I hope you had a wonderful Christmas if you celebrate, and I wish a happy New Year to all of you lovely people. Time for another round of Monday minis, and many thanks to all the publishers for sending me eARCs of these books – even if they ended up not working quite as well for me as I hoped.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh is one of those books that I desperately wanted to fall in love with but ultimately ended up feeling pretty ambivalent about. It is a Korean-inspired fairytale about a girl who sacrifices herself to marry the Sea God to save her family and broader community and gets more than she bargained for in the process. It is well-written and lyrical, and reads pleasantly. Picking this one up will make for an evening well-spent, as it is an entertaining and compelling book, but it doesn’t feel like a must-read to me. My main gripe with it is that the characters really aren’t that fleshed out, which in a poetic tale like The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea makes or breaks the story for me personally. I never felt like I got to know who Mina is as a person other than a quite generic YA heroine who is self-sacrificing, brave and cares for her family and community. For me, this was a three star read, but I can see it working much better for readers who aren’t quite as character-oriented as I am.
I didn’t connect to Moonlocket by Peter Bunzl at all sadly. I did quite enjoy the first in the series, Cogheart, when I read it a while ago, though maybe it did have the same issues I noticed with this and I’ve just glossed over in my memories. This is a middle grade fantasy series set in Victorian London, around a girl with a mechanical heart, her mechanimal pet, a fox called Malkin and her best friend. In this volume, they are trying to track down the best friend’s mum, who had abandoned him as a small child, and find themselves embroiled with a legendary criminal and the hunt for a priceless artifact belonging to Queen Victoria herself. While this sounds rather exciting by itself I felt that the writing wasn’t as good as the concept. The story lost tension in clunky phrasings and telling rather than showing, and personally, I felt that it would have needed another rigorous set of edits. And as there are quite a number of Victorian-set middle grade adventures, I don’t think this one stands out from other books in the space. I do have to say that I ultimately did get invested in the ending, and ended up giving it a rounded up three stars.
The Bone Spindle by Leslie Vedder was one of my picks on the 2022 Megapost, so I was thrilled when I was approved for an eARC and read it the same day. But however much I tried to love it… I just didn’t. As a whole, the story felt superficial and the characters flat. Fi and Briar, the main couple in the story just didn’t have any chemistry and I honestly couldn’t stand Briar, who was the type of shiny YA boy without flaws. The only interesting character was Shane, and even she was mainly “not like other girls” and largely built around rejecting her previous life. I think there was a really cool concept in here, but it would have needed another thorough structural edit to really shine. As it is, it felt like quite lacklustre to me, and I wouldn’t really recommend picking this one up – though it may work better for other readers!