Mythology

Book Review: The Essex Serpent

The Essex Serpent
Author: 
Perry, Sarah
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book as profound as The Essex Serpent. Perhaps it’s because they don’t write books like this anymore.
While written in the last few years, the style of The Essex Serpent is distinctly Victorian. It holds callbacks to the greats of gothic literature, including the physiological studies of Frankenstein and the back-and-forth letter writing of Dracula . All the while, the ever-present gloom of the muddy and foggy Essex shoreline hides the eponymous serpent just outside the reader’s view, providing anticipation of its reveal. Is the Essex Serpent real or is it a figment of so much imagination?

Of course, in staying with the Victorian style, the book does suffer somewhat in readability. The vocabulary and description are certainly more voluminous than modern volumes, but my biggest qualm seems to be more along the lines of the seemingly endless talk that occurs in the first half of the book—perhaps trying to mimic one of Jane Austen's romances—that only seems to be present for character exposition. There are also a few sub-plots that sound incredibly important, but don’t end up having much sway on the outcome of the plot.

Still, despite having to get used to the style, the characters and their drama is expertly crafted. In particular, the “friendship” between the widow Cora and the married clergyman Will was positively heart-pounding.
Cora’s son was delightfully peculiar, as was Will’s wife. If The Essex Serpent was more predictable, I’m sure the ending would have been different. I’ll have to settle for the conclusion as written, instead of having to read a more serious version of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters . At least, the plot surrounding the Essex Serpent is exciting and was what kept me reading through the muddy first half.

A modern book expertly written in the Victorian style, I give The Essex Serpent 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time

Aru Shah and the End of Time
Author: 
Chokshi, Roshani
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a habit of lying. She exaggerates her life to her pretentious classmates in the hopes of fitting in. But, when she lights an ancient cursed lamp to impress them, she accidentally brings about the end of days and a dark creature known as the Sleeper. Together, with her new friend Mini, they have to stop the Sleeper and save humanity. "Aru Shah and the End of Time" is an exciting, funny, heartwarming book that reminded me ofsome of the earlier "Percy Jackson" books by Rick Riordan -- and I thought Mini and Aru's unlikely friendship was a charming, very compelling part ofthe story. There were some parts that were slow and seemed to meander a little, but, nevertheless, this story was a blast. From the minute the story starts, you will want to follow Aru and her friends to the very end.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gillian P.

Book Review: To Kill a Kingdom

To Kill a Kingdom
Author: 
Christo, Alexandra
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Lira steal's princes' hearts. Literally. She lures them into a trance-like state with her siren song, and drags them down to the bottom of ocean where she rips out their hearts. After failing to steal Prince Elian's heart, the pirate prince also known as the "siren killer", Lira's mother, the Sea Queen, turns her into a human in punishment, and commands that she retrieve Elian's heart, or stay a human forever.

Are you getting Little Mermaid vibes from that description? Good, because there is a definitely Little Mermaid inspiration here, though it's definitely more Anderson than Disney (for examples, sirens turn into sea foam a few moments after they are killed). There's also some Greek mythology (I feel like this is the origin of sirens, but I only say that because of the Odyssey), but the influences, while noticeable, are integrated nicely, and the world-building game in this book is super strong. Elian and Lira travel to several different kingdoms, and each kingdom has its own flavor and customs. There's also some cool mythology around sirens vs. mermaids vs. mermen, and I really loved where she went with the mermaids in particular. It was a version of mermaids that I had never read before.

Elian and Lira are both complex but likable characters (if you like your heroes of anti- or bloodthirsty variety, which, I DO). Initially, Lira is a stone-cold killer. She was raised to be one, and the fact that she could be anything but a stone-cold killer after her upbringing is kind of magical. As the book develops, she learns more about humans and begins to *gasp* kind of like them. Her character development and growth are a main theme throughout the book, and Lira's maturation is slow enough to develop seems plausible.

Elian was also fine; he mostly serves as a foil to Lira, and it's fun to see his opinion of her change as he slowly learns more about her. There is a bit of romance between them, but as they are at odds for most of the book, its kind of a forbidden romance which is a trope that I love when done right (needless to say, it was done right here).

Amazing worldbuilding, great characters, no sequel - what's not to love here? If you are into pirates or mermaids or lux worldbuilding, you'll enjoy this book. 4 stars - I really liked it!

Thanks to Feiwel & Friends and Netgalley for the eARC for review consideration. To Kill a Kingdom will be released on 06 March, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Beowulf

Beowulf
Author: 
Heaney, Seamus
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The mighty hero triumphs over evil and saves the people from utter destruction. Sound familiar? Of course it does, it’s the basic plot line of the cliche hero’s tale that everybody knows. However, all of these tales most likely spawned from Beowulf, the oldest surviving English poem written in Anglo - Saxon around the 11th Century A.D. Beowulf is an epic poem that begins with Hrothgar, King of the Danes. Hrothgar’s people live in peace when they are attacked and threatened by a monster named Grendel, who kills off the Danes everynight in their mead-hall, Heorot. So in comes Beowulf son of Ecgtheow, a mighty warrior from Geatland who promises to defeat Grendel and bring prosperity back to the Danes. Beowulf is an amazing poem as it not only tells the classic tale of the epic hero and his journey, but contains hidden meanings aside from literal. Beowulf has no known author, but contains elements of factual history, which tells us this may be a tale describing actual events. This piece of literature is a traditional master piece and should be preserved as an example of how words and tales can evolve over decades. Reviewer Grade 12.

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe T.

Book Review: The Goddess Test

Book Review: The Goddess Test
Author: 
Carter, Aimee
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
When I was searching for a book, this one caught my eye because of the title and cover. I have an interest in Greek mythology and this book was an amazing refresher. Even if you don't know much about the myths to begin with this book covers the need to know basics, especially with the story of Persephone. I enjoyed the modern twist to the original stories I grew up with as a child. This book held surprises and turns to the plot I would never have expected. I recommend this book for the teen girls. I could really relate to all the emotions and thoughts which seem to fly through Kate's mind.
There is romance, challenges, and life threatening situations the main character Kate Winters must face to save the lives of her dying mother, and a mysterious dark handsome stranger who seems to believe he's a god. All the while she tries to save the lives of the people around her, someone wants her dead and that someone has succeeded in killing eleven girls before her. She must become immortal or die trying.
This book is one of three in a series, with other connecting books on the side I highly recommend. Once I started reading I could not put it down until I finished the entire series.

Reviewer's Name: 
Amber H.

Book Review: The Girl in the Tower

The Girl in the Tower
Author: 
Arden, Katherine
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Katherine Arden's The Girl In The Tower is just as good, if not better, than the first book, The Bear and The Nightingale. Filled with more Russian Fairy tales, atmospheric literary prose, rich and strong characters, and the same enchanting setting of Medieval Russia, this book picks up right where the first one left off. It follows the story of Vasya, now a grown up woman she, instead of conforming to the role woman in her day usually play, of marriage or life in a convent, chooses instead a life of adventure. Leaving her home and traveling the vast Russian Wilderness while dressed as a boy, she soon is called upon to defend the city of Moscow and finds the threat greater and more deadly than she imagined. While fighting this threat, only she can stop, she is also forced to protect her secret as she comes upon her brother and attracts the attention of the Grand Prince of Moscow.

Part of what drew me to this book is the fairy tales, yes, but also the historical setting of Medieval Russia. Katherine Arden does a masterful job of weaving fantasy elements with real life historical details only a great historian would discover. Blurring the line between history, fantasy, and reality this book and, more importantly this series, is contemporary historical fantasy at its best. It is a sketch not only of real life in Medieval Russia, but also displays the power of story and demonstrates the importance of fairy tales and the lessons they can teach us.

Reviewer's Name: 
Tawnie M.

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: 
Arden, Katherine
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

A perfect winter read! A beautiful atmospheric retelling of the fairytale Jack Frost set in a wintry town on the edge of the Russian wilderness in Medieval Russia. Plus a strong independent female protagonist who risks everything to save her family from the evil forces all around her! What's not to love! Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale is a must read! This novel has it all mystery, magic, adventure, and love! With well developed characters and beautiful, atmospheric, lyrical writing that makes you almost feel the cold wind on your skin and see the snow flakes falling this book cannot be passed up! I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out, The Girl in The Tower!

Reviewer's Name: 
Tawnie

Book Review: The Dark Prophecy

A boy flies through the air while riding a griffin
Author: 
Riordan, Rick
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

In the second book of the Trials of Apollo series, the former god (currently human) Apollo teams up with Leo Valdez and Calypso to search for a way to restore his godhood, find a missing friend, and stop an evil emperor's plot to take over the world. This sequel was every bit as good as the first book. Fun, action-packed, and surprising. I'd highly recommend to those who love the Percy Jackson books and the Heroes of Olympus series.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gillian P.

Book Review: Vessel

Vessel
Author: 
Durst, Sarah Beth
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Vessel, by Sarah Durst, is an amazing, yet highly unusual book. Since she was a young child, Liyana has known her destiny. Because she is the vessel, she will summon the goddess of her clan, and give up her body. In return for her offering, the goddess will give her clan the water they need to survive. When Liyana does the summoning, and the goddess does not come, she is abandoned by her clan. She then sets out on a quest to find the lost deities with the help of the trickster god and the other vessels. Vessel is a fantastic book that incorporates many interesting topics such as, loyalty, magic, politics, and how no destiny is set in stone. I highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys fantasy and doesn't mind some political drama.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: 
Hailey K.

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