And another (manic) Monday! I started working as a bookseller last week and things have been just a tad insane since then. But one of the many things I love about my job is that most of us spend our lunch breaks reading in companionable silence in the staff room. So thanks to the publicists for sending me eARCs of these titles via NetGalley, and as usual, all opinions are my own.
The Revelry by Katherine Webber is a UKYA contemporary fantasy out from Walker Books in February. It is set in a small town, where each year, a so-called Revelry takes place – a party in the woods, shrouded in mystery and legend. Bitsy and her friend Amy sneak in, and after the party, Bitsy’s life starts to unravel through bad luck while Amy rides a wave of good fortune. So Bitsy starts to convince herself that they are bound together through a curse only she can break. There are some really good ideas in there, especially around the mystery of the Revelry and the history of it, and the way it has impacted the society in their small town, but I felt like these aspects ultimately ended up not being given enough space in the story. Most of the plot revolved around a constant circle of Bitsy having a spell of bad luck while things went well for Amy, Bitsy getting upset, the girls fighting and soon making up again because they have been best friends forever. And then the same thing again. So while the concept was really interesting, the execution wasn’t for me.
Goblin King by Kara Barbieri is the follow-up to her debut, White Stag. It follows Janneke’s story after the events of the first book, because as we all know, just because the big fight is won doesn’t mean the war itself is over. These books are very loosely inspired by Norse mythology, though it’s more of a vague setting and references to beliefs and concepts rather than heavy-handed cultural influence. I really enjoyed reading this one, even if it has been rather too long since I read the first book and I definitely ended up missing out on quite a bit of the nuance just because I didn’t remember many of the details from the last arc. But this crossover fantasy series – I’d say it’s probably closer to new adult than proper YA – is a lot of fun and has some great characters. I loved how mature Janneke and Soren’s relationship is, and how they actually talk through issues (persistent problems that can easily be solved by communicating are one of my pet peeves). This series is more on the romantic end, but if you like that and epic-ish fantasy, it might be a good one to check out!
I loved The Gifts That Bind Us by Caroline O’Donoghue. This is the second book in her tarot-inspired contemporary fantasy series, and I think it’s one of the most thoughtful, mature YA fantasies out there. It is more focused on the implications of events, on mental trauma and small-scale relationships and impacts rather than sweeping plots and fast-paced adventures, which is a welcome change and makes this stand out in the market. I think I liked this one even more than the first book as it delved deeper into trauma and consequences, and really dared to lean into slower pacing – but no less tense story-telling. The gang from the first book is back here, Maeve, Roe, Fiona and Lily, but we meet a host of new characters too, both positive and negative, all of them nuanced and complex. And it’s lovely to get books set in small-town Ireland rather than US or UK as is far more common. A wonderful YA series that I’d highly recommend!