book reviews, spoiler free

Cursed: An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales

Book Review

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Cursed: An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales

Rating: XXXX

Published March 3rd 2020 by Titan Books

“Proposition. Bargain. Offer. Deal. Chance of a lifetime, et Cetera. Slightly Faustian, but still good. Well, good’s a slippery concept, but compared to most of these arrangements, I’m offering you a golden ticket.”

Fairy tales take a weird twist in this anthology compiling stories from an all-star cast of fantasy writers, including stories from Neil Gaiman, Charlie Jane Anders and Alison Littlewood.

Here in this book you’ll find unique twists on the fairy tale conceit of the curse, from the more traditional to the modern – giving us brand new mythologies as well as new approaches to well-loved fables. Some might shock you, some might make you laugh, but they will all impress you with their originality

If there’s one thing I love more than Fairy Tales it’s curses and I was so excited to hear that Titan books were publishing an anthology full of dark Fairy Tales and curses! As with my other anthology reviews, I took notes as I read and have a bit to say about each one.

Castle Cursed by Jane Yolen – XXXXX
I wasn’t expecting a poem but it was a perfect start to this cursed anthology.

As Red as Blood as White as Snow by Christina Henry – XXXXX
A Perfectly Christina Henry style tale with a very different version of Snow White.

Troll Bridge by Neil Gaiman – XXX
Well Written and with a great twist but didn’t really do it for me personally.

At That Age by Catarina Ward – XXX
Super creepy and weird but interesting concept.

Listen by Jen Williams – XXXXX
A beautiful and well-told tale with a satisfying ending.

Henry and the Snake Wood Box by M.R Carey – XXXXX
An absolute masterpiece. I loved this immensely, my favourite story out of all of them.

Skin by James Brogden – X
Trigger warning: Body horror and self-harm. Reading this was incredibly hard and I had to stop reading the book for a couple of days.

Faith and Fred by Maura McHugh. – XXXXX
Interesting, well written and intriguing but also simple. Great cliffhanger style ending.

The Black Fairy’s Curse by Karren Jay Fowler. – X
Confusing and didn’t make much sense to me.

Wendy, Darling by Christopher Golden. – XXXXX
Trigger warning: Mention of infant murder. Absolutely chilling and a turn I didn’t expect it to take! Dark.

Fairy Werewolf vs Vampire Zombie by Charlie Jane Andres. – XXXX
Okay so this was a weird one but I did really like the way it was written and reminds me of all the Mary Janice Davidson books I used to read. Was a bit over the top ridiculous at times.

Look inside by Michael Marshall Smith. – XX
This read a little disjointed and had an unreliable narrator. It felt like it was cut a little too short although I liked the premise. It also creeped me out the most out of all the others so far.

Little red by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple. – XX
Major trigger warning for self-harm and sexual abuse. I almost didn’t finish this one. It’s written well but felt a little disjointed and the subject matter made feel very uncomfortable.

New Wine by Angela Slatter. – XXXXX
I’m not sure how this one fit in with the cursed theme but I really loved it, it was intriguing and kept me guessing the whole time.

Haza and Ghani by Lilith Saintcrow. – X
Didn’t enjoy this one, it’s wasn’t very clear and felt like it missed a lot and was lacking. I ended up skimming over the end.

Hated by Christopher Fowler. – XX
This would have been a much higher rating but there was just something that rubbed me the wrong way, not to mention the unnecessarily repeated mention of race and a racial slur.

The Merrie Dancers by Alison Littlewood. – XXX
A good tale but I found the narrator very unlikeable.

Again by Lebbon. – XXXX
Brilliant story! I definitely could have read more. I wasn’t sure about the ending but overall the whole thing was great.

The Girl from Hell by Margo Lanagan. – X
Did not enjoy, very disjointed. I didn’t find it particularly interesting or making a lot of sense to me.

Castle waking by Jane Yolen. – XXXX
I prefer the first one but this was still good, I loved that the book is opened and closed with linked poems.

There were definitely a few hit and miss stories in this anthology for me, most of the ones I didn’t like were due to personal preference more than the quality of the actual content so there are definitely some here that I think others that would enjoy that weren’t personally for me. It’s definitely worth checking out if you enjoy the darker side of fairy tales and the curses within.

 

spoiler free, tbr thursday

March TBR

monthly tbr

March is upon us and although there are quite a few great books coming out this month I’m keeping my TBR pretty small and I’m under no illusion that I’ll make it through my entire list this month either, to be honest. Animal Crossing New Horizons is out towards the end of this month and I know for a fact that it will almost certainly consume my life. I’m a mood reader as well so I’ve tried to pick books I think will match my mood this month.

Cursed by Various authors
This beautifully creepy anthology is my current read and I’m not quite halfway through it yet. There has already been such a great mix of tales (Henry and the Snakewood box has been my favourite so far) and I’m really enjoying it and trying to make sure I actually make time for reading it at the moment.

Dragon Age Tevinter Nights by Various authors
I’m SO excited about this one. I have played Dragon Age Origins to death but I’ve only managed about half an hour of the sequel and I haven’t touched Inquisition yet so for the next couple of weeks I’m planning to dive into Inquisition alongside reading this anthology themed around the world across the three games.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Novelisation by Rae Carson
I am already losing my mind over finally getting my hands on this book. Even with the problems we had in the film I’m hoping some of it will translate differently. I wasn’t overly keen on the first two BUT with Rae Carson penning this one I have a really good feeling, especially after reading two pages that were leaked after early copies were on sale at C2E2 last week. Probably frantically buddy reading this one with El from Ink and Plasma on the Thursday it comes out before playing Animal Crossing when it’s released the next day.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
I wanted to choose a cutesy read for this month too and after watching TATBILB2 last month I know I want to get this series read. I’ll admit this may end up being one that gets missed out this month due to the amount going on but I have it ready if I manage to get a lot read!

Let’s see how many I actually manage to get through! I’m at least two books behind on my Goodreads challenge at the moment and I feel it will probably only get worse this month! What is your TBR for the month looking like?

 

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Stars We Steal

Book Review

50867498._SX318_SY475_The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne

Rating: XXXX

Published February 4th 2020 by Titan Books

“My lips tingled from phantom kisses, burned with memories and regrets. I needed to stop thinking about it. Thinking about him.”

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself falling for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.

So I would have been sold on the premise of the dating competition vibes anyway, especially with ball gowns and tension and the whispers of a Jane Austen Persuasion retelling but you know how to really pull me in? PUT IT ON A SPACESHIP. This was a brilliant blend of genres and gave it what felt like a pretty unique angle that I would absolutely be interested in reading more of. As far as I’m alone this is a standalone novel but I would definitely read more stories in the world created by Alexa.

Usually, I’m put off by books that have heavy romance orientated plots and I did wonder just how much of The Stars We Steal would be perhaps a little sappy for my tastes but I was very happy to be surprised that I adored the entire storyline, romance and all. There is a beautiful amount of pinning, will they/won’t they and that glorious Austen streak of “I hate you but I would also tear everything apart to kiss you. If you like.” The way the whole thing unfolded and the inclusion of some brilliant LGBT characters from across the spectrum.

The plot is a little twisty in places with some betrayals and reveals although not in the direction I had been expecting. I think I predicted that the political side of things would play more of a role than they did but I still enjoyed the pace, which was slower at times but suited the story. Everything else felt pretty much done in the perfect amount, the “sappiness,” the pinning, the intrigue, the bachelor show like setting of the Valg Ball and more. I enjoyed this book immensely and although it did feel a little light I actually really enjoyed that about it. Also, have you SEEN this gorgeous cover?

The Stars We Steal is out TODAY so if Jane Austen meets the Bachelor with a dash of conspiracy and space sounds like your kind of thing, you need to get on this immediately.

Thank you so much to my favourite evil temptress Sarah Mather and Titan Books for sending me an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

book reviews, Uncategorized

Sherlock Holmes & The Christmas Demon

Book Review
44667139._SY475_Sherlock Holmes & The Christmas Demon
by James Lovegrove

Rating: XXXXX

Published: October 22nd by Titan Books

“Father Christmas! Halt right there!” The words were delivered by Sherlock Holmes in the most stentorian and authoritative tone of voice.”

It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe – eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty – is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.

Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick’s calling card…

Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something – or someone – is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realise that no one is beyond suspicion.

I’ve spent years being intrigued by Sherlock Holmes and his various tales although found myself to have not actually read very many (A study in Scarlett and The Hound of the Baskervilles being the only ones). I’ve enjoyed a few adaptations and films here and there but, as I think might have been the case for more than a few people I really became infatuated interested after watching the BBC’s modern take on Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Before the show, I had always thought Sherlock to be rather old and stuffy but the show definitely helped to breathe some new life into it and shortly after was when I decided to finally read some of the stories surrounding the famous sleuth. My attention waned after a time and I hadn’t gone back to any more Sherlock stories until the lovely Sarah from Titan books offered me a review copy of a new book by James Lovegrove called Sherlock & The Christmas Demon. My acceptance was three-fold here. First, the cover is absolutely stunning and I think it’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing books I own that and my curiosity about a “new” Sherlock Holmes book pretty much already sold me but as soon as I recognised the authors name it became a definite yes from me after reading the Firefly story that James had also penned (Big Damn hero – My spoiler-free review can be found here and Q&A here) earlier in the year which I adored.

Set in late 1980, Sherlock Holmes & The Christmas Demon this is still fairly early in the timeline of tales for Sherlock and Watson and although they have gained some notoriety with Watson having published two books they are still relatively unknown to some which added a nice dynamic in that I didn’t feel hugely behind or left out having not read a lot of other material and made it hit or miss if other characters had even heard of the pair. Although the story begins in London it takes Sherlock and Watson to a large foreboding castle turned family estate in York. The cold, uninviting castle surrounded by snow and ice is the perfect setting for the story of the Christmas Demon, known as the Black Thurrick. Despite being rather bare the castle really does seem to be a character in its own right and I’m considering putting the heating on in my flat just thinking about it. Brr. Castle Allethorpe, the lake beside it, the forest nearby, the town and tavern five miles away, it’s all described so well without being overlong or boring and in such a way that it’s exceedingly easy to conjure in the mind’s eye and adds to the atmosphere in a noticeable way.

The characters, much like their surroundings can vary from cold and unfriendly, to moderately warm and forthcoming and are equally as easy to imagine vividly, if not with a physical representation then certainly their personalities and traits which shine through and everyone just fits so well. Sherlock and Watson especially are what I would call picture perfect, they feel absolutely on point, their essence has been perfectly captured and you can tell James really loves them.

The story itself is elegant, a little spooky and so well put together from the prologue of sorts to the initial mystery, twists throughout and eventual reveal and deduction break down from Holmes, not to mention the ending on a whole was wonderful, perfectly festive and beautifully Holmes-esque. I like cliffhanger endings but there’s just something so wholesome about a well wrapped up tale. Everything fits together so well and it was a truly enjoyable read and one that means I will definitely be reading more of James’s Sherlock work!

spoiler free, tbr thursday

October TBR 2019

tbr Thursday
It is somehow October already and although I’m wondering where on earth the time went I’m also SO READY for Autumn. Give me cardigans and hot chocolate and darker nights, chilly air and crispy leaves. I love Autumn so on that note I am glad to see October, it just arrived sooner than I had expected. I had an absolutely terrible reading month in September and only actually got two books read all month after Darkdawn took me so long. BUT I think I’m back in the swing of things (hopefully) and this month my TBR will look a little familiar as it will include a lot of the books from last month with one extra which I am super grateful to be on the blog tour for at the end of October!

Angel Mage by Garth Nix
I loved reading Sabriel when I was younger and something described as The Three Muskateers x Joan of Arc with MAGIC. Yes please, thank you, I’ll be over here reading. This is the blog tour I’m on this month (despite me telling myself I wouldn’t be accepting any more reviews or blog tours last month – I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity). I’ve already read a small bit and have already enjoyed what I’ve seen so far so fingers crossed the rest of the book is just as good!

Hex Life Anthology by Kelly Armstrong, Rachel Caine and many more
After just writing up my review for a different anthology I’m super excited to finally FINALLY get around to reading this collection of witchy stories at last.

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky
The new novel by the author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower promises to be different, unnerving and spooky from what I’ve read of the sample I’ve already read,

The Boneships by RJ Barker
I had really hoped to read this last month and would have been what I read after Darkdawn but my copy seems to have got lost in the post somewhere *cries* I have thankfully managed to get a copy via NetGalley which I’m still looking forward to reading, just a little later than I expected.

NPC Tea: Issue Seven by Sarah Milman
I AM NOT READY. Issue seven is the penultimate issue and I’m excited, scared and sad. I love all of the characters and I’m not ready for it to end! That being said, some things went down in issue six that need to be addressed and ahhhhh I just can’t. I backed the issue on Kickstarter and I think they’ll probably be sent out soon!

I feel like having all of these books on my list might be a little overconfident as a good few of them are pretty chunky books. It’s also Intokber month and I’m planning to take part in the writer’s version as well as prepping for NaNoWriMo next month and you know, raising a four-year-old, running a house (haha), etc.  Either way, wish me luck and may your TBR be ever fruitful but not so much that it falls over and crushes you to your death!

book reviews, spoiler free

Wastelands: The New Apocolypse Anthology

Book Review

42774046._SY475_Wastelands: The New Apocolypse by over thirty authors, edited by John Joseph Adams

Rating: XXXX

Published June 4th by Titan Books

“I know it was the perils of the sea making me think this way, and my old age, my time running out. But it shouldn’t have to run out to want to spend it more wisely. The world shouldn’t have to end to think of all that might be.”

The brilliant new post-apocalyptic collection by master anthologist John Joseph Adams, for the first time including new stories by the edgiest modern writers.

New short fiction by many of the edgiest modern authors, offering tales of life after the apocalyptic event or events that end society as we know it today. In addition to a selection of newly reprinted works, WASTELANDS 3 will feature original, never-before-published stories by a group of writers hand-picked by master editor John Joseph Adams. Original stories by Veronica Roth, Hugh Howet, Elizabeth Bear, Seanan McGuire, Tananarive Due, Wendy N. Wagner and many more. Reprints will include works by Carmen Maria Machado, Charlie Jane Anders, Paolo Bacigalupi, Ken Liu and Cat Valente amongst others. 

Dystopia novels are not very often my thing, before now anthologies were not something I read very much of either, especially if they weighed in at over five hundred pages but when I heard there was a new instalment of an anthology of dystopian tales including new Divergent material by Veronica Roth I weighed my options and decided I would give it a go, who knows, I might even like it?

and you know what?

I really did. It turned out that some wires had been crossed and the Veronica Roth story was actually not part of the Divergent universe (although still enjoyable) but I’m glad that made me pick it up because this anthology has introduced me to some fantastic short stories and I’m so glad I had to the opportunity to read it. I’ve given the book a rating above as a whole but there are over 30 separate tales so instead of a normal review I’ve written a few words or sentences about each short story and a separate rating for each one (see here for my rating/classification system).

Bullet Point by Elizabeth Bear – XX
Not a great start for me. I found it a little disjointed and unsatisfying but enjoyed the writing style mostly.

The Red Thread by Sofia Samatar – XXX
Done in a letter type format which I really liked but found a little too repetitive. Got me curious about the state of humanity in this story though.

Expedition 83 by Wendy N Wagner – XXXXX
Okay, so this was perfect. Information was explained in an easy, non-bogged down way, leaving room for the lovely, sad, little story to play out. I loved it.

The Last to Matter by Adam Troy Castro – DNF
So the first sentence featured the word orgynisim (yes you read that right) and I thought maybe it’s a typo or I had read it wrong but nope. This was (from what I can gather) a floating ball of people having sex with multiple sets of genitalia and this guy gets ejected from it. He then goes through a series of “multiple male and female castrations” to be presentable for the outside world. I like to think I’m fairly open and non-judgmental about other peoples kinks but this just felt like a bit much for a dystopian short story for me. I made the mistake of carrying on in spite of it and discovered a woman constantly giving birth and then swallowing her baby, said baby then stopped to have a conversation with the main character. I decided to skip at this point.

Not this war, not this world by Johnathan Mayberry – XXXX
A good solid read with an interesting explanation about the start of a zombie-like outbreak and it turns out according to the author’s notes it was written at the request of George A. Romero to officially connect the author’s previous books to Romero’s movies which I found interesting!

Where would you be now by Carrie Vaughn – XXXXX
A favourite, not too much detail given other than the world seems to have gone to hell and things are dire. This story follows a group of people, including doctors who are based at a clinic, which they still operate and help others to the best of their abilities. The question is asked of some of those living there “where would you be now?” Throughout, it was interesting and a little heartwarming in a strange way. My only complaint is that I wish there had been more.

The Elephants Crematorium by Timothy Mudie – XXXXX
Another surprisingly heartwarming tale. A really interesting post-apocalyptic world where reality has become warped and an expecting mother finding out what has been happening to elephants that have begun self-combusting. Sounds a little weird but honestly really good and made me well up a bit.

Bones of Gossamer by Hugh Howey – XXXX
An interesting tale about a man who lives in a tribe like situation in a hard to reach island who has no idea what has happened to the rest of the world until survivors start appearing on their shores. Very enjoyable.

As Good as New by Charlie Jane Anders – XXX
The world ends and a woman finds a genie. Brilliant premise and a great first half but I found the second half a little boring as the woman writes a play.

One day only by Tananarive Due – XX
Found it a little boring and characters very unlikable for me so found I was very uninvested in the story but the ending was kind of nice.

Black, their regalia by Darcie little – XXXX
Found it a little hard to keep track of at times but overall very good and another interesting take on the curing of the plague.

The Plague by Ken Liu – XXXX
Short, sweet, enjoyable but a little confusing with two points of view.

Four Kittens by Jeremiah Tolbert – XXXXX
Man nearly gets himself killed repeatedly protecting kittens. HELL YES. Best story.

The Eyes of the Flood by Susan Jane Bigelow – XXXXX
Written in an incredibly interesting style and with lovely prose and a good twist in such a very short piece.

The Last Garden by Jack Skillingstead – XXXX
I love the AI in this, I just wished there was more to it.

Through Sparks in the Mornings Dawn by Tobias S. Buckell – XXXXX
Really good, really solid read. It was written fantastically, we got great information that wasn’t too bulky. It was interesting and it had a great message of hope and rebuilding. Defintley a top ten story.

Cannibal acts by Maureen F. Mchugh – XXX
Not bad, not great. Really good story idea but just didn’t grab me.

Echo by Veronica Roth – XXX
Ehhh. Probably not helped by the fact that I went into this thinking it was related to Divergent but turns out it has nothing to do with it. The story just felt a little flat, the idea was a really good one but it just felt boring.

Shooting the Apocolypse by Paolo Bacigalupi – X
Utterly boring, super crappy sexist main character. Did not enjoy.

The Hungry Earth by Carmen Maria Machado -XXXXX
Brief but really interesting and intriguing, haunting even. Loved it.

Last Chance by Nicole Kornher-Stace – XXXX
I think it went on a little long for what it was but still good, felt like it could easily have been a part of something bigger.

A Series of Images from a Ruined City at the End of the World by Violet Allen – XXXX
This one was a little strange but I enjoyed it. It felt quiet and intimate but also powerful.

Come on Down by Meg Elison – XXX
Interesting idea but I found it hard to follow.

Don’t Pack Hope by Emma Osbourne – XXXXX
Written well, interesting story with a trans MC ❤

Polly Wanna Cracker by Greg Van Eekhout – XXXXX
Another interesting take, this one about a group of parrots living in the apocalypse. Things get dark.

Otherwise by Nisi Shawl – XXXX
A little long-winded but over-all a good one. I would have been interested to know more about Otherwise.

And the rest of us wait by Corinne Duyvis – XXXX
I like the message of this story that being equal is more than just treating everyone the same and the premise was interesting, I just found I didn’t really connect to the main character very much.

The Last Child by Scott Sigler – XXXX
A good read. Left me wanting more and defintley thinking about checking out the trilogy this is set during (The Generations Trilogy).

So sharp, so bright, so final by Sean McGuire – XXXXX
Brilliant story! Well written, interesting with good world-building and a fantastic twist. Loved it.

Burn 3 by Kami Garcia  – XXXXX
A great read, easily immersive and well rounded. A good amount of story packed in.

Snow by Dale Bailey – XXX
Good tension building but a little underwhelming and I found I kept getting confused about who’s point of view the story was actually from.

The Air is Chalk by Richard Kadrey – XXX
This was a tough one to rate, the “monsters” in it were creepy and brilliant and I did like the ending as well as the way the story was told but I knocked the rating down because I didn’t enjoy reading it from the main character who I cannot eloquently describe without the aid of curse words. I mean he’s obviously not meant to be likeable but urgh just his every move made me so mad.

The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente – XXXX
A strange one but really quite good. It reminded me a lot of LifeL1k3 by Jay Kristoff. Some parts made me angry and sad because people are cruel and that’s the way it is, even now.

Francisca Montoya’s Almanac of Things that can Kill You by Shaenon K. Garrity – XXXXX
Fantastic! Informative, funny and written beautifully. Hard to explain but it tells a story while masquerading as a guidebook. Loved it to pieces, another one of my favourites and a great end to the anthology.

There were a few stories that flopped for me or that didn’t interest me but these were defintley outweighed by the stories that I did like and even love. Out of the 34 stories, ten received an XXXXX rating, 11 had an XXXX rating, 7 had a XXX rating and just two received a XX rating, one with an X rating and one did not finish. This is one of the first anthologies I’ve read in a long while and I already have two more lined up from Titan Books thanks to enjoying this one so much! If you like Alice in Wonderland or Witchy tales keep your eyes peeled!

 

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

Book Review

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The Girl the Sea Gave Back 
by Adrienne Young

Rating: XXXX

Published September 3rd 2019 by Titan Books

“He knew that I’d bring death since the moment he first laid eyes on me. And he was right.”

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

I was gifted an early finished copy of The Girl the Sea Gave Back by publisher Titan Books in exchange for an honest review, despite not being blown away by Sky in the Deep, the debut book by the same author I decided to give this second book a go as there defintley felt like potential and the cover and name of the book completely won me over.

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You might remember back in April I reviewed Sky in the Deep (you can find my review here) and I found it really predictable and didn’t hugely enjoy it too much as a result but I am pleased to report the sequel of sorts/companion story The Girl the Sea Gave Back felt like a vast improvement. If you haven’t read Sky in the Deep however do not despair as they can be read as separate books and you do not have to have read Sky in the Deep to understand and follow TGTSGB. I would say, however, that it is beneficial and gives the story much more depth. It is certainly a good story in its own right but I found I was already attached to other characters because of their involvement in the first book, especially Halvard who is a main character this time around and I had already decided I would lay my life down for him in Sky in the Deep.

The Girl the Sea Gave Back, for me at least, defintley benefited from having a little more of a fantasy element to it. The main character, Tova, is a truth tongue, she can communicate (in a way) with the spinners who carve fate into the tree of Udur and thus she can cast runes and use them to determine futures and outcomes. This really gave it a more interesting depth and the fact that Tova from a Kyrr, (a member of a mysterious clan from the headlands who keep to themselves) living among another clan called the Svell made for some brilliant narrative and conflict within as she tried to find her place. I really like that although Tova is young and relatively inexperienced she made smart choices and was an easy character to mesh with and see the world through her eyes.

Halvard is all grown up ten years after the events of Sky in the Deep and he is almost impossible not to love, he’s grown up to be honourable and thoughtful but as one of the first generations to have not seen battle in the fighting seasons, instead being taught merely to fish and hunt instead of fight he sometimes feels he is lesser and not worthy of responsibility placed on him by those around him. He is as wholesome as ever in this companion story and the love I already had for him only grew as he makes hard decisions and proves himself to be who his family and his village already know him to be.

The plot was paced fairly well, with sprinklings of battle here and there which were written very well, being both exciting and easy to follow. There is the smallest sprinkling of romance involved and I was worried that it would be very predictable and irritate me but honestly, it was okay and not made a huge deal of which I think was for the best. I found moments surprised me and I became quite invested in the outcome of all involved, The Girl the Sea Gave Back is a solid and enjoyable read.