Hello from Chicago! I’m currently in the US, ready for Worldcon, exploring Chicago and reading all the books. As always, thank you to the respective publicists for sending me (e)ARCs of these books, and all opinions are my own.
The Darkening by Sunya Mara is a fun YA fantasy centred on revolution and its aftermath. Vesper is the daughter of failed revolutionaries, trapped in a city surrounded by eternal storm. This is twisty and full of betrayal – almost veering towards Grimdark. And yes, I know how wrong it sounds when I say it’s fun book. But to me, dark, twisty books full of characters with dubious morality ARE fun! Of course, there is also a pretty prince and a romance, as appropriate for YA. And revolutions and the political mess that ensues really aren’t talked about enough in books. It feels like every time politics come up, it’s either to show a successful revolution or to keep the status quo going. But to delve into issues caused by a failed change? I need more of this. The Darkening is a fast-paced read, with high tension throughout, making for a compelling story. The characters are well written, and the world the story is set in is fascinating. I enjoyed this a lot, and I am very much looking forward to the second book in the duology. Writing this up has made me want to pick up the book again and reread it – so that’s a good sign, right?!
With Fire in Their Blood by Kat Delacorte is the sort of YA that should have been Fabnip. Creepy small town in Italy, witchy goings-on, eternal feud reminiscent of the blood feud in Romeo and Juliet, comps to V.E. Schwab? That sounds amazing. But unfortunately, the execution of the ideas was a huge letdown for me. The story is centred around Lilly, whose father moves them to Castello, a tiny town in Italy that is mostly cut off from modern life, supposedly to help modernise it. But when they get there, Lilly learns that her dead mother may have been involved in something similar to a terrorist attack, and the town has a vendetta against people they refer to as Saints – people with powers. The town is under the influence of a man called the General – and Lilly’s father isn’t there to set up the wifi after all. My biggest gripe with this is that the characters are underdeveloped and there is too much plot pushed into the story – there is no space for relationships to develop and mature, for tension to truly build up. The main character has feelings for multiple other characters, but no chemistry, and I found that it didn’t make sense to me. And there were quite a few plot holes that I couldn’t see past. Unfortunately, this is a miss for me.
The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen is a tropey, fun fantasy romcom. Hart and Mercy hate each other, but end up unlikely pen pals – and after a true missed connection moment, end up falling for each other. This is a tender, funny novel but also one that will make you cry. It’s absolutely delightful and perfect for this year’s trend of cosy fantasy – I’m here for it! I’ve been really getting into sweet, romancy books lately, and this was exactly what I needed to read this week. It’s got enemies to lovers vibes, banter and so many puns. And if you’ve ever had a conversation with me, you know I love a bad joke and can’t resist a pun. So basically, this was written for me to devour. Some things are quite predictable, but that is part of the fun of this, I think. Vibes and strong characters abound, and that is where Hart and Mercy got me. They snuck their way into my hart. If you need a comfort book, add this to your rotation!