And welcome from Chicago again! Still here, attending Worldcon, eating my way through American food and having a blast with friends. I hope things are well over in the UK, the world hasn’t imploded yet and everything. Anyway, have another fun collection of Monday minis. As always, huge thanks to the respective publicists for sending me these books for review. All opinions are my own.
The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope is such a great story. Set in the 1920s, around a historical heroine – the afterword explains that Clara Johnson is based on a real person, this is a fresh take on the magical heist story. I raced through this after some friends were raving about it, which immediately bumped it up my TBR, and of course they were absolutely right. The Monsters We Defy is full of compelling characters, a vivid historical setting and a vibrant supernatural community. I especially loved the way the author played with Zelda’s character, a Black albino, and used her as white passing to get into places that other characters couldn’t. I think this was probably the first time I’ve read an albino character being written as an integral member of the core group, as a positive character, and I really appreciate that. This is just a wonderful book, and you need it in your life.
Waking the Witch by Rachel Burge is an odd one. It’s a YA rooted in Arthurian mythology, featuring witches and a girl searching for her own identity. All things that I usually love, and I enjoyed Rachel Burge’s debut, The Twisted Tree. However, Waking the Witch failed to fully connect with me. I’m not quite sure why, as the individual elements are all things I tend to fall for, making it hard to really put the finger on why I failed to click with the book as a whole. It is a decent book, looked at objectively, and an interesting take on the legends, though one that I did find far-fetched. And it may be that disliking Ivy, the main character, as a character, combined with feeling that the worldbuilding may have worked better as something standing on its own rather than linking back to Arthuriana is why the book made me so grumpy. Because it is a fast read, I found it compelling and it worked as a whole story despite my frustrations with it. So, one for the YA readers, but maybe not for the Arthurian nerds?
The Book of the Most Precious Substance by Sara Gran is… very different to what I expected it to be. For one, there is very little magic in a book about a magical manuscript. There is far more focus on the erotic elements of both the story and the manuscript the story is centred around, which isn’t really what I tend to look out for in my usual reading diet. This is not the magical, bookish, perhaps historically tinted, romance I thought it would be. It is a literary fiction novel with romantic elements, looking at power and how power corrupts – and how power can be achieved through sex. It is compelling, I have to give it that. I blasted through it on my flight, not able to put it down or look away, despite not really connecting with the story either. I just HATED Lily and Lucas both, with a passion. They are such dislikable characters, selfish, power-hungry and motivated by greed. But then, that’s what makes a story. One that isn’t for me, necessarily, but will click much better with readers of literary fiction!