YA Historical Fantasy: Enchantée

Enchantée

By Gita Trelease

Pan Macmillan

Macmillan Children’s Books

Sci Fi & Fantasy, Teens & YA

UK Publication Date: 7th February 2019

5/5

Enchantée cover Amazon 11022019

In revolutionary France, Seventeen-year-old Camille is left to fend for herself and her siblings when they are orphaned. Her old brother is more a threat than a help, with his gambling debts and drink problem, while her younger sister is frail and recovering from illness. The only way Camille can survive is to use the petty magic she was taught by her mother, and which only Camille is able to perform. But turning fragments of metal to coins is not enough to survive, so Camille transforms herself into the beautiful Baroness de la Fontaine and enters into the opulent life of the rich in the Palace of Versailles. Camille becomes entangled in a double life, intending on playing just one more game, but there is always one more to play. She walks a fine line between her two lives, naïve in her understanding of magic and other magicians. But she is not the only one with terrible secrets.

I was deeply enchanted by this book. The settings of 18th century Paris and Versailles are described in vivid detail, with the downtrodden living parallel lives to the oblivious rich. I especially loved the wonderful descriptions of the rich who occupied the rooms and gardens of Versailles, with their sumptuous outfits and hair styles. And while the novel is a fantasy, the story takes place alongside the beginnings of the French Revolution, with real events and people laced into the story, making the lives of the characters seem all the more real.

I thought that the magic system of the novel was established really well, with the cost of performing magic becoming more apparent throughout the story. The magic draws on a sorrow, which is a dark and fascinating concept and adds to Camille’s character development.

Camille is a strong and determined young woman, who frequently puts herself at risk for those she loves. But she is naïve in thinking she is strong enough to resist the temptations she previously despised. I thought the story dealt well with issues of gambling and addiction, and how easy it is for someone to get swept away, despite the strength of their character.

There is an interesting cast of supporting characters, with their own secrets and motivations. Some of these characters Camille is at first determined to dislike on principle, but along with Camille, I grew to like and admire these characters.

I was entranced by this book and didn’t want to it to end. I would recommend this to anyone who likes to be swept away into a world of magic, love, and intrigue.

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Children’s Books for the opportunity to read and review this title.

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker

By Jenni Keer

Avon Books UK

General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

4/5

Lucy Baker cover amazon 11022019

Lucy Baker is a reserved, knitting-obsessed 25-year-old, hoping to make her mark on the world but unsure how to go about it. Lucy shares a wonderful friendship with Brenda, her kind and eccentric elderly neighbour. When they gain a new neighbour in serious, handsome George, Brenda gives Lucy a mysterious locket which helped Brenda find her true love many years ago. With the help of the locket, Lucy is thrust into new and exciting challenges with family, friends, work, and love.

This is a lovely heart-warming book about friendship, love, and gaining confidence to go after your dreams. Lucy is a very likable character, kind and caring but with recognisable flaws which inhibit her ability to have the life she desires. Brenda is a brilliantly written character, with a cheeky sense of humour and interesting tales to tell of her past.

There is a feeling of bittersweet throughout the story, with Brenda being diagnosed with dementia, and Lucy determined to do her best to care for her good friend. And while there is the distress and sadness of Brenda’s illness, there are always smiles and hope.

I enjoyed the sense of magic and mystery surrounding the locket which Lucy uses, along with the power of her belief, to propel her into the life of her dreams.

This is lovely story, full of heart.

Thank you to NetGalley and Avon Books for the opportunity to read and review this title.

Young Adult Fantasy: Everless

Everless (Everless #1)

By Sara Holland

5/5

Everless Cover Amazon 05022019

This is the first book in an exciting Young Adult Fantasy series where time is currency. Many of the poor die young, bled of their lives to feed themselves and their families, while the rich live long lives in control of everything.

Jules grew up with her ironmonger father at Everless, the estate of the Gerling family. After a terrible event involving Jules’ friend Roan Gerling and his cruel brother Liam, Jules and her father flee the estate to live in poverty in a small village. To prevent her father from draining himself to pay their debts, seventeen year old Jules takes a job as a servant at Everless.

At Everless, Jules reunites with Roan, but he is soon to be married to the queen’s heir. After her father tells her to stay away from the Queen, Jules is thrown into danger as she navigates the estate, learning terrible secrets and unable to know who she can trust.

I found the concept of time as currency really fascinating. It can be rather dark, with lives being cut short from being drained of too much blood for currency, a stark way to demonstrate the real-life cost of poverty. Jules is an interesting and determined character and there are several intriguing characters that Jules meets during her time at Everless.

I really enjoyed this book, with its wonderful world-building and mythology. I loved the ending and can’t wait to read the second book in the series, Evermore.

Historical Thriller: Blood & Sugar

Blood & Sugar

By Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Pan Macmillan, Mantle

Historical Crime/Thriller

UK Publication Date: 24th January 2019

5/5

bloodandsugarcover24012019

Blood & Sugar is a riveting historical thriller set against the backdrop of the British Slave Trade in the late 18th century. Through the first person narration of privileged war hero Captain Harry Corsham, the reader is drawn into a vivid, sordid world of greed and ignorance.

The torture and murder of his estranged abolitionist friend Tad leads Corsham to search for the truth about a slave ship Tad was investigating before his murder. The authorities are reluctant to put much effort into finding Tad’s murderer, leading Corsham to believe that there are secrets to be uncovered. Each layer to the mystery that is revealed is more terrible than the last.

Corsham is a sympathetic narrator, and it’s easy to feel for a man who is torn between upholding his name for the sake of his family, and continuing his search for truth and justice on behalf of others.

The pacing is excellent, with some very gripping, heart-pounding scenes. The setting of Deptford is described in rich detail, evoking multiple senses, and left me feeling a little bit grimy.

There is an interesting set of characters tangled in the events of the story. There are ex-slaves with terrible pasts, and slavers and townspeople who turn a blind-eye to the blood of the Africans supporting their town and livelihoods. Most of the characters are shady and difficult to fathom; their motivations and histories entwining with each other’s.

Inspired by historical events and circumstances, this is a dark, harrowing story. It is also an enthralling tale with an incredibly well-woven plot. And while there is satisfaction when the mysteries are solved, this book left me with a heavy feeling; the weight of a history which we must never forget.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan, Mantle and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this title.

YA Fantasy: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

By Brigid Kemmerer

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ)

Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Teens & YA

UK Publication Date: 29th January 2019

5/5

a curse so dark and lonely cover amazon

In this retelling of the well-known Beauty and Beast story, Harper, a troubled teen, is pulled from her hometown of modern-day Washington DC and thrust into the land of Emberfall. The land is ruled by Rhen, a prince who has been cursed to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over until his finds love. At the end of each ‘season’, a monster terrorises Rhen’s country, killing his own people. Rhen and his only companion, loyal Commander Grey, are losing hope that the curse will ever be broken. At first, the sullen and wilful Harper seems unlikely to be the land’s salvation, but as it becomes apparent that Emberfall is threatened by more than just the monster, Harper can’t help but care for the fate of her new home. However, her feelings for Rhen are not so simple.

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the three main characters and the chemistry between them. There’s plenty of tension, angst and hints of deeper feelings. Rhen at first doesn’t seem a very complex character, but gradually, the layers of his character are unfolded. Harper is an admirable, strong character. She is affected by her cerebral palsy during some of the action of the story but the condition does not define her. It was refreshing to see a strong main character affected by a physical disability and I thought it was sensitively portrayed. My favourite character is the enigmatic and stoic Grey and I enjoyed his interactions with both Harper and Rhen.

This story contains an interesting mix of a traditional fantasy land with brief glimpses of Harper’s modern urban hometown. I was enchanted by the world of Emberfall and the mystery and magic of the curse. I would definitely like to read more about these characters and their world.

Thank you to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this title.

General Fiction: Once Upon A River

Once Upon A River

By Diane Setterfield

Random House UK, Transworld Publishers

General/Literary Fiction (Adult)

UK Publication Date: 17th January 2019

5/5

In the nineteenth century, in a village on the banks of the Thames, a mysterious young drowned girl miraculously returns to life, creating ripples that will change the lives of those around her forever.

I was swept away by this tale from the very beginning. It explores the nature of rivers and storytelling in a lyrical way and I found myself highlighting quite a few lines for their succinct truth.

I was thoroughly entranced by the story, its setting and its characters. The river acts as a character in itself, shaping the lives of those living and working along its banks, giving and taking life. The central characters of the story are wonderfully realised and their personalities and their losses and hopes are depicted wonderfully.

Mystery lies at the heart of the novel, with the true identity of the young girl seeming to change like the wind. In addition to the wonderful writing of the characters and setting, the plot is excellently woven, untangling at just the right moment with a beautiful ending. The mystery extends to the blurry lines between stories, truth and belief, and the power all of these can have.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves to get lost in a story and let it take you wherever it flows.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for the opportunity to read and review this title.

Christmas Romance: Cupcakes for Christmas

Cupcakes for Christmas

By Kate Hewitt

Tule Publishing

Romance

4/5

This was a lovely little Christmas romance story with likeable main characters and plenty of cupcakes. Olivia runs a teashop in a nice little Cotswold village but starts to feel like she’s a supporting character in the lives of her friends. But then the quirky and kind Simon enters her teashop, and suddenly things get more exciting.

It seemed to take a while for the romance aspect of the story to really kick in but this is tied to the personalities of both of the main characters and worked well. I really liked how Olivia’s concerns about her mother added to her personal journey and relationship with Simon, and how Simon has his own problems too. During the story they form a lovely relationship in which they really support each other.

The ending seemed a little rushed, but overall it’s a great story about more than just romance; I could really feel the love.