The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie (Illustrator), Matt Wilson (Colorist), Clayton Cowles
Series: The Wicked + The Divine (Vol. 2)
: July 1st 2015 by Image Comics
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Pages: 168p
Source: library borrow
Rating: ★★★.5☆
The second volume of the award-winning urban fantasy series where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. Following the tragic and unjust death of Lucifer, it takes a revelation from Inanna to draw Laura back into the worlds of Gods and Superstardom to try and discover the truth behind a conspiracy to subvert divinity. Includes issues 6-11 of the series, plus supplementary material.

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For those unfamiliar with The Wicked + The Divine series, the basic plotline is this: Every 90 years, a pantheon of gods are reborn into the human world. In the modern day, they are treated as modern pop star celebrities. It features a diverse cast of characters, and follows the human Laura, a fan of the gods who encounters this century’s Lucifer early on.

I started The Wicked + The Divine series in late 2015. I never reviewed it, either here or on my original blog, and my Goodreads review of Volume 1 is simply this:

I do love me some deicide. And hot damn it was beautiful!

Volume Two is no exception to this at all. The Wicked + The Divine is beautifully crafted, with exquisite art and interesting character designs. This series has haunted me ever since I picked up page one. Too often do I read a book, rate it highly, and then forget about it entirely until it’s time to go through what I’ve read for the year for a Top 10 list and go “oh yeah, this book exists.” Not so with TW+TD. I have meant to grab Vol. 2 ever since I flipped the last page of Volume 1 – for whatever reason, I just kept missing it.

If second-volume-sag is a thing, I felt that Vol. 2 definitely was a victim. Maybe I just loved Luci a little too much. Volume 2 focuses on Laura’s desire to find out who framed Luci, and find out she definitely does. The plot was there, it was solid, I just found myself drifting off while reading and going ‘Is this it?’. I was invested in the plot but detached in a bizarre way. Perhaps my memory of Volume 1 and my self-hype meant that Volume 2 couldn’t live up to my expectations –

Until the ending. Holy shit, was that an ending. The writer certainly knows how to keep someone invested in the storyline. Regardless, my apathy toward much (if not all) of the volume leads me to a sad 3.5 star rating for the collection as a whole.

La’Ron Readus did an excellent review of Volume 2 not long before I got my hands on my copy. He enjoyed it far more than I did, and I wonder if that’s to the massive span of time between readings for me. His review goes a bit more into depth on the connections between the volumes, something I can’t do quite as well since it’s been so long since I began the series.

Right now I’m off to pick up Volumes 3 and 4.

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Plutona #1

Plutona #1

Plutona #1
by Jeff Lemire, Emi Lenox, Jordie Bellaire (Illustrator)
Series: Plutona (Issue #1)
: September 2nd 2015 by Image Comics
Genre: comics, fantasy
Pages: 31p
Source: purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

A brand new heartfelt super-hero series by JEFF LEMIRE (DESCENDER, Hawkeye) and amazing newcomer EMI LENOX! PLUTONA follows the story of five suburban kids who make a shocking discovery while exploring the woods one day after school…the body of Plutona, the world’s greatest superhero. A dark and heartbreaking journey about friendship and coming of age all through the lens of the superhero genre.

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I’m not normally a fan of superhero… anything. Sorry, Marvel fans (or DC). I like a good Batman or Spider-man film on occasion, but more often than not I am not interested in the typical superhero thing. I like my characters to be way more imperfect than the stereotypical super allows.

While I do like the idea of a glimpse into the world of an average person in a world where there are superheros (I was a massive fan of The Rest of Us Just Live Here, after all), this just didn’t really speak to me. I would’ve rather seen more of how Plutona came to be in the woods instead of 95% of the first issue being about the kids, especially since them finding Plutona in the first place is spoiled by the blurb. If I already know the major thing that happens, what’s the point?

Also, I don’t think the r-slur was necessary. At all. Characters don’t need to fling slurs around to show that they’re grimy people.

The art style is very cute. It reminds me of a webcomic or a 90s Nickelodeon cartoon.

I don’t know. I just really don’t vibe well with single-issue comics because I want much more than they’re willing to tell. I feel like if you’re trying to draw me in with just 31 pages, it better be a damn good 31 pages.

What superhero do you like the most?

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The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco – review

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Series: The Bone Witch (#1)
: March 7th 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 400p
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha — one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

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The Bone Witch is a bit of a slow burn, and it’s very good at teasing a future that I am 100% invested in. Seventeen year old girl on a beach of corpses? Heck yes I want to know how she got there! It’s a cliffhanger in that this does not come full circle – the final chapter of Tea’s retrospective storytelling does not match up to her meeting the bard at the very beginning. (I am also a big sucker for rune-based magic systems, especially those with a visible cost. Hooray!)

This is very much an apprentice tale, where badass necromancer Tea tells the story of how she came to be a Dark asha – or Bone Witch. As someone who’s read a lot of geisha autobiographies lately, I really enjoyed even the smallest of parallels between geisha and asha. Tea really comes into her own in the second half of the novel, which is when I first started to truly see present-day Tea reflected in her past self. For much of the first half I found myself worried that past-Tea was a little too passive, but I think that was just a product of her circumstances.

After watching Tea grow into her own throughout the story, as well as seeing what she will ultimately become, it was disheartening to have it all hang on some boy at the very end while having near-zero mention of romance in The Bone Witch at all. I expected it, since it’s YA and it comes with the territory, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I just really hope the story isn’t overwhelmed in book two by the apparent necessity of a romance that overwhelms the (in my opinion, far more interesting) plot. While it’s certainly open to a future love triangle (my god, I hope not), I am definitely in for book two at the very least. Tea and her world are far too interesting for me to let go of. For me, this is four stars only because the implication of a future love triangle.

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The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – review

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen
by Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen (#1)
: April 26th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: young adult, romance, fantasy
Pages: 352p
Source: library borrow
Rating: ★★★★★

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

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The Star-Touched Queen is the most poetic, beautifully crafted tapestry of YA I think I’ve ever read. It’s just really lovely. 10/10 wordsmithing. Roshani’s writing has this quality that just drew me along on a current. This took eleven days to finish because I was intentionally dragging my heels and didn’t want it to end.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this, given how steeped it is in romance and I tend to not be a fan of kissing. I suspect the reason I was rooting for the romance is because it wasn’t shoehorned in – it was part of the plot, and entirely necessary. (And sweet, even if it was extra at points.) It’s also certified love triangle free, hooray! The romance is a little insta-lovey, but it’s for a reason I could easily excuse. To be perfectly honest, I had already bought this hook, line, and sinker by that point so even if it didn’t have a reason I would’ve probably swallowed it with minimal resistance anyway.

Maya was properly flawed, which I found refreshing. Toward the end (mostly after the start of part two) I found her a little weirdly detached from the story but I think that might suit the circumstances even if I found it a bit jarring. I won’t say more than that – I wouldn’t want to spoil anything.

More than I was surprised by the kissing, I was surprised by how often I was surprised by the plot twists. I’m definitely not used to such lyrical prose in YA – I can count on both hands the number of times I’ve read a novel as airy and delicious as this. It’s something I wouldn’t mind getting used to! *cough cough*

If there’s anything I would critique, it’s the lack of queer rep. I am starved of queer characters in genre fiction – YA in particular. Nevertheless, I’m sure I’ll devour A Crown of Wishes in a heartbeat. Gauri’s tale definitely needed telling.

Have you read The Star-Touched Queen?

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Gilded Cage by Vic James – eARC review

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Series: Dark Gifts (#1)
: February 14th 2017 by Del Rey Books
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 368p
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

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4.5/5 stars. This is leaps and bounds beyond any YA ‘political intrigue’ fantasy I’ve read in recent memory, especially as it contains actual politics. *gasp* This was the literary equivalent of being lured down a dark alley and choked. My chest genuinely hurt from anxiety during the last few chapters.

Twists that are actually twists! Some twists you can figure out yourself! Actual politics! Magic! What a world.

Some of the Jardines do occasionally feel like mouthpieces for exposition (like revealing their evil plans/history a la Scooby Doo or Superman). I, at least, was able to wave this away easily enough: Jenner is lonely and sad, Silyen is a sociopathic braggart, magical protection, yadda yadda. Apart from the characters that weren’t seen often, the cast felt really solid and well-rounded (though it could’ve done with being a bit more obviously diverse).

Silyen reminded me a lot of The Jackal from Pierce Brown’s Red Rising – at least before The Jackal was more deus ex machina than character. I was maybe a little too invested in these characters, Abigail and Silyen in particular, and can certainly see myself picking up book two. Also, bonus points for zero implication of a future love triangle. Hooray!

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Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins – review

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Series: Rebel Belle (#1)
: April 8th 2014 by Putnam Juvenile
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 345p
Source: library borrow
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

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I have had this specifically recommended to me at least three times since it was published. I picked it up from the library skeptical, but willing to give it a shot. I liked it enough to read 200 pages in one sitting, even if it was a bit silly and too contemporary for my taste. I was genuinely interested to see where it would go. I was fine with the romance too –

And then I read the last nine pages. Why?! *Kill Bill sirens* Love triangle central here, folks. No stops, no return tickets. I had to scream into my pillow I was so disappointed in the way the ending was handled. Most of the action happened away from Harper so you don’t even see much of it at all. I can’t see myself continuing with the series (despite having turned to my partner just ten minutes before reading the last chapter and saying “I might pick up the next one, this is alright”) given the 115% chance of love triangle angst. I don’t care enough about Harper or what little worldbuilding there was around Paladins and Oracles to put myself through it. Just really not my kind of thing.

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A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess – review

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

Series: Kingdom on Fire
: September 20th 2016 by Random House BFYR
Genre: fantasy, young adult, romance
Pages: 416p
Source: publisher, in exchange for honest review
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she is brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves?

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This slight twist on the Prophesied Chosen One trope has the most blatant love triangle I’ve seen in an age. My eyes nearly rolled out of my head when they literally fought over her. Henrietta flounders against the sexism present in every single person in this novel which was exhausting. Given that this is a fantastical alternate history with Lovecraftian horrors roaming the country, I could’ve done without the constant barrage of misogynistic remarks.

A lot of my issues stem from Henrietta herself, who felt impossibly flat to me. Does she have hobbies? I just read a four-hundred-page novel told by her and I couldn’t tell you. I know she’s good at maths and can do magic. It felt more like I was meant to project myself on her (this is told in first person) than actually understand her as a character. Magnus, a Love Interest, was quite slimy but at least entertaining. I felt more attachment to Magnus than Henrietta herself.

I’m still struggling to understand how Henrietta spent her life assuming she was a witch (a lesser magic person, beneath magicians who are in turn beneath sorcerers in the magical individual caste system) while being able to do fire magic. According to the book, elemental magic is reserved exclusively for sorcerers. If Henrietta didn’t know that she couldn’t be a witch by this definition alone, how did she know that a sorcerer’s staff can’t break or they will die? (In-text: “[…] every English child knows the rule about staves.” If this is true, shouldn’t every English child also know that only sorcerers can do elemental magic?) And, a few pages later, Henrietta knows what sorcerers call their training areas (obsidian rooms) but somehow didn’t know, again, that only sorcerers can do fire magic, which is her specialty.

The pacing, too, was strange. Most of the book felt like a wander with a quick dash of suspense at the end of each chapter to keep me reading. The last fifty pages were so rushed that I had to read them two times to digest it, and even now I’ve forgotten most of what happened since it was all so sudden. Quite a lot of people died, none of whom I can recall by name.

I wasn’t a huge fan of this. I was originally drawn in by the blurb’s promise of more magic than romance and found myself smack-dab in the middle of a love triangle I could hear screeching on the horizon as soon as Love Interest Two was introduced.

I have to say I’m a little disappointed. A Shadow Bright and Burning really pushes no boundaries at all – maybe twenty years ago, but certainly not now. There was so much potential here and I’m really sad that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I was hoping to. Especially after reading the strong, wild Vasya Petrovna of The Bear and the Nightingale, Henrietta Howel was a sore disappointment.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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