and they look nothing alike. While Carter spends his time traveling the world with his archeologist father, Sadie spends her days living in London with their maternal grandparents. The siblings never really knew the specifics of their mother’s death or the fight between their grandparents and their father. All that’s about to change though, when an explosion blows apart the Rosetta Stone and their father is charged as a terrorist. Fleeing the clueless police, Sadie and Carter discover that the Egyptian gods and goddess might not be as ancient history as they thought. Along the way, the realize that they might have some ancient powers of their own, which they’ll have to learn quickly in order to stop the evil from spreading.

Maybe I read this book too fast. Maybe I was expecting too much because of the hype. While I enjoyed the book while reading it, I have a hard time remembering all the details that I had read two weeks later. And for a book this intriquite, the details are important!

Here’s what I liked:
I liked the shifting narration. Alternating back and forth from Sadie’s and Carter’s perspectives added depth to the story, especially when so much of what happens is internalized, due to their struggle to control and learn their powers or their spirit’s transportation to godly realms while they’re asleep.
I liked the explanation of the powers. Amos tells Sadie “If you and Carter were raised together, you could become very powerful. Perhaps you have already sensed changes over the past day. […] it was clear even then that you two would be difficult to raise in the same household.” (79-80) Rather than just have the powers appear with the onset of adolescence, it seems that they need to be close to each other for their powers to be active. (It’s been a while, but doesn’t that sort of sound like the Twitches movie by Disney?)
I liked the biracial aspect of Carter and Sadie. It doesn’t really come up alot, but it comes up enough to get it through to readers that the children’s mother was white and their father is African American. Physically, Carter takes after his father while Sadie takes after her mother, making for some awkward and interesting interactions. While the presentation can seem heavy-handed occassionally, I’m thrilled from a librarian stand-point that an insanely popular book contains a person of color. (Story Siren is doing a whole week of POC young adult books at her blog right now, so it really brought it to my attention).
On that same train of thought, I liked the social issues explored because of their biracial heritage. Like in this scene, where Carter is explaining to readers why he dresses “his best” all the time.

My dad put his hand on my shoulder. “Carter, you’re getting older. You’re an African American man. People will judge you more harshly, and so you must always look impeccable.
“That isn’t fair!” I insisted.
“Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same,” Dad said. “Fairness means everyone gets what they need. And the only way to get what you need is to make it happen yourself.”(67)

Anyone else think that’s a great quote? Another instance of this inequality is when Carter and Sadie’s father introduces them to the curator of the museum as a family, and “Dr. Martin’s stare went temporarily blank. Doesn’t matter how open-minded or polite people think they are, there’s always that moment of confusion that falshes across their faces when they realize Sadie is part of our family.” (18) It made me wonder if I have the same expression when faced with that scenario.
Anyway, another thing I liked is the presentation of the Egyptian gods. I was not aware that Egypt had so MANY gods and goddesses. The story informs readers about the vast levels of mythology, although just like with Percy Jackson, I would have appreciated a family tree somewhere. Just like the more well-known and popular Greek gods and goddesses, they are all inter-related. In fact, Riordan does a great job of addressing the issue that some stories have conflicting details.

“… when Osiris and Isis frist walked the earth, their hosts were brother and sister. But mortal hosts are not permanent. They die, they wear out. Later in history, Osiris and Isis took new forms–humans who were husband and wife. Horus, who in one lifetime was their brother, was born into a new life as their son. […]
This is why the ancient stories seem so mixed up. Sometimes the gods are described as married, or siblings, or parent and child, depending on their hosts.” (179-180)

Things that prevented me from loving the book:
The initial set-up of this being a recording. That just seemed unnecessary to me. There were a few asides that reminded readers (somewhat jarringly at times) that we’re supposed to be listening to this. But they were so few and far between that it was hard to accept. I think if he’d just written the story like he had the Percy Jackson series, and not bothered framing it as a recording that had “fallen into his hands”, I would have been able to imerse myself into the story more.
The distribution and training of magical qualities seemed willy nilly. The same qualm I had with Witch and Wizard I have with this book. You have two strong characters, supposedly related, supposedly just as strong, and yet one seems to receive more magical ability than the other. In this case, most of Carter’s powers manifest themselves in avatar fighting skills, while Sadie has her own avatar along with the ability to blow stuff up, open portholes, and read heiroglyphics. Their training is best described as haphazard, with some basic instruction and one lackluster duel leading to magnificant abilities in the ultimate fight against evil. The fight is not the end-all be-all that it’s made out to be, with the conclusion similar to Percy Jackson meets 39 Clues. It sets-up the over arching conflict that must be solved by jet-setting around with a chaperone who is more than she appears to be.

Overall, I think it’s a fast-paced read and an enlightening introduction to the little examined Egyptian mythology. My qualms will not stop me from eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.

Oh, and I’m sure most people know this already, but there’s apparently an online website as well as an online game. Warning, it looks like you’re going to need the book to complete some of the puzzles for the online game, so I would wait until you either own a copy or can keep the library copy for more than three weeks. I don’t know how involved or challenging the puzzles are.

Guardian of the Dead

Title: Guardian of the Dead
Author: Karen Healey
ISBN: 9780316044301
Pages: 345 pages
Publisher/Date: Little Brown and Company, c2010.
Publication Date: April 1, 2010

I walked into the bathroom, uncertain of why my cheeks were flushed, and unable to remember how I’d gotten there. I had the dimming notion of an odd conversation, but not of whom I’d spoken to or what had been said. When I tried to mentally retrace my steps, my scalp suddenly stung as if I’d been yanking out fistfuls of hair. The pain swallowed whatever had jolted my memory, and I splashed water onto my face and frowned in the mirror until the color in my cheeks faded.
“You,” I said softly, “are never drinking again.” (17)

It’s not the illegal alcohol that her long-time-friend Kevin smuggled into her dorm room that is causing Ellie Spencer splitting migrane-like pain. Instead the cause is gorgeous classmate Mark, who has unconsciously awakened Ellie’s dormant senses of the magical world of Maori myths. Not fully understanding what has happened, Ellie finds herself relying on her rusty tae kwon do skills more than her magic to fend off an evil fairy’s interest in Kevin. But even if they are successful, it turns out there are bigger problems. The recent rash of murders in the country seems tied to a bigger magical occurrance to shift the course of power, a fight in which Ellie is set to become involved.

I want to touch upon a fairly minor detail to the plot that makes itself known in the first couple chapters. Kevin, Ellie’s long-time friend, is ASEXUAL and confides in Ellie first during their binge drinking night, and then clarifies once they have sobered up the following morning at school. Kevin works with Iris on a play, and recognizes that she has an interest in him that he just doesn’t return and is worrying about sharing this fact with Iris.

I tried to smile, but the humor in my voice was too forced. “Come on, it can’t be that hard. You just say, ‘Hi. My name is Kevin. And I’m asexual.”
Kevin stared at his big hands. “Great. You think it’s like alcoholism.”
“No!” I said, and tried to think of something not stupid to say. Nothing came to mind.
There was a pause while Kevin picked at his cuticles and I scraped my teeth down the apple. “Now that we’re sober, just to clarify,” I said at last, and let my voice trail off when my courage gave out. I couldn’t stop myself from picking at scabs, either.
“I’m not gay.”
“Okay,” I mumbled.
Kevin’s lips twisted. “People understand gay. Even if they think it’s sick. But asexual…they don’t understand someone who’s not interested in sex at all.”
“Really not at all?”
He flattened his hands on his thighs. “Really.”
I thought about saying Maybe you’ll change your mind, and then remembered Dad saying exactly that to Magda when she came out, and my sister’s strained, white face as she fought back equal measures of fury and despair.
“Okay,” I said instead, and covered one of his hands with mine. A smile appeared at the corners of his mouth and rested there a while. (13-14)

I wanted to stand up an applaud Karen Healey. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. In this trend of love triangles, she is courageous enough to go against the curve and have a character with absolutely no interest in having a romantic relationship with another character. He’s not obsessed with butt, boobs, or boners, and is enjoying the friendships he has without the complications of sex. YES! YES! YES! And to compare it to being gay was a wonderful move, because she’s right that it would be a common assumption or stereotype. Oh, it’s just because you haven’t met the right person yet. You’ll be attracted to someone eventually, or it’ll be fixed with a little blue pill. No, not always the case.

Ok, enought about Kevin, who is really a pawn in the events that transpire. I thought it was a great stroke that Healey gave readers an inside scoop into what was going on, making them privy to the conversations that Ellie has so much difficulty remembering. We know something is up with Mark, and you keep urging and encouraging Ellie to remember what it is because he’s cast as the suspicious character so early in the game.

The second half of the book escalates quite quickly, but there is so much drawn out intrigue in the first half that you’re almost prepared for the climax. But not quite. Healey sends a curve ball, drawing not just from the Maoi myths that makes up most of the book, but turning the Beauty and the Beast story on it’s head and forcing me to view it in a new light. One can only imagine if that’s really how Beauty and the Beast ended up.

The epilogue might be disappointing for some readers and a welcome surprise for other, depending on how you viewed Ellie’s relationship with one of the characters. I was surprised at the way things turned out, but it’s not completely unsatisfactory. I don’t want to ruin it by saying any more, but you’ll understand what I mean when you get there. Overall, a good debut novel.

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