Series Week VII: Silver On The Tree

Silver on the Tree is the fifth and final book in the Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. It was published in 1977.

Breaking into the peaceful family world of young Will Stanton, during high summer in England, comes a dreadful warning that the Dark is rising in its last and greatest bid to control all the world. For Will is no ordinary boy, but the last-born of the immortal Old Ones, servants of the Light, immortals dedicated to keeping the world free for men. So the great battle catches up Will, his ageless master Merriman, and the strange Welsh boy Bran, whose destiny ties him to the Light. Drawn into the conflict also are the three Drew children, who are mortal but have their own vital part to play in the story. In a quest through time and space that touches the most ancient myths of the islands of Britain, these six fight fear and death in the darkly brooding mountains of Wales. There Will and Bran are caught into the haunting, timeless Lost Land, to find dream and nightmare—and to achieve the crystal sword that alone can ultimately vanquish the Dark.

Silver on the Tree is the most beautiful of the Dark is Rising books, I think, with Cooper really outdoing herself in terms of description and things happening. There’s a nice, but odd, balance between the mythical happenings in the descriptions and the casual dialogue of the children. There is a fine line in this book between the fantastical and the normal, and Cooper does a really good job of maintaining that fine line throughout the book without making the switches between the two abrupt or out of place.

The Dark is dispatched extremely quickly when we finally get to that process, but it is such an awesome moment that one can almost forgive Cooper for not devoting more time to it. And as always, her “this person is part of the Dark” twists are quite unexpected, merely because the Dark always manages to pop up in places you aren’t expecting them to.

John Rowlands really goes through the wringer in this book, but I love his actions at the end and I love what he has to say about free will and choice, especially when faced with the White Rider.

I talked in my review of The Grey King about the flaws I found in Cooper’s descriptions of the Dark and the Light, and I saw them again in this book. Will explains why half of the Dark wear black and half wear white by saying that “the Dark can only reach people at extremes—blinded by their own shining ideas, or locked up in the darkness of their own heads.” I particularly dislike Cooper’s descriptions of the Dark because it just doesn’t make sense, and yes, I know this is a fantasy and her good and evil can be however she wants them to be, but Cooper throughout the series is too obviously trying to make a connection between the Light and Dark of her books with the good and evil found in the world. And this description of the Dark does not fit reality at all. Yes, the Dark, or its equivalent in reality, does reach people at extremes, but not only at extremes.

Speaking of Cooper too obviously trying to make connections (or in this case, too obviously trying to break them), I mentioned in the second book of my puzzlement about her distancing the Signs from their obvious symbol in Christianity. There are even more mixed messages in this book. At the end of the novel, Merriman states, “You may not lie idly expecting the second coming of anybody now, because the world is yours and it is up to you.” Okay, wow, we get it, Cooper. But how am I supposed to reconcile this blatant statement about the apparent futility of Christians in looking forward to Jesus’s return with Owain’s statement a little earlier on, “Hope does not lie dead in a tomb but is always alive for the hearts of men”? I mean, come on! How can you not see the symbolism in that?? It seems to me that Cooper is trying to distance this fantasy and its (Christian) symbolism from Christianity, but simply cannot completely break the connection even though she tries her hardest.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Jane said, “Will Stanton!”

“Hello, Jane Drew,” he said.

Oh!” Jane said happily. Then she paused, surveying him. “I can’t think why I’m not more surprised,” she said. “The last time I saw you was when we left you on Platform Four at Paddingotn Station. A year ago. More. What are you doing on the top of a mountain in Wales, for goodness’ sake?”

“Calling,” Will said.

Overall Review:

Silver on the Tree is probably the most visually beautiful of the Dark is Rising sequence, and even though I thought too much time was devoted to Will and Bran in the Lost Land and not enough time was devoted to the vanquishing of the Dark, overall the conclusion was very satisfying. I was confused by Cooper’s attempts to bleach the Christian symbolism from her book, especially since she continuously alludes to it herself with the dialogue of her characters, but apparently she had to get her message across even if she contradicted herself doing it.

You can buy this here: Silver on the Tree

Series Week VII: The Grey King

The Grey King is the fourth book in the Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. It was published in 1975.

There is an old tradition in North Wales that, within a certain hill, a harp of gold will be found by a boy followed by a white dog with silver eyes—a dog who can see the wind. Will Stanton knew nothing of this when he came to Wales, just before Halloween, from his English home for convalescence after a severe illness. But when he met a strange boy named Bran and Bran’s white dog, Cafall, memory awoke in him. For Will himself was no ordinary boy, but the last-born of the Old Ones, servants of the Light, immortals dedicated to saving the world from domination by the force of evil which calls itself the Dark. And it is Will’s long-appointed quest, as he now learns, to wake—with the sound of the lost golden harp—the six sleepers who must be roused from their long rest in the ancient Welsh hills to make ready for the last dreadful battle between the Dark and the Light.

The Grey King is sort of a mix of Greenwitch and The Dark is Rising in terms of mythological/strange things happening. It lacks some of the “British seaside adventure” style found in Greenwitch, but also lacks some of the heavier mythical descriptions and happenings that occur in TDIR. I quite like the balance that it strikes between the two, and as a result I think The Grey King is one of my favorites in the series.

The introduction of Bran is a little strange if you haven’t yet noticed all the references to the Arthur legends throughout the series. The Dark is Rising sequence really isn’t so much an original fantasy world as it is a sort of adaptation or tribute to Arthurian legend. And Cooper manages to hand-wave the convenience of Bran (and everything else in the series, really) by having both prophecy and the machinations of the Light and the Dark clearly explained and shown throughout the books. It’s a lot harder to say that Bran was conveniently found where Will was vacationing when it’s explained how the Light manipulated those circumstances so that Bran would be found. Although I do still find it a bit convenient that of all the places Will’s aunt lives, it’s where the harp will be found. Plot mechanics, I know, but still.

Speaking of the Light’s manipulations, I have absolutely no idea why Will had to lose his memories. It makes for a bit of a tedious beginning, but luckily he regains his memory quite early.

One main thing I disliked in The Grey King was the description of the Light and the Dark given by Rowlands to Will. The Light and the Dark are made out to be two forces on opposite sides, like two extremes. Each one only cares about defeating the other and each are, in some respects, similar in that “at the centre of the Light there is a cold white flame, just as at the centre of the Dark there is a great black pit bottomless as the Universe.” They are impersonal forces, and humans are separate from both of them. Will tells Rowlands that “the charity and the mercy and the humanitarianism are for you, they are the only things by which men are able to exist together in peace.” It’s as if the Light is catering to the humans by giving them charity, etc., but it itself is not charitable, merciful, or humanitarian. Will even says that the Light cannot make use of charity or mercy. I know that the Light does not represent “goodness” but I feel that Cooper has sucked a lot of feeling out of the world by making the Light and the Dark so impersonal. Why should we care who wins if both the Light and the Dark are just two opposite extremes? Sure, we want the Light to win because they will allow men to continue to be charitable, but the implication here is that charity and mercy stems from man and not something outside of them, like the Light.

One additional thing: Bran is supposed to be Will’s age, but no one sounds like they’re ten in this book. Will sounds older because he’s an Old One, but Bran sounds like he’s fifteen. I cannot see him as a ten- or eleven-year-old at all.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“Where is Cader?”

Bran stared at him. “Don’t know much about Wales, do you? Cader Idris, over there.” He pointed to the line of blue-grey peaks across the valley. “One of the highest mountains in Wales. You should know about Cader. After all it comes in your verse.”

Will frowned. “No, it doesn’t.”

“Oh, yes. Not by name, no—but it’s important in that second part. That’s where he lives you see, up on Cader. The Brenin Llwyd. The Grey King.”

Overall Review:

The Grey King is one of my favorites in The Dark is Rising sequence due to the nice balance it strikes between the mythical and the “normal.” The Arthurian aspect comes roaring to the front with the introduction of Bran and Arthur’s appearance, and if you love dogs this book will tug at your heartstrings. The book does have one main flow, however, and it is how the Light and the Dark are described and what it implies.

You can buy this here: The Grey King

Series Week VII: Greenwitch

Greenwitch is the third book in the Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. It was published in 1974.

Simon and Jane and Barney come to Trewissick, in Cornwall, enlisted by their mysterious Great-Uncle Merry to help rescue a priceless golden grail stolen by the forces of evil—the Dark. They are not at first aware of the strange powers of another boy brought to help, Will Stanton. Nor do they realize the sinister significance of the Greenwitch, a traditional image of leaves and branches that for centuries the women of Trewissick have made, each spring, and cast into the sea for good luck in fishing and harvest. But this is the time of the Greenwitch’s making, a night-long ceremony that Jane is allowed to witness, in mingled fear and pity, and it shapes all the events that follow. In a series of disturbing and sometimes dangerous incidents, the children discover the whereabouts of the stolen grail, the Greenwitch—possessed of a dreadful, vengeful power—is called from the ocean depths by the Dark, and its Wild Magic is loosed over the land. Yet, because of Jane’s pity, the Greenwitch makes to her a strange gift that, for a time at least, will keep the Dark from rising.

I used to think that Greenwitch was my least favorite book in the Dark is Rising sequence, but upon re-reading, I found that I really enjoyed it. I think it was the departure from the myth-laden Dark is Rising and a return to the “seaside adventure” of Over Sea, Under Stone that made me enjoy it so much. I also think it’s because Greenwitch actually reminded me quite a bit of Drowned Ammet from Diana Wynne Jones’s Dalemark quartet. In any case, this book is much more like OSUS than DIR, probably due to the inclusion of Simon, Jane, and Barney (SJB). I love the mythology of DIR but it was nice to get back to a lighter touch like in OSUS.

I mentioned in my review of OSUS that it’s not exactly a necessary book to read, and Greenwitch shows why. The grail that SJB worked so hard to find in OSUS has to be found again, and this time the little lead capsule that was lost has to be found, as well. OSUS is only necessary to introduce the characters of SJB, but its plot gets sort of reset in Greenwitch.

I wish we had gotten more from Will’s point of view, just because I really like Will, but getting to see him from the outside was pretty cool.

I can’t remember if SJB return, but I hope they do, because I really like the more relaxing atmosphere that they give to the book.

Also, I love how Jane’s pity and selflessness is what wins the day for the Light.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

As [Jane] came close to the Greenwitch she felt again the unimaginable force it seemed to represent, but again the great loneliness too. Melancholy seemed to hover about it like a mist. She put out her hand to grasp a hawthorn bough, and paused. “Oh dear,” she said impulsively, “I wish you could be happy.”

Overall Review:

Greenwitch reads more like Over Sea, Under Stone than The Dark is Rising, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s less lore- and myth-heavy, but getting to see familiar characters like Will and Merriman and having a slight expansion of the lore found in DIR means that it’s both a refreshing read after the laden DIR and an intriguing continuation.

You can buy this here: Greenwitch

Series Week VII: The Dark Is Rising

The Dark is Rising is the second book in the Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. It was published in 1973.

‘When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back, Three from the circle, three from the track; Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone; Five will return, and one go alone.’ Will Stanton turns 11 and learns from Merriman Lyon, the Lady, and Circle of Old Ones, that he must find six Sign symbols and battle the Black Rider, blizzard and flood.

The Dark is Rising is so different than Over Sea, Under Stone which came before it. This book is all mythology and gets into it so quickly that it’s a bit disconcerting at first. By the second chapter Will is already traveling through time and meeting sinister people and having landscapes blur in and out. The style is also vastly different than Over Sea, Under Stone. The latter is more “British children have adventures with a slight fantasy twist” and The Dark is Rising is more “this is ‘70s fantasy and weird as all get-out.” In addition, the mythology and mechanics are much more pronounced and explained in this book.

What I love about The Dark is Rising is the Fetch Quest. Will searching for the signs and the cool rhyme that goes along with it…I love these types of quests. The search for the Signs is why TDR is probably my favorite book in the sequence, and it’s the one I’ve read the most out of the five (I tend to stop after Greenwitch, for some reason. They do get very weird, maybe that’s why).

I actually found the Dark to be more sinister in Over Sea, Under Stone, possibly due to the juxtaposition between the ordinariness of Simon, Jane, and Barney and the supernatural-ish power of the Dark. But I love the surprise from <highlight>Hawkin, only because I think Cooper does reveals like this very well. In OSUS it was the vicar and then the housekeeper, and here it’s initially Maggie, and then <highlight>Hawkin’s reveal comes and is shocking and wonderful and makes your mouth drop open if you’re not expecting it.

There’s no mention of King Arthur in this book, which actually surprised me considering that the Arthur lore is central to the sequence. Perhaps Cooper just wanted to set up the premise first before diving into that.

I’m a little confused as to Cooper’s attempts to distance the Signs from Christianity, and religion in general. A cross being the symbol of the Signs just makes the fight between Light and Dark all that more significant, in my opinion, without any need to explain it away. I suppose she was just trying to say that the book doesn’t have any significant Christian overtures, even though it totally does…

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

The movement of the great horse changed to a slow-rising, powerful lope, and Will heard the beating of his own heart in his ears as the world flashed by in a white blur. Then all at once greyness came around them, and the sun was blacked out. The wind wrenched into Will’s collar and sleeves and boot-tops, ripping at his hair. Great clouds rushing towards them out of the north, closing in, huge grey-black thunderheads; the sky rumbled and growled. One white-misted gap remained, with a faint hint of blue behind it still, but it too was closing, closing. The white horse leapt at it desperately. Over his shoulder Will saw swooping towards them a darker shape even than the giant clouds: the Rider, towering, immense, his eyes two dreadful points of blue-white fire. Lightning flashed, thunder split the sky, and the mare leapt at the crashing clouds as the last gap closed.

Overall Review:

The Dark is Rising is strange, in a ‘70s-fantasy, lots of description type of way. But it’s a wonderful Fetch Quest, and Will is a very endearing protagonist. Although a lot of the Old Ones are pretty flat characters, Merriman is awesome and the Lady reminds me of Galadriel. Cooper continues to surprise with her twists revealing who is really Dark or Light. Yes, these books are weird, but they’re also compelling and beautiful. Onward, to King Arthur and Wales!

You can buy this here: The Dark is Rising

Series Week VII: Over Sea, Under Stone

It’s the seventh Series Week! Join me as I review the Dark is Rising sequence this week!

Over Sea, Under Stone is the first book in the Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. It was published in 1965 by Harcourt.

“On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special. It is even more than that—the key to finding a grail, a source of power to fight the forces of evil known as the Dark. And in searching for it themselves, the Drews put their very lives in peril.”

Even though this is the first book in the Dark is Rising sequence, it’s actually not necessary to read this book. The style is vastly different, the mythology isn’t as pronounced, and everything that happens in this book is explained in Greenwitch, the third book. Cooper didn’t even have the whole series fleshed out when she wrote this book (presumably), since The Dark is Rising was published eight years after this one.

However, Over Sea, Under Stone is still a really fun “British children have adventures at the seaside” book and it does introduce us to characters that appear again in Greenwitch—namely, Simon, Jane, and Barney. It also gives a hint at the background of “Gumerry,” as the children call him, and who he is—or who he was, in any case.

The villains in this book start out as slightly cartoonish, in a vaguely menacing, “we wear white because we don’t want you to know we’re evil,” mask kind of way. But then towards the end of the book they get legitimately scary, especially Hastings. Cooper also pulls a “surprise villain” twist that nearly upsets the children’s and Merry’s plans and makes what should be a joyous parade into something much more sinister.

I do think the book had a slightly weak ending, which could have been stronger if Cooper had ended about two pages earlier, right after Barney muses about Merry. That would have been a wonderful way to finish the book, but unfortunately, it does continue for a little bit longer and the force of that revelation is weakened as a result.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Realistic

The paper Barney had unrolled was not paper at all, but a kind of thick brownish parchment, springy as steel, with long raised cracks crossing it where it had been rolled. Inside it, another sheet was stuck down: darker, looking much older, ragged at the edges, and covered with small writing in strange squashed-looking dark brown letters.

Below the writing it dwindled, as if it had been singed by some great heat long ago, into half-detached pieces carefully laid back together and stuck to the outer sheet. But there was enough of it left for them to see at the bottom a rough drawing that looked like the uncertain outline of a map.

For a moment they were all very quiet. Barney said nothing, but he could feel a strange excitement bubbling up inside him.

Overall Review:

Over Sea, Under Stone isn’t a necessary book in the Dark is Rising, but it’s a nice, slow way to introduce the overall plot and mythology of the series. This is only a glimpse at the battle between Light and Dark, which will be much more pronounced and fleshed out (as will the mythology) in The Dark is Rising and following.

You can buy this here: Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark is Rising Sequence)

Fairy Tale Friday: Princess In Disguise

Princess in Disguise is written by E. D. Baker. It was published in 2015 by Bloomsbury. It is the sequel to The Bravest Princess.

Summary/Blurb:

After helping Sleeping Beauty and Snow White break the curses that plagued them, Princess Annie is finally ready to live happily ever after with Prince Liam. She’s planned the perfect day for a celebration, but then everything starts to go wrong! A huge storm floods the castle. Then, guests fall mysteriously ill and a dangerous fog appears, trapping everyone. Someone with a lot of magic is causing trouble. The one person who can help is the fairy Moonbeam, and Annie’s immunity to magic makes her the only person able to reach her. With Liam in tow, Annie embarks on a wild adventure beyond the castle walls. Along the way, she’ll run into some familiar friends…and some dangerous new foes. Will Annie be able to reach Moonbeam in time to turn everything around?

Yawn.

E. D. Baker has a penchant for writing really good books, then writing sequels that get progressively more boring. And her stand-alone novel, A Question of Magic, is also a tedious read. I’ve been trying to figure out why this is.

I think part of it is due to her writing style. Princess in Disguise is very tell-heavy, with lots of similar structured sentences that make for a sort of monotone as you read them. A lot of the dialogue was about Annie and Liam discussing what they were seeing or telling each other what they were going to do, which make everything seem a little mechanical. I think the main thing that bothered me is that Baker’s writing is just average. And nothing in her writing or the plot inspired me to care about the book.

My opinion of Baker has really gone down since I first started reading her books. It’s a little sad, to be honest, and it’s tainted my view of the first two books in this series.

Rating: 1/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Middle Grade

Passages/Quotes:

“Have you come to gloat?” he asked.

“I came to offer you a ride. It’s daylight now and I’m surprised the farmer hasn’t seen us yet.”

“I suppose we could ride together,” Liam said, eyeing the gelding.

“I think he could handle that just fine,” Annie said, reaching out to give Liam a hand up. “I have no idea what his name is, but I’m going to call him Otis.”

Overall Review:

Princess of Disguise is an unfortunately boring book, with almost nothing to recommend it except that it’s part of the halfway-decent Wide-Awake Princess series (a series in which my opinion has degraded the more books I’ve read in it). I don’t think I can read Baker anymore, simply because I haven’t found any of her books pleasant to read recently. Not because they were necessarily bad, but because they were just so boring and flat.

You can buy this here: Princess in Disguise: A Tale of the Wide-Awake Princess

North! Or Be Eaten: Choppy At First, But Ends Strongly

North! Or Be Eaten is written by Andrew Peterson. It was published in 2009 by Waterbrook Press. It is the sequel to On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

Spoilers for On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby thought they were normal children with normal lives and a normal past. But now they know they’re really the Lost Jewels of Anniera, heirs to a legendary kingdom across the sea, and suddenly everyone wants to kill them. In order to survive, the Igibys must flee to the safety of the Ice Prairies, where the lizardlike Fangs of Dang cannot follow. First, however, they have to escape the monsters of Glipwood Forest,1 the thieving Stranders of the East Bend,2 and the dreaded Fork Factory.3 But even more dangerous are the jealousies and bitterness that threaten to tear them apart, and Janner and his siblings must learn the hard way that the love of a family is more important than anything else.
1. All possessing very sharp teeth.
2. Murderous scoundrels, the lot.
3. Woe!

As with On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, it took me a while to get into the book. As much as I enjoy the quirkiness of the world, at the beginning I wished it was a bit more serious. But once Peterson hits the tension, the book gets really good. I do wish that it was slightly less uneven, though. The seriousness of the events happening does not mesh well with the silliness of the world, in my opinion. In fact, once the serious things start happening, the silliness stands out even more as really odd and out of place.

I thought Janner in the first book was annoying, but in this book, he really developed a lot and came into his own. The point where I really got involved in the book was when Janner gets taken to the Fork Factory. That’s where I thought Peterson finally started balancing things better than in the beginning. I’m hoping that Peterson continues the Janner-centric viewpoints in the next books, because Janner is looking to become a very awesome character. Also because I can’t stand either Tink or Leeli. They’re both boring, flat characters, especially Leeli, who’s like this bundle of golden candy floss that makes your teeth ache every time she’s in a scene. At least Tink had an interesting development at the end (also, thank goodness they’re calling him Kalmar now. Tink is an awful nickname).

Peet! You remain both awesome and tragic.

Also, the Triple Twist Reveal at the end involving the dragons’ warning is pretty cool. I wasn’t expecting that.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Some slightly gruesome details.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“Ah!” Oskar said. “I see it now, too.” He studied the cover and binding of the book. “This isn’t the original cover. Whoever replaced it, however many years ago, didn’t know the language either and placed the new cover backward. What we thought was the first page is actually the last. See?”

It all looked the same to Janner, but it was fascinating nonetheless.

“I think, Highness, with what I know of languages and what you remember of Hollish, we might be able to translate this.” Oskar looked at Nia eagerly.

Overall Review:

North! Or Be Eaten starts off slow, but once Janner hit the Fork Factory I couldn’t put it down. I hope that Tink and Leeli get some of the development that Janner got during this book, because as of right now I can’t stand either one of them. I am looking forward to some of the plot developments, though, because Peterson has proven that he can spin a good plot reveal. I just wish that there was a better balance between serious action and plot and silly world.

You can buy this here: North! Or Be Eaten

Shadow Scale: A Disappointing Sequel

Shadow Scale is written by Rachel Hartman. It was published in 2015 by Random House. It is the sequel to Seraphina.

Spoilers for Seraphina and some spoilers for the ending of Shadow Scale.

Seraphina is tangled amid the grapple for power between the dragon rebels and the human court. The dark secret of her true identity—half-dragon, half-human—has now become her advantage. Only she has the power to unite the kingdom of Goredd, and she intends to use it. She scours the land for the rest of her half-dragon brethren, whose unique gifts may make the difference in the struggle. But gathering her people is no straightforward task, and the more Seraphina learns, uncovering hidden histories and outright lies, the more she comes to realize that someone is working against her. What hope is there for brokering peace between dragons and humans when one of her own is determined to see both worlds go up in flames?

Shadow Scale continues the fabulously unique world of Seraphina and extends it even further, introducing new cultures and new aspects of the world and its magic. Hartman’s books are truly some of the most innovative and fresh Y.A. books I’ve read in years. Hartman’s writing is also superb, with just the right blend of beauty and technicality.

Unfortunately, Shadow Scale is also incredibly disappointing on several fronts. The first is the Lucian/Seraphina front. I was pleased with their relationship in Seraphina, but the conclusion of it here was extremely unfulfilling. We didn’t get any development in terms of either Lucian’s character or with his relationship with Seraphina, and then at the end, Hartman just casually states that what happens between them is nobody’s business, even though Lucian is now married to Glisselda. I can’t be satisfied with Seraphina/Lucian anymore, because in order to have that relationship, Lucian would have to commit adultery. Throwing out an “it’s nobody’s business” and making it clear that Lucian and Glisselda don’t love each other and that the marriage is purely political doesn’t change that fact.

Second, the ending just seems incomplete. I’m not sure if it was just my lingering anger over the resolution of Seraphina/Lucian or not, but the ending seemed odd and unfinished to me. I was not satisfied with how it ended, that’s for sure. Also, the end gets really mystical and New-Age-y, which I’m not usually a fan of, which might account for some of that.

Third, Hartman also does a number of things with her characters in terms of relationships and backstories that aren’t always successful. Glisselda’s little reveal at the end, in particular, felt tacked-on as a convenient excuse to keep the Lucian/Seraphina train going. I was also thoroughly displeased with Orma’s resolution, although I suppose it was technically successful if Hartman was trying to say that not everything comes up roses after war is over.

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Very progressive fantasy.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

“Finch is here in Segosh. We’ll look for him tomorrow.”

Dame Okra peered up at me over her spectacles; her eyes were wide-set and watery like a spaniel’s. “Finch? Is that what you call him in your head? I shudder to imagine what you once called me.”

It was clearly an invitation to tell her, but I pretended not to understand. I foresaw only two ways she might react to the name Miss Fusspots: amusement or incandescent anger. I was not so sure of the former that I cared to risk the latter.

Overall Review:

Shadow Scale has excellent worldbuilding and is an incredibly unique and fresh take on fantasy along with Seraphina. However, I found it to be mostly unsatisfying, especially the ending. The decisions Hartman made for some of the characters’ endings were aggravating and at some points didn’t even mesh well. I was so entranced by Seraphina, but Shadow Scale was a very disappointing sequel.

You can buy this here: Shadow Scale

Fairy Tale Friday: Enchanted

Enchanted is written by Alethea Kontis. It was published in 2012 by Harcourt.

It isn’t easy being Sunday’s child, not when you’re the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true. When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night, Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises. The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction to this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past—and hers?

Hoo boy. Talk about trying to do a little too much at once.

The main problem with Enchanted is that Kontis is trying to cram too many things into one book. All the fairy tale references are nice, but they’re stuffed into the book haphazardly, with no apparent rhyme or reason for it except to reference them. For example, there’s a fairy at a marketplace who ends up giving Sunday a poisoned necklace. It is never explained who she is or why she picked Sunday. I can only surmise that she was there purely as a reference to Snow White. The beginning of the book reads fairy tale, but then the middle reads separate fantasy world with fairy tale references and then at the end of the book we’re back to fairy tale. Kontis never just picks one and stays with it.

The world of the book was confusing and not very well-explained. There was very little set-up for the whole deal with Sunday and her sisters, so it came completely out of the blue and was very hand-wavy and “because magic.” The switch, especially with Wednesday, was very sudden and I wish it had been set-up and developed more throughout the book as opposed to piled on at the middle and end. I also found Sunday’s magic, and the magic in general, confusing.

Also, the romance was lightning fast. It took about two pages and two visits for Sunday and Grumble to fall in love, and then about two minutes of a dance for Sunday and Rumbold to fall in love. And then Rumbold postpones telling her that he’s Grumble for some reason. It’s not clear why, except that it generates tension later on in the book so there’s that.

So, basically, I started out liking Enchanted and then becoming more and more confused and disgruntled as the book continued. Which is a pity, because I truly believe that if the fairy tale references had been toned down a little and the world and the plot had been better developed, the book would have been really good.

Rating: 2/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: A bit of scary imagery, vampirism

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Young Adult

Trix pulled his finger away and wrapped it tightly in the hem of his dirty shirt. “So what are you going to do now that you’ve completed your task?”

Sunday looked down. “The strands of gray wool she’d started with were now covered in a thick layer of fine golden yarn. She wasn’t sure what exactly she’d learned, but she must have learned it all the same. Perhaps Aunt Joy wasn’t as lazy as Sunday had originally thought.

She smiled at her brother-once-before and her brother-again-and-forever. “I expect I’ll go find out what my next task is.”

Overall Review:

Enchanted tries to do too much and thus fails to do a little. The plot reveals were confusing and abrupt, the set-up for the king and Wednesday would have benefited from more build-up and foreshadowing in the beginning, and there were simply too many fairy tale references crammed in for no apparent reason. Also, the romance was way too fast and abundantly cheesy.

You can buy this here: Enchanted (The Woodcutter Sisters)

Freaky Friday: “Was I Dreaming Or Did You Just Punch Me?”

Freaky Friday is written by Mary Rodgers. It was published in 1972 by Harper & Row.

Annabel thinks her mom has the best life. If she were a grown-up, she could do whatever she wanted. Then one morning she wakes up to find she’s turned into her mother . . . and she soon discovers it’s not as easy as it looks!

I stumbled across Freaky Friday in the library and was immediately intrigued. I know about the Disney movie, but I didn’t realize it had actually been based on a book. The author is pretty famous, as well; she wrote the play/musical Once Upon a Mattress.

This book was wildly funny, in a “this is so crazy” kind of way. Annabel does so many hilarious things as her mother, making many, many fumbles—and yet shows her quick-wittedness by somehow managing to deflect attention from said fumbles. It also, of course, allows for Annabel both to see herself outside of herself, and see her mother in a different light.

Rodgers is very good at crafting the humor through dialogue and scene, and I had an absolute blast reading the book as a result. From Annabel-as-her-mother’s “Shut up, Virginia,” echoed later by every other girl friend, to her continually calling her husband her father and everyone’s concern over her psychological well-being as a result, to her punching her father/husband awake and finishing off her interaction with him with “What a cute man!”—everything about the book was enjoyable.

My one problem with the book is how Rodgers completely glosses over the fact of how exactly Annabel’s mother switched them. I’m not expecting a detailed explanation, but just the “Oh, yes, I switched us” was a little unsettling and strange.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Realistic, Children’s

If I were Ma and had a daughter who looked like me, I wouldn’t admit it either. Besides, I don’t. Look like her, that is. I wish I did.

“Well, today I do, and it’s a great improvement,” I thought to myself, and slinked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom where Daddy was still sleeping. I gave him a little punch on the shoulder to wake him up.

“Hey,” I said, “are you awake?”

“I am now,” he said. “Was I dreaming or did you just punch me?”

Overall Review:

Freaky Friday is tons of fun, and picturing Annabel’s mother saying the things that Annabel is saying is hilarious. My one issue is that there is no explanation of how Annabel’s mother switched them, and the whole thing is pretty abrupt and strange. Other than that, though, this book was just plain enjoyment through and through.

You can buy this here: Freaky Friday