Bitter of Tongue

I’ll dispense with the pleasantries. At this point, if you haven’t read all of the Shadowhuntery goodness by Cassandra Clare, stop whatever you’re doing and correct that situation. (Also, I’m silently judging you from the comfort of my desk chair.)

Now, let’s move on to the seventh installment in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, Bitter of Tongue

In Bitter of Tongue, we continue to follow Simon Lewis, former vampire, through his second year at the Shadowhunter Academy. Things seem to be going well for Simon. He’s stronger and happier than he can remember being. (Given the state of his memory, I’m not sure how much that says.) His relationship with Isabelle Lightwood is starting anew, and he’s coming to terms with his future as a Shadowhunter.

Or so he thinks…

While on a mission to capture a faerie, Simon unwittingly finds himself thrown into the faerie realm. He is imprisoned, and his only hope of escape comes in the form of Mark Blackthorn, former Shadowhunter and current member of the Wild Hunt.

Even though the Clave (the Shadowhunter “government”) has essentially turned its back on Mark because of his faerie blood, he decides to help Simon escape…but not without first sharing a bit of his pain and misery over being separated from his family.

Simon takes in everything Mark says, and he vows to do something about it. He’ll not only keep an eye on Mark’s family, but Simon will also work to change how Shadowhunters view themselves and others. He won’t simply accept that the Shadowhunters are all-powerful or superior to mundanes and Downworlders. Not anymore.

Simon is reawakening to the truth of his new life, and he may have some powerful allies on his side. Will they be able to make a difference? Time will tell…

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When I first started reading Bitter of Tongue, Simon really bothered me. He wasn’t his usual snarky, sarcastic self, and I didn’t like the change. Luckily for me (but maybe not for him), that didn’t last long. I guess being captured by faeries will do that to you. By the end of this story, Simon was back to seeing Shadowhunters as they are instead of how they should be. The rose-colored glasses were off once more, and Simon realized that battling prejudice remained a huge problem with Shadowhunters.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I loved seeing more of Mark Blackthorn in this story, even though what I saw was heartbreaking. Seeing the Blackthorn siblings through Mark’s eyes brought tears to my own and made me even more eager to read Lady Midnight, the first book in the highly-anticipated Dark Artifices trilogy (due out on March 8th, 2016).

Before we get to Lady Midnight, though, we still have three more installments in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. Story #8, The Fiery Trial (released on September 15th), involves the parabatai ceremony of Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn. Story #9, Born to Endless Night (out on October 20th), features my favorite warlock and yours, Magnus Bane! The tenth and final story, Angels Twice Descending (expected on November 17th), is the tale of Simon’s Ascension and should be quite the nail-biter. I can hardly wait!

If you, like me, love the world of Shadowhunters and want to learn more, you may want to check out Shadowhunters.com and the ABC Family site for the upcoming Shadowhunters TV show. Exciting stuff!

Published in: on August 20, 2015 at 2:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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Heart of Tin

Those who regularly visit this blog likely know that I’ve become slightly crazy about Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series this past year. (For those who are new here, this series recounts what happens when Dorothy returns to Oz.) Well, my obsession has only gotten worse, and the latest novella in the series, Heart of Tin, is to blame.

For those who are new to this series, I highly recommend you read the following stories before proceeding with this post. There could be spoilers ahead, and I really don’t want to ruin this wonderful series for you.

Now, let’s move on to this latest story, shall we?

If it’s not already obvious, Heart of Tin takes a closer look at the Tin Woodman (or Tin Man, if you prefer). Now, anyone who’s ever watched (or read) The Wizard of Oz knows this character to be a bit of a softy who longs for a heart to beat in his metal chest. And, of course, the Wizard grants his wish…eventually. What we don’t see, though, is what happens to the Tin Woodman after Dorothy leaves Oz behind…or the impact her departure had on one of her closest companions. All of that is about to change…

Oz has been rather quiet of late. The Tin Woodman rules over the Winkies and rarely visits the Emerald City anymore. Why would he? Not long after Dorothy and the Wizard left, Ozma, the true heir to the throne of Oz, returned to claim her rightful place, and the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodman were left to their own devices. But the Tin Woodman just received startling news that changes everything, and his quiet life with the Winkies is coming to an end.

Dorothy has returned.

The Tin Woodman’s heart immediately tries to beat out of his chest. His Dorothy is back, and he finally has the opportunity to show her how much he loves her. He just knows she’ll return his feelings and want to make a life with him. He dashes off to the Emerald City to see his sweet Dorothy, but his welcome is not quite as warm as he would have hoped.

Dorothy is not the darling girl she once was. She’s grown up quite a bit, and, with Glinda at her side, she’s learned to harness the magic of Oz. The Tin Woodman isn’t sure that Glinda (or the Scarecrow) have Dorothy’s best interests at heart, but he’ll do whatever he can show Dorothy–and all of Oz–just what she means to him…even if it means allowing others to twist and manipulate his precious heart.

The Tin Woodman, in his quest to prove himself to Dorothy and ensure her protection from potential enemies, turns his heart–and the Winkies–over to Glinda and the Scarecrow, and he becomes someone capable of unspeakable acts…all in the name of of “love” for a girl who is using his obvious feelings to further her own wicked agenda.

Even though he is uncertain about what’s really happening in Oz, the Tin Woodman will do absolutely anything for his beloved Dorothy, even if it means losing his heart in the process…

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So, the previous stories in this series have made me despise Dorothy, Glinda, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Woodman. Well, Heart of Tin didn’t eradicate my negative feelings about the Tin Woodman, but it did change things a little. I now pity him. Glinda and the Scarecrow–both of whom are nothing short of evil–use his love for Dorothy to turn him into a monster. Yes, Dorothy is partly responsible as well, but I think she’s also being manipulated, particularly by Glinda.

At any rate, the Tin Woodman is, on some level, a victim here. He reasons that something’s not quite right about Dorothy’s rise to power, Glinda’s involvement, and the Scarecrow’s creepy experiments, but he’s blinded by what he thinks is love, and others use that weakness against him. No, I’m not claiming love is weakness–at least I don’t think I am–but I am saying that the Tin Woodman’s unrequited, obvious longing for Dorothy allowed others to use him for their own nefarious purposes. Will that continue to be the case in future stories? I have no idea, but I am eager to find out.

The next short story in this wickedly fabulous series is, according to Goodreads, supposed to come out on November 10th. I’m not sure how true that is, what the title will be, or who it will be about. (That’s not very helpful, is it?) The next full-length novel should be out in March of 2016 (maybe?). Goodreads has a little information on this one, but there’s no cover or title available yet. I’m on pins and needles here! I need the info!

If Heart of Tin and the entire Dorothy Must Die series sound like your cup of tea and you’d like to learn more, you can connect with the wonderful Danielle Paige on her website, Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook. I love this woman’s work, and I can hardly wait for more!

Published in: on August 2, 2015 at 9:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Pale Kings and Princes

Notice: If you haven’t already read the collected works of Cassandra Clare, especially the entire Mortal Instruments series and the first five stories in the Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy collection, you’ve got some work to do. Today’s post, a quick look at Pale Kings and Princes, the sixth story in the Shadowhunter Academy series, builds on what’s happened in past books…and gives a peek at what we may see in Lady Midnight.

It should come as no surprise to regular followers of this blog that I’ve already read Pale Kings and Princes (which came out today). I am slightly obsessed with Cassie Clare’s work, and I tend to devour everything she cares to publish. This latest Shadowhunter Academy story is no exception. Given that it relates directly to what will likely happen in Lady Midnight, the next full-length Shadowhunter novel, I am especially intrigued.

Now, if you’ve read the synopsis of this story on Goodreads or even Amazon, I have a bit of advice for you. Ignore it. Just about the only thing it got right is that we learn more about Andrew Blackthorn, his time with the faeries, and the birth of his children, Mark and Helen. Luckily for you, I’m here to get things right. Let’s jump in…

After a rather uncomfortable summer at home in Brooklyn, Simon Lewis is back for his second year at Shadowhunter Academy. Here, he doesn’t have to pretend to be “normal,” to put on a show for those who have no idea what kind of school he’s really attending. There’s freedom in not having to hide, a freedom that not all in the Shadowhunter world share, unfortunately…

In one of his first lessons back at the Academy, Simon and his fellow students meet Helen Blackthorn. Apparently, she’s been “asked” by the Clave to teach the Academy students about the perils of tangling with faeries.

Helen relates the story of how her father and his brother were ensnared by the Seelie Court and how she and her brother, half-fae, came into the world. Her tale is not a happy one, and Simon comes to understand that this is not something Helen wishes to talk about. The Clave is forcing it on her. Why? Well, part of it is to punish Helen for her faerie blood (which is not something she can help), and a bigger part is propaganda in the Clave’s increasing tensions with the faeries (many of whom took Sebastian’s side in the Dark War).

Simon is horrified on Helen’s behalf, and he’s outraged that the Clave would punish an entire race of Downworlders because of the actions of a few. Simon quickly learns, though, that he’s one of the few who feels this way.

In addition to what he’s discovering about Shadowhunter/faerie politics, Simon is also dealing with his own personal turmoil. He’s making a right mess of his relationship with Isabelle, and he’s sure that one wrong move will tear them apart once again. Fortunately for Simon, Isabelle isn’t one who gives up easily…

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After reading Pale Kings and Princes, I am even more eager for Lady Midnight, particularly when I consider what was revealed at the end of this story. (I’m not going to give anything away, but I will say that it could play a big part in all the faerie drama to come.) Sadly, Lady Midnight won’t be out until March 8th, so I’ve still got quite the wait ahead of me. At least I have the Shadowhunter Academy to keep me occupied.

I’m rather enjoying the unique perspective Simon brings to the world of Shadowhunters. He’s been a Downworlder, so there’s that to consider…but he’s also just a regular kid from Brooklyn. Simon makes connections to the world and historical events–especially treatment of Jews in World War II–that other Shadowhunters may not consider. He draws parallels between the Holocaust and current treatment of faeries that are rather disturbing, and he tries to help those around him see that the Clave is on a dangerous path. Will anyone listen to him? Well, I can’t really answer that, but I think you’ll agree that he makes some valid points.

When you add up the origin story of Mark and Helen Blackthorn, Simon’s outrage over their treatment, and, yes, the continuing drama of the Simon/Isabelle relationship, Pale Kings and Princes delivers yet another winner in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. I, for one, am ready for the next installment.

Speaking of the next installment, it is titled Bitter of Tongue and will be released on August 18th. According to Goodreads (which may or may not be accurate), Simon will encounter Mark Blackthorn and the Wild Hunt in this story. I really hope that’s true.

Published in: on July 21, 2015 at 4:59 pm  Comments (2)  
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Rules for Ghosting

Greetings, dear readers. I realize it’s been a while since my last post, but I’m here now. (To be perfectly honest, I needed a bit of a break. And now my break is over…maybe.)

Anyway, I’m back today with another of the nominees for the 2015-16 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. Today, we turn our focus to Rules for Ghosting by A.J. Paquette. This book, which is suitable for upper elementary and middle grade readers, is a ghost story, but there’s nothing truly scary about it. The ghosts in the book are friendly, and the villain of the piece is human. At various points, Rules for Ghosting reminded me of Casper, Beetlejuice, and Ghostbusters. That may be the hook I use to get my students interested in this book.

Silverton Manor is the only home Dahlia has ever known. Her family has lived there for generations, and she’s been there for quite some time. Dahlia died at Silverton Manor over fifty years ago…and she never left. Now, she’s the resident ghost of her family home, but her “life” is a rather lonely one. She can’t get past the boundary of the manor grounds, and there’s no one at Silverton Manor–living or dead–to talk to…yet.

All of a sudden, things are changing at Silverton Manor, and Dahlia is lonely no more…

Mrs. Tibbs arrives on the scene to liberate Dahlia. She’s here to help Dahlia find the object, or anchor, that holds her to Silverton Manor, as well as teach the young girl all of the rules for ghosting. Mrs. Tibbs is rather impressed with all that Dahlia has learned on her own, but there’s still much work to do. If only they weren’t also trying to keep an eye on the house’s newest residents…

Oliver Day wants a permanent home. He’s tired of traveling from town to town with his family, and he’s decided that Silverton Manor, the house his parents have been hired to get sale-ready, is destined to be his house. But strange things are going on in this old house, and Oliver doesn’t know what to make of them. Surely there’s a reasonable explanation here. This house couldn’t be haunted. Could it?

According to Ghosterminator Rank T. Wiley, Silverton Manor is indeed haunted, and he’s just the guy to rid the house of its pesky ghost problem. This nefarious ghost hunter will stop at nothing to nab an unsuspecting ghost and make a name for himself. And no meddling kid is going to interfere with his grand plans…

As soon as Oliver learns of Rank T. Wiley’s true reason for being at the house, he becomes determined to stop this horrible man from succeeding in his quest…especially when Oliver realizes that the ghost of Silverton Manor is a friendly girl. Oliver and Dahlia stumble upon a way to communicate, and they work together to rid the house of its true pest while trying to uncover all of the secrets hidden within the mysterious Silverton Manor.

Can Oliver and Dahlia stop Rank T. Wiley before something truly horrible happens? Can Dahlia ever find her anchor and be free of the boundary that holds her to Silverton Manor? And can Oliver figure out a way to stay in the house that has come to mean so much to him? Answer these questions and many more when you read Rules for Ghosting by A.J. Paquette.

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In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that it was very difficult for me to get into this book. I really wanted to be invested in it, but it just wasn’t happening…which may explain why it took about four weeks for me to get through it.

That being said, I do think many of my students will like it. It’s a ghost story, but it’s not too scary, so I have no problem recommending it to any readers in third grade and up. It’s got colorful characters, a couple of mysteries to solve, and an interesting setting. There’s also a fair amount of rule-breaking and working around clueless adults, something most young readers will identify with and/or root for.

So…while Rules for Ghosting is not my favorite of this year’s SCCBA nominees, I predict it will be a hit with young readers. I look forward to their thoughts on what happens with Oliver and Dahlia after this story ends.

For more information on Rules for Ghosting and other books by A.J. Paquette, check out the author’s website. Happy reading!

Published in: on July 20, 2015 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Evil We Love

Yesterday, the brilliant Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman gave us another gripping story in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. The Evil We Love is the fifth story in this collection. If you’ve got a bit of catching up to do before installment #5, the first four stories are Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy, The Lost HerondaleThe Whitechapel Fiend, and Nothing But Shadows.

In The Evil We Love, readers see Simon Lewis near the end of his first year at the Shadowhunter Academy. It has not been easy for him this year, but he’s definitely learned quite a bit about what it means to be a Shadowhunter…both the good and the bad. Simon is stronger, his memory is returning, and he feels like he might actually have a place here. But all that could change when Isabelle Lightwood strolls through the Academy doors once again…

Isabelle hasn’t arrived at the Academy alone, though. She’s with her father, Robert Lightwood, also known as the Inquisitor. He’s speaking to the Academy students about Valentine and the origins of the Circle. He talks about his own involvement in the group, his conflicted feelings at the time, and how easy it ultimately was to relinquish control to Valentine.

Valentine was a charismatic leader that recognized the vulnerabilities in those around him, and he exploited those supposed weaknesses to get others to do his bidding. He had an agenda that would place Shadowhunters, particularly those who agreed with him, at the top of the food chain–above Downworlders and mundanes alike. Anyone who got in his way–including those close to him–would regret it.

While Robert Lightwood is trying to tell the Academy students about the beginnings of Valentine’s circle and how someone so evil could come to be so loved, Isabelle seems intent on stirring up trouble. She’s flirting with Simon’s nemesis, trying to get the other students to sneak out and break rules, and letting Simon know that he’s no longer part of her life. As for Simon, he may not remember most of his time with Isabelle, but he does remember some of his feelings for her, and her current behavior is destroying him.

Simon wants no part of whatever game Isabelle is playing, but he does still care about her…and his fellow students. He needs to figure out what’s happening here–and put a stop to it–before things really get out of hand. But what’s really going on? Is there more at work than meets the eye? And what could it all mean for Simon, Isabelle, and any possibility of a future together? We’ll just have to see…

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The Evil We Love alternates between Simon’s experiences at the Academy and Robert Lightwood’s time there in 1984. Even though the reader may not immediately realize it, the two perspectives do intertwine.

We see just what Valentine was like through Robert’s eyes. We also learn much more about Robert, what was important to him, and how he was manipulated by his own weaknesses. Valentine took advantage of Robert–as he did with so many others–and essentially took over his life. Robert, coward that he was, allowed it. He also lost one of the most important relationships in his life, the one with his parabatai, because of his own cowardice–an action that can’t be placed at Valentine’s feet.

Robert Lightwood has many regrets that shine through in this story, but, in my view, he’s attempting to use his experiences to keep the same thing from happening again. He’s also trying to mend fences with his daughter, no easy task with someone as strong-willed as Isabelle. Is he able to accomplish all of this during his brief time at the Shadowhunter Academy? Well, his methods are at once cruel and brilliant, and while he might get one point across, I think he may have a bit more work to do with Isabelle.

Isabelle, for her part, kind of drove me a little bonkers in this story…before I figured out what was really going on. I hated what she was seemingly putting Simon through (even though I totally get why she would want to), and I just wanted to reach through the pages and force them to kiss and make up. If only…

I guess that about does it for this installment of Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. As for how The Evil We Love stacks up against the other stories, I can’t say that it was my absolute favorite. That honor goes to either The Whitechapel Fiend or Nothing But Shadows. I can say, though, that it was entertaining, enlightening, and it has me eager for more.

Speaking of more, the next story in this collection, Pale Kings and Princes, will be out on July 21st. In this one, we’ll learn a bit more about Andrew Blackthorn and the events that led to the births of his half-faerie children, Mark and Helen. I can hardly wait!

Published in: on June 17, 2015 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Spellbinder

If you’re not caught up on C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls and Shadow Falls After Dark series, you might want to take care of that before reading this post or Spellbinder, the upcoming novella set in this magical world. The books in these series thus far are:

And now we have Spellbinder, a story that takes place after the events of Eternal, the second Shadow Falls After Dark novel. This novella will be released in eBook format on June 30th, and it centers around Miranda, a young witch who is trying to live up to the expectations of those around her…even when it could put her very life at risk.

Miranda Kane has always been something of a klutz when it comes to managing her magic. She can never seem to please her exacting mother, who wants nothing more than for Miranda to be a Wiccan high priestess. Miranda never gets her spells quite right, and she’s sure that’s not going to change in the latest spell-casting competition her mother’s dragged her into, especially when Tabitha, Miranda’s nemesis, is also competing.

Almost immediately, things get off to a rocky start for Miranda, and she can’t seem to shake the feeling of foreboding that surrounds her. Something is off about this competition, and Miranda’s not the only one that senses it. She shares her concerns with her best friends, Kylie and Della, and all of them eventually realize that someone–or something–is targeting the witches in this competition. Why? Who would care so much about a spell-casting competition for teenage witches?

As the competition leads Miranda and company to Paris, the threat intensifies, as does Miranda’s confusion about the turmoil that is her life. Why does Tabitha seem to hate her so much? Why are her parents keeping secrets? What’s going on with her ex-boyfriend, a shapeshifter currently living in Paris, and why does she even care?

Miranda Kane is about to get the answers she needs, but she may not be ready for what those answers might mean. How will they change her life and what she’s always believed about herself? And how will they impact her future?

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I know we’ll see more of Miranda in the third Shadow Falls After Dark novel, Unspoken, but Spellbinder has really whet my appetite for a meatier story centering on Miranda. Given what happened in this novella, I’m certain she’ll get another story, but I don’t know at this point if it will be a full-length novel. I hope it is.

Remember that this story will be released to the masses on June 30th. (Thank you, NetGalley, for allowing me to read it early!) If you’re new to the world of Shadow Falls, you’ve got a bit of time to catch up before then. If you’re all caught up, I think you’ll be as pleased with Spellbinder–and its connections to the other books–as I was.

For those who’d like to learn a bit more about the Shadow Falls books and C.C. Hunter, you can connect with the author on her website, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook. Enjoy!

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

I’m a big fan of fairy tales. I especially love it when these beloved tales get turned on their ears. Well, that’s just what I got in Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff, one of the nominees for the 15-16 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

Now, the story of Rumpelstiltskin has never been one of my favorites, but I may have to revise my thinking after reading Rump. This delightful book shows readers just what life was like for young Rump, how his name and abilities caused him nothing but grief, and how he found a way out of quite the magical mess.

If a person’s name is his/her destiny, what is a kid supposed to do with a name like Rump? Young Rump knows there’s more to his name, but his mother died before revealing that little tidbit to anyone…so he’s known simply as Rump. This twelve-year-old boy, slight for his age, is a target for the town bullies, and he worries that his life will always be working to find gold in the mines and trading the greedy miller for whatever scraps of food he can get. But all that changes when he happens upon his mother’s old spinning wheel…

As luck would have it, Rump has inherited his mother’s ability to spin straw into gold, but using such powerful magic comes with a price. And for Rump, the price is a seemingly unbreakable curse. A curse that leads to a horrible bargain with the miller’s daughter. A curse that drives Rump from his home. A curse that he’ll do just about anything to break.

Rump goes on a quest to escape his wretched curse. Along the way, he encounters trolls (seriously misunderstood creatures), loads of pixies, a tree full of poison apples, and a family he never knew he had. He begins to realize just what his ability means and what it will take from him if he can’t get out of the magical, tangled rumpel he’s in.

And, wonder of wonders, there might just be a way out of this mess, but will Rump find what he needs–his true name–before it’s too late? Will this boy finally be the master of his own destiny, or is he doomed to be just Rump forever? Find out when you read Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff!

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Rump is a great fairy tale retelling because it fills in a lot of the blanks in the original story. I remember reading Rumpelstiltskin as a child, and I always wondered why this little man wanted a baby in the first place. Why did he agree to spin all that straw into gold? Why did the miller say his daughter could spin in the first place? Rump answers those questions and many more.

If readers are paying attention while reading Rump, they’ll see nods to several other stories, the most notable being Little Red Riding Hood. (Red is Rump’s best friend.) Some other stories that pop up–in one way or another–are Snow White, Rapunzel, and Jack and the Beanstalk (which is the subject of Shurtliff’s latest book).

I think Rump is sure to be a hit with readers who love a good fairy tale, enjoy a bit of fantasy, and just want a good story. It’s great for readers in third grade on up, and I look forward to talking to my students about this enchanting story. I hope they are as fond of it as I am.

For more information on Rump and other works by Liesl Shurtliff, you can connect with the author on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. You may also want to check out the fantastic Rump book trailer below! Enjoy!

 

Published in: on May 26, 2015 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Nothing but Shadows

Two days ago, Shadowhunter fans were graced with yet another Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy story from Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan. In case you’re not caught up, the first three stories are Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy, The Lost Herondale, and The Whitechapel Fiend. Get to reading, my friends!

For those who are still with me, the fourth tale, Nothing but Shadows, continues Simon’s journey through the Academy and gives readers a look at the relationship between James Herondale and Matthew Fairchild.

As Simon Lewis navigates the rather gloomy halls of the Shadowhunter Academy, he’s learning more and more about those who came before him. It seems he’s not the only one to question the absolute certainty that Shadowhunters–especially those born to the life–are superior to everyone else.

Many years ago, two very different young men also questioned things…and, even though they had a rocky start, they eventually formed a virtually unbreakable bond. These two Academy students were James Herondale (son of Will and Tessa) and Matthew Fairchild (son of Henry and Charlotte).

James, a rather serious boy, really just wants to make a friend, but he’s shy, unsure of himself, and often prefers the company of his books. Matthew, on the other hand, seems to be James’ exact opposite. Matthew is popular, witty, outlandish, and, no matter what shenanigans he pulls, everyone is charmed by him. Everyone except James.

When a shocking truth is revealed about James, his heritage, and his abilities, he retreats even further from his fellow students. He’s now a total pariah, and he thinks that no one will ever want to befriend him now. As it turns out, he’s as wrong about that as he is about what really drives Matthew Fairchild. When James learns just why Matthew behaves the way he does, he finds himself as drawn to this charismatic boy as everyone else.

James and Matthew eventually form a strong friendship, and, when James’ future at the Academy is called into question, Matthew is right there by his side. He doesn’t care that James has some odd abilities passed on from his mother. He doesn’t care that others are afraid of James. Matthew sees James as a friend, a parabatai…and a way home to his father.

When Simon discovers what James and Matthew experienced during their time at the Shadowhunter Academy and beyond, how will that color his own experiences (and his slowly returning memories)? Is there someone at the Academy–or perhaps back home–who Simon would ask to be his own parabatai? Is Simon, the former Daylighter, finally coming to terms with his own murky past by learning about the complicated history of the Shadowhunters? Stay tuned to find out…

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As most of you likely know, I adore all things Shadowhunter (except for the crappy movie adaptation of City of Bones *shudder*). Going into this story, I didn’t think it was possible to love any characters more than Magnus Bane and the casts of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. Well, I may have been wrong. (It’s too soon to tell.)

Granted, the glimpses I got of Will and Jem in Nothing but Shadows were amazing, but James and Matthew were definitely the shining stars (as they should have been), and I can’t wait to see more of them. James spoke to the shy bookworm in me, and Matthew was just too outrageous not to like. Their journey to friendship, though not without its bumps along the way, was a joy to witness, and I look forward to seeing how their parabatai bond changes how they view each other and the world around them.

I’m not sure James and Matthew will be shown in any other Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy stories, but I know we’ll see them again in Chain of Gold, the first book of The Last Hours (due sometime in 2017). A sixteen-year-old James Herondale is featured in the fourth book of The Bane Chronicles, The Midnight Heir, if you want to see him a few years after the events of Nothing but Shadows. What happened in those few years? At this point, I can only begin to speculate…

The next story in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy is The Evil We Love, and it will be out on June 16th. This story will tell readers about Valentine’s Circle and their time at the Academy. I am giddy* with anticipation.

*Not really. I don’t think anyone has ever used the word “giddy” to describe me. I’m way too reserved for that. At most, I’m simply eager to read the next story in this collection. Do with that what you will.

Published in: on May 21, 2015 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Whitechapel Fiend

Before proceeding, read everything Cassandra Clare has ever written. Seriously.

It’s been a big week for my fellow Shadowhunters. We get the news about the casting of Jace in the upcoming Shadowhunters TV series on ABC Family. (Thank you, McG!) And the third installment in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, The Whitechapel Fiend, comes out. (The first two stories are Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy and The Lost Herondale, in case you’re behind on your reading.) Good times.

I read The Whitechapel Fiend on Wednesday, but, as it so often does, life got in the way, and this this the first opportunity I’ve had to get my thoughts down. Basically, I loved it. (Shocking, I know.) How can you go wrong when you combine the world of Shadowhunters with Jack the Ripper? Answer: You cannot. It also didn’t hurt that this particular story let us spend a little time with Jace, Tessa, and even Jem.

In this third episode in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, Simon is continuing his grueling training to become a Shadowhunter. It’s by no means easy, and the newest lesson seems to be falling out of trees. He and his fellow students are instructed in this oh-so-important skill by none other than Jace Herondale. Simon’s friendship with Jace gives him a little bit of cred at the Academy…but not much.

Simon is also learning more about Shadowhunter history and how Shadowhunters have played a part in covering up or changing perceptions of things in the past. Case in point: Jack the Ripper. For this particular lesson, Tessa Gray, a woman who actually lived through this time in Victorian London, speaks to Academy students about what really happened. She talks about the fear that gripped the Whitechapel district, the grisly crime scenes, and how she, her husband Will Herondale, his parabatai, and their fellow members of the London Institute discovered who–or what–was actually behind these murders.

As Simon learns the truth about Jack the Ripper (and why this case seemingly remained unsolved), he also urges Jace to connect with Tessa. He doesn’t miss that Tessa was married to a Herondale, and Simon knows she could shed some light on Jace’s true family history.

Through all of this, Simon may even learn to deal with his own rather murky past before it does irreparable damage to his future. Time will tell…

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What else can I say about this story? Oh yeah…I. WANT. MORE!!! More Simon.More Jace. More Tessa. Definitely more Jem. I loved reconnecting with these beloved characters, and I can hardly wait to see more of them in the Shadowhunters TV series, The Dark Artifices, The Last Hours, and the other novellas in the Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy collection.

Speaking of this particular collection, the fourth installment, Nothing but Shadows, will be out on May 19th. In this episode, we’ll learn a bit more about James Herondale and Matthew Fairchild. Woohoo!

In closing, I’d like to thank Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson for giving us The Whitechapel Fiend. It was a great read, and their explanation of Jack the Ripper and his crimes totally creeped me out. In a good way. I’m guessing other readers will feel the same.

Published in: on April 24, 2015 at 2:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Wicked Will Rise

Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige, turn back now. This post focuses on the second full-length novel in the series, The Wicked Will Rise, and I’d hate to ruin this journey for you. That doesn’t mean I won’t, though.

If you’ve been following this blog for the past couple of weeks, you’ve no doubt noticed that I’ve become a tad obsessed with Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series. It all started, of course, with the first novel, but I quickly became enamored with the three prequel novellas that I read. (For reference, those are No Place Like Oz, The Witch Must Burn, and The Wizard Returns.) In short, I love this series and the fact that it turns everything I thought I knew about Oz on its ear.

I had a feeling that I would also adore the second novel, The Wicked Will Rise, and–aside from one minor thing that may just be my issue–I was right. This book, which was released a couple of days ago, kept me entranced from the very beginning, and I was reluctant to see it end…mainly because I now have to wait a really long time to find out what happens next.

If you’re new to this series–and you ignored my warning above–I’ll try to quickly fill you in on where things stand as The Wicked Will Rise begins. Here goes…

In Dorothy Must Die, Amy Gumm was transported to Oz from Kansas in a cyclone. This, however, is not the Oz she remembers from books and movies. It’s dark, dangerous, and terrifying. Why? Well, because Dorothy returned some years ago, took over, and proceeded to become the most heinous you-know-what in the history of the world. The Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodman are working for her, and Glinda is also doing her part to drain the magic from Oz and keep Dorothy in power (supposedly). Amy, who is new to Oz and walks into all this trouble, teams up with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked (a bunch of witches who actually blur the lines between good and wicked) and trains for the most important mission in Oz. She must kill Dorothy. Well, things don’t exactly go as planned, and that’s where we pick up our story in The Wicked Will Rise. (As you can imagine, I just left out a crap-load of details. Do yourself a favor. Read the book.)

Amy Gumm has failed. She had the chance to kill the evil Dorothy, and she totally blew it. Now, she’s on the run with Ozma (the true leader of Oz) and a couple of flying monkeys. She doesn’t know where the rest of the Order is, where Dorothy ran off to, or what has become of the Emerald City.

She does, however, know that she must regroup and continue with her tasks. She’s already eliminated the threat of the Tin Woodman. Now, she must neutralize the Lion and the Scarecrow before she has any hope of killing her true enemy, Dorothy. To do this, Amy taps into the magic that is coming much more naturally to her now. She becomes so in tune with the dark magic around her, though, that she hardly recognizes who she is becoming. And neither do those around her. Amy is now feared…and she kind of likes it. Is she becoming a Wicked Witch…or something far worse?

As Amy works to reunite with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, she encounters a couple of beings that may help her on her way. First is Lulu, Queen of the Wingless Monkeys. This feisty ruler wants little to do with the war that is overtaking Oz, and she lets Amy know that…but she does give Amy a bit of direction on where she should head next. Amy also seeks the aid of Polychrome, the Rainbow Fairy. Polly also wants to stay above the fray, but, as with Lulu, she isn’t given choice in the matter. Oz is being destroyed, Ozma is almost literally being torn in two, and Amy will need every ally she can gather to fight her formidable foes.

With all of this going on–and all that is ahead of her–Amy still tries to hold on to the girl she once was. She doesn’t want to lose herself to the darkness swirling inside and all around her, but she may need every bit of that darkness to fight against Dorothy, Glinda, and those who seek to betray her. And when Amy realizes that the war in Oz may put her home in Kansas in serious peril, Amy knows she’ll have to harness all the power she can to prevent the destruction of everything she’s ever known.

Is Amy willing to make the hard choices to save both Oz and the home she left behind? Is she prepared for who she’ll have to become to defeat Dorothy and her cronies once and for all? Will she ever truly know who can be trusted and who is orchestrating the chaos around her?

Nothing is clear for Amy and her allies, but one thing is certain. If Oz is to have any hope of survival, the Wicked must rise!

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So…I really, really liked this book. It was action-packed from start to finish, and Amy’s journey was fascinating to see. I’m not just talking about her physical journey here, either. Despite her assertions that she’s still the same girl from Kansas, Oz has changed her. She’s more confident and–dare I say it–bad-ass in this book than she was in Dorothy Must Die. I kind of like it that she’s in touch with her dark side. (I imagine, though, that will come back to bite her in the posterior later on.) She’s definitely a strong female character who “don’t need no man” to fight her battles, but she’s smart enough to seek help when she really needs it. Given how the book ended (which I refuse to divulge), I look forward to seeing how this plays out in the future.

Now, for my one teeny issue with this book. Queen Lulu. I have no problem with talking wingless monkeys. More power to them. I’m sure they’re lovely. My problem with Lulu is the way she speaks. No, I’m not talking about the fact that she actually, you know, speaks. I’m talking about the words and phrases she uses. One that really stood out was when she said that something wasn’t “kosher.” How does a wingless monkey from Oz even know what that word means? It just seemed totally unrealistic to the setting, and that’s just one example. Maybe language from the Other Place has seeped into Oz over the years, but, if that’s the case, it needs to be made clear. I’m sure other characters made similar comments that seemed out of place in Oz, but Lulu’s seemed more pronounced to me. Probably because she’s a monkey…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

All in all, I feel that The Wicked Will Rise is a great book that will appeal to all sorts of readers, but it may not be for everyone. There’s quite a bit of “saucy” language, violence, and a girl learning to harness dark magic, so if you’re looking for a nice little retelling of The Wizard of Oz to share with kids, you may want to look elsewhere. If, however, you’re looking for a book that turns what you think you know upside down, explores the line between good and wicked, and features a kick-butt female protagonist, this entire series may be right up your alley…or your Yellow Brick Road, as it were.

I cannot wait for the next book in the series. Sadly, it seems we have quite the wait ahead of us. Even though there is another prequel novella, Heart of Tin, that will be released on July 28th, according to Goodreads (which I know may not be the most reliable source, but it’s all I could find), we’ll have to wait until sometime in 2017 for the third full-length Dorothy Must Die novel. *Cue epic Dorothy-inspired temper tantrum here.*

In the meantime, if you want more information about this wicked awesome series (Ha!), visit author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook. You may also want to check out Epic Reads’ book trailer (below) for The Wicked Will Rise. If I hadn’t already read the book, this short video would likely convince me to pick it up. Enjoy!

Published in: on April 2, 2015 at 11:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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