Review of "The Rise of Magicks" (Chronicles of the One #3) by Nora Roberts

Roberts, Nora. The Rise of Magicks. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2019.

Hardcover | $28.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250123039 | 454 pages | Fantasy/Dystopian

3.5 stars

I was ambivalent about this book’s release to an extent. Not for any reason due to the book itself, as I did enjoy its predecessors and saw its potential. But the dark cloud that is the Macmillan library ebook embargo came into effect shortly before this book’s release, and while I always planned to read the print version which has no borrowing/copy limits, I felt sad for those who didn’t have the option, due to accessibility issues and are stuck waiting around six months, according to OverDrive.

As for The Rise of Magicks itself? It’s pretty solid, both continuing in the different vein Roberts took with the series, while also containing some familiar Roberts flair. One of her signatures is building great relationships, and that’s definitely the case here. While the romance didn’t win me over any more this time around (some of the writing there is pretty cringey), I love the bonds Fallon shares with her family and her mentor, Mallick.

And conceptually, as always, Roberts has all the pieces there. She’s doing something interesting with the familiar light vs. dark concept, and the ultimate fulfillment of the “Chosen One” archetype. And while it never really gets dark enough in execution, it’s still enjoyable nonetheless.

I think if you liked the other books in the trilogy, you will (probably) like this one, particularly if you’re a Nora Roberts diehard. For the most part, I enjoyed it, in spite of some of the issues, and I’m most certainly more critical of her work than some.

Review of "Internment" by Samira Ahmed

Ahmed, Samira. Internment. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2019.

Hardcover | $17.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0316522694 | 386 pages | YA Dystopian

4 stars

I believe I heard about Internment through YA Book Twitter, and was intrigued at the premise of how it used historical examples of racism and xenophobia in the U.S. to predict the trajectory of the country’s current “handling” of immigration and Islamophobia, particularly as it resonates with my own family history and how other prominent Japanese Americans have spoken out at the disturbing parallels to anti-Asian laws and Japanese internment in light of government decisions like the current crisis at the U.S-Mexico border and the Muslim ban.

And the result is a sometimes bleak, but ultimately hopeful, read, as it depicts Layla, her family, and many others sent to an internment camp simply for their race and religion, and how while they at first endure, some, including Layla, choose to rise up and protest their release.

And Layla as a character is great. She presents a good balance between typical teenager focused on love and friendships and burgeoning resistance fighter, and I liked that Ahmed managed to find a way to get a healthy balance of both.

The one flaw I see is in its world-building and how it hinges on its sense of the “now.” It’s suggested in the blurb and in the note at the end that this is a “very near future” version of the U.S. While Ahmed plays with ideas that do recur due to persistent white supremacy, so the concepts may endure on that strength alone, she writes with the belief that the reader already knows about the state of the United States that led to the events of this book, and while I can assume many people today are aware, it lends itself to the question of whether it will endure the test of time. While I’m sure that’s not the writer’s first concern when writing a book, Margaret Atwood wrote with similar ideas in mind, leading to an enduring and relevant novel that still speaks to many readers, and the dystopian story has come and gone over the years with people being able to revisit those previous publications and still grasp meaning from them. However, I don’t know if that will one hundred percent be the case here.

However, I don’t doubt this is an incredibly important book for the moment, highlighting the issues that we as a nation need to fight against. I recommend it to people looking for hard-hitting YA books that tackle the state of the world today and help provide hope that there is a way to fix it.

Review of “Resist” (Remake #2) by Ilima Todd

Todd, Ilima. Resist. Salt Lake City: Shadow Mountain, 2016.

Hardcover | $17.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1629721040 | 347 pages | YA Science Fiction–Dystopian

4 stars

I enjoyed Resist marginally more than Remake, and a large part of that was due to the shift in protagonist. I had nothing against Nine as a heroine, but I felt Theron stole the show, and I was glad to hear that the Ilima Todd felt the same. He has a lot of spirit in him, and I like him finding something that is worth fighting for, and how it helps him grow as a person.

I also liked that, because of this change in protagonist, the story definitely felt more like what I had come to expect from my prior forays into the YA dystopian genre, while still feeling uniquely its own. There were some hints about the villain and their intentions in the prior book, and I enjoyed seeing it come to fruition in a dark and twisted way.

The religious, exclusionary undertones remain, and it is still a bit disconcerting, but I do still try to give Todd some benefit of the doubt in this regard, given that it is about the idea of giving people choices at the heart of this, and that Freedom isn’t truly freedom.

And while the romance did take a backseat in this one to an extent, it was still present, and still incredibly awkward. Theron spends a good portion of the book dealing with his unrequited feelings for Nine, and the fact that’s she’s with someone else, and while he does interact with Pua from relatively early in the book, it doesn’t feel natural that he would choose her so suddenly. And while I do like that Theron is at least given a father figure in Catcher, emphasizing the family element that Todd seems to be pushing in this book, I’m once again disappointed that there’s no way for a guy and girl who are both unattached to be just friends or like family, especially since one of the things Theron discovers over the course of the book is the different kinds of love. I guess it’s done relatively well in terms of the evolution of his feelings for Nine, but I still did not get him moving onto Pua almost instantly.

On the whole, I’m not sure I’ll be continuing with the series if book three ever does come out, although I do plan on read Todd’s new release, to see how it compares, and it was the impetus for picking up Todd’s work in the first place.

Review of “Remake” (Remake #1) by Ilima Todd (Conflicted Review)

Todd, Ilima. Remake. Salt Lake City: Shadow Mountain, 2014.

Hardcover | $17.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1609079246 | 296 pages | YA Science Fiction–Dystopian

3-ish stars

I first heard about Ilima Todd when I heard about her latest release with Shadow Mountain’s Proper Romance line, A Song for the Stars, and was excited to hear about an author born and raised in Hawaii and influenced by her heritage, even though she no longer lives here. And after winning an audio copy of her first book, Remake. from the author, I decided to check it out (although I primarily relied on the physical copy, as that’s my preference).

This book has a compelling concept, but I do feel it’s obvious that Todd comes from a religiously entrenched perspective when it comes to how she handles some of the tough topics in this book. One of the immediately obvious ones is LGBTQ+ issues, namely transgender people and their identity. I like the idea of being able to make choices about who you want to be in theory, but there’s an inherent problem in the very first lines of the book, “Male or female?…How can I decide which to be for the rest of my life? It’s so…permanent.” (5) While I cannot speak from a perspective of authority as a trans person, I do feel that this statement and much of the rhetoric of the book diminsh the concept of gender identity, especially by excluding the idea that it may not be completely binary.

Yet, even with some of these red flags, I still felt the intent carried through in some ways, especially in terms of establishing that freedom and equality aren’t really either of those things, especially when people are stripped not only of things that make them unique, like defining physical characteristics, but they are bred in a manner that is pretty much mechanical, and without love or a family. And while there is some heavy bias toward a more traditional family unit here, I don’t mind it that much, given that we are seeing it from the perspective of someone who hasn’t had a family before, and I do feel like she is given the right to make an informed choice, at least in this matter.

As for one of my more trivial complaints, I found the romance incredibly tepid, and despite knowing it was impossible, felt Nine had a lot more chemistry with Theron than she did with Kai, in part because there was a lot of history conveyed in her friendship with Theron. With Kai, she meets him, and he’s kind of rude to her, and over time things develop, and I didn’t see anything in him to really like, especially since he was one of the characters who was really strong in preaching some of the religious messages. It also just seems like authors, especially in YA, can’t seem to get two unrelated characters of the opposite sex together without there being some sparks. I think it would have been much more rewarding, given the focus on finding a family unit, for him to be like a brother to her and for the story to focus on how much the entire family makes her feel wanted.

Despite finding this book really odd and problematic in places, I do plan to read the sequel, in part because it’s about Theron, and he’s the character I was most interested in by the end of the book, and I’m also curious to see what else Todd can do in this world and system she created.

Review of “Cinder” (The Lunar Choronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer (THROWBACK)

Meyer, Marissa. Cinder. 2012. New York: Square Fish, 2013. ISBN-13: 9781250007209.  Hardcover List Price: $19.99. Paperback List Price: $9.99.

4.5 stars

This is a book I first read when the paperback came out in 2013, and while I enjoyed it, I did not feel fully invested in the series at the time. Now that all the books are out, however, and thanks to the nudging of a friend of a friend who lent me Scarlet, I picked this up again.

Meyer’s world building is exemplary, establishing a futuristic society that has both critical distance from the present day in terms of the time that has passed and the technology innovations that have occurred, but remains relatable, making one of the central problems a worldwide pandemic comparable to plagues like the Black Death, and issues like racism and classism.

Cinder is a wonderful, unique heroine, particularly for Cinderella retellings. I love that the story focused just as much on giving her a past that fits her into the world in a deeper way, while also incorporating the important elements of the Cinderella tale.