To begin with, the characters are largely, flatly drawn and their dialogue was uniform and indistinguishable between characters. After a couple of chapters, I created a list of names and commonly-used descriptors of the characters in order to keep them straight. I found myself thinking things like: “Is Bea Cara’s witchy friend or is that Alice?” “What’s Cara’s mother name again?” “Who’s Elsie?” If this was a history of the Ottoman Empire, it would be a necessity to keep all the players and alliances straight, but in a small town in Ireland, this shouldn’t be the case. To me, they were portrayed as one hive mind and people. I couldn’t tell them apart in the beginning, nor in the end.
Like many of my favorite fantasy Novels, Snow Like Ashes begins with a map. There are 8 Kingdoms on the continent of Primoria, each season is its own Kingdom, plus four more non-Seasonal named kingdoms The exiled Winter Kingdom was ransacked, summarily murdered and enslaved 16 years ago. They are powerless, missing their locket (which holds Winter’s magic) since Winter fell. Only 25 citizens managed to escape that night long ago and, of those, only 8 are free and survive today. Are you with me so far, my fantasy-loving friends?
I’ll start by saying that I grew up in New Jersey, and while I haven’t lived there in many years (more than I care to count), I’m still oddly protective of the Garden State. So when I started The Devil and Winnie Flynn and saw that it took place in NJ, my defenses were up. I wasn’t in the mood for the usual Jersey Shore references and jokes about girls with big hair. But what I got instead was a clever book about a girl trying to connect with distant family after a tragedy all while on the set of a reality TV show about paranormal investigators in search of the mythical Jersey Devil. It was certainly not what I expected, but this twisted tale had me hooked immediately.
I will caveat my review of Slasher Girls & Monster Boys by stating that I am not a fan of short story compilations. I usually wouldn’t willingly pick one up. However, with the percentage of YA authors that I absolutely adore featured in this book, I just had try it out. To my utter surprise and enjoyment, I absolutely loved it from beginning to end! April Genevieve Tucholke selected stories that were evenly paced and with differing levels of scary/paranormal characteristics to keep each story different enough to feel separate, but close enough to fulfill the “Slasher Girls & Monster Boys” theme. It was the perfect amount of scary to welcome this Halloween season. In addition, I listened to the audiobook, which had a cast of readers so varied and perfectly matched to their stories, that it actually heightened my experience of the compilation as a whole.
Talk about literally picking up at the precipice of the last novel. Thank goodness I had Heart of Betrayal lined up in my queue because the action picks up right where we left off. If you haven’t read Kiss of Deception, you may want to come back because there will be spoilers.
If I had to compare A Darker Shade of Magic to one of the Harry Potter books, it would not be the Sorcerer’s Stone where we first meet the innocent, wide-eyed child magicians who are just discovering magic. No, I’d have to say A Darker Shade of Magic is more like Goblet of Fire or the Half Blood Prince, where bad things start to happen. Very, very bad things.