Cryptic title today. But it’s simply the main themes of the three novels that get mini reviews here: This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria, A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth and Nowhere on Earth by Nick Lake. I received NetGalley ARCs of all of these – thank you so much to the respective publicists – and as usual, all opinions are my own.
This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria is the story of Karis, a girl separated from her family long ago. She lives on an island belonging to the Scriptorium, a faction set on reactivating an automaton army. But then, Karis accidentally awakens Alix, an automaton with a mind of his own who has been deactivated for two centuries. This starts her on a quest that involves finding her family and rebellion. It is a compelling YA novel about standing up against an oppressive regime and fighting for what you believe in, but not an outstanding one. It feels like quite a few other recent titles, fitting well into the market but not innovating it. What I did really like about This Golden Flame is that Karis is outspokenly ace, and the story focused on friendships rather than romance. You can order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth is a YA fantasy romp. Set in Toronto around a group of (more or less) teens with supernatural backgrounds – there are fae, there is an ex-fury and more – the main characters try to solve a string of murders before it is too late. It is very queer, and it is a lot of fun. But ultimately, the story didn’t live up to my expectations. I found the characters flat and felt little emotional investment. I simply did not care what happened. It is a perfectly solid book though, great escapism, and I can see how it would likely work better for readers who are huge fans of the Folk of the Air series or Sarah J. Maas’s books. Copies are available from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Nowhere on Earth by Nick Lake is set in Alaska, which makes it stand out. It is the story of Emily and her ‘brother’ Aidan, who turns out to be an alien, triggering a protective reflex in humans. They are on the run from pursuers, and on the way to a facility that will let Aidan call for rescue from Earth. It is a compelling read, flies by very fast, but there isn’t much substance to it. It felt like it kept missing the mark for me, whenever I thought that we were going to get some emotion and depth, the story moved on. It is clearly YA based on the MC, but from the way themes were addressed it had more of a MG feel to it. And that made the whole book seem a bit disjointed to me. I still enjoyed reading it, but I’m not really tempted to pick up more of the author’s work. Copies are available via Bookshop here, if you’re tempted (affiliate link).