And another set of excellent books that deserve far more attention than I’m able to give them right now. As I prepare to wind down my reviewing, I’m trying to get through as much as I can this weekend – with a few guest posts still to come in the next few weeks for blog tours I had committed to but won’t be able to follow through myself. A huge thanks again to all the publicists who have sent me these books – all opinions are my own.
Cursed by Marissa Meyer concludes the story begun in Gilded last year – her young adult Rumpelstiltskin retelling. This follows on with Serilda, Gild and the Erlking’s story and weaves an epic fairy tale of love, betrayal and cunning. I loved how the ending ended up using the tropes from the original story so exactly but only in letter and not in spirit – something I found worked really well, and made me feel a lot better about the book as a whole than I might have before then. I found the pacing a bit off for my taste, as parts seemed to drag slightly, and I caught my attention waning a few times. This is something that I don’t think I’ve experienced in any of Marissa Meyer’s previous books – they are usually very quick, compelling reads for me, but this is one I struggled a bit with. I think part of it is that the story may have worked better as a single volume rather than a duology. It felt artificially elongated, and a more succinct tale would have been more organic, as would have a stronger character focus rather than one on a variety on side bits. Having the story streamlined would help the pacing and make it a more compelling read – it is still a solid story, but I did find this duology didn’t quite have the magic other Marissa Meyer books have carried for me in the past.
One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig is the first book in the Shepherd King series. Featuring a magic system inspired by tarot cards and a gothic setting, the cover is a perfect illustration of the atmosphere. And it is a stunning cover – I could keep staring at it for hours. It is romantic, dramatic and a book I think will resonate especially well with the TikTok crowd – it is suited so well to aesthetic videos and dramatic music overlays! In many ways, One Dark Window feels like an adult novel perfect for a YA audience aging out of YA. It has a similarly fast pace, use of tropes and atmospheric romance that resonates with readers of the popular older YA series, but is more mature and clearly written with an adult audience in mind (it is not NA, it is adult) – so a great next step if you feel ready to take that leap. However, for me, that meant I wasn’t the right reader for it. I appreciated the atmospheric nature of the book, but I wished for more character focus and I imagined something very different when I kept hearing tarot-based magic system. I found the characters a bit bland and the romance ultimately didn’t click with me. So, a book I see working far better for lots of people who aren’t me!
The Extraordinary Voyage of Katy Willacott by Sharon Gosling is a great middle grade adventure. It features the titular character of Katy Willacott, a determined girl desperate to escape the confines of social convention and hungry for knowledge. Set around the time of the construction of the new building for the British Museum, Katy sneaks on board a research expedition to Brazil, dressed as a cabin boy – and, as is par for the course with MG adventures, finds herself embroiled in conspiracy, shenanigans and great discovery. This is a fast-paced, compelling story that will resonate with young readers of all persuasions – it’s the second novel by Sharon Gosling I’ve read, and I’ve enjoyed this one just as much. Katy is prickly, smart and ambitious, and I love how today’s heroines get to be all these things in books. No more nice and pleasant girls, please! (And, to be entirely honest, I’d love a book about Katy as an adult, I think she’ll grow up into someone fascinating!)