Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian (Spoiler Free)

Everyone knows the legend. Of Arthur, destined to be a king. Of the beautiful Guinevere, who will betray him with his most loyal knight, Lancelot. Of the bitter sorceress, Morgana, who will turn against them all. But Elaine alone carries the burden of knowing what is to come–for Elaine of is cursed to see the future.

On the mystical isle of Avalon, Elaine runs free and learns of the ancient prophecies surrounding her and her friends–countless possibilities, almost all of them tragic.

When their future comes to claim them, Elaine, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Morgana accompany Arthur to take his throne in stifling Camelot, where magic is outlawed, the rules of society chain them, and enemies are everywhere. Yet the most dangerous threats may come from within their own circle.

As visions are fulfilled and an inevitable fate closes in, Elaine must decide how far she will go to change fate–and what she is willing to sacrifice along the way.

Laura Sebastian, Penguin Random House

My Review

I will pick up anything to do with Arthurian legend, but I really enjoyed this take on our Once and Future King. This story plays out in three times, the past when they (Arthur, Guinevere, Morgana, Lancelot, and Elaine) come together on on Avalon, the present when they reach Albion and step into their respective roles, and the future when the tale and tragedy of King Arthur plays out. I really liked this as it turned the conflict into characters versus plot , as Elaine tries to circumvent the tragedy we have come to know so well in Western cannon.

As a retelling, I thought it was particularly strong. There was the thread of the Arthurian legend, especially in the future line from the novel. However, bolstered some of the same stories in new ways like the twists in the intention, word play, and expanding context. Some examples are Arthur and Lancelot’s respective tourneys, Merlin and Nimue’s conflict, and combining some of the Elaine’s (in my opinion: Shalott, Corbenic, and Garlot). You can tell there is a deep familiarity with the story and love for these characters. I did wish that there was a clearer or longer ending and that the past timelines were brought into the story a little more. I do wonder if this was avoided because it was the part that deviated most from accepted cannon.

4.75 Stars

Publication Date: July 2021

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Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro (Review)

Summary:

Xochital is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enimagic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.

Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.

One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous mayor. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.

Tor Teen, Mark Oshiro

Review:

This was a really ethereal and weird read about connection, religion, and freedom. I have always found Oshiro’s writing to be very visual and visceral. The characters were flawed, confused, and doing the best they could even when it wasn’t best for everyone. It was really easy to get attached and want the best for everyone , including the characters that only briefly share their stories.

Now, I loved the back stories they made the world feel full and the culture complete. However, they were all previous stories that were just for the world and not for the current plot as outside observers (ala The Sun is Also a Star and Lalani of the Distant Sea). This sometimes lead it feeling hard to back into the plot and readjusting to the different moods back and forth.

On a personal note, as a monoglot (I only speak English) I was really intimidated by the amount of Spanish in the book when I started. I was put at ease about 20% through when I realized that everything was either common words (hola, etc.) or were translated either directly or indirectly.

I gave this book a 4/4.25 stars. If you have read it let me know what you thought or if you are thinking about picking it up.

Publication Date: September 2020

Publisher: Tor Teen

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Scythe by Neal Shusterman

So Scythe was our September book club pick of the month but because of it’s overwhelming popularity and our busy schedules it was next to impossible to get from the library. So know it is our October book club pick, we bumped our previous October’s out and into 2020. Scythe is the first book young adult dystopian trilogy about a world that has conquered all medical problems even death, to maintain the ongoing population there are Scythes, selected and trained, to “glean” those in their region based on statistics of time passed. I picked this book because I had heard just never-ending hype for this book and series. I really wanted to read it with my mom and sister who hadn’t heard any of the hype and see what they thought.

Personally this year I had a lot of books that ended up being 4 stars simply because of the hype surrounding it and it ended up falling short. Scythe was not one of these books and when I started I truly thought it might be. I was prepared to because truthfully in the first 20% I wasn’t ready and it was everything I had heard. We had two pretty typical teens that were perfectly diametric to each other. An unpleasant situation that neither wanted to be but both wanted to win. It felt familiar.

However, the plot was outstanding. I was surprised at all the twists and there were plot points that I thought would be in book three that came in the first 200 pages. It took very conventional devices and characters and pushed them and switch things up in ways that at least I had seen before.

What I loved was the world building: the way humanity acts when they will never really be at risk, the way different scythes approach their work and cope with their job. It was so well done and so engaging for every character.

What I didn’t like was there were a couple romantic relationships that felt a little unnecessary and out of the blue.

Trigger warnings: death, mass murder, self harm, suicide.

Recommended: For me it was five stars. I think if you miss dystopian or like science-fiction at all you will really enjoy this book.