After an intermission with a special Monday Minis appearance by Sun we’re back to regular programming. As usual, thank you to publicists for giving me access to these books, all opinions are my own.
I actually picked up an ARC of The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs back when I was bookselling – so not technically an ARC I have to review, but one that charmed me so utterly I couldn’t not write about it. A cover that is stunning, but an inside that is no less so. If you know me at all, you know that I’m a glutton, so a book that has food as an essential character was always likely to tempt me, though I’m always surprised when I fall for something that has absolutely no speculative elements at all. Not only are the descriptions in this delectable, but the characters telling the story really do come to life. I devoured The Language of Food just like I would one of Eliza Acton’s wonderful dishes. One of my favourite elements was that the book was rooted in history, featured real characters – though on the flip side, that also ended up presenting me with my one source of frustration with the book (which, I truly believe, is on me and not the book itself). There are some hints that I took to mean that there may be a queer subplot, but alas, those hopes were dashed when a different secret was exposed which – outside of history – was less compelling storytelling in my book. I highly recommend The Language of Food to those of you who love elegantly written prose, delightful descriptions of food and to be transported into a different world.
Bright Ruined Things by Samantha Cohoe definitely lured me in with the stunning cover. I’m a sucker for that 1920s opulent decadence and the accompanying aestethic, and combined with family secrets… This tells the story of Mae, raised on an island among a rich family as a sort of foundling, though not quite part of them. It is full of magic and mystery and of people keeping secrets. Nevertheless, I didn’t fully fall in love with it, as I felt that the characters didn’t come to life as much as I would have liked them to. Many of them ultimately blended together and much was predictable. It was still a fun YA read, but not one that I think I will be rereading. It’s interesting that these Gatsby-esque settings are setting a trend at the moment, but that essentially means that this one will be overshadowed by stronger books in the same space, I think.
I really enjoyed A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft. This was one of my most anticipated YA novels for 2022, as while I didn’t quite click with her debut novel, Down Comes the Night, I felt like she was very much an author to watch and thought her writing had a lot of potential for future novels. And A Far Wilder Magic did not disappoint. Set in a forest – which, probably my favourite sort of fantasy setting – and around a magic that is based in alchemy and thus learned rather than inherited, this tells the story of Wes, desperate to learn magic so that he can use it to set himself up for a better life, to help his family out of poverty, and Maggie, the daughter of a renowned alchemist, raised comfortable in material respects but poor in love. It is a lovely subtle story, both an overt adventure with high stakes, but also featuring an undercurrent of being an outsider in society for various reasons, of class, of what is actually important in life and what sacrifices you are willing to make for those you love, whether romantically, through obligation or friendship. It is a story with strong characters, most of them strong-willed and with clear ideas of how they see the world and their futures, which leads to interesting ways in which they have to communicate and navigate the gaps between these ideas. I did wish that it delved deeper into some of the issues it touched on, but it’s a solid read and one that I liked a lot.